The City of Rossland has received a grant intended to encourage more young women and people within the LGBTQ2S+ community to run for local office.
“We generally have older white men sitting on city councils and running for mayor,” says mayor Kathy Moore. “We’re trying to get a more diverse group of people interested.”
The project, entitled Inspire Young Women and Gender Diverse Individuals in Local Government, will kick off next month with an expected completion date of September. Local government elections are this October.
Moore says they will work on the project with Tara Howse, who has run federally for the Green Party, and Tanis Shippy of Seven Summit Centre for Learning. Funding comes from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities CanWILL Inclusive Community Initiatives program.
Moore says part of the project will be studying gaps or barriers that prevent people from running.
“They need to feel welcome,” Moore says. “Not just women and people with diverse gender identities. There’s social media stuff that’s pretty ugly. I think there needs to be a conversation in the community about that, but also just letting people know it’s a wonderful [job] to do.
“What you see in social media doesn’t define the job or shouldn’t limit people wanting to seek a position in local government. It’s an incredibly positive experience and it can be very open and welcoming. It’s not just about gender, it’s about diverse points of view. We’re trying to get diverse ideas so we need diverse people to come to the table.”
Moore is the second woman to serve as Rossland’s mayor and is presently one of two women on council, although in her previous term she was the only woman on council. Prior to that, however, women formed a majority of council.
Moore notes that there is usually a lack of younger people among the candidates, which she guesses is at least in part because the job hasn’t paid all that well. Last week, city council took steps toward increasing the pay for mayor from $19,000 to $30,000 per year and for councillor from $9,500 to $15,000, starting with the next term.
“I hope by providing a more inviting atmosphere and better pay we might get a more diverse group stepping forward to run,” Moore says. “Whatever their ideas are, their background, their lived experience, they bring all that to the council table, and we need that.”