Women need local support to run for federal office, former councillor says

Former regional councillor Jane Mitchell says women need to see other women as politicians, and receive support from their male counterparts, to encourage them to run for office.

'You can't just have older white men running the country,' says former regional councillor

Pins from a session of the Waterloo Region Women's Municipal Campaign School. Former regional councillor Jane Mitchell says she wants to see more support for women to run federally. (Waterloo Region Women's Municipal Campaign School/Facebook)

Women make up just 27 per cent of the candidates in Waterloo region's five ridings, the Elections Canada list shows so far.

And that, former regional councillor Jane Mitchell says, is a problem.

Having the perspective of women in government is integral, she said in an interview on CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition.

"You can't just have older white men running the country," said Mitchell, who helps organize the Waterloo Region Womens Municipal Campaign School.

"You've got to have young men. You've got to have diverse people. You've got to have women at the table. It's because they're representing us,and these different points of view are really important."

You can't just have older white men running the country.- Jane Mitchell


She said often, women tell her there are problems at the local riding association level. She gave an example of one woman who was approached and asked to run in an election.

"They thought everything was great. They got to the nomination meeting and all of a sudden a man appeared and he got the nomination and was actually backed by the riding association," Mitchell said. "How is this happening? I don't know."

1 riding has 0 female candidates

As of Friday afternoon, seven of 26 candidates in the area are women.

  • In Waterloo, four out of five candidates are women. 
  • In Kitchener South-Hespeler so far, there are no women who have registered to run.
  • In Kitchener Centre, there is one woman candidate.
  • In Kitchener-Conestoga, there are two woman candidates.
  • In Cambridge, there is one woman candidate.
  • In Guelph, there is one woman candidate.

The numbers are slightly below what was seen in 2015, when eight out of 28 candidates in the five ridings in Waterloo region were women, which is about 28.5 per cent.

In Guelph out of seven candidates, there was one woman.

In the most recent federal government, Waterloo region had one female MP: Bardish Chagger in Waterloo.

She's running again and is facing three other women in Waterloo: The NDP's Lori Campbell, Green candidate Kirsten Wright and Erika Traub of the People's Party of Canada. Jerry Zhang, the Conservative candidate, is so far the only man running in the riding.

Before Chagger, there had only been one female MP from the are: Karen Redman, the current regional chair, was MP for Kitchener Centre from 1997 to 2008.

In Guelph, Brenda Chamberlain is the city's only female MP on record. She served from 1993 to 2008.

Karen Redman, the current regional chair, was Waterloo region's first female MP. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Women face different challenges

The lack of women running is seen across the country. A CBC/Radio-Canada analysis earlier this month showed as of Sept. 3, 40 per cent of declared candidates for the Oct. 21 election were women.

Women face challenges their male counterparts do not, the analysis showed, including that they often ran in tougher-to-win ridings and they had more trouble raising money.

Mitchell says there are a number of reasons women tend to shy away from politics, particularly provincial and federal roles that would take them away from home and their families.

Women need to have a supportive partner if they're in a relationship, and a support network, especially if they have children, she said, noting some men also find the job too much of a strain on their home life.

Mitchell says having women as role models in political roles is a big way to encourage more women to run for office.

"That's very important – that young women see other women in these roles," Mitchell said. "It is a hard job but it's very rewarding."

Listen to the whole interview with Jane Mitchell:


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