A Challenge: Electoral Gender Parity

We all know that at this point, Vision Vancouver has an amazing set of potential candidates – at current count, we have 15 Council Candidates, 12 Park Board Candidates and 7 School Board Candidates. That’s a total of 34 candidates. However, there are a total of only 11 female candidates running for spots on the various components of municipal government. Breaking it down by board, there are 4 City Council, 4 School Board and 3 Park Board candidates who are women.

The United Nations says that a critical mass of at least 30% women is needed before legislatures produce public policy representing women’s concerns and before political institutions begin to change the way they do business (see more here , here (both PDFs) and here).
source: Equal Voice.

If I’m reading Frances‘ list correctly, the NPA have already nominated 4 women as City Council candidates, 3 as School Board candidates and 2 as Park Board candidates – meaning that they’ve already reached the magic (if we can say that magic = the minimum threshold) 30% mark for Council and School Board, and are one short of meeting that minimum threshold for Parks Board. Of course, the NPA has significantly less geographic, ethnic and age diversity than is present amongst the Vision nominees, and these considerations are also very important.

Reading the tea leaves for Vision, however, worries me – it strikes me as all too possible that the Vision Vancouver membership will end up nominating only one female candidate at each level. However, while the NPA can do very little at this point to change the make-up of their candidates, the door is wide open for Vision Vancouver to prove that not only is it the most ethnically and geographically diverse party, but it is also has understood and met the needs of gender equity.

So here’s my challenge to us all:

  • Vision Membership: You have the most important role to play in achieving a more balanced slate. Your votes will determine who represents our party in this fall’s municipal election. When deciding upon who to vote for, consider whether the list of nominees you are supporting includes women, and how the slate you’re choosing represents Vancouver’s gender balance, Vision’s progressive ideals, and the issues directly affecting the women of Vancouver.
  • Vision Candidates: We all want to be nominated, I know, so asking you (and I speak primarily to my fellow male candidates here) to actively support your fellow female candidates may seem odd, but here’s my challenge. Choose at least two non-incumbent women for whichever office you’re running for, and ask them what you can do to help them get nominated. They may refuse, but they may not. This is not meant in a patronising, ‘women-need-men’s-help-to-get-elected’ way; but rather the stark reality is that there’s a severe gender imbalance amongst the candidates. It’s easy to think that nominating only one non-incumbent woman counts as progressive, but it is mistaken. Nominating more women candidates is essential if we are serious about seeing more women elected. Regardless, when emailing your supporters, let them know the importance of nominating female candidates, and endorse at least two non-incumbent women candidates for each office.
  • Vision Executive: After this election cycle is complete, I challenge you to strike a committee to investigate electoral gender parity issues and to present the committee’s suggestions to the Vision membership for a vote on at our next AGM.

Vision Spring Gala

I attended Vision’s Spring Gala, a fund raising dinner for the party at the Wall centre. The evening started off rough. This won’t be a surprise for anyone who knows me, but I don’t really own a variety of dress clothes. So 20 minutes before I was supposed to be there, Leah was helping me dress (I must say: poor lighting + color-blindness makes getting dressed quite stressful), choosing from amongst my one pair of dress pants, three ties and five dress shirts (note to self: buy more dress clothes so I’m not always wearing the same things at these events!).

But I got out of the house in good time, looking ironed, combed, clean, all the good stuff and headed down. To quell my fears of the public at large (hi public at large! You intimidate me, and yet, I’m going to be spending lots of time speaking to you, at you, and all things going as planned, for you!), I listened to a select few tunes on my ride down, and was then calm once again upon arrival at the Wall Centre (If you’ve never been to the Wall Centre, it’s a maze. I started in one building, then had to leave that one, cross a courtyard, enter another building, go down one escalator, do a 180-degree turn, and then I was at the function. Or rather, and the registration. There was yet another corner and yet another escalator to reach the function itself).

The evening went well. I think I mingled semi-successfully, although I still need to work on the “Hi, I’m Steve Tannock & I’m running for Parks Board” bit, as it wasn’t always smooth. But I mingled with those I knew and said hi to a few others. I’m proud of myself for deftly avoiding picking sides in the upcoming nomination race by lauding each candidate in turn and explaining my angst over picking between them, despite several attempts by supporters of Gregor and Raymond to get me to wear a button for them. Perhaps I should’ve worn both? But then the dinner itself was to begin and we were ushered into the large dining room, with it’s maze of tables.

I sat at Table 28, aka “Vision Supporters Table 3”, along with all sorts of nice people, which was great, and settled in, only to find, to my surprise and delight (despite Kurt’s earlier hints) that I was summoned to the front and the stage along with the other to-date-declared nominees for School Board, Parks Board, Council and Mayor to be gazed upon and clapped at. It was a really invigorating moment for me, peering out into the silhouettes of hundreds of excited supporters cheering us on. At the same time, I couldn’t help thinking “My fellow nominees are really short!” (aside: am I a nominee? A proto-nominee, given that I’m seeking nomination?) Only Gregor stands about my height of all those currently announced. Hopefully I looked good up there.

Post dinner, there was some minor speechery. First by Larry Campbell, whom I’ve always enjoyed listening to, and tonight was no different. He somehow manages to be both laid back and incredibly engaging at the same time. Then there was a presentation to Jim Green for all his work, at which point I was summoned to the stage again along with all the executive and nominees, which was nice, although a little chaotic and perhaps slightly counter-productive to the presentation. Jim gave a short speech, which I admit to have not heard entirely, as there was much jostling around up there, and then the night was more or less done.

Except! right! How could I forget!? there was an improv troupe! called…”Rock Paper Scissors” I believe, who may well have been good, but due to the poor acoustics and timing, went over like a lead balloon, more or less, which is too bad. I think post food and post speeches, people just wanted to leave.

After connecting with the other candidates briefly, as I’m sure I’ll be seeing them, if not working with them, frequently over the next few months, I headed home.