News / Toronto

Organization aims to get more women on Toronto city council

Out of 44 city councillors including the mayor, only 14 are women. Women Win Toronto wants to change that.

Aliya Bhatia, a former member of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, is one of the women working on Women Win Toronto, an initiative designed to get more women on council.

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Aliya Bhatia, a former member of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, is one of the women working on Women Win Toronto, an initiative designed to get more women on council.

When Hema Vyas decided to run for Toronto city council in 2010 she knew she had the skills for the job.

But the campaign was another story.

“You don’t have a hotline you can call with your questions,” said the former ward 18 candidate.

From fundraising, to putting herself on the public stage, she had never done any of it before and didn’t know anyone who had.

That’s something Vyas and a group of women are hoping to change with a new program called Women Win Toronto, launching June 7 to get more women to run for council in 2018.

Leading up to the May 2018 deadline for registering as a candidate in the next city council election, the group will offer free networking events to connect women with past candidates and workshops on practical skills like fundraising.

Out of 44 Toronto city councillors only 14 are women. The sole woman of colour is councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who is lending her support to the project.

“I know from personal experience, being the only woman of colour and being the only out LGBT member, council can be a very lonely place,” she told Metro.

“Especially since there is oftentimes an expectation that the issues around equity and equality will be raised only by myself.”

The 2018 election will see a lot of change, with some councillors retiring and a ward boundary review, so it’s an opportunity to shake things up, she added.

Aliya Bhatia, who worked on Olivia Chow’s mayoral campaign in 2014, said it’s also about getting women into behind the scenes roles like campaign manager.

Bhatia, who faced “so much hate” even for her out of the spotlight support role, said connecting women with those who have run before can help rookie candidates deal with the emotional impact of putting themselves on the public stage for the first time.

Wong-Tam said she often gets calls from LGBT people and women of colour asking if they too can run for local government, and they need more role models.

“I really believe that our city will be better if we actually have fairer representation than we have today,” she added.

 “We should on city council at least look like the city we serve.”

How does Toronto stack up to other cities?

Toronto:

44 councillors including mayor, 14 women

31 per cent female

Vancouver:

11 councillors including mayor, 5 women

45 per cent female

Winnipeg:

16 councillors including mayor, 4 women

25 per cent female

Calgary:

15 councillor seats including mayor, 2 women

13 per cent female

Halifax:

17 seats including mayor, 2 women

12 per cent female

Edmonton:

13 councillors, including mayor, 1 woman

7 per cent female

Ottawa:

24 councillors including mayor, 4 women

16 per cent female

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