Marie-Noëlle Lanthier’s pilot project will encourage women from all municipalities to participate more in municipal politics. Courtesy photo

RUSSELL–A project to encourage women in the United Counties of Prescott-Russell to become more involved in municipal politics has received support from the Russell council.

The pilot project, called Towards Parity in Prescott-Russell, was presented to the Russell council at the March 2 meeting by project leader Marie-Noëlle Lanthier.

“We are encouraging women from all municipalities to participate,” said Lanthier.

The project will be officially launched this June and Lanthier stresses that women from all the region, not just Prescott-Russell, are encouraged to take part.

The idea behind the project is to provide women who are interested in becoming involved in their municipality’s politics with the tools to run for a municipal political position.

“You want more than 40 per cent or less than 60 per cent of either sex whether it be men or women so that you have a balanced approach to things. Women are brought up in a different way and have a different perspective,” said Lanthier.

She said Russell is 49 per cent male and 51 per cent female but when it comes to elected officials women represent only 21 per cent.

“This is what we need to work on and we are behind when we compare ourselves to the rest of Ontario. There is some work that needs to be done and it will not happen naturally.

“I am not saying women are way better than men. It is not about being better, it is about having more balance,” said Lanthier.

Lanthier feels that the demographics of the country do not reflect a balance, in municipal politics, between men and women. “Councils should be a little more reflecting of the demographics in their community and younger people. Less than 10 per cent of all elected municipal officials are between the ages of 18 and 40 years old. The median age in Ontario at the same time is about 40 years old.”

Russell Mayor Pierre Leroux and his council supported the project.

“There was just a letter of support,” said Leroux.

“At this point they have not asked anything else of us,” said the mayor.

The mayor does not believe promoting one sex over the other is the issue.

“I think a campaign to educate the public is never a bad thing,” he said.

“Personally I vote for the best person whether they are a man or a women,” said the mayor.

He believes the pilot project is a positive thing and he said, “I personally firmly believe that when people are looking at the election process, they find the person who best suits their values, who they think will do the best job; whether it is a man or woman it makes no difference.”

The mayor feels the project has a lot of good points.

“They are focused on the female population but it could be geared for anyone,” he said.

Lanthier’s presentation included a brief look at some of the project goals.

The plan is to create the “Women and Politics Prescott-Russell” advisory committee to strategically advise about the planning and implementation of the “Towards Parity in Prescott-Russell” project.

A steering committee has been set up to bring together elected and non-elected women interested in advancing the project. This group will mobilize the necessary resources to achieve the desired objectives. Six elected women are participating on this committee.

The committee will be working to design and conduct an awareness campaign on the place of women in politics

This “social marketing” campaign has three objectives: stimulate Prescott-Russell women’s interest in municipal politics by demystifying certain beliefs about the roles of elected officials and municipal politics in general, present positive role models of women already involved in politics, and influence the general public opinion in Prescott-Russell by demystifying the role of women in politics and their ability to be a politician.