Gains and Pains: Women’s Municipal Representation in Ontario

by | October 30, 2010
filed under Feminism, Politics

Two Toronto elects:newcomer Mary Fragedakis and elected incumbent Paula Fletcher

by E. Cain

Monday October 25, 2010 was Municipal Election Day in Ontario. While my Facebook news feed was full of people fearing the repercussions of a possible Rob Ford victory in Toronto, I was hoping for historic gains in women’s representation across the province.

Prior to E-Day, women’s representation in municipal politics stood at just 23% (Canada-wide). Women’s voices (in all their diversity) are simply not being heard in City Halls across the country.

I attended a mayoral debate in Ottawa where the only female candidate running, Jane Scharf, was denied an invitation. She took to the stage during the live TV taping, demanding that she had a right to speak alongside her four male competitors. While her tactics were questionable, her point was not.

I also came across a story written about a Waterloo ward meeting where one of the female candidates, Melissa Durrell, stated that she was at home with small children. The two other male candidates then stated that they were the best person to elect because they didn’t have to look after small children…. Seriously?

Back to E-Day, I was paying close attention to 3 cities: Ottawa, where I currently reside; Toronto, my hometown; and Waterloo, my home last year.

I’ll start with Waterloo. Going into the election the city had gender parity on its eight-person city council, including a female Mayor. Amazingly, with the election they were able to gain on this and the council now has a female majority! Women hold five of the eight seats, including the Mayor. Wow.

Toronto managed to elect a critical mass of 33% women. A gleeful reporter in The Star began her article declaring – “Women, we have arrived!” With 15 females elected out of 45, women have (finally) gained a strong voice at Toronto City Hall. 8 females were re-elected as incumbents, 4 beat ward incumbents, and 3 won in open races. Huzzah!

And then there is Ottawa. Of the 130 candidates who ran, only 21 were women (16%). Also in 12 of the 23 wards – there was not one woman running. How many women were elected you may wonder? Good question, I could not find one source that reported specifically on this. But from my own unofficial count, the answer is 4.

Well, there you have it. It was a certainly a historic night in Waterloo as well as Toronto for women in politics. As for Ottawa … next time!

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