THE scandals surrounding Canadian senators and Toronto’s mayor could become topics of conversation at the Canadian Women Voter Congress’ (CWVC’s) 14th annual Women’s Campaign School at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus, November 29-30.

Well-known seasoned female politicians and political campaigners will focus on coaching more than 50 female registrants in this year’s two-day non-partisan school on the art and science of successful political campaigning.

The school cultivates women’s involvement in politics with a view to helping them attain a United Nations-set goal of 30 per cent representation in all levels of government. The critical mass target is aimed at complementing the fact women comprise more than 50 per cent of Canada’s population.

Currently women hold only 25 per cent of the House of Common’s seats and 36 per cent of those in the British Columbia legislature.

Two highly politically active SFU academics and key architects of the CWVC campaign school will welcome would-be female politicians and political campaigners to this year’s program. They agree the senatorial and mayoralty scandals currently plaguing politics could generate discussion about how scandals could hinder female politicians’ recruitment.

“The United Nations says that a critical mass of at least 30 per cent of women is needed before legislatures produce public policy representing women’s concerns and before political institutions begin to change the way they do business. A more collaborative political system will attract more women, and more diverse men, to the electoral process,” says Jennifer Marchbank, a campaign school co-sponsor and speaker.

The associate professor in SFU’s Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, and in Explorations in Arts and Social Sciences is heavily involved in outreach and advocacy work that benefits Surrey youth facing gender-bias. Marchank worries about how high-profile political scandals could impact women’s motivation to pursue politics.

“Scandal may discourage women from self-selecting to put themselves forward as a candidate as women’s political socialization has been show to discourage women from self-selecting. The conflict around scandals may make the atmosphere of politics less attractive to those socialized to avoid conflict.”

Trina Isakson, CWVC Chair and SFU Faculty of Environment instructor will also welcome this year’s attendees. She says many people likely believe that more women in politics would raise the bar for politicians’ behaviour. But she notes numbers would the great equalizer.

“Female politicians may hold themselves to a higher standard than men do because they feel pressure to work harder and better to show their worth in electoral politics among men,” says Isakson. “But once there is true equality of opportunity in the electoral process, scandals will also be equal opportunity.”

High profile politicians such as Linda Reid, Adriane Carr and Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay and Mobina Jaffer will help this year’s campaign school attendees acquire skills critical to success in politics.

They include understanding key positions and corresponding responsibilities, financial reporting requirements, fundraising challenges and the need for well-crafted messages in political campaigning.

Shirley Bond, B.C. Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour and MLA Prince George-Valemount will deliver the school’s keynote address.