June 17, 2014 — The people of Ontario, Canada’s largest province, went to the polls on June 12 to elect their government. The race was close, and the campaign was hard fought, and despite what your politics might be, something remarkable happened. Ontario voters chose Kathleen Wynne to lead the province and represent their interests in government. The victory is historic because Kathleen Wynne is the first elected female Premier of Ontario. She’s not the first woman elected to lead a province in Canada, where we have had numerous female Premiers and a female Prime Minister, but she’s the first in Ontario. In fact, this year Ontario elected 38 women Members of Provincial Parliament, a record number that brings female representation in the legislature to 35.5% from 28% in previous assembly. This is also historic—but it’s not the remarkable event we are referring to.
Premier Wynne is the first openly LGBT leader of a provincial or federal government in Canada’s history. Also historic, but still not what we believe to be the most impressive aspect of the provincial election.
Don’t get us wrong: all of the above are great milestones in themselves, and certainly worth celebrating.
But what we think is the most exciting thing to happen during these elections, and perhaps the best indicator of progress for women and for the LGBT community, is that gender and sexual orientation played no role in this election.
There were no headlines declaring “Gay Woman Elected Premier”—Wynne’s sexual orientation was a non-issue for the media and voters alike. The Premier did not disguise her sexual orientation or play it down. Jane Rounthwaite, Premier Wynne’s partner, was a real and visible force in the campaign, organizing and attending numerous events with the Premier throughout it.
We often pair the term “diversity” with “inclusion.” Both are important for social progress (not to mention bottom lines). But here we see the difference between diversity and inclusion as concepts. Diversity is noticing that Premier Wynne is a woman and that she is LGBT. Inclusion is what happened during this election, during which there was no effort to use these aspects of Premier Wynne’s life to either credit or discredit her. Inclusion isn’t about providing special treatment; it is about bringing everyone together under the same tent, and affording them all equal opportunities to succeed.
We could go on about how proud we are of our province, but perhaps Premier Wynne put it best in her victory speech: “This is a beautiful, inclusive place that we live in, Ontario...and I want us every single day to treasure that. I want our kids to feel that as they grow up in our schools and understand what a gift it is to live in a place like this where anyone can be the Premier.”
Congratulations to Ontario for providing a wonderful example of inclusivity in action! Together let’s work to create a world in which every child grows up believing that she or he can lead.