KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – On Saturday, we were wondering what the new HRM council would look like. Would there be serious representation by women, or by Black people? Would the old guard be returned?
Now we see something amazing. After a four year stretch with only two women or 12.5% on a council of 16, we have a council on which women are fully 50%. For more background on why the scarcity of women on council for the last decade, see my article here: Why have women become so scarce on Halifax Council?
As women had been all but shut out for the last four years, many people in HRM decided to vote for diversity. And that shift should manifest itself in a council more interested in listening to the people, less prone to making quick decisions on development, and more likely to make a dramatic start to finding a way forward for affordable and accessible housing.
While the two peninsula councillors remained the same, Waye Mason winning a third term, and Lindell Smith a second term – both men had serious challengers. In District 7, Jen Powley, a severely disabled woman who is an author and a community activist, was a first time candidate. She did well in getting nearly 2,000 votes (compared to Mason’s 3700 votes). Virginia Hinch, a Black community housing leader in District 8, received nearly 2300 votes against the very popular Smith—who with 5700 votes won 68% of the vote. Hinch, who first ran against Smith in 2016, improved her showing this time.
What is most exciting is that two veteran councillors lost their seats to women challengers. In District 12, Black candidate Iona Stoddard ran against Richard Zurawski and lost in 2016. This time, it was he, as the incumbent, who lost to Stoddard by nearly 400 votes.
In District 1, the popular Steve Streatch was beaten by newcomer Cathy Deagle Gammon. For 16 years, Deagle Gammon has been the executive director of DASC Industries, a non-profit vocational day program for adults who live with intellectual disabilities.
Six other women won seats over the nearest contender, who was male. These women come from different backgrounds, are all ages and differ in their professional and personal situations. However no one can say that it’s the same old, same old on HRM council. It’s a great win for women.
Judy Haiven is on the steering committee of Equity Watch, an organization that fights discrimination, bullying and racism in the workplace. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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