Fredericton’s new city council started its four-year term on Monday with a recognition of a higher number of female councillors who are now sitting around the table.
Fredericton voters sent three women to the 12-person council on May 14: Ward 6 Coun. Marilyn Kerton, Ward 10 Coun. Leah Levac and Ward 11 Coun. Kate Rogers.
Coun. Mike O’Brien, a long-time Fredericton councillor, said he believes the added diversity to the council will have a positive effect on the deliberations in the next four years.
"To have a more diverse group and a female vote at the table, it makes for much better decisions," he said.
Before the municipal election, Kerton was the only woman who sat on city council.
Rogers said she also believes a more diverse council will make a difference in the city.
"I think women by nature have a different approach to things. These things aren't always better or worse, it's not measured that way, but it's different. And having this diversity in representation is good," she said.
Rogers also pointed out the three women on council all have different backgrounds, which will add to the diversity of the council's debate.
"So not only a gender-breaking distinction, but we're different people ourselves. So the diversity is even further enriched by that," she said.
Changing face of politics
The changing face of Fredericton's city council in 2012 could also have a greater impact in future elections, according to one new councillor.
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Levac, who has written about political engagement of young women, said the success of herself, Kerton and Rogers could help motivate other women to seek political office.
"It means that younger women can see that politics is a possibility," she said.
But Fredericton is not the only council in New Brunswick that witnessed a wave of new female councillors.
More women were elected as mayors and councillors in the May 14 municipal election than in recent elections.
Nineteen women were elected as mayors (18.1 per cent) and 168 as councillors (31.6 per cent), according to unofficial results from Elections New Brunswick. That's an increase over the past two elections.
Among New Brunswick’s cities, Miramichi has the largest contingent of female councillors. There are five women on the eight-person council.
In Saint John, there are four female councillors on the 10-person council, including Deputy Mayor Shelley Rinehart.
Meanwhile, Edmundston did not elect any women to its eight-person council and Dieppe and Campbellton each only elected one woman to their councils.
The overall number of female councillors is up. In 2008, there were 16 female mayors elected (15.4 per cent) and 150 councillors (28.6 per cent).
In 2004, New Brunswick had 13 women elected as mayors (12.7 per cent) and 131 successful female council candidates (24.9 per cent)
There were also more women putting their name on the municipal ballot this year.
Of the 1,068 municipal candidates across the province, 777 were men (72.7 per cent) and 291, women (27.2 per cent).
Women will also have a strong voice on the elected health and education councils.
Women also represent 75 per cent of the new Horizon Health Network board and women represent 50 per cent of the board members on the Vitalité health board.
And women make up 28.12 per cent of the members of the seven district education councils.