No First Ladies in retirement, please

Teresa Heinz Kerry and Laura Bush may differ in public personalities and the way in which they campaign for their husbands; however, there is no comparison to the obvious lack of action from our Canadian "First Ladies."

These ladies lack the zest, courage and obvious public profile that helped their American colleagues win votes.

Take Sheila Martin, for instance. According to the CBC, she has only given one interview in the 16 years Prime Minister Paul Martin has been in politics. It's no wonder it took me so long to recognize her at a recent public function.

And who was her counterpart in the last federal election? I had to do a Google search to remember: well of course it was Laureen Harper, wife of Conservative leader Stephen Harper. During her husband's march along the campaign trail, Laureen, like Sheila, stayed quietly backstage.

At a June gathering of the Toronto Board of Trade, Laureen Harper was quoted as saying: "I don't do interviews. I don't want to do anything to screw up my husband."

Yet if any of these wives had taken the time to appeal to the "fairer sex" by speaking out about women's issues, we may have had a majority government, even a Tory cabinet.

During the elections, one issue that demanded a woman's standpoint was abortion. Yet the subject of pro-choice was only debated from the perspective of the male candidates. If Sheila or Laureen had stepped up to the podium and argued their husbands' platform on abortion, it may have generated a few more votes in their respective direction.

Instead, it was left to women's groups, such as the Coalition for Women's Equality, to find votes in favor of their organization.

The only spouse I can recall who had any voice during the last election was Olivia Chow, wife to NDP leader Jack Layton. Unlike the previous women, Chow not only had teeth but she was also trying to bite into federal politics and become a minister of Parliament for her Trinity-Spadina riding in Toronto. Unfortunately for her, the numbers were short on the ballots.

Now imagine if either Sheila or Laureen were following the example set by Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Many have knocked Heinz for speaking out too much, but her rebellious comments could persuade women to march to the polls and vote for her husband.

It appears to me that a female leader like Teresa not only brings life to politics, but also takes command in her role as the wife of the Democratic leader, showing herself to be an active participant in the decisions made by the party.

And while Teresa Heinz Kerry has stood on the platform and claimed she would rather have "four more years in Hell" than see President George W. Bush re-elected, Laura Bush has stood passively on the sidelines, barely uttering a word.

Perhaps the Canadian media is reflecting public interest, having opted not to focus on the candidates' wives. Who would want the scrutiny that Teresa Heinz Kerry has received for being so outspoken? And though many claim her sensational outbursts could mean the demise of her husband's quest for the presidency, to the contrary, it is her passion that will bring voters to the polls.