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“Don’t be hung up on what you think a woman in politics needs to be. We need diversity of women and their voices at the table” -Peggy Garritty

Nomination Day


Danisha Bhaloo

Danisha Bhaloo

On January 25, 2016. I filed my nomination papers with the City of Edmonton to become an official candidate on the ballot for the February 22nd by-election. The day was a culmination of the months of hard work to earn votes in Ward 12 for election day. While nomination day is only a month prior to the actual election, the hard work starts way before that. For me, nomination day was an important day in the process, but certainly not the start of it. Nomination day reinforced my love for this city.

For all first time candidates out there who think they know what to expect, nervousness is expected. I woke up that morning nervous. I had a slight jolt wondering if I was doing the right thing. And that this might be my chance to back out and go back to my normal life. Don’t get me wrong, I spent almost a year debating if this was the right move for myself, my family and my community. I can safely say, after the fact, that I have no regrets and am proud to have been part of the process. But to formalize a major life decision will always make you edgy (for all those married candidates, I’m sure it’s a similar feeling to your wedding day).

What differentiates this day from the happiest day of your life (presumably), is knowing you’ll be in the same room, for the first time, with other candidates running in the same ward as you. It’s especially difficult when there are over 30 of them in the same space. Hopefully, you won’t encounter this particular discomfort since it’s a general election. Nonetheless, when I think back to this day, it was a combination of pride in putting myself out there, and slight intimidation in being in a space that might provoke competitiveness. For any first time candidates out there, I strongly suggest bringing a few close friends or family members who can calm your nerves and support you throughout the day.

The nomination process itself took less than one hour. You attend City Hall, meet and congratulate other candidates on their decision to represent your community, complete your paperwork and ensure you have all the required signatures to support your candidacy, and pay your fees with the nice City of Edmonton employees, and walk out of the room to a number of journalists with note pads and/or mics, and TV cameras in your face (see picture to the right). Don’t fret – everybody there is very nice. Reporters just want to get to know you and why you’ve decided to run. A tip: come prepared with your 30 second elevator pitch on why you’re running. Also, if you speak French fluently, come prepared with your pitch in French – because CBC-Radio Canada will also be there and will look for the candidates that are bilingual. Answer their questions, despite the fact that you will be itching to get back to the crux of campaigning – door-knocking and meeting voters.

You have months until nomination day. Don’t wait until this day passes to door-knock, learn about the issues, meet voters in your ward, recruit volunteers and fundraise. This is work that starts now, not after nomination day. Use nomination day as the day you put everything else aside and ramp up on these efforts, but don’t use it as a time to start your campaign.

Nomination Day was just one day in a four month campaign, but it is a special day that you will never forget. Take the time you’re given that day and treasure it. It’s an experience that not many others get – and so take the most of it – be proud of yourself for getting this far, hold onto the support of your family and friends who are with you on this journey, and use this day as an opportunity to re-motivate yourself about why you’re doing this in the first place.

And regardless of the outcome of the election, know that you will grow and change as a person. You will realize your strengths and resiliency in the face of hardship and struggles. And that learning will take you far in your journey forward.

 

By Danisha Bhaloo

 

Fill the Spaces


Carla Stolte

Carla Stolte

The above quote could not be more true in terms of women’s involvement in politics over the years. Although this number has definitely been growing, there is still a ways to go before half of our politicians will be women.

But why?

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Carla Stolte. At the time, she was running for the nomination in the Edmonton-Glenora riding for Alberta’s next provincial election.

Stolte first became interested in politics during her time as president of a community league board but said that “politics chose her more than she chose politics.” One of the things we spoke about was why she decided to run in the first place. Apart from being approached by the Alberta Party, the main reason she gave was that, if an election was called tomorrow, she wouldn’t know who to vote for.

So she took it upon herself to be that person. However, as her journey in politics progressed, Stolte became concerned with how few women she knew she could reach out to for support. The lack of women to act as role models is one of the main things keeping women from political involvement.

Society no longer tells women outright that they can’t do things, but it does continue to show them that they shouldn’t. By not being able to see an abundance of women in the political sphere, it continues to discourage other women from pursuing politics.

For Stolte, the lack of women she saw in politics further affirmed for her that maybe running was the right thing to do, even if she didn’t feel 100% competent or secure. She hoped that running would allow her to act as a role model for other women, as well as for her kids.

Although she’s decided not to run this time, Stolte said that “in her experience, she has seen that the more diverse the room looks the better the decision for everyone in the end.”

Amanda McIvor is a second-year scholar with the Peter Lougheed Leadership College and has been working with ParityYEG for her summer stretch experience.

Women Should Represent Themselves


Linda Trimble

TRIMBLE_Linda_highrez (1)

For Dr. Linda Trimble, a political science professor at the University of Alberta, her passion for gender equality began in elementary school when she did better on a math test than a boy and he said he would never marry a girl that was good at arithmetic. Since then, the subject matter has shifted from mathematics to political science, but the passion remains.

