Gender Politics — Making a Difference

Women seem to be making a breakthrough in local politics in the Capital Regional District (CRD), especially during the 2014 municipal election cycle.  Two new female faces in the City of Victoria and in Sooke (Mayors Lisa Helps and Maja Tait) join other CRD women Mayors Barb Desjardins, Carol Hamilton and Alice Finall. 


While this may not reflect a big gain in numbers for women over time at the Mayor level, it suggests to me a trend by women towards greater involvement and leadership in local government.

Women tend to participate more proactively in mentoring and supporting other women by serving as positive role models in community leadership and, in my experience, this is particularly true. Had it not been for the encouragement and mentorship of other women in my community (former North Saanich Council members Alice Finall, Dee Bailin and Sheila Irving) and former North Saanich Mayor Linda Michaluk, it is unlikely that I would have become involved in public life and local government.

In a recent National Post article by John Ivison (published January 7, 2015), voters were asked to choose between men and women candidates.  Here are the interesting results:

  • 70% of respondents said women had values closer to their own, as opposed to 30% for men.
  • 65% of respondents said women capable of getting things done, as opposed to 35% for men.
  • 54% of respondents said women are good in a crisis, as opposed to 46% for men.

New Abacus Data research suggests that two-thirds of voters will choose a female candidate over a male candidate, not so much as tokenism, but “as enlightened self-interest.”  This appears true for the federal Liberal Party, given that it is reported that “fully one third” of their candidates is female.

The article goes on to suggest that being female and also being a local candidate is a recipe for potential election success.  Certainly these two qualifiers are evident throughout the thirteen CRD municipalities where new and returning local female candidates did well in the 2014 municipal election.  The article also quotes Catherine McKenna, Liberal candidate in Ottawa Centre, running against NDP MP Paul Dewar.  Ms. McKenna says that “she is encouraged by the suggestion that local candidates do matter” and is “happy to see the trend of male candidates being favoured by voters may be over.”  She concludes that “this could be related to voters being less cynical about women candidates.”

Whatever the reasons are, the increasing number of women participating as candidates in local, provincial and federal elections is significant, bringing new perspectives, leadership styles and balance to politics, to elected office and, hopefully, to how we govern.