News / Calgary

Calgary councillor frustrated with gender parity issues in volunteer boards

Diane Colley-Urquhart wants more info on appointed public members

Ward 13 Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart waves to the crowd before being sworn into Calgary city council on Oct. 23, 2017.

ELIZABETH CAMERON / Calgary Freelance

Ward 13 Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart waves to the crowd before being sworn into Calgary city council on Oct. 23, 2017.

It's 2017, and like moves made by the Trudeau government on gender parity, Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart wants the city to collect more information from public board applicants so that council can keep diversity in mind when making appointments.

The Ward 13 councillor said she was frustrated over the weekend after looking at hundreds of resumes for volunteer board positions that she wasn't able to discern gender, an important factor in her decision-making process when it comes to pinpointing a balance on boards.

"It's a broken process," she said. "It's too little too late, which is why I'm reluctant to do any appointments until the work is done."

Colley-Urquhart said having diverse boards that represent the public, and not just political interests, is a part of good democracy.

She said gender and identities are more complicated now, and her background as part of the human rights commission she knows the city could be asking for more information like ethnicity and gender – although some of it is optional.

"You really need all these voices around the table," said Colley-Urquhart. She gave the example of appointing someone from the LGBTQ community as a police commissioner.

Last year, council sifted through more than 440 applications from the public to sit on volunteer boards, but this year, only 289 stepped forward to participate. This is a concern for Colley-Urquhart who believes people from the public were eager to come forward because of how councillors treated volunteers on the council compensation committee.

The City of Calgary didn't make anyone available to comment on the accuracy of these figures, or if last year's application period was on par with years prior.

"I'm sad that my notice of motion failed by council when I wanted a total review of the council compensation review committee, and how those people were treated," said Colley-Urquhart. "When you see how those people were treated when they came forward to council, which was totally unacceptable, that's a fundamental problem."

Coun. Jyoti Gondek, who was a member of the City of Calgary's Planning Commission for four years before running in Ward 3, said there could be a dip in numbers because of the election.

"We've got to look at skill sets combined with people's perspectives and experiences," she said. "I know myself, the one thing I do is I don't look at names until I look at experience and qualifications – it's critical."

She herself stood down from her role when she decided to run like more than 80 other people who sought roles at city hall for the municipal election.

Coun. Jeromy Farkas said he personally thinks there were fewer applicants because of the election year, but he's also seen a culture from city council, such as the use of social media during presentations and tweeting about presenters, as possible deterrents.

"It's a combination of factors," Farkas said.

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