In the time since Dr. Trimble began her journey conducting research surrounding women in politics, she has seen some big changes in terms of women representation. She notes that “women representation started to take off in the mid to late 1980s and really increased in the 1990s.” However, in her coauthored book Still Counting, published in 2003, Dr. Trimble predicted that the glass ceiling for women in political office would be 25% for the foreseeable future. That prediction has held up.

Although a lot of progress has been made, there seems to still be resistance, or potentially some factors, that either prevent parties from nominating significant numbers of women or that deter women from stepping up as candidates.

Of particular interest regarding women who do step up as candidates is the issue of clumping. Although she’s unsure why it occurs, Dr. Trimble finds it interesting, and a bit troublesome, that even though there are far fewer women candidates than men, the women candidates tend to run in the same ridings as one another. Clumping is an unfortunate issue as only one candidate can ultimately win the riding, further limiting the number of women in political office.

According to Dr. Trimble, studies show that when women are in power they serve as very powerful role models. There is also evidence that when women are in public positions they do change attitudes in society about who can be a political actor. The presence of women in positions of authority challenges the idea that men take charge while women take care, disrupting the public-private gender binary.

There is a lot being done to encourage women to run for office and support them in that, but it is time for parties to do more. In Dr. Trimble’s opinion, “it is time for parties to effect some form of internal gender quotas, because they have to have targets or else we are not going to see any substantial increases.”

Regardless of gender quotas, women don’t just need to be asked, they need to be supported. They need to be told, “this is what the party is going to do for you, I know you have no experience but you’d be great, let’s talk about how to do this.”

Equality in representation is a matter of democratic fairness, and the quality of representation will increase with the diversity of legislatures. People need to be represented by people who look like them and have similar experiences, issues, and concerns. While men can represent women, women should be representing themselves in political office.

Amanda McIvor is a second-year scholar with the Peter Lougheed Leadership College and has been working with ParityYEG for her summer stretch experience.

Reflecting Diversity


Erika Barootes

Erika Barootes

Erika Barootes has been involved in conservative politics in Alberta for almost 15 years. Her current role is President of the United Conservative Party. Overall, she would like to see more women run as we head into the next election because it is important that we reflect the diversity of Alberta.

“How can you represent Alberta if you are not a reflection of the people you are trying to speak on behalf of and represent at the legislature? When it comes to diversity, we need to look to our province and replicate it so that every voice is heard and everyone feels that they are also being listened to.”

In Barootes opinion, political involvement should not be based on a statistic and the attempt to get equal numbers. Instead, it should be based on merit and getting the most competent, qualified, and strongest person for the role.

That said, she follows up by saying that in our province we are very fortunate that a large portion of those people are women. We just need, as a party and as a province, to create the opportunity and encourage more women to run or be involved in leadership roles.

Although there is no formal link with the UCP, Barootes, along with UCP Leader Jason Kenny, was a part of the announcement around the She Leads Foundation, which is headed by Rona Ambrose and Laureen Harper.

The She Leads foundation is a relatively new initiative that is trying to encourage more conservative minded women to enter public office. They set up training, tools, resources, and mentorship programs to let every woman that has ever thought about running for public office know that there is a group backing them. They are there for support and to help with any campaign questions. Barootes says she is proud to support the She Leads Foundation as a means to help develop the practical knowledge of campaign tactics.

Amanda McIvor is a second-year scholar with the Peter Lougheed Leadership College and has been working with ParityYEG for her summer stretch experience.

A Dream and a Good Friend


Janis Irwin

Janis Irwin

Prior to starting her journey in politics, Janis Irwin was a teacher and vice principal in rural Alberta. Upon moving back to Edmonton in 2010, she noticed a lot of federal issues that she felt weren’t being addressed.

In particular, Irwin noticed a lack of women’s representation and believed that women bring an important lens to politics. When women aren’t represented, their issues aren’t necessarily effectively raised. Today, women’s representation is still low. One of the ways this can be  addressed is to encourage women to run for politics. This includes asking women to run, but also letting them know that they will be supported, not just through encouragement, but by actually helping with tangible things like door knocking and fundraising.

When she decided to run in the 2013 federal election, Irwin recalls that she didn’t necessarily have a huge team behind her at the beginning–but that was okay, because she was able to build one. One piece of advice she received at the time was, you don’t necessarily need to have a large team to start out. All you need is a dream and a good friend, or at least some key people, and that is enough to get started. Don’t be fearful if you don’t have a large team because you can build that.

Although there has been a lot of intentional work done at all levels of government to ensure that women are being represented, Irwin believes, and research supports, that if we are going to get more women into politics, parties in particular need to have policies in place to ensure that happens. We also need to be encouraging a large diversity of women of run, not just white women, but women of colour, indigenous women, and queer individuals.

The spring election is looking promising so far in terms of women representation, but a lot are still nomination contestants and there is no guarantee that they will win their nominations.

Amanda McIvor is a second-year scholar with the Peter Lougheed Leadership College and has been working with ParityYEG for her summer stretch experience