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Thursday, 27 October 2016 08:00

#ReadyForHer ready for more women to run for political office

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Minister of Status of Women and Service Alberta Stephanie McLean (left) and Reeve Molly Douglass, County of Newell  (right) listen to Bassano councillor Lynn MacWilliam describe some of MacWilliam’s past political experiences. Minister of Status of Women and Service Alberta Stephanie McLean (left) and Reeve Molly Douglass, County of Newell (right) listen to Bassano councillor Lynn MacWilliam describe some of MacWilliam’s past political experiences. Photo by Ryan Dahlman

When the Honourable Stephanie McLean, provincial minister of Service Alberta and the Status of Women, addressed a crowd of mostly women in the Crowfoot Room at the Medicine Hat College Oct. 20, she asked how many were considering running in the next provincial election or office in general.

No one put their hand up. Therein lies the problem and purpose of the four-city, #ReadyForHer Tour hosted by the provincial government in an effort to get more potential female politicians running for office starting with civic elections in 2017.
“I see some shy faces, some eyes darting around telling me that you are (thinking about it) but you’re not ready to put your hand up yet, of if you know of someone sitting here who has mulled it over I encourage you to tell her you will support her,” says McLean.
As an attempt by the provincial government to encourage female participants, McLean made stops in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat while earlier in October launching a guide with helpful tips and information such as qualifications, garnering nominations, as well as tips on campaigning and fundraising.
The #ReadyForHerTour in Medicine Hat featured a panel which included McLean and was moderated by Christy Pick, host of the local Shaw TV affiliate; Molly Douglass, reeve of the County of Newell; Town of Bassano Councillor Lynn MacWilliam and Town of Redcliff Councillor Cheré Brown who were asked their experience in various levels in government.
“It’s a pleasure to be here ... in the midst of so many accomplished women who are so passionate about their communities,” McLean addressed Wilson, Douglass and MacWilliam. “Thank you being here today and being role models for this province.”
Molly Douglass is serving her fourth term as councillor and reeve and as a resident of the hamlet of Finnegan, Douglass has been a school principal within the Grasslands School District. She has a strong family background in serving her community.
When a councillor who previously served the area chose not to run again at the last minute, Douglass, who had long contemplated serving the county as a councillor and had wanted to run,  jumped at the chance.
At her first meeting, Douglass  impressed so much she became reeve.
MacWilliam, is a Bassano town councillor who was born in Vancouver. She has worked for some famous MPs including former federal NDP leader Audrey McLaughlin (who she called amazing and inspiring) and Alexa McDonough who became the first woman to lead a political party (Nova Scotia NDP, 1980).
“It made me realize when I was campaigning with them, I should be knocking on those doors and I always wanted to do it,” says MacWilliam who at the time was a single parent.
When she moved to Alberta she ran provincially and federally.
She moved to Bassano in 2012 to take an early retirement in order to help support family with some health concerns. She was asked to run for town council which she achieved.
McLean was excited about what the website and the guide as a whole could offer.
“It will prepare you and women from across Alberta to be ready to run for office, whether you want to run for city or town council, band council, this guide is tailored to you as an Alberta and recognizing running for office can be different and different with challenges.”
All the councillors relayed some highs and lows during the current tenures, but all four politicians told the crowd, it’s not impossible and extremely rewarding. McLean says the website has important information about raising funds, running a campaign and the rules in getting started.
“Tonight (Oct. 20) we will hear from women who have been there, who have done that, and, are doing that. We all started off wanting to ... make better places and we’re doing just that,” explains McLean. “The question on our minds is how to amplify your passion and skills in a way to make meaningful change and convince you the answer for that is to run for office in 2017. I can say that because I ran and I won and I can now see how my role in government has allowed me to create an impact on issues that matter to me and my neighbours.
“I’ll perhaps let (you) in on a secret that when women run for council, we tend to win,” McLean told the audience as she pointed to a January 2014 study done by Angelia Wagner, a University of Alberta PhD candidate in political science. “We just need more women to run. We need that balance, that first step that you are the right person for the job. We need to shatter that glass ceiling that includes our own internal conversation that you feel you need to be overqualified for a job before we apply for it. I’ll tell you this: our communities would be better places for all of us to live if we  are elected to council. Women make up half of the population of Alberta, but on average it’s 26 per cent that are on councils.”
This aforementioned 26 per cent statistic is from the 2013 municipal election. During that particular election, out of 1,874 available positions, 490 women were elected.
Stats from the four cities where the #ReadyForHer tour was stopping reflect the low percentages:in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge (each): two of nine council positions are women (22 per cent); Calgary: two of 15 positions (13 per cent) and in Edmonton: one of 13 positions (eight per cent).
According to the government and from its Municipal Affairs data, the 2013 Official Election results indicated the Alberta’s provincial average for elected civic officials is close to 30 per cent. Broken down, in communities within certain areas: eight per cent in Special Areas; 11 per cent in improvement districts; 17 per cent in municipal districts; 18 per cent in cities; 20 per cent in summer villages; 31 per cent in villages; 32 per cent in specialized municipalities and 32 per cent in towns. A Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) finds the national average for women in municipal office was 27 per cent in 2015. In Alberta, 33 per cent of MLAs are women and five out of 32 Alberta MPs are women (16 per cent). Across Canada, 36 per cent of MPs are women.

Read 1324 times Last modified on Wednesday, 26 October 2016 13:25
Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor