For the first time ever, there are more female Edmonton city councillors than male ones.
With all polls reporting Tuesday morning, eight female candidates had been elected:
- Keren Tang in Ward Karhiio
- Ashley Salvador in Ward Métis
- Sarah Hamilton in Ward sipiwiyinkiwak
- Karen Principe in Ward tastawiyiniwak
- Jo-Anne Wright in Ward Sspomitapi
- Anne Stevenson in Ward O-day’min
- Jennifer Rice in Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi
- Erin Rutherford in Ward Anirniq
“I’m feeling great,” said councillor-elect Stevenson. “It’s a bit surreal but really wonderful.
“It’s definitely a historic moment and so exciting.
“I think it really speaks to what Edmontonians have been wanting to see for a while and some really strong candidates stepped up and we’ve made history.”
“I think it will change how things are done in council,” said councillor-elect Wright, “bring a different perspective.”
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, mayor-elect Amarjeet Sohi said it’s about time Edmonton had more women on council from diverse and racialized backgrounds.
“I say this often: that some people think that diversity is somehow a wishy-washy thing, a feel good thing. It is not.
“Diversity is so fundamental for making good decisions because when people come to the table from diverse point of views and diverse perspectives and diverse lived experiences, that is what diversity is.”
Sohi said he’s excited to have eight strong women on council — some new and some returning — and he plans to reach out to all the newcomers in the coming days to get to know them better.
“I believe that for mayor to have a very open, transparent and a strong working relationship with council is necessary and critical for us to make collaborative decisions.”
Outgoing councillor Michael Walters congratulated everyone who has worked hard behind the scenes to get more diverse voices on council. He also praised Esslinger for her work on council, at times, being the “sole voice in the wilderness” as the only woman on city council two terms ago.
“That’s a big deal to have that kind of diversity on council,” Walters said.
“We hoped, we dreamed, for something like this,” said Katherine O’Neill with ParityYEG, a group that supports women and non-binary individuals in obtaining leadership positions in the community.
“2021 is actually the 100th anniversary of the very first woman to be elected to Edmonton city council. Her name is Izena Ross.
“To achieve something this historic tonight… is beyond expectations,” O’Neill said.
“It helps with the diversity of thought, diversity of perspective. I think it’s set our council up for success.”
Before the Oct. 18 election, there were two women on council.
A total of 24 women put their name forward for councillor in the 12 wards, and three stepped up to campaign for the mayor’s seat.
Voters in every ward, with the exception of Nakota Isga in the west end, had the option of choosing a female candidate.
Esslinger said Sept. 6 there’s a number of reasons why more women haven’t historically put their names forward.
“One is fundraising. Often they’re really good about raising money for everyone else, but not asking for themselves. And I think the other one is just the social context we live in.”
“Some women, they also have to balance on top of that family life. What if you have kids?” said ParityYEG’s vice-chair of governance Cindy Caturao.
Read more: Navigating Edmonton city council as a parent
Councillor-elect Stevenson is a mother and city planner.
She said when she was contemplating a run for council, she was surprised by some of the things she heard.
“I did have the question come up a number of times, you know, ‘Why would you run when there’s already another woman running?’ And it really struck me that we’re still trapped in this idea that women are not part of public life,” she said.
“The biggest impact when you’re a woman running for any leadership spot is online harassment,” Caturao explained.
“The utter garbage that women and non-binary individuals experience being a political candidate online.”
Edmonton Elections said more than 229,000 Edmontonians voted in the 2021 election, including ballots cast on Oct. 18 and during the advance vote period.
Official results will be confirmed by noon on Oct. 22.
— With files from Sarah Ryan, Global News