Former Morinville mayor looks at gender parity in municipal elections

· The Pulse
By Nathan Fung

Gender representation in Alberta mayoral races this year stayed the same in most communities, or saw a slight increase, compared to 2017, a former mayor and political consultant said.

Lisa Holmes, former Morinville mayor and founding partner of Diplomat Consulting looked at the number of women running in mayoral and council races in 16 mid-sized Alberta cities. She shared some of her findings in a Twitter thread on Oct. 4.

Holmes looked at the numbers because she's always been passionate about getting more women to run for office. It was something she pursued while president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) from 2015 to 2017, and she's also involved with the Searching for Izena project, which looks at female representation in Edmonton municipal politics.

"Something that's really at the forefront of what I do is trying to get more leadership options for women," Holmes told Taproot. "And getting them on the ballot is just as important as getting them elected.

"So I thought it was important to just give us a bit of a report card to see where we were in 2021."

Holmes said the four larger cities in the Edmonton region — St. Albert, Fort Saskatchewan, Spruce Grove, and Leduc — have relatively good numbers for women running in mayoral races, while the percentages are a little lower for female candidates running for councillor positions.

The highest percentage of female mayoral candidates is in Fort Saskatchewan, where both contestants for the role are women — incumbent Gale Katchur and city councillor Deanna Lennox.

Lisa Holmes is the former mayor of Morinville, Alta.

Lisa Holmes, former mayor of Morinville, looked at the number of women running in mayoral and council races in 16 mid-sized Alberta cities. (AUMA/Youtube)

St. Albert shares third place with the southern Alberta community of Chestermere, where women make up half the candidates of the four-person mayoral races. In the St. Albert contest, incumbent Cathy Heron is being challenged by law student Angela Wood.

Of the 16 cities she looked at, Holmes found that the number of women running for mayor has gone up slightly — from eight out of 49 candidates in 2017, to 16 out of 53 in 2021. One reason for the increase, she said, is that more women have experience on local city councils, which has led to a bigger pool of mayoral candidates.

"Women normally that look to take a top leadership position, they need to feel like they have more qualification than a male candidate, which is unfair but true," she said.

"So in a lot of cases, you're going to see women run for council first or for school board trustee, get the experience and then go from there."

Outside of the Edmonton region, Holmes said there are five mid-sized cities with no women running for mayor: Brooks, Camrose, Cold Lake, Lacombe, and Red Deer.

As for cities with the highest percentage of female council candidates, Spruce Grove ranked second to Chestermere, with five women running out of a total of 12 candidates, followed by Leduc which has four women running out of a total of 10 candidates.

Later this week, Holmes intends to analyze female representation in smaller Alberta towns.