Women in politics

by Jennifer Lavallee
Morinville News Correspondent

Now more than ever, a spotlight is shining on women in politics; no doubt influenced in large part by Hillary Clinton and her run for the American Presidency. But also, by other female politicians in our own Province—like Alberta NDP Minister Shannon Phillips, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, and Federal MP and Interim Conservative Party Leader, Rona Ambrose—who have been working to bring attention to some of the pitfalls, but also rewards, of pursuing politics while female.

Locally, a movement has also developed, meant to encourage women to enter municipal politics specifically; Morinville’s Mayor, Lisa Holmes, has been adding her voice to this cause for some time.

Holmes has been a municipal politician for the last six years: she was a Morinville Councillor from 2010 to 2013 and has been Mayor for the past three years. Before this, she worked as part of the administration for several non-profit organizations and used to work for the Alberta Teacher’s Association for a period as well.

Referencing challenges that come with a political career, Holmes admits, “it isn’t always easy to find a balance between time spent in my political role and time with my family.”

On the flip side to that, however, she also talked about rewards, saying in an interview, a role in politics is an opportunity to influence positive change in your own community (now and in the future) and to contribute to improving people’s quality of life.

“I believe that communities are stronger when all of its members are represented at the decision-making table. Traditionally there have been more barriers to women being involved in political life and fewer examples of female leaders to model the way for others,” said Holmes, “as we identify the barriers and encourage more women to run, there is more opportunity for our Councils to become more diverse and representative.”

Holmes, who is also the President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), has been actively involved in encouraging women in politics for years. Whether it has been through one of her many roles at AUMA or her membership in other groups, such as in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Alberta Status of Women Program, or the Capital Region Women’s Caucus, she has been a champion of the movement.

As to whether or not she will run in next year’s election, Holmes said she is undecided.
“My kids are much older now than when I was first elected, it will need to be a family decision. Being Mayor of Morinville is an absolute privilege and honour. I feel confident that the skills and experience that I have built over the past six years will continue to be used to serve the public in whatever capacity my future holds.”

During the last municipal election in Morinville, three out of the four Mayoral candidates were women, and only 31 per cent for the councillor positions. This number compares to 2010 when no women ran for Mayor, and 60 per cent for the councillor positions.

Holmes is not Morinville’s first female Mayor; that title was earned by Mary Anne Balsillie, who was Mayor from 1992 to 1996.

Information sessions for women interested in getting involved in municipal politics are starting to pop up around the Capital Region. The City of Edmonton’s non-profit group, Women’s Initiative, recently held a panel discussion on diversity in politics. Other groups like the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), the Alberta North Chapter of an organization called Equal Voice, and AUMA are also holding related sessions.

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