These Crown corporations impact your life – and they’re run mostly by men [Metro News]

November 16, 2016 at 12:00 am  •  Posted in Newsroom by

A Metro analysis shows the corridors of power are largely filled with men.

The Bank of Canada can have a major influence on the country's economy.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
The Bank of Canada can have a major influence on the country’s economy.

By: Ryan Tumilty

When the Bank of Canada changes interest rates, financial markets around the world move and your credit card can get a lot more expensive.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) sets the rules that ultimately determine if you get approved for a mortgage – and how much it will cost.

If you fly anywhere in Canada, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is the organization that chose the size of the shampoo bottles you are allowed to pack in your carry-on bag.

And if you live in Ottawa, the ubiquitous National Capital Commission has a huge impact on your life. Even if you don’t live in the capital, the NCC is the organization that makes decisions about our country’s national monuments.

While women make up about 34 per cent of the appointments to all 42 of the federal government’s Crown corporations, it’s safe to say that not all of these organizations are created equally or have the same impact on your day-to-day life.

And some of those that do directly impact you are mostly run by men.

Only four of the Bank of Canada’s 15-person board are women. At the CMHC, only two of the 12 board seats are held by women. CATSA has three women on its 11-person board, while the National Capital Commission has three women on its 15-person board.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation sets the rules that determine if you get approved more a mortgage. Its board is comprised mainly of men.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation sets the rules that determine if you get approved more a mortgage. Its board is comprised mainly of men.

There are other boards whose gender balance is more skewed towards men, such as the all-male boards of the Laurentian Pilotage Authority and the Canadian Dairy Commission, but few Canadians are significantly affected by those organizations. The Bank of Canada, on the other hand, matters to anyone with a bank account.

Duff Conacher, co-founder of the group Democracy Watch, said some of the more influential Crown corporations definitely need to more broadly reflect the makeup of the country.

“There is a question about whether some Crown corporation boards really have to be representative of society,” he said, “w hereas others, it seems more clear that they should be demographically representative.”

Conacher said the corporations that are dealing with technical areas might not have to be that reflective, but ”the ones that are making societal decisions,” need to be diverse.

“They should be more like legislatures and should be more representative of society,” he said.

Penny Collenette, a former director of appointments for Jean Chretien, says Crown corporations need diversity at the board table.
Penny Collenette, a former director of appointments for Jean Chretien, says
Crown corporations need diversity at the board table.

Penny Collenette, an adjunct law professor at the University of Ottawa and a former director of appointments for prime minister Jean Chrétien, said the corporations are essentially an extension of government and need diversity at the board table and executive offices.

“Even though Crown corporations are arm’s length from government, nevertheless they present a public face and therefore should reflect the government’s strong commitment to gender diversity – and not just on their boards. But in the C suite too,” she said, referring to a corporation’s most important senior executives.

Conacher contends that if the government really wants diversity – along with more transparency – it should make the appointment process more arm’s length.

He said structural changes like that would take this from a commitment to a concrete change that isn’t there right now.

“You just have a commitment that doesn’t have to be filled,” he said.

Karine LeBlanc, a spokesperson for the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said they are looking to fill vacancies right now and always have diversity top of mind.

“CMHC remains committed to supporting an approach that strives for the increased representation of women on our board,” she said.