Overview

This democratic participation resources webpage will help you to:

  • recognize the importance of diversity in decision-making bodies
  • learn about municipalities and the role of a municipal elected official
  • start planning your own election campaign

30% and why it matters

During the 2013 municipal election, Albertans elected 490 women out of a possible 1,874 municipal positions. Women hold an average of 26% of elected seats in municipal politics.

The United Nations has found women should hold at least 30% of elected seats for a government to reflect women’s concerns.

Alberta’s provincial average is close to 30%. A closer look shows there is still a long way to go:

  • 8% in special areas
  • 11% in improvement districts
  • 17% in municipal districts
  • 18% in cities
  • 20% in summer villages
  • 31% in villages
  • 32% in specialized municipalities
  • 32% in towns

Source: Municipal Affairs, 2013 Official Election Results

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) finds the national average for women in municipal office was 27% in 2015. In Alberta, 33% of MLAs are women and five out 32 Alberta MPs are women (16%). Across Canada, 36% of MPs are women.

Why don’t more women run?

Studies have shown that women think about factors like these when deciding to run for office:

Childcare and domestic labour

Women still do most of the caregiving and household work. Support with caregiving can increase women’s opportunities in politics.

Education and work

Many candidates have business, legal or party backgrounds. Candidates with different experience may feel they lack the skills to run.

Political culture and sexism

The impression of an “old boys club” can also make women feel unwelcome as women are still largely seen as outsiders intruding into a men’s world. Online bullying and sexist coverage can affect women's political advancement.  The confrontational nature of politics can also deter women’s interest in politics.

Campaign resources

A United Nations report shows women in Canada outspend men by up to 10% on campaigns because of the extra costs to pay for child care and housework. Candidates need to have time to go to community events and  volunteer with local programs to increase their profile with voters.

Political parties

In systems that use political parties for elections, the party association decides which candidates would make the best nominee. That can restrict women’s access to nomination opportunities. Women are also less likely than men to be recruited to run for election.

Incumbency

Those who hold seats raise more funds, have name recognition and past experience. Since more men than women have won elected positions, they will benefit from incumbency. That can make it harder for women to win seats.  For example, Canadian incumbent mayors had a success rate of 83.9% in 2014.

Electoral system

The first-past-the-post system favours incumbents over challengers. Research indicates that proportional representation is often better for women.

Why should more women run?

Leadership groups with a diversity of opinions, backgrounds and lived experiences help to make better decisions.

Studies have shown how diversity improves an organization’s effectiveness. From a governance perspective, municipal councils are great ways of directly shaping a community, as municipalities are responsible for a wide range of services, policies and programs. Having more women means councils discuss more viewpoints. By hearing different voices and adopting different approaches, we can have innovative decision-making.

To better reflect your community

Municipal councils work to improve residents' quality of life. They do so best by considering how their decisions affect different groups. A diverse council means a group of people who reflect the community are making these decisions.

Roles and responsibilities

If you are running for municipal office, it means you want to make a difference in your community. You will be taking on a lot of responsibilities.

Time commitment

The demands on your time will be heavy. You will be elected for a four-year term of office and during that time you will be required to attend:

  • regular and special meetings of council
  • council committee meetings
  • meetings of other boards and agencies to which you are appointed as council’s representative
  • conferences, conventions, seminars and workshops for training and development
  • social and other events promoting your municipality
  • you will also need to spend time reading material and talking with residents, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and others

Understanding the position

As a member of council, you will have the opportunity to influence your community’s future. This means understanding how your position fits within the government structure. You will inherit an existing structure, bylaws and processes.

You will need to know:

  • the local legislation of your municipality
  • the powers of a municipal council
  • how your municipality is administered
  • how members of council are paid
Municipal Council School Board Métis Settlement Council First Nation Council
  • consider the welfare and interests of the municipality as a whole
  • participate in developing and evaluating the policies and programs of the municipality
  • participate in council meetings and council committee meetings (or appointed committees)
  • each student has the opportunity to achieve their potential
  • children are safe at school
  • the jurisdiction’s financial and capital resources are well managed
  • its business is conducted in a legal and ethical manner
  • consider the welfare and interests of the settlement
  • participate in developing and evaluating settlement bylaws and resolutions
  • participate in settlement council meetings (or appointed committees)
  • Chief & Council are trustees of the members’ collective interests & assets
  • act in the best interests of all members
  • responsible for: Day-to-day management of service & benefit programs
  • wise use of financial resources
  • providing good government

What you can do

  • read council agendas and minutes, and talk with current councillors.
  • sit in on some council meetings.
  • talk to the Chief Administrative Officer to find out what other information is available.
  • connect with former and current elected officials in your region or community to learn about their experiences.
  • meet with local community groups to learn more about the important and top of mind issues in your area.

Qualifications

Eligible candidates

To become a candidate, you must be:

  • at least 18 years of age on nomination day
  • a Canadian citizen
  • living in the local jurisdiction of your election for the six consecutive months before nomination day

In a municipality with a ward system, you must be:

  • a resident of the electoral division or the ward in which you intend to run for the same six-month period.  In the case of a City, you must be a resident of that city.

In a summer village, you must be:

  • compliant with the requirements for voting eligibility
  • a resident of Alberta for the 12 consecutive months immediately before  election day

Ineligible candidates

You are not eligible to become a candidate if:

  • you are the municipality’s auditor

  • you are a municipal employee (unless you take a leave of absence)

  • you owe more than $50 of unpaid property taxes

  • you are in default for more than 90 days for any other debt to the municipality greater than $500

  • you have, within the previous 10 years, been convicted of an offence under the Local Authorities Election Act (0.1 MB), the Election Act or the Canada Elections Act

If you are a judge, Member of Parliament, Senator or Member of the Legislative Assembly, you must resign from that position, before you take office as a member of council.

Qualifying as a candidate in your community

Municipal Council or School Board Métis Settlement Council

First Nation Elections(Indian Act)

First Nation Elections (First Nations Elections Act)

Minimum age on polling day 18 years 18 years 18 years 18 years
Citizenship Canadian Settlement member member of the First Nation member of  a participating First Nation
Residency 6 consecutive months before nomination day in the municipality Resided in the settlement area for 12 months immediately before nomination day Band member who is ordinarily on the reserve (s. 77 of the Indian Act) N/A
Governing legislation

Local Authorities Election Act(0.1 MB)

Municipal Government Act (1.6 MB) or

School Act (0.7 MB)

Local Authorities Election Act (0.1 MB)

Métis Settlements Act (0.6 MB)

Indian Act (section 74)

Indian Band Election Regulations

First Nations Elections Act

First Nations Elections Regulations 
Deposit

Up to $1,000 in municipalities with a population over 10,000.

$100 in all others

Up to $1,000 in settlements with a population over 10,000.

$100 in all others

Check with your band office Up to $250, if authorized by regulation
Number of nomination signatures At least 5 qualified voters At least 5 qualified