Keesmaat outlines plan for gender equity at city hall

Jennifer Keesmaat has announced plans to ensure there is equal room for women in decision-making at city hall if she is successful in her mayoral bid.

‘Toronto can’t be at its best when women are left out of important discussions,’ mayoral candidate says

Jennifer Keesmaat says if she is successful in her mayoral bid, she will work with city staff to implement gender parity in senior staffing positions within the Toronto Public Service. (Paul Smith/CBC)

Jennifer Keesmaat has announced plans to ensure there is equal room for women in decision-making at city hall if she is successful in her mayoral bid.

Surrounded by a group of women outside Old City Hall Friday morning, Keesmaat said while the recent cuts to council could impact efforts to reach gender parity, there are immediate actions that could be taken to make sure women have a voice at city hall and beyond.

"While 52 per cent of the people in this city are women, we aren't reflected equally in our city council," Keesmaat said, adding: "In 2014, just 14 of 44 councillors elected to council were women."

The mayoral candidate, seen as the main challenger to incumbent John Tory in the Oct. 22 election, proposed to increase fairness in decision-making by:

  • Adopting gender-responsive budgeting.
  • Requiring gender parity on City of Toronto boards.
  • Implementing gender parity for senior staffing positions within the Toronto Public Service.

"Some current women councillors have chosen not to run, others will now run head to head against each other and many would-be first-time women candidates have dropped off the ballot entirely. After Election Day there may be too few elected women in this city to form a gender equal executive committee," Keesmaat said.

"However, we can take concrete steps as a city to build a fairer government for everyone. And that starts with the people doing the day-to-day work to keep our city moving forward."

Keesmaat noted that when women have an equal say in planning, budgeting and the execution of the shared vision for the city, they can build a fairer, more inclusive Toronto where everyone benefits.

"Toronto can't be at its best as a city when women are left out of important discussions about how to build this city," she said. "As mayor, I'll make sure there's room for women at every decision-making table in our city government."

Tory's office highlights record on gender equity

In response to Keesmaat's proposal, a spokesperson for Tory highlighted the mayor's record on gender equity, noting that during his term, city council passed two motions to support gender equity in public appointments and city procurement, respectively.

Keerthana Kamalavasan said women make up 44 per cent of senior leadership at city hall, and more than half were hired or promoted to their current roles during the mayor's term.

"Overall, more women than men were hired or promoted in senior leadership positions during the mayor's term," Kamalavasan said in an email. 

While pointing out that there is more work to do, she said that in 2018, for the first time, a gender equity lens was applied in the creation of the Toronto city budget.

"If re-elected, John Tory will continue to make sure women are well-represented in senior leadership roles at city hall and that across Toronto the voices of women are being heard," Kamalavasan said.