When retired Port Alberni politician Gillian Trumper decided to run for mayor after a term as alderman—back when city councillors were known as aldermen—she told the incumbent mayor out of courtesy that she would be running for his seat.
He replied, ‘we will really miss you on council.’
To his great surprise, Trumper won.
This year, city councillor Sharie Minions announced that she will run for mayor and online critics—mostly male—have said much the same thing.
Some people say women have the same opportunity to run for political office as men do. The thing is, they don’t—not really. More than two decades separate Trumper’s and Minions’ campaigns, yet the same attitude prevails.
Earlier this month, a pair of longtime community leaders, both women, put on a Women in Government information session in Port Alberni. It was closed to men, offering a critic-free space for women to hear from female politicians about their experiences. Each of the six panelists and keynote speaker Josie Osborne, Mayor of Tofino, talked about their experiences serving as elected government representatives.
It was telling that not one of them thought about running for office until someone suggested they do so.
This is the crux of the Women in Government campaign: encouraging more women to run for office. Supporting them in their decision, and in their campaigns.
The session held at Char’s Landing was not a place for men-bashing, although men were asked to stay away. It was a session where women learned about the nuts and bolts of running for office, and weren’t afraid to ask questions. It was a place where they could hear heartfelt stories from women who have been politicians, from city councils to regional districts and First Nations councils too.
This is not a local movement: the Federation of Canadian Municipalities also has a campaign to increase female participation.
Port Alberni’s campaign also received attention from Australia, where Coral Ross, a mayor in her community in the State of Victoria, reached out to organizer Theresa Kingston. The Victorian Local Governance Association has a goal of 50 percent women on councils by 2025, and said these numbers are achievable. Ross’s state has 38.1 percent female government representatives already.
When more women are represented in government, things happen: there is more diversity; women’s and children’s issues are addressed; more focus is placed on quality of life.
Do you have a hard time believing this? Ask a woman to run for office, back her campaign and see what happens.
— Alberni Valley News