THUNDER BAY – Editorial – With 2014 slated as a municipal election year in Thunder Bay and surrounding communities, and International Women’s day this weekend, I want to ask the region of Northwestern Ontario a very important question in regards to those who decide to seek election. It is no secret that when it comes to politics, very few women can be found. Women account for more than half of Canada’s population, yet they make up only 21 percent of municipal councils. In Thunder Bay, women fill only two out of thirteen council positions, while provincially there are 3322 council positions and only 892 are held by women. Why is that?
I personally have been involved in politics for several years, first serving as a school board trustee and then as a City Councillor. I can tell you that there hasn’t been a difference in the number of women participating since I originally got involved 26 years ago. Elected officials are making very important decisions and there is a need for women to be at that table. We need to shake up the traditional ‘old boys club’, as women are just as capable of being leaders and bring an entirely different perspective and expertise forward.
There is a new group in the North working together to encourage women to participate in the political scene. Women in Politics is comprised of women leadership from across the region and we are hoping to help women develop their political talent and put their names on the ballot.
Many people, including women, still believe that a woman can’t perform competently in the same way as a man in politics. This has led to many women being too afraid to even consider running in an election, and deprives our communities of a voice, perspective, and talent that needs to be apart of the decision-making process.
Women have identified many barriers in regards to why they choose not to become involved in politics. As a community we need to work on addressing these barriers and encourage women to pull together. For us to have good elections and ultimately good councils and leadership, it requires intelligent and responsible participation of all citizens, both women and men.
Women in Politics promotes participation and a voice for women at all levels of Canadian government including boards and First Nation and municipal councils. If a woman isn’t interested in serving as a candidate, we must also inspire them to participate in the electoral process, whether it be attending a political debate, volunteering on a campaign team, and most importantly voting on election day.
International Women’s Day honours the work of the suffragettes, celebrates women’s success, and reminds of the inequities that still need to be addressed. March 8th is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some countries, the day is even considered a national holiday. On International Women’s day, Women in Politics is hosting an event called ‘Inspiring Change’ at the Valhalla Inn from 1:00 -4:30 pm, and we invite everyone who has an interest in politics and community leadership to attend. This informative session will include addresses by female politicians from across Canada, a Question and Answer Session, along with a workshop hosted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Campaign School. Information can be found at www.paro.ca.
By sharing knowledge, experience and networks, northern women will be better prepared to enter public and political leadership. We need to talk about women getting involved in politics and how we can assist and support each other. Equality for women is progress for all.
Women in Politics, Chair