EDMONTON — Alberta's Opposition is calling for the two top legislature leaders on women’s issues to quit for giving a prize for an essay that urges women to forgo careers and focus on baby-making so the province doesn’t have to bring in more foreigners.
NDP critic Rakhi Pancholi said Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, the United Conservative Party government's associate minister for the Status of Women, and Jackie Lovely, the department's parliamentary secretary, have lost all credibility to advance the cause of women and must resign.
“I don’t know how (they) can continue in these roles,” Pancholi said at a news conference in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., on Thursday.
“I don’t know what work they were doing. They won’t even stand up before cameras and take questions.
“They have no credibility … they are undermining — actively undermining — women’s interests in this province.”
Armstrong-Homeniuk is the member of the legislature for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville.
Public pressure had been growing on Armstrong-Homeniuk’s office to divulge the names of the judges. Some United Conservative female legislature members had begun issuing statements stating they were not on the panel.
Late Wednesday night, Lovely, the member for Camrose, issued a statement saying, “I can confirm that I was the only other MLA on the essay judging panel."
“I regret that this essay was chosen, and I apologize for my role in that," her statement said. “As a single mother who has pursued a wide variety of traditionally male-dominated careers, I deeply understand the strength and ability of women.
“Also, as a former ESL (English as a second language) teacher who has hosted 56 international students, I value and appreciate the role of newcomers in our province and will continue working to remove barriers to equity and prosperity for all.”
The essays were pulled from the legislative assembly website shortly after criticism of the contest emerged on social media Monday night.
Armstrong-Homeniuk has since declined interviews, but instead issued two statements saying she doesn’t support the sentiments in the essay.
“It's clear that the process failed, and I apologize for my role in that," Armstrong-Homeniuk wrote Tuesday. "The selection of this particular essay and awarding it with third prize was a failure on my part as the head of the judging panel."
Pancholi said that prompts the question -- if the two judges say the essay should not have won, why did they pick it?
“We still do not have a clear explanation as to what and why this happened,” Pancholi said.
The essay was part of the legislative contest, titled “Her Vision Inspires,” which asked young women to explore ways to make Alberta a better place.
The top two essays suggest ways to get more women, and the public in general, involved in public life.
The third-place winner - identified only as S. Silver -- won a $200 prize to be spent at the legislature gift shop.
Silver's essay posits that the governing mission of humanity is to reproduce itself, but that Alberta has lost its way to instead pursue "selfish and hedonistic goals.''
The solution, she argues, is to acknowledge that "women are not exactly equal to men.''
Society, she writes, should celebrate and embrace the birthing role of women and stop pushing them to put off prime procreation years while they "break into careers that men traditionally dominate.''
She says the idea that Alberta can put off procreation and instead "import foreigners to replace ourselves … is a sickly mentality that amounts to a drive for cultural suicide.''
Pancholi and other critics have likened that reference to 1930s Nazi Germany, when women were urged to be baby vessels to propagate the Aryan race.
Three female candidates in the United Conservative race to replace Premier Jason Kenney as party leader and premier have also taken to Twitter to criticize the award.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press