Balancing Perspectives

Although I am running to be elected to Edmonton City Council in Ward 5, the past several months have been dominated by a different election. Next week, the United States of America will elect a new president. I have been keenly watching the US election because of the close relationship our province has with our southern neighbours. But as a female candidate, it has also been interesting to watch how gender in the presidential campaign has played out. I have noticed that instead of excitement growing over the potential of electing the first female US President, the headlines have been dominated by how the male candidate treats women and attacks about a woman’s ability to do the job well.speaking-to-city-hall-school-in-council-chambers

In Canada, there is an ongoing struggle to ensure that our elected offices are representative of the diverse people they represent and make decisions on behalf of. On a municipal level in our country, women represent 26% of elected officials. According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, women only represent 28% of councillors and 18% of mayors. In the most recent federal and provincial elections, the gender balance is better. In the House of Commons, there are 88 female Members of Parliament and the Federal Cabinet has gender parity for the first time in our country’s history. In the Alberta Legislature, there are 27 female MLAs (31%) and half of the province’s cabinet are women, including our Premier.

Edmonton City Council, on the other hand is lagging far behind these statistics. Of the 13 members of our Council, there is only one woman. There was a time when Edmonton was a leader with female representation on its council in Canada. On our previous City Council, we had 31% female representation, but following the last election in 2013, that dropped to 8%. Gender is only one example of how our City Council does not reflect the diversity of our city – there is only one Councillor who is a visible minority. And although our city is one of the youngest major cities in Canada with a median age of 35, the average age of our council is almost 54 years old.

Across the country, province, and in our city, groups like Equal Voice are trying to address gender parity as one way to make our elected officials more diverse. 12633649_1092773477413462_5418618989699200974_oEqual Voice is a national organization that is working to make sure more women are elected to all levels of political office in Canada. Earlier this year, Equal Voice’s Northern Alberta Chapter started a campaign aimed to have women make up 50% of the candidates running for Edmonton City Council for 2017. In the last election, there were only 17 women out of the 79 candidates running for council across our city. Only one was elected. As a member of Equal Voice and a woman in politics, I would love to see 50% of all candidates for City Council be women but this is going to take the support of the community. As of last week, there are 21 candidates running for City Council across Edmonton of which 5, or 24%, that are female.

For me, the question is: Can City Council actually represent the needs and wants of our city if they do not actually represent the diversity of perspectives and experiences of its residents?

speaking-at-mass-blanket-exercise-at-city-hall-june-2-2I think the answer is no, and this is one of my main motivations to be your next Ward 5 City Councillor. I believe we need a City Council with more of a gender balance, more cultural diversity, and more community-connected experience. I believe that increasing diversity on council will lead to better decisions being made for the current residents of Ward 5 and for the future of our city. I believe that bringing more diverse perspectives together to govern our city will increase the knowledge available to draw upon, and everyone will benefit. I also think that increasing diversity on City Council is an opportunity to allow more young people in our city to imagine themselves in politics someday. I am excited about being elected and adding to this diversity on our City Council. I am also hoping to run alongside a diverse slate of candidates for City Council who come forward in the coming months.

The results of next week’s US election will be interesting to watch, and so will the impacts of the vote that will unfold over the coming weeks and months. Whomever is elected as the next President of the United States of America will have a challenge in front of them. The election has been divisive for their country and the next president will have to be a unifying voice. Whatever the result, I think it has changed the way we all think about women in politics. I hope it has also paved the way for more girls and women to consider bringing their voices to elected office and to leadership roles in our community.

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