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Mayor requests new policy to entice women into Whistler politics

Idea comes from Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting



Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, with full support of council, has asked staff to develop a family-friendly council policy to entice more women into local politics.

The initiative comes out of the recent Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) annual conference in Vancouver from May 31 to June 3, which the mayor and four councillors attended.

In one of several workshops over the course of the four-day meeting Wilhelm-Morden learned that in B.C. women make up 30 per cent of the participation in local government; that's the threshold, according to the United Nations, where the influence of women as decision makers is felt.

She wants staff to develop a policy that would, among other things, offer a member of council a three-month paid leave, for example, if they or their spouse has a baby.

"It would certainly start to reduce barriers," she told council, looking for support for the policy.

"It's low hanging fruit; let's just deal with it."

Registration for the five members of council who went was $3,785, accommodation costs were another $5,372.85.

"I am confident that the community got their money's worth in sending us," she said.

And while council had action-packed days full of meetings, workshops and networking, there was a cloud over the FCM meeting thanks to the political scandals dominating the headlines and riveting a nation increasingly skeptical of those in public office.

There are people in the jobs for the right reasons, said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden reflecting on her time at the FCM. And that was good to see.

"To have a whole room, 2,000 local politicians get together to discuss what's going on with other levels of government, to see so many other well-meaning people who work as hard as they do in local interests, it was, I guess, reassuring to know that hopefully we're not all being tarred with the same brush," she said.

The scandals from the Senate to the infamous missing crack cocaine video allegedly involving Toronto's mayor permeated the meeting. The FCM too had its own scandal — Coquitlam councillors staying in downtown hotel rooms when they could have commuted.

"As a politician it affects each and every one of us," said Wilhelm-Morden.

The mayor brought back several ideas from the FCM including some about making communities smarter using technology.

"We are just moving into instituting something similar to a 3-1-1 program so I've got some ideas about what that should look like," she added.

She is also bringing home some fresh ideas about Whistler's Emergency Preparedness Plan, after touring the emergency operations in Vancouver.

The meeting was jam-packed with workshops and tours as well as evening meetings. Whistler council, at the invitation of the Mayor of Banff, joined the councils of that community, Jasper and Canmore, one evening.

"They're very interested in learning more about the RMI (Resort Municipality Initiative) monies... trying to get something going like that in Alberta."


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