Statement from YWCA Hamilton CEO Denise Christopherson: The lack of women and gender-diverse candidates highlights the need for advancing gender equity at City Hall

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On October 24, 2022 Hamilton and Halton residents will head to the polls to elect their new municipal government and school board trustees.

Nominations have now closed, and there are many candidates in both Hamilton and Halton who deserve congratulations for putting their name forward – particularly the women and gender-diverse people who have committed themselves to public service, and to improving life in their community.

There are many bright spots in this year’s slate of candidates. Hamilton is facing the possibility of electing its first woman mayor in 175 years; Hamilton city council is facing unprecedented levels of turnover, paving the way for more diverse gender and racial representation; women are either seeking re-election or top leadership positions in Halton; and there are many qualified women and gender-diverse people on the ticket in both Hamilton and Halton.

However, after reviewing the candidates, it’s disappointing to see that less than half of all candidates in both Hamilton and Halton are women or gender-diverse people.

Of over 70 candidates for Hamilton city council, only 27 are women or gender-diverse. Of the 51 candidates for Hamilton school board, only 18 are women.

In Halton, the numbers are similar: in Burlington, 16 of 52 candidates are women; in Halton Hills, only 8 of 32 candidates are women; in Milton, 19 of 46 candidates are women, and in Oakville, 25 of 56 candidates are women.

While women represent roughly 51 per cent of the population, but these numbers show us that not even half of all local candidates are women – and in some cases, 75 per cent of all candidates running are men.

With this in mind, YWCA Hamilton will be watching the candidates closely and advocating for policies that advance gender equity in Hamilton and Halton.

The issues that we will be focusing on include:

Housing and shelter: Increasing the amount of affordable, accessible and safe housing options for women and gender diverse people.

Decent work: Enhance wages and implement better work conditions for frontline and non-profit workers, a largely feminized and racialized segment of the workforce. This includes enhancing wage top-ups for shelter, child care and other city-funded care workers, as well as creating more good-paying jobs for people living with disabilities, newcomers, racialized groups, women and gender-diverse people.

Combatting hate and violence: Create a specific fund that provides cash payments to survivors of violence to help rebuild lives in safety, increase funding and expand programming and services for harm reduction, and implementing programs that reduce the reliance of police to address mental health, homelessness, gender-based violence and gun violence.

Community wellbeing: Create more free spaces in recreation programs and ensure they are available for children and adults in need; funding specific programs for girls and trans youth; creating more accessible gender-neutral washrooms.

It is so important to have the needs of women and gender-diverse people heard and understood at decision-making tables – particularly in municipal government, which touches our day-to-day lives so closely. Please, when you vote on October 24, vote with gender equity in mind.

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