Just before the 2003 election, Mayor Lynne Woolstencroft took Councillor Jane Mitchell and Angela Vieth to one of the first Women’s Municipal Campaign Schools in Ontario. It was organized by Brantford Councillor, Marguerite Ceschi-Smith because she was the only female on her council.
After the 2003 election, Jane decided it would be good to have a Waterloo Region Women’s Municipal Campaign School in Waterloo Region. The first day was held on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2005 in Regional Council Chambers.
The organizing committee included: Bardish Chagger, Diane Freeman, Jane Mitchell, Trudy Moul, Helen Ramirez, Donna Reid, Angela Vieth and Joan Westcott. The sponsors were Region of Waterloo, Zonta Club, KW YWCA and Cambridge YWCA, Elementary Teachers, Status of Women, Conestoga Rovers, Arachne Web, Wordsworth Books, Municipal World Magazine, and Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Two of the outcomes of the day were to provide women with reasons why their presence is important in elected office, and increase the ways in which woman could support, run and/or mentor women in the 2006 municipal campaign. The outstanding keynote was a discussion by the Honourable Karen Redman MP, and Government Whip, now our Regional Chair, and Elizabeth Witmer,MPP and former Deputy Premier. None of us who were there will forget their honest and moving discussion about being a woman in politics.
2006 saw Waterloo Council move to half women under Mayor Brenda Halloran. An unknown, Brenda had stood up at the Campaign School and announced she was running for Mayor. She beat the incumbent Mayor, Herb Epp and a previous Mayor, Brian Turnbull. Mayor Halloran retired after two terms as Mayor. Other city councils increased from one to two women, five in the Region and more women school trustees.
Of the members of the first committee, Bardish Chagger is now the Honourable Bardish Chagger M.P. and House Leader, Diane Freeman is a long time Waterloo councillor , as is Angela Vieth. Donna Reid is a councillor in Cambridge. Speaker Catherine Fife is a long time M.P.P. for Waterloo and was also a committee member. Jane Mitchell was a Regional Councillor for 18 years and first woman Chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority.
Regional Clerk, Kris Fletcher has consistently given the participants legal advice. All the women councillors and many school trustees have given time to the school, despite male councillors pointing out they were training the competition.
Over the years, the school has had keynotes from Past Premier Wynne (before she was premier), NDP leader Andrea Horwath (before she was NDP leader) and MPP Christine Elliott who ran for the Provincial Conservative leadership.
With Jane Mitchell as Chair, the committee moved on over the years with a campaign school before each municipal election with some success. Notably, Melissa Durrell, a reporter for CTV news, came as a presenter to discuss how to deal with the media. She was so impressed, she ran for Waterloo Council and won, going onto be a two term councillor.
The 2018 committee consisted of: Councillor Jane Mitchell, Councillor Melissa Durrell, Karen Scian, Carly Greco, Gwyneth Mitchell, Councillor Donna Reid, Councillor Elizabeth Clarke, Kate Daley, Fauzia Mazhar, Laurie Strome, Sara Bingham (Women’s March organizer) Kim Decker and Marg Johnston (now councillor for Kitchener and former trustee)
A former Waterloo Councillor, Karen Coviello Scian told the committee that we needed to be bold. The committee agree. Our slogan: 50% women elected in 2018. It seemed optimistic.
In January of 2018 , inspired by the millions of women marching in Washington and around the world in reaction to the election of Donald Trump and the defeat of Hilary Clinton in the United States, women marched for women in Waterloo Region. Inspired, a record number of women, 164, came to our first Campaign school day for the 2018 election.
A record number of women went onto run and to win in the 2018 municipal election. Waterloo Council once again has over 50 percent women. North Dumfries has over 50 percent women and Wilmot has 50 percent women after no women since 1973! Half of the municipal mayors and chair are women. Well over 50 percent of the trustees on the Waterloo Public Board are women.
We reached 48 percent women for the total of municipal councils. The last provincial election, 4 of the 5 MPPs for Waterloo Region were women. We should be proud of what we have done.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities notes that in 2017, the following was true about women municipal politicians:
The United Nations defines 30% as the minimal percentage of women required for government to reflect women’s concerns.
Women in Canada represent 18 per cent of mayors and 28 per cent of councillors, for an average of 26 percent. In absolute terms, of 24,113 elected officials, 5,926 are women. Based on current statistics Canada would need 1,408 more women in elected office today to reach the 30 per cent target.
That means increasing the number of women in municipal government by roughly 100 every year over the next 14 years.