Last October, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) launched a campaign to encourage more candidates from diverse communities to consider running in this year’s municipal elections.
“Having the voices of diverse genders and identities, ethnicities, races, sexual orientations, ages and abilities and more around the council table is essential to building inclusive and sustainable communities across the province,” the statement read. of the association on the initiative, “We All win.
Encouraging greater diversity in municipal governments is a laudable goal, given that municipal governments in Ontario and Canada are simply not representative of the populations they serve. Yet it’s a goal that will likely remain out of reach for a variety of reasons, including the cost of running for municipal office and a lack of youth engagement.
In the 2018 municipal elections, only four of Toronto’s 25 city councilors were non-white in a city where 51.5% of the population is a visible minority, as found by CityNews reporter Cynthia Mulligan. Mulligan’s review showed that the dismal lack of representation was also evident in other cities, including Montreal and Vancouver, where city councils are 94 and 80 percent white, respectively, despite widely diverse populations.
In the current election cycle, there is no way to accurately gauge who is or is not running for the 2,864 elected municipal positions in the province because demographics, including gender, age, race or ethnic origin, are not collected for municipal elections. elections. We don’t know if there’s greater diversity among this year’s slate of candidates, and we won’t know until election night whether representation has improved.
However, until there is a way to remove the barriers to applying, it will be difficult for people of varying backgrounds and experiences to participate. As Andray Domise, a Toronto writer and former candidate, pointed out in an interview with Mulligan: “You have to be a very wealthy, most likely white male human being to win an election in this city.
As Erin Tolley, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto, noted in a 2018 article for Policy Options, even when racialized candidates run for office, voters don’t necessarily select them.
“If racialized minorities look at the political landscape and don’t see their concerns reflected, they are less likely to engage in the process. So it’s a vicious circle. Strategies to increase voter turnout among racialized minorities must be part of any effort to address the persistent whiteness of municipal politics.
Moreover, young people are simply not as engaged in municipal politics as they are in federal or provincial politics, according to analysis of the 2020 General Social Survey released this summer by Statistics Canada.
In its “Portrait of Youth in Canada: Data Report,” the agency noted that just over 52% of young people between the ages of 18 and 30 voted in the last municipal elections, which is considerably less than the 79.7% who voted in the 2019 federal election, or the 72.7% who voted in the 2018 provincial election. The report also notes that youth from visible minorities are less likely to vote than youth from non-visible minorities.
The fact that visible minority youth are more likely to participate in school groups and neighborhood, civic and community associations than non-visible minority youth shows where the opportunities might lie for fostering greater political engagement among underserved communities.
There are 444 municipal governments in Ontario that invest more than $50 billion a year in essential public services and infrastructure, including clean water, public transit, accessible child care and affordable housing.
These are essential services. Inadequate representation means that local decision-makers will struggle to implement policies rooted in the needs of all our communities.