Opinion

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diversity

- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

Until 101 years ago, all the political decisions in Ontario were made by white men. 1917 was the year women got the vote in Ontario.

No woman took a seat in the Ontario Legislature for another twenty-six years when our own Agnes Macphail and activist Rae Luckock joined the boys. In 1960 Indigenous people, some of whom had fought in the Canadian Forces, were allowed to vote without giving up their status, and a decade later the voting age waslowered from 21 to 18.  Until 1955, there had never been a mayor in Toronto who was not a member of the Protestant-only Orange Lodge.

Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are white men of Protestant heritage. I sleep with an old one and I gave birth to a young one.

But the homogeneity of our City representatives is reflected in a certain sameness of perspective that may no longer be reflecting the full range of interests in our community.

Both women and one man on our City Council are over 70, everyone is white, and to my knowledge all are cis-gendered and straight. There is only one person under 40, and after three-plus years on council, youth-teasing seems to still be considered acceptable in a way "seniors" jokes would not.

City committees are made up of city councillors and their appointees, so homogeneity on council tends to be reflected in its committees. Only the brand new Tom Thomson Art Gallery Advisory Committee has gender parity, and three committees have only a single woman serving with as many as seven men.
The overall skin-tone palette is distinctly in the pasty to pink range.

One of only two women on Owen City council is likely retiring this year, and the only person who has expressed interest in her job as Deputy Mayor thus far is a middle aged white man. That would further reduce Grey County council by one woman (currently there are 13 men and 5 women, including one person of colour.)

Of course straight  men and their appointees can make good decisions for a diverse community. That is not the issue.
The question is - Should the voices of that diverse community be at the table?

Women make up 53 percent of the Owen Sound population and a growing share of our home and business owners. People who were not born in town or even in the country and people of colour are being recruited for our major employers including health care and education. People aged fifteen to forty make up 28 percent of our population. There are people who identify as LGBTQ in every sector of our local economy from agriculture to zippers (there are – I checked.)

I am not suggesting that any given individual should be replaced on city or county council – I leave that entirely to the privacy of the voting process. I will suggest that we as a community would be best served by a body of representatives on our councils and committees that more broadly reflects the makeup of the City we have - and the City we want.

Nomination Period for the October 22 Municipal Election
Tuesday, May 1 to Friday, July 27, 2018

 

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