On Monday, October 27th, municipal elections were held across Ontario.
In a shocking twist, our country’s largest city – Toronto – decided to vote in a middle-aged, white, male as their mayor.
Sarcasm aside, no one should actually be surprised, given Canada’s pathetic record when it comes to female representation in politics. A 2010 study ranked Canada 50th in the world for women’s participation in politics – with only 23% representation of women in legislative positions across the country. We have only ever had one female Prime Minister – although she was not voted in through a general election. When it’s just up to the proud voters in this country – we have had zero. We have also had zero non-white Prime Ministers and zero openly LGBTQ Prime Ministers.
These latest elections were municipal ones – the level of government that is supposed to be the closest and most accessible to the general population. In that respect, we failed.
Let’s take our largest city, Toronto, for example. Toronto has 44 City Councillors, but as of Monday’s election only 14 (or 32%) of those are women. Oddly, more than half of them are in the East end (there must be some extra equality in the water over there).
Looking a little further, for a city where 49.1% of the population are visible minorities, and whose motto is “Diversity our strength” – they don’t really seem to be taking that one to heart. Of the 44 City Councillors, Toronto only voted in 4 who are a visible minority.
A grand total of one City Councillor in Toronto is both a visible minority and a woman.
Toronto has only ever had two female mayors. Both of whom were white, and both of whom were very heterosexual. Actually, Toronto has never had an openly gay mayor.
Nearby Brampton did just vote in another (white, hetero) female mayor (yay!). However, only 2 of their 10 members of City council are women. In a city where 57% of the population are visible minorities, Brampton elected a whopping 2 visible minority city councillors, both male. That’s actually an improvement though – before Monday’s election there was only one non-white City Councillor in Brampton.
In Hamilton, yet another white, middle-aged, hetero man was elected mayor. However, Monday’s election did bring a bit more diversity to their city council; Hamilton elected their first black councillor as well as its first openly gay councillor. They also voted in one additional (straight, white) female councillor, bringing them to a grand total of 4 of 15.
Ottawa’s white male mayor kept his place – and while they previously had 6 women on their 23-set City Council, they now have only 4. They did, elect their very first openly gay female city councillor though (Happy 2014, everyone!) – with Catherine McKenney. Way to go, Ottawa! However – they still only have 1 visible minority city councillor, which would be 4.3% of their Council, versus 23.7% of their population. And, that councillor is a man so – let’s go ahead and claim another big fat 0 for visible minority women being represented in Canadian politics.
Are we sensing a pattern here?
Our city councils are supposed to represent us. They make decisions about our communities. We rely on these men and women to do what’s best for our parks, our roads, our libraries, our bicycle paths (or lack thereof), our affordable housing (or lack thereof) and so much more. If you are a woman, or if you’re LGBTQ or disabled or you’re a minority or – god forbid – all four, and you see a City Council almost entirely made up of middle-aged, straight, white men – are you really going to feel like your best interests are being properly debated and considered?
Before you jump on me, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with middle-aged, straight white guys. I mean, #notallwhiteguys or whatever. And I’m sure all members of City Council try to think of all of the different people in the ward that they represent, whether or not they physically represent them.
I’m just saying that as a country, Canada really likes to brag about ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘diversity’ – but we need to start practicing what we preach. And it starts with our government.
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