Few Ottawa women running for city council — and none for mayor

The list of candidates vying for seats on Ottawa's next city council has once again been dominated by men, with women making up only 19 per cent of the field.

Only 19 per cent of the city's verified candidates for the October election are women

Only 19 per cent of the candidates in Ottawa's upcoming municipal election are women. (Danny Globerman/CBC)

The list of candidates vying for seats on Ottawa's next city council has once again been dominated by men, with women making up only 19 per cent of the field.

The same was true last election, when only four women were elected out of 24 seats.

But unlike in that election, only men are running for mayor.

"I'm not entirely surprised. I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised that the numbers haven't gone up," said Amy Kishek, an Ottawa lawyer and advocate for women in politics. She's also one of the hosts of the feminist podcast Bad and Bitchy

There are several barriers that keep women from getting involved in elected office, she said, and they haven't been addressed in the last four years. Childcare, the financial pressures of running a campaign and the fact that city hall is such a male-dominated arena can often deter them.

Women often take on community leadership roles in other ways, through community associations and tenants associations, but don't end up running for elected office.

Candidate withdraws 

Lilly Obina was one of the few women of colour — if not the only one — to put her name forward this election, but she withdrew on the final day of the nomination period.

She pulled out to make way for like-minded male candidates to prevent splitting the vote against incumbent Coun. Diane Deans in Gloucester-Southgate.

Lilly Obina was planning to run for a third time in Gloucester-Southgate, but withdrew her nomination on Friday. (Laura Osman/ CBC News )

"I'm looking at the bigger goal, which is that we need change in our ward," Obina said.

"My focus is let's get a person that can affect change, that will help my kids, that will help my neighbourhood … I could be here with my diversity, my being a woman, and I will lose. What help is that?"

The shallow pool of female candidates is one of the things that spurred former CTV Ottawa anchor Carol Anne Meehan to throw her name in the race for Gloucester-South Nepean.

"I couldn't keep saying we should have more people running for council if I didn't, at this stage of my life, put my money where my mouth is," Meehan said.

Carol Anne Meehan is registered to run in Gloucester-South Nepean. (Laura Osman/ CBC news)

More women in races with no incumbent 

Kishek said volunteer organizations are now working to help support female candidates who may be facing barriers in the race ahead. They hope to connect them with campaign managers and financing to improve the representation of women on council.

"A lot of people, especially in Ottawa, are very acutely aware of these issues and yet no one has really taken up the mantle to the degree it has been taken," she said.

"We're all on the hook for that."

Though few women are running, there is still a good chance the city could see more female elected representatives after the Oct. 22 vote.

The proportion of women running is higher — about 35 per cent — in the four wards with no incumbent.

The number of female candidates is especially high in Innes ward, where three of the four confirmed candidates are women. In Orléans, where there are a record number of candidates, five of the 17 people registered are women.