June 17th, 2014 at the Gathering Room at Leigh Square
I had a great opportunity to attend the condensed Women’s Campaign School “Essentials Workshop” in Port Coquitlam, an event put on by the Canadian Women Voters Congress, in partnership with the Young Women Civic Leaders and Mayor Greg Moore of the City of Port Coquitlam. I was interested to find out that Mayor Moore had personally contacted the Congress about holding an educational event in hopes of attracting more women to run in the upcoming civic election. As of now there are no women on the Port Coquitlam City Council, and there has never been an elected woman mayor.
Women came from all over the Lower Mainland, but most were from the Tri-cities area. In a show of hands and some brief introductions, we found out that over a dozen of the 40 or 50 attendees were planning to run for office in the November municipal election. Most were gearing up to run for City Council and the School Board, with one participant seeking nomination within the Conservative Party caucus. It was great to see women gathered from all different political backgrounds with a common goal to gain more knowledge to help them in their political endeavors. They had come to the right place.
The speakers of the night included School Trustee Judy Shirra, Surrey City Councillor Barinder Rasode, Vancouver City Councillor Heather Deal, Port Moody/Coquitlam MLA Linda Reimer, and Campaign Strategist Raj Sihota. Judy opened the night with an inspiring account of how she decided to enter municipal politics as a school trustee because of her long affiliation with PACs. She stressed the value of like-minded individuals coming together produce change, noting that women need to celebrate one another’s achievements.
Linda Reimer also a mother and former PAC member, told her interesting story of running for both school trustee and City Councillor and losing, only to win a City Council position on her third campaign. Approached later by the Liberal Party of BC, she ran for MLA for Port Moody/Coquitlam and won. Now sitting in the legislature in Victoria, she’s an example of a woman whose persistence led to success.
Heather Deal gave some interesting tips for running a campaign. She emphasized encouraging volunteers to vote, the importance of standing on street corners and starting a dialogue with the community, while at the same time keeping a sense of humor. She also advised that when in office the importance of research and coming with solutions when identifying problems.
Barinder Rasode, an eloquent speaker, had several meaningful points. She told the attendees to first of all throw away any doubts they had about running. She said it’s important to not get discouraged by the logistics of a campaign, because if you are following your passion people will recognize that and help you. In addition, she noted the value of changing the negative perception of a career in politics. Instead of using the titles “politician” or “ambitious woman,” she encouraged using phrases like “elected representative” and “giving back to the community.”
A lively Q&A period followed with Reimer, Deal, and Rasode stressing the importance of face-to-face interaction with the community, and touching on issues concerning work/life balance. All three women agreed that a career in public service is ultimately a truly rewarding experience.
The second part of the night was a Campaign Essentials workshop prepared by Raj Sihota, a Campaign Strategist and board member of the Canadian Women Voters Congress. The workshop detailed the logistics of a campaign, including areas such as managing volunteers, finances and fundraising, voter contact, organizing a campaign plan, and communications. The condensed session was full of crucial information and participants had lots of questions and feedback during the session.
It was truly amazing to see such a large turnout for this event. And though a lot of the participants made the long commute from Vancouver North Vancouver at least half were from the Tri-cities area. Hopefully with this upcoming municipal election we will see some women faces on the Port-Coquitlam City Council, and more women in the rest of Greater Vancouver.
Photo credit: Anastasia Gaisenok and Sally Lee
1. Erin Rennie is a Master’s of Planning Candidate 2014
2. CWVC–The Canadian Women Voters Congress is a non-partisan registered charity working to inspire, educate, and empower women to participate in democracy. To find out more about our upcoming events please visit www.womenvoters.ca