As you’ll likely have read, just last week, the world celebrated International Women’s Day. While this day is always a great time to both recognize the accomplishments of local women and to celebrate how far Canada has come in terms of equality, there is also more which needs to be done.
In this week’s column, I’m going to focus on the need for more female representation at the municipal level.
Starting with Scugog Township. The last census found Scugog’s population to be 50.5 percent female and about 49.5 percent male. Despite women making up a larger share of Scugog’s population, there are only two female representatives on Scugog Council: Mayor Wilma Wotten and Ward 2 Councillor Janna Guido. That’s just about 28 percent of the seven total members.
Uxbridge Township has a very similar female-to-male population ratio, and they only have one female member on council: Ward 1 Councillor Pam Beach. The only North Durham municipality where women outnumber men is Brock Township, which has four female members. Those are Ward 2 Councillor Claire Doble, Ward 3 Councillor Angela Canavan, Ward 4 Councillor Cria Pettingill and Ward 5 Councillor Lynn Campbell.
Kawartha Lakes has a population which is 50.3 percent female and 49.7 percent male. Yet, among their nine council members, only two of those are female: Ward 2 Councillor Pat Warren and Ward 8 Councillor Tracy Richardson.
In February of 2022, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario posted on their website, diversity of genders and ethnicities on municipal councils helps to create “more inclusive and sustainable communities.”
Just last year, I wrote a column on how the political landscape has changed, referencing a post from former Oshawa councillor Amy McQuaid-England which recalled how she was stalked, harassed, and received regular death threats and other “vile messages” during her time as a councillor. These kinds of behaviours serve as deterrents to female candidates, which is why I feel the political landscape needs to change at the community level, as well as the national and provincial levels.
There is a need right now for local councils, associations and organizations to look at ways to help open doors for future female leaders.