JENNIFER KEESMAAT’S ABOUT HER PLAN TO BRING GENDER FAIRNESS TO TORONTO CITY HALL
We’re standing outside of Old City Hall today because it was in this building 98 years ago that a woman first took her seat as an elected member of our city government.
Constance Hamilton made history in 1920 when she was elected as a Councillor in Toronto. She was the lone female voice at the table. In the decades since, too many women in city government – whether on Council, around Board tables, or even in public service departments – have remained the lone female voice at any table.
That’s why today I’m proposing three crucial steps to ensure women have an equal role at every stage of decision-making, design, and delivery of city government in Toronto.
While 52% of the people in this city are women, we aren’t reflected equally in our City Council. In 2014, just 14 of 44 Councillors elected to Council were women.
And after an undemocratic intrusion into our municipal election by a chaotic provincial government, Council will be cut down to just 25 seats.
Some current women Councillors have chosen not to run, others will now run head to head against each other, and many would-be first-time women candidates have dropped off the ballot entirely. After Election Day there may be too few elected women in this city to form a gender equal Executive Committee.
However, we can take concrete steps as a city to build a fairer government for everyone. And that starts with the people doing the day to day work to keep our city moving forward.
That’s why, as Mayor, I will work with City staff to implement gender parity in senior staffing positions within the Toronto Public Service.
When I took on the job of Chief City Planner for the City of Toronto, I saw the amazing potential we have in this city. But I also saw that not enough women were in a position to contribute equally to growing that potential.
As Chief Planner, I joined a department led entirely by a team of male directors. Hardworking, talented men, to be sure. But I could not believe there was not a single woman among them. I was the only woman at the leadership table.
So I worked to change that. It took five years to bring balance to our team. But we did it. And the work we did on behalf of the people of Toronto was better for it. But one department is not enough to ensure the experiences and needs of women are reflected throughout their government.
And we can’t stop at just the positions where decision-making is delivered. We need to make sure women are included in decision-making itself.
That’s why, as Mayor, I will work with Council to require gender parity on City of Toronto Boards.
The City of Toronto’s Agencies and Corporations play an important role in delivering services throughout our city. And that’s why it’s so crucial that we make sure half the city’s population is not left behind through under-representation on these Boards.
The fact is companies in the private sector are already doing this. In some cases, they’ve been doing it for years. And their experience has shown that gender parity on their boards has led to better decisions for the company and better returns for their shareholders.
I believe we can bring gender parity to City Boards over the next four years. Hundreds of Board seats will be up for appointment over the course of the next term of City Council. And I believe we owe it to all residents to make sure they have an equal voice.
But we can’t do it with old ideas from the top about what these boards should look like.
In the past, John Tory has suggested the way to bring more women into the workforce is for young women to learn how to play golf. My approach is simpler and more direct: I’d hire them.
And as Mayor I’ll make sure Council does the same with Board appointments.
Changing the face of our public service and our Boards are important steps towards creating fairer decision-making in our city government. But the most crucial place to reflect the voices and experiences of more women is in our city budget.
If women don’t have a role in deciding what matters in our city, women themselves will NOT matter in our city.
That’s why, as Mayor, I will ensure that City Council adopts gender responsive budgeting at City Hall.
This is not a new idea. We’ve seen gender-based frameworks for budgeting in other countries and here at home in our federal government.
We’ve seen it at City Hall in the work being done by the Equity, Diversity, and Human Rights Office. And we’ve even seen it in the form of a motion by Councillor Wong-Tam last year.
When that motion came up for a vote, John Tory voted for it. But his team circulated a memo to his allies on Council asking them to vote against it. A vote in public for something you campaign against in private is just an empty gesture. And as women, we’ve seen enough of those.
Next year will mark 99 years since Constance Hamilton took her seat as the first woman at City Hall.
She, and every woman who followed, have proven that when women have an equal say in how we plan, how we budget, and how we execute our shared vision for this city…We can build a fairer, more inclusive Toronto where everyone benefits.
I believe we can build that Toronto today.
My plan will put women at the heart of governance in this city, with an equal role in the decision-making, design, and delivery of city government for all residents.