Red Deer city council a model for women in municipal politics

Red Deer city council a model for women in municipal politics

Campaign to increase female candidates across Alberta

Albertans could learn a thing or four about gender equality from Red Deer.

Four women were elected to Red Deer’s nine-member city council in the 2013 municipal elections, but province-wide only 490 women were elected 1,874 positions, or 26 per cent.

Red Deer had four women on council in 2010, and five in 2007.

Currently Edmonton has one woman on its 13-member city council. Only two out of 15 positions on Calgary city council are held by women. Both Medicine Hat and Lethbridge have two women in nine seats.

Alberta’s Status of Women Minister Stephanie McLean has visited those cities with the campaign #ReadyForHer to encourage more women to run for municipal office. A new online resource to help women consider their political potential and start their campaigns is also available at www.alberta.ca/ready-for-her.aspx.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association’s Status of Women Task Force recently challenged its members to think about women in their communities they could ask to run for office.

“I put that on my list of things to do. I thought about a woman in our community and I challenged her. We met for a conversation and hopefully she will consider it,” said Wyntjes who sat on the AUMA task force.

“Statistics have shown because of the many challenges, whether it’s home, elder care, personal education, their own job, (women) have to be asked three times before they’ll commit,” Wyntjes said.

The two-term councillor said politics doesn’t have to be mean-spirited like the U.S. presidential campaign, but a thick skin is necessary.

“There are great days, and not so great days. I’m often inspired by Michelle Obama’s comment — when they go low, we go high.”

She encouraged women considering a run for office to build a circle of trust. Women can be really hard on themselves, but there are many examples of female leaders in Alberta, most notably Premier Rachel Notley.

“Women’s fingerprints on decision making I think is very important,” Wyntjes said.

Coun. Lynne Mulder, who was first elected to Red Deer’s council in 2004, said it’s beneficial for girls to learn early that they can take a lead role in their community and be given the opportunity to develop the skills and confidence in themselves to think they can make a difference, “just as any man can, any woman can.”

“I like to talk to young women to let them know it’s very possible. I was the only girl in my family, with three brothers. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where we were all looked at as equals,” Mulder said.

“Most of my life I’ve been in administrative positions where quite frequently I’ve been the only women on the executive team.”

In Red Deer in 2013, only six out 30 council candidates were women. Another two ran for mayor.

She said fewer women may have had their names on the ballot, but four were elected.

“You can look at it that way,” Mulder said.

Mayor Tara Veer, Red Deer’s second female mayor, has often talked about her life-long interest in government and was inspired by the city’s first female mayor.

“(Gail Surkan) was a strong role model for me. Being able to see her function in the capacity I think removed a psychological barrier in that she was a living example of the fact that it can be done,” said Veer who will often have girls tell her they want to run for office when they are older.

Veer, a city councillor from 2004 to 2013 before running for mayor, said Central Alberta has strong roots and links to the suffrage movement.

“Going back as far as pioneers, women such as Hazel Braithwaite, she fought her way through a crowd in order to cast her ballot.”

She said council should be a microcosm of the community.

“One of the strengths of our council is that there is such diversity on our council in perspective that in our discussion and representations on behalf of the community we thoroughly discuss every matter that comes before us because there is a breadth and depth in perspective,” Veer said.

Coun. Tanya Handley said women sometimes bring a bit of a different perspective than men and it’s important to have that balance of voices.

She said periodically women have asked her about what it’s like to be on council. She also sought advice prior to running for council for the first time in 2013.

“I called a former city councillor who was also a mom at the time,” said Handley who has three children and was concerned about juggling parenting and council duties.

“She was very encouraging and said go for it. That really helped me.”

One of the best ways to encourage more women to run is through example, Handley said.

“The more women see other women doing it, they know that they can do it too and gives them a little boost of confidence.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
Not all long-term care workers have received their vaccines including a Red Deer facility

There continues to be confusion in long-term care and supportive living facilities… Continue reading

Cattle graze winter pasture in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies near Longview, Alta. on Jan. 8, 2004. Concern over the provincial government’s decision to drop a coal policy that has protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies for decades is growing among area communities. At least six cities, towns and municipal districts in southwest Alberta have now expressed concern about the decision and the fact it was made with no consultation. The latest is Longview, where mayor Kathie Wight is drafting a letter to the government opposing the move. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
More southern Alberta communities voice concern over province’s plans to expand coal

Concern over the Alberta government’s decision to drop a coal policy that… Continue reading

Some residents say there is no longer an effective Nordegg fire department to respond to emergencies in the West Country. (Contributed photo).
Some Nordegg residents worry about lack of emergency response in the West Country

The possibility of wildfires or accidents is ‘scary’ says former fire leader

(Advocate file photo).
Red Deer RCMP is reminding drivers to not leave running vehicles unoccupied

Red Deer RCMP say six idling vehicles in the city were stolen… Continue reading

Mom's Diner owner Wesley Langlois has joined a growing number of Alberta restaurants that are allowing sit-in dining despite public health restrictions.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Red Deer diner joins sit-down dining protest

Mom’s Diner has joined a growing list of Alberta restaurants flouting health restrictions

In this undated image made from a video taken by the Duke of Sussex and posted on @SaveChildrenUK by the Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, shows the Duchess of Sussex reading the book “Duck! Rabbit!” to their son Archie who celebrates his first birthday on Wednesday May 6, 2020. The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising a reader starts from birth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Duke of Sussex/@SaveChildrenUK via AP MANDATORY CREDIT
Canadian Paediatric Society says raising a reader starts from birth

The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising… Continue reading

People wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus walk past a depiction of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in Philadelphia, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Bernie Sanders’ mittens, memes help raise $1.8M for charity

About those wooly mittens that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders wore to the… Continue reading

Bags of methamphetamine seized at Coutts, Alta., border crossing is shown in this December 2020 handout photo. The Canada Border Services Agency says it has made Canada’s largest-ever seizure of methamphetamine at an Alberta land border crossing from the United States. The agency says on Christmas Day, it flagged a produce truck at the Coutts border crossing for further inspection. Officers found more than 228 kilograms of meth with an estimated street value of $28.5 million. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Canada Border Services Agency
Alberta border agents made record meth bust after pulling over produce truck

COUTTS, Alta. — The Canada Border Services Agency says officers in southern… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. Quebec’s director of national health says he’s still not sure when the province will begin administering COVID-19 booster shots — 42 days since officials started injecting people with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Calculated risk or gamble: Experts differ on merits of Quebec’s vaccine strategy

MONTREAL — Quebec’s director of national health said he’s still not sure… Continue reading

This electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, in yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in a lab. The Canadian Armed Forces is dealing with a dramatic increase in the number of troops who have been infected with COVID-19 over the past month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID-RML via AP
Canadian military dealing with surge in new COVID-19 infections since December

OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is dealing with a dramatic increase… Continue reading

Advocates for the homeless hold a protest against the COVID-19 curfew Monday, January 11, 2021 in Montreal. The Quebec government says it will not challenge a temporary court order granted Tuesday that exempts the homeless from a provincewide curfew imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Quebec to exempt homeless from curfew after court finds measure endangered safety

MONTREAL — The Quebec government said Wednesday it will not challenge a… Continue reading

People march towards Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office in Toronto, during a rally led by current and former international students calling for changes to immigration rules during COVID-19, on Sept. 12, 2020. A new work permit program for international students in Canada is taking applications starting today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
New work permit program for international graduates in Canada taking applications

A new work-permit program aimed at encouraging international students to settle in… Continue reading

A fire-destroyed property registered to Gabriel Wortman at 200 Portapique Beach Road is seen in Portapique, N.S. on May 8, 2020. Three people who allegedly supplied ammunition to the gunman who murdered 22 people in the April 18-19 mass shooting in Nova Scotia are scheduled for court hearings today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Lawyer for accused in ammo transfer to N.S. shooter criticizes lack of disclosure

HALIFAX — A lawyer for one of three people who allegedly supplied… Continue reading

Most Read