HERE IN KAMLOOPS, as in many places, the majority of candidates in federal, provincial and municipal elections have always been men. For many reasons, more men are able to and want to run for political office.
Running for politics is not for everyone. And for women, it seems, even less so.
In the 2017 Kamloops City by-election, there were six men running for the position of mayor (plus one woman who withdrew). Only eight of 21 candidates for council in the 2017 by-election were women.
In 2014, 12 of 28 candidates for council and none of the four candidates for mayor were women. In 2011, only seven of 24 candidates for council were women, and all of the four candidates for mayor were men. In 2008, eight of 22 candidates for council were women. None of the mayoral candidates was a women.
There are many reasons women don’t run. Women, on average, earn less than men, so may not be able to take on the costs of elections. Women are usually the caregivers, making it difficult to have the time to enter politics. Many women lack professional networks that make building a campaign team easier. For these and other reasons, at the end of the day, fewer women enter politics.
Running for politics is the first step in getting elected. Fewer women running means fewer women elected.
Which is a shame, since women make good politicians.
Kenna Cartwright passed away in 1991, but still yesterday, unprompted, someone told me what a great mayor she was. She hasn’t been forgotten.
Pat Wallace is a dynasty at City Hall. At 31 years, she holds the record of one of the longest serving elected local government representatives in B.C. A straight shooter, her experience grounds her decisions.
Sharon Frissell, gone from Kamloops Council for 13 years now, was instrumental as chair of the Water Treatment Committee. She helped ensure Kamloops has world class water. Imagine what our water might be like now if Frissell hadn’t been a champion.
Women make good politicians for many reasons.
First and foremost, politics is about relationships. Politicians need to be able to connect with people across our communities. Women have different circles than men, and can better hear the concerns of other parts of the community.
Second, women bring different ideas to the table. Credit goes to the late Coun. Marg Spina who was relentless for having a gender neutral washroom built in Riverside Park to ensure all people, including people with opposite gender care aides, can use the park. It was her own experiences and values that drove the decision.
Third, politics is about building consensus despite conflict. Sometimes I hear people say that they wouldn’t want to be in politics because of the confrontation. In reality, politics is mostly about listening. People may have reason to vent, but listening, which women often excel at, is the usually the best response.
Democracy is grounded in different voices being heard. Women bring necessary experiences, perspectives and points of view to decision making. The community is better served when there are different experiences around the council table.
Having women run for office is a necessary first step of having women elected. And, if you’re like me, who sees having a balance of women and men elected as a good thing, encouraging more women to run is the place to start.
Two people have set out to do just that. Coun. Kathy Sinclair and Coun. Tina Lange have organized “Ready to Run? Women in the 2018 Kamloops Municipal Election.” The event is on Wednesday, May 30 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Kamloops City Hall. As well as Sinclair and Lange, I’ll be one of the panelisst. CBC Host Shelley Joyce will be the moderator.
This is an event for anyone who’s thought of running, or for anyone who knows they will, but wants to find out more about how to do it.
It is too early to say how many people will run for the 2018 City of Kamloops municipal elections, but I expect it will be a large number, at least 30 or more. For me, if in the October 2018 City of Kamloops election there is a balance of men and women running, the “Ready to Run?” event will have been a success.
The first step in any political campaign is showing up, and this would be a good event for anyone with those inclinations.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.