Kitchener-Waterloo·In Depth

Councillor urges more women, diverse candidates to run in municipal election

Waterloo Coun. Melissa Durrell says more women and minorities need to run in this October's municipal election because they can bring a unique perspective to council chambers.

'You have an important perspective that isn’t currently being heard,' Durrell says

Pins from a session of the Waterloo Region Women's Municipal Campaign School. Outgoing Waterloo Coun. Melissa Durrell says she'd like to see more women and minorities run for seats in this fall's municipal election. (Waterloo Region Women's Municipal Campaign School/Facebook)

With just a week left to file paperwork for the Oct. 22 municipal election, Melissa Durrell hopes to see more women and people from minority groups jump into the various races around the region.

Durrell, a Waterloo councillor who is not seeking another term, has been part of the municipal campaign school to encourage women to run for office in the region.

"Your voice needs to be heard, whether you're a woman or you're a minority, your voice needs to be heard around that council chambers," Durrell said. "You have an important perspective that isn't currently being heard at those councils."

As of 4 p.m. Friday there were 106 people running for various seats in Waterloo region. Of that, 67 are men, 39 are women.

Community Wards/Council seats to be elected Mayor/Chair Total
Kitchener 10 1 11
Cambridge 8 1 9
Waterloo 7 1 8
Townships 4 each in Wellesley, Wilmot, North Dumfries, 5 in Woolwich 1 (x4 townships) 21
Regional Council

4-Kitchener, 2-Cambridge, 2- Waterloo (7 community mayors automatically sit on the regional council)

1 16

​Gender split

Waterloo and Wellesley both have an even split of men and women, 9-9 in Waterloo and 3-3 in Wellesley.

"Waterloo has set a good precedent for electing an equal opportunity," Durrell said, but added there is still room for improvement.

"I'd like to see some diversity in Waterloo, to be completely open and honest."

Cambridge: not 'what we were hoping to see'

Those running for regional council include two men and one women for chair, and the split is eight men to five women running for council seats in the three cities.

  • Kitchener has a split of 14 men and 10 women.
  • Cambridge has 15 men and four women.

"The numbers in Cambridge aren't what we were hoping to see," Durrell said.

They held the women's campaign school in Cambridge to encourage community and neighbourhood leaders to consider running, Durrell said.

"We had, really, a lot of people show up for [the campaign school]. They haven't put their names forward yet. I'm hoping that they're just waiting to the last day, because there's usually a scramble on the last day," she said.

Deadline Friday, July 27

Paperwork to run in the Oct. 22 municipal election must be filed by 2 p.m. on Friday, July 27.

Lee Ann Wetzel, deputy clerk at the Region of Waterloo, says those still thinking about throwing their hat into the ring will need to go through a process.

"Checking out the website wherever they're going to be running. From there you can download a copy of the nomination paper and new this year is a requirement for 25 endorsing signatures," she said.

People need to have that completed before they file their paperwork. They will also need to provide proof of their citizenship as well as that they live in the municipality where they plan to run. That could include showing a hydro or property tax bill.

"We like to spend about 15 to 20 minutes with people. Every municipality is a little bit different in their approach," Wetzel said. Regional staff like to go over the information with people, verify it and then give the candidates documents they need to review and discuss things like how campaign expenses work and the sign bylaw.

People will also need to pay a fee to run. It's $200 to run for either regional chair or mayor, and $100 for councillor or school trustee. Each municipality accepts different forms of payment, so Wetzel suggested candidates should check before going to the office.

'Need to move the dial'

Durrell said she remembers those early days when she first decided to run for office.

"I remember 'do you, don't you put your name forward.' You're thinking about it. Having an incumbent's name on the ballot is really challenging because it is an uphill climb," she said.

She said running in a campaign is a unique experience that will let people meet more of their neighbours and others in the community. Even if you don't win, she noted, the person who does get elected will hear your views and that may shape how they vote.

"I'd like to encourage women, it's a really good experience to run, to meet people, to talk about the community, to talk about your ideas and your vision for what you want to see happen," she said.

"We need to move the dial here and this is the election to do it." 

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