New Brunswick

Fredericton's lone female councillor calls out city hall for proposed all-male committee

Concerns over diversity has delayed the appointment of five city representatives to a committee that would look into possible development at the New Brunswick Exhibition grounds in Fredericton. 

City staff put forward list of 5 names for NBEX land development committee—all of which were male

At Monday night's city council meeting, Coun. Kate Rogers expressed concern over an all-male nominee list for a new land development committee that would oversee possible development at the city's exhibition grounds. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Concerns over diversity has delayed the appointment of five city representatives to a committee that would look into possible development at the New Brunswick Exhibition grounds in Fredericton. 

City council was set to vote on the appointments Monday night for the new NBEX land development committee, with a recommendation from staff to approve the appointments.

But a plea from Coun. Kate Rogers led councillors to vote down the proposal.

Rogers said there were several qualified female candidates who could have been nominated, herself included, but she was concerned to see an all-male nominee list.

"They are, as I already said, good candidates," said Rogers, who is the city's only female councillor.

"But when I look at the candidates, when I look at the list that we did receive … there are some women who put their names forth, who also have very strong credentials. And I think that it's incumbent on us, in this day and age, to try to reflect at the very least gender diversity."

Committee formed for possible land development 

The NBEX land development committee was formed after years of conflict between the city and the Fredericton Exhibition Ltd.

In 2017 the city started discussions to push the NBEX into a new location and away from the current grounds, so it could be developed into a residential area.

That was opposed by NBEX, which eventually brought the city to court before dropping the case last fall.

 

I feel that they hear me, but I don't know whether or not they're listening.- Coun. Kate Rogers

The committee was initiated after the city and the Fredericton Exhibition came to an agreement to develop a new plan for the grounds back in February.

Coun. Eric Price, one of the nominees for the city's five committee members, said he was not aware there was an issue with representation.

"I appreciate Kate's points as well and they're very valid points," Price told city council.

"I had no idea about all those things that you just talked about, so thank you for enlightening me on that."

The rest of the nominee list includes Deputy Mayor Steven Hicks, Fredericton's Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Trail, Shawn Bilerman and Trevor Hanson.

'Some of them don't want to hear it'

Rogers said this isn't the first time she's bought up issues regarding women's representation to her male counterparts.

"I feel that they hear me, but I don't know whether or not they're listening," said Rogers after Monday night's council meeting.

"Some of them don't want to hear it. Some of them have been disrespectful when I have raised it. Others have come to me and said, 'We know it's a problem. We don't have the slightest idea what to do to make a change.'"

The committee was initiated after the city and the Fredericton Exhibition came to an agreement to develop a new plan for the grounds in February. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC News)

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien has the final say on the list of nominees presented to council.

O'Brien said while it is his purview, he instructed staff to choose the nominees.

"I left that to staff," he told council.

"That's not to put any onus on staff … but the staff made the recommendation and I signed the report."

Women represent greater community

Meanwhile at a council-in-committee meeting that took place earlier Monday, a visiting mayor from Port St. John's, South Africa, lightly chastised the city for only having one female councillor.

"When we saw the picture of the council members, as a female mayor, I had an issue," said Nomvuzo Mlombile-Cingo, who was visiting the city along with a group of South African mayors on a cultural exchange.

Now what?

Rogers said her objections were not "sour grapes."

The city councillor said she would support any decision the council made, but that it's important to have a more diverse council and city committees.

"What is right is that we have more women represented on our council to reflect our community, to reflect the parity that exists in our community," she said.

The matter has returned to city staff. No timetable was announced for the introduction of new nominees.

CBC News has asked the city for the full list of candidates for the committee but has not yet received that list.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jordan Gill

Reporter

Jordan Gill is a CBC reporter based out of Fredericton. He can be reached at jordan.gill@cbc.ca.

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