Governance: DEMOGRAPHIC REPRESENTATION
Governance: DEMOGRAPHIC REPRESENTATION
These indicators track municipal governance and management on climate and sustainability. Who is making decisions and are they representative of the community? What commitments has the municipality made? Are they backing up those commitments with adequate resources?
Why this Indicator is Important
This indicator, which is new this year, looks at the proportion of women and non-binary representation on city councils across Canada. While not explicitly linked to lowering GHG emissions, diverse councils mean more voices at the decision-making table and better representation for constituents. International research has also found connections between female political representation and an increased focus on issues like health, childcare and gender-based violence.1 Statistics on female council members around the world show Canada lagging behind other countries.2 In an effort to improve that, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has launched an effort to reach 30% female council members by 2026. To get there, the FCM is calling on existing municipal councils to take steps to make it easier for women to run, including by making council operations more compatible with family responsibilities and by considering providing financial support to candidates.3 Meanwhile, data on non-binary council members remains scarce, as are campaigns to increase their presence in local government. So far, there are just a handful of politicians across different levels of government in Canada who publicly identify themselves as non-binary.
Data Availability and Accessibility: 1/3
This indicator was calculated using information drawn from municipal websites. It’s important to note that in some cases, assumptions were made based on the pronouns used in council member’s biographies to determine how they identify. We also drew our data prior to any late fall municipal elections. In Vancouver’s case, the most recent municipal election led to the proportion of female and non-binary council members dropping from 73% to 46%.4 When identifying a “winner” in this category, we debated whether it should be the city with the highest female and non-binary representation, or the city whose council demographics most closely matches its population (closer to gender parity). We decided to go with the former, with the justification that since women and non-binary people tend to be under-repre- sented on councils, a representation superior to 50% would be more likely to be connected to intentional policies or circumstances for supporting female and non-binary candidates.
Note(s): Data are from 2022. Data are from city websites and city staff.
Vancouver, British Columbia, is the winner of this category, with a 2018-2022 municipal council that was composed of 73% female and non-binary members. One possible factor contributing to this is Vancouver’s municipal political party system. The municipal parties select and put forward slates of candidates every election, who are then able to benefit from the name recognition and fundraising power of the party as they run their campaigns. In 2018, at least two of Vancouver’s major municipal parties —the Non-Partisan Association and Coalition of Progressive Electors— put forward more female candidates than male.5 In fact, none of the ten winning council members in 2018 were independent, indicating it may be difficult to make an impression on Vancouver voters without a party behind you, especially for female and non-binary candidates. While 2018 brought in an unprecedented number of female council members, it’s also important to note that they were overwhelmingly white, with just one person of colour elected in a city where more than 50% of people identify as racialized.6
3. Federation of Canadian Municipalities. “Women in local government: getting to 30% by 2026.” 2012. Accessed December 2022.
5. City of Vancouver, “2018 random order ballot.” Accessed December 2022.