Xaverie’s Previous Blog
Peter Lougheed Leadership Scholar Xaverie MacLennan ponders the importance of equal representation of women on City Council in Grande Prairie.
68% of Grande Prairie’s residents are under the age of 45. I belong to this age group, and am also a part of the 43% of residents that identify as female, as reported in the 2015 population survey.
Despite belonging to the predominant age group, and identifying as a gender that makes up almost half of the local population, I am not convinced that I am being properly represented at the municipal level by our City Councillors.
In addition to Mayor Bill Given, Grande Prairie has 8 City Councillors. Councillor Helen Rice and Councillor Jackie Clayton presently comprise the mere 22% of women who serve at this level of government.
City Councillors have many responsibilities, but one of their main duties is to consider the interests and welfare of the municipality as a whole and bring to Council’s attention anything that would promote the welfare or interests of the municipality. With only two women holding council seats, it is much more difficult for the interests and welfare of the 43% of the population that are women to be heard, evaluated, and advocated for.
There is nothing to say that the men on council cannot advocate for women. In fact men should be advocating for women. However, the best way to properly identify the interests of the women of Grande Prairie is to be a woman of Grande Prairie and the best way to represent these interests is to have diverse women elected to Council positions. By electing more women onto City Council, more unique life experiences and ideas will be brought to bear. This diversity vastly improves Council’s ability to notice anything that would promote the welfare of the municipality.
Additionally, according to the United Nations, women in government must reach a critical mass of at least 30% for women to be impactful as a whole. Although individual women in politics may be doing incredible work (as Councillor Rice and Councillor Clayton are certainly doing), without significant numbers it is very difficult to properly hear their voices.
For women to make up only 22% of Grande Prairie’s City Council is not good enough for me. We make up more than 22% of the general population and we deserve for our voices to be heeded and understood.
Equality between men and women in every level of our democracy is a matter of human rights, and it is something that I believe is worth working towards here in Grande Prairie.
I hold a high opinion of this city, and am very grateful to have been born and raised here. I love the vibrancy, diversity, and youthfulness that are characteristic of Grande Prairie. I’m proud of the fact that we are a growing city, and that there are many opportunities for people from all over the world to come here to settle down, cultivate careers, develop businesses, start families, and forge community networks.
For all of these reasons, I love Grande Prairie, and firmly believe that the fundamental quality of diversity should be reflected on our City Council.
It is crucial that our Councillors reflect the population they govern. We as eligible voters are hiring 9 people as our representatives, entrusting them to make decisions that will benefit our city and uphold the values we hold dear for ourselves and for our children. For Council to make informed decisions, a variety of viewpoints need to be considered and the interests of many stakeholders must be weighed.
So why are the voices of women not being heard?
I’m curious to know how many Councillors in YOUR municipality are women or gender minorities? Do you feel properly represented by your current council? If you don’t see people that resemble yourself on council, what do you think is causing that deficit? I’d love to hear your thoughts.