New school aims to give women tools to enter politics
New school aims to get more women on the ballot
Upcoming local elections may see more women on the ballot.
Community and municipal leaders from the Strait Area and Cape Breton/ Unama'ki launched a Facebook group Nov.4 to alert women about a new Local Government School starting up in Fall 2019. Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-beaton is a founding organizer of the “The Strait Area/cape Breton/unama'ki School for Women in Local Government”. Its mission is to “give women the tools they need to feel confident to run in local government.” Twenty-four hours after posting the welcome message, the group has 450 members.
“Maybe before they couldn't picture themselves as the local politician or the municipal leader or a band councillor or a chief,” said Chisholm-beaton on Nov. 5. “It's about allowing women to picture themselves running in an election or helping other women to do so. Or, how to be actively engaged in local politics as a woman who has a unique perspective to bring to the process.”
Local government schools for women (sometimes called campaign schools) have been held in the HRM. They typically cover all three levels of government. The volume of information can be overwhelming. The Strait Area/ Cape Breton/unama'ki School is unique. It will focus on local-level governance models in both First Nations communities and municipalities.
“Local government is the closest to the people. We have the biggest, dramatic impact on the daily lives of our citizens and I think it's a really great way for us to get involved.”
Topics may include practical information on the roles of elected officials (mayors, municipal and band councillors, wardens, chiefs) as well as chief administrative officers and other staff.
Neither Chisholm-beaton nor campaign school co-organizer Victoria County municipal councillor Perla Macleod, envisioned running for office.
Macleod was elected as District #2 Councillor in 2016. Born and raised in Mexico, she feels she brings perspective as a woman and immigrant to her role. Since taking office, she has given voice to the concerns of women and working parents and works to find ways to keep young people on Cape Breton.
“I took the decision to run for Council because I knew it was the way to be heard and I want to give back to my community, but I never knew I was going to be very political,” said Macleod. “The only way we can change or add something to our community is from our constituents’ voice.”
Chisholm-beaton was an entrepreneur with a Masters in Community Economic Development when she entered politics in 2012, becoming Deputy Mayor of Port Hawkesbury right off the bat and the first women elected to town council in 20 years. As per the town’s election by-laws, whoever is most successful at the polls on election day is automatically designated as Deputy Mayor. She remembers the learning curve well and believes the new venture will make the curve less intimidating for women taking office for the first time.
People are invited to join the school’s Facebook page which will be used in the coming months to find out what women need to confidently engage in local politics.
Mayor Brenda Chisholm-beaton
Councillor Perla Macleod