New school aims to give women tools to en­ter pol­i­tics

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - CAROLYN BAR­BER

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

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