To help diversify a male-dominated city council, Fredericton’s only female councillor has set up a working committee to “make municipal politics an inviting space for everyone.”
“It’s to advise in two areas,” Kate Rogers, Fredericton’s Ward 11 councillor. “One in the area of gender awareness and sensitivity, and one to advise on how to increase representation on council standing committees and committees to which council appoints members.”
“We have people coming here with different backgrounds and sharing their culture with us, and it’s only improving our city, so why wouldn’t we also want that presence on our city government?”
In July, the City of Fredericton appointed an all-male committee for the New Brunswick Exhibition Land Development Project. Rogers challenged the decision.
“It just became increasingly apparent how important it was that our committees are more reflective of our community and have more diversity, particularly in regards to gender,” said Rogers.
“Nobody can speak better to the issues and the barriers that exist than actual members of these individual communities,” says Joanne Owuor of the Multicultural Association of Fredericton, “so I think the committee is definitely a good start but just insure that the committee reflects the diversity of our community.”
This issue isn’t just a concern in municipalities in the province. Lack of diversity permeates all three levels of government.
“I’m concerned about what the future means for more women coming into politics because it’s messy out there. And even while I’m watching this federal election I shake my head at the behaviour,” said PC MLA Andrea Anderson-Mason.
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The province’s second female attorney general says being an elected official is a 24/7 commitment, and open to public scrutiny.
“Look at me right now, here I am in my car. I spent the night in Moncton, my family was back in Saint George, I’m on the road today and that can be really challenging for a mom, a wife, you have to have a lot of family support,” said Anderson-Mason.
The working committee will begin operations right away. Rogers hopes by time the municipal election rolls around next May, more women and people of colour will be on the ballot.