Mr. Speaker, today is International Women’s Day. The theme of this year’s campaign is #PressforProgress. Today, there are events being held around the world to promote, and call for greater action, on gender parity. This year’s theme is informed by the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, which tells us that the global gender gap is widening, and at this rate it will take over 200 years to achieve gender parity. While women worldwide are closing the gap in critical areas such as health and education, significant gender inequality persists in the workforce and in politics.

Looking around this Legislature, that fact is strikingly apparent: only two of the 19 MLAs are women. One of the main reasons for the disparity, is the notion, whether it be conscious or unconscious, that politics is for men. It’s of the upmost importance that we actively work to dispel that myth. I’m proud to say that in Hay River, much progress has been made on that front, and that’s thanks to Ms. Jane Groenewegen.

Legislature-117 Ms. Groenewegen represented Hay River in the Legislative Assembly for nearly 20 years, as a regular Member, a Cabinet Minister, the Deputy Premier, and as the Chair of the Standing Committee on Priorities & Planning. Mr. Speaker, she was my MLA for the majority of my life. To the young women and men who’ve grown up in Hay River, the idea of women in politics isn’t a foreign concept, it’s the natural order.

While Ms. Groenewegen is undoubtedly one of a kind, she serves as a wonderful example for young women, and continuously works to encourage other potential female leaders. She is an active participant with the Campaign School and the Daughters of the Vote, which both aim to increase women’s participation in politics. She also recently agreed to let her name be put forward by the Legislative Assembly to the Canadian Women Parliamentarians Alumni Program, to once again offer her experience and insights into service in elected office in institutions predominantly occupied by men.

Her time as an MLA wasn’t her only foray into male dominated institutions. During her tenures with the Hay River Town Council, her early days with the Hay River and NWT Chambers of Commerce, and the NWT Power Corporation Board of Directors, she was always one of the only women, and sometimes, the only woman. However, Mr. Speaker, that fact never deterred her, and never silenced her. I’m not sure anything could ever silence her. I’m sure all the Members she’s worked with will always remember her animated critiques of the performance of Ministers – when such critiques were required.

Mr. Speaker, I want to both commend and thank Ms. Groenewegen for what she’s done to address the gender disparity in Hay River and the Territory, and to hold her up as an role model for the young women and men of the NWT.