ON MONDAY Monday (Sept 28, 2020), Kamloops City Councillor Sadie Hunter declared that she was the BC NDP candidate for Kamloops-North Thompson in the upcoming B.C. provincial election.
But, just as quickly, there were posts criticizing and questioning her decision to run.
One post questioned whether running for the NDP would tarnish her chances of re-election as a City councillor. Others posted disappointment that she would turn her attention away from Kamloops City council to run provincially. Yet another felt she had only been on council twoyears, and needed to stay committed to that longer. There was also concern that she has just been elected to the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM), and if elected provincially, she would have to resign from both City council and UBCM.
It seems that Hunter’s critics felt it just wasn’t the right time for her to run provincially.
But if not now, when?
More broadly, when is the right time for a woman to run for political office? When is the right time in Kamloops?
Since 1903 until 1983, in 23 B.C. provincial elections, no women candidates ran in the Kamloops riding. The first woman to run was Trudy Frisk, for the BC Greens, in the 1986 election.
From 1986 until 2017, only 11 women have run provincially in the Kamloops riding, and then split ridings of Kamloops-North Thompson and Kamloops-South Thompson. Along with Trudy Frisk, only Patricia Wallace, Cathy McGregor, Deborah Fisher, Ruth Watson, April Snow, Bev Markle, Marie Dobi, Kathy Kendall, Barb Nederpel and myself, Nancy Bepple, have been candidates.
With Sadie Hunter, we’re at 12. Just 12 women in 42 general elections.
The logic that Sadie Hunter should bide her time on City council , that it’s too soon for her to run provincially is absurd. Many candidates run provincially with no municipal elected experience at all. The logic that she should stay on as councillor rather than move to MLA if elected provincially ignores that both roles serve the community as a whole.
The logic that there are negative consequences for her running for a political party is absurd and patronizing. Current City Councillor Denis Walsh ran for the BC Greens while past City Councillor Patricia Wallace ran for the BC Socreds. Both continued on to be elected to City council.
People who are willing to run for elections know the risks of winning and losing. Hunter was elected in the 2018 municipal elections, but only after being defeated in the 2017 city by-elections. Winning and losing are all part of politics. Her defeat in 2017 didn’t dissuade Hunter from running in 2018, and it’s doubtful that she’s worried that running for the BC NDP will harm possible runs in the future for council.
The biggest negative consequence if Hunter hadn’t come forward to run is the continued scarcity of women running as candidates to represent Kamloops in the BC legislature.
There are many barriers for women running in politics, and some of them were evident this week on social media. Critics concerned about whether it’s the right time for her to run should instead start asking how we can get more strong women candidates to run provincially here in Kamloops.
Kudos to Sadie Hunter for throwing her hat in the ring. Women belong, and are greatly needed as candidates in elections. In Kamloops provincial elections especially. To quote the late U.S. Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.