Almost a brodeo: the gender ratio of Red Deer’s city council challengers

Seventeen men and five women. With nomination day now behind us we know that’s the ratio of the pool of challengers hoping to unseat the incumbents for a spot on Red Deer city council. It’s not as bad as some of the municipal elections in Alberta (hello, Calgary’s mayoral race), but I think we can do better next time around.

Over the weekend I wrote about my interest in the coming election and how it was piqued by the sight of election campaign signs along my dog walking routes, but I’ve actually been thinking about the women of this election for a lot longer than I’ve been seeing lawn signs.

Back in July I wondered to myself (and then to Twitter) if all the challengers who had come forward at that point were men. As of July 25 (when I did the wondering) all five of the challengers to have come forth publicly were male. A full 100 percent of the pool at that point. I was humming a Flight of the Conchords song while I tweeted.

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The good news is now that we’re officially into the campaign, the pool of challenging candidates is no longer 100 percent male. The bad news is, with only five women among these 22 candidates, we’re still pretty far from a fifty-fifty split.

For the last pie I got the numbers from the 2016 Municipal Census, which notes “In the data above, ‘missing’ combines both missing data and where residents declined to answer. Red Deer’s female population exceeds its male population by 0.59 per cent.” I used the term “unknown” on my chart but probably should have used the original term as some people don’t fit neatly into either box.

Many (including some of the people closest to me) would say this doesn’t matter, pointing to the last election when a (young) woman won the mayor’s seat in a contest that was basically a two-woman race, and to the good representation we’ve had on council in recent terms.

Yes, women currently hold three of the eight council seats here in Red Deer, a ratio that’s better than those in Alberta’s other mid-sized cities (in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge only two of the eight seats have women in them).

Yes, all three of the women currently on council here (Tanya Handley, Lynne Mulder, and Dianne Wyntjes) are seeking another term. The previous council elected in 2010 saw four of the eight seats filled by women (full parity and a record number for RD I believe).

Yes, Red Deer has had at least three women on every council elected since 2001.

When women run Red Deerians we don’t have a problem voting for them.

And that makes me proud of this city.

But it doesn’t change the fact that more men than women are running.

I hope to see more equal ratios in the next election, but right now, I’m just interested the five women who’ve decided to run as challengers. Here’s my notes on them:

Valdene Callin

The only woman on this list to have launched a campaign website (yes, I’ve updated my list). According to her site Callin’s lived here for 20 years and has been a really active community volunteer. Got the Red Deer and District Community Foundation Women of Excellence Community Builder award in 2014. Her experience as a member on the Crime Prevention Advisory Committee (2009–2011) may come in handy given the current situation here in Red Deer.

Kristina (Kris) Maciborsky

From social media it looks like she’s involved with the United Church, Central Alberta Pride and PFLAG. To my knowledge, Maciborsky is the only LGBTQ2 candidate running. As of this writing, I can’t find any election profile stories on her in the local media (that’s true for plenty of candidates — outlets have to pace themselves and the race has only just begun), but the story of how she met her wife made the Red Deer Advocate a couple years back.

Sandra (Sam) Bergeron

A hair stylist and Fairview resident, Bergeron’s Facebook page suggests she’s interested in championing the north end, a part of Red Deer many have argued is underrepresented on council. She moved to Red Deer in 2002.

Vesna Higham

Has already made a successful council run once, serving Red Deer from 2001–2004. A self-described fiscal conservative and mom of five, this retired lawyer has experience and skills that will make her attractive to some voters, and a political history that may turn others off. She used to be a columnist for the Red Deer Advocate. Folks who moved here in recent years or just aren’t familiar with her can Google those columns and find her on Facebook.

Bobbi McCoy

The bio for McCoy submitted to the city’s election site lists three decades of volunteer experience with the Royal Canadian Legion and not much else. According to her Facebook page she’s lived in Red Deer since 2003, and “Crime protection” and “growth & sustainability” are the basis of her platform.

Now, bros of RD, before you @ me to complain that I’m advocating for voting for women just because they’re women, understand that I’m not.

I’m gonna vote for the candidates who I believe will serve RD best and I hope everyone does the same.

There are candidates of both genders who I’m considering, and plenty more who I am not.

We’ll have to see, but I’m betting a couple of the women mentioned above have a pretty good shot at a council seat, and I’m almost certain our next council will have at least as many women on it as it does now.

Women may be outnumbered in the race, but I don’t think they will be in chambers.

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