By Alison Taylor
Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden is leading the charge to get more women involved in local politics.
She asked her six male counterparts on council to consider the topic at its upcoming retreat, which marks the half-way point of their term in office.
“If it’s not on the work plan, you boys are in trouble,” she joked at Monday’s council meeting.
Council agreed to add it to the list of things to discuss during their retreat, with Mayor Ken Melamed pointing out that this term in office is the first term since he was elected in 1996 that there hasn’t been three women councillors at the seven-member council table.
The disparity between men and women in politics, not just at the local level but also across the country, was the topic at a recent conference hosted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which Wilhelm-Morden helped organize.
FCM wants the current 21.4 per cent of women on municipal councils increased to 30 per cent in the next 20 years.
The United Nations defines 30 per cent as the minimum percentage required for local governments to reflect women’s concerns. Women make up 52 per cent of the population.
Wilhelm-Morden offered some suggestions locally to meet that goal.
Council could consider designating seats on local committees to be filled by women.
“I have to say that I’ve never been a supporter of affirmative action or of quotas,” said Wilhelm-Morden. “But I am in this case.”
Other suggestions include creating a women’s advisory committee and limiting election campaign spending as it may be more difficult for women to raise funds.
The mayor said he liked the idea of a women’s advisory board more so than mandating gender seats on committees.
Still, on several Whistler committees, such as the Forest and Wildland Advisory Committee, the Advisory Planning Committee and the Advisory Design Panel, there is a distinct lack of female representation on the boards.
“Why aren’t we attracting women to our committees and to elected office here on council?” asked Wilhelm-Morden.
Women represent almost 13 per cent of mayors in Canada and almost 23 per cent of councillors.
To meet the FCM goal of 30 per cent by 2026, roughly 100 more women must be elected every year for the next 20 years.
Rainbow’s final bylaw approval still in the works
Site preparation work at the Rainbow subdivision remains on hold as the municipality and the developers continue to work through the details of Whistler’s largest employee housing project.
The bylaws were not a part of council’s latest package Monday night.
Project manager Bill Hayes is hoping they will be ready for final council approval by mid-April.
“I just don’t want to go later than that,” he said this week.
Time is of the essence for this project. The municipality is concerned that Rainbow’s employee housing will compete with the municipally-built employee housing in the athletes’ village. That will come on line after the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Rainbow developers have submitted all their engineering drawings for the project and are now working on the details with municipal staff.
Hayes said he was worried about the vast amount of legal work still to be approved. That legal documentation was handed over to municipal lawyers on Jan. 22 in seven four-inch binders. There has been no material feedback since then.
“I’m more worried about that,” said Hayes.
The municipality’s information officer confirmed that the legal documents are being reviewed by municipal lawyers.
Hayes said a mid-April approval of the bylaws would allow construction to move ahead with the first phase of the project — 24 duplexes and 43 homes — ready by the end of 2007.
More housing will be offered each year until build out in 2009.
Whistler to help on international scene
The municipality is calling on the community to come together for a brainstorming session about how Whistler can help a developing country.
A two-hour workshop scheduled for Sunday April 1 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the conference centre is open to the public.
Mayor Ken Melamed said the objective of the meeting is to develop a process for how Whistler will choose a country and how the resort can get involved and help out.
“We think it’s a community choice,” he said.
Several speakers will be a part of the afternoon workshop including Brock Carleton, the international program director with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Mayor Melamed said this endeavour is not just because it aligns with the Whistler 2020 sustainability vision but also “because it’s the right thing to do.”