Canada Has a Diversity Problem in Government – And Ontario’s Elections Just Proved It (Again)

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.

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Yes, you.

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.

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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.

You May Also Be Interested In…

Where The Ladies At? Feminists Disappear From the Public Record 

Rob Ford is Back: Toronto’s Complacency with Homophobia and Sexism Better Not Be


11 thoughts on “Canada Has a Diversity Problem in Government – And Ontario’s Elections Just Proved It (Again)

  1. You make it seem like Ontarians had the option of voting for equally qualified non-cis non-white non-straight (non-middle-aged?) people and then spurned them for straight middle-aged white men. In reality, that candidate does not exist. I find your admonishing tone quite offensive. It is not my fault that those candidates do not exist. What do you want me to do to make them appear? I don’t have a solution to create these types of candidates, but I don’t appreciate being told that I’m somehow hurting Canada’s diversity because I didn’t vote for these non-existent candidates.

      • … which is not what you wrote.

        As the post above states, you wrote an article making it appear that the public are racist and sexist for not voting for women and minorities. If you want to fairly make that point, you need to point to people who were passed over due to sexism and racism, and for some reason you failed to mention the prime poster girl for this, Olivia Chow.

      • Guess I thought it was pretty obvious and that readers can read between the lines rather than have everything spelled out and stated directly – but I see I was wrong.

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  3. “And it starts with our government.”

    Uhhhhh, why? That seems pretty arbitrary.
    Do you think leftist white male would feel better represented by Dougie Ford than Olivia Chow?

    • Nope! I just meant that our government representatives are supposed to represent us as a population. Not saying that every single person needs to be represented by someone who looks and sounds exactly like them – just saying that it would be nice if white guys weren’t the only ones who could look at our politicians and see a reflection of themselves.

      • What I’m saying is that the idea that white males see a reflection of themselves in government is fallacious. People (including white males) can and do look deeper than skin colour and gender signals,

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