OPIRG:Bringing diversity into politics

Last year it may have been the sidewalks. Perhaps this year it’s the overcrowding on buses. Maybe it’s the anticipation of the parkway extension that may be bothering you.

Clearly, the city of Peterborough has issues, like any other municipality. In this coming election, I ask you, the readers, to look and vote for candidates who represent your voice and values.

You may ask why this discussion is even relevant; aren’t we supposed to vote for the candidate that caters to our interests?

As you may have heard, politics has largely been dominated by white, older men, which disregards the diverse demographics of Canada, and within Peterborough.

Again, you may still be asking, why is this important? Well, in the municipal context, if the people who are responsible for cultural, commercial and industrial development are similar in experiences and values, these policies often will not reflect different identities within the community.

During the 2010 election in Peterborough, only one woman, Lesley Parnell, was elected as a councillor out of 11 positions.

With roughly half the Peterborough population comprised of women, this clearly shows a gap in representing what has been made into ‘women’s issues’, specifically child care policies. If more women were involved in the political process, like becoming a councillor or mayor, these issues women face daily would be integrated into the political agenda.

Out of all the candidates, no one elected was a visible minority. In 2006, Statistics Canada reported that Peterborough had a visible minority population of almost 3%. Although this seems small, it obscures groups that may not be included because the census was conducted through sample size.

Also, this statistic was formed almost a decade ago; during this time, immigration has increased to the Peterborough area. These individual experiences contribute to the democratic nature of policy making, and their voices within politics are essential if the city is going to continue attracting immigrants to the area.

On top of these issues, a few of the incumbent candidates have large businesses in Peterborough, but most are middle-to-upper-class income-earners. This is largely contradictory to the experience felt by many students and community members alike because of the low employment rate and lack of a living wage. Mostly, these wealthy business owners do not rely on using transit or sidewalks on a daily basis; and are not interested in prioritizing transit and city services (for example, the removal of snow).

These concerns are important because we need to hold our politicians accountable to all of our interests instead of privileging certain groups. The solution to this problem is not as easy as implementing affirmative action, or installing quota systems.

So, instead of asking you to vote for the woman candidate or to vote for the candidate of a visible minority, I would like you to try and see all candidates as viable options and to become critical of the way in which candidates are represented, discussed and endorsed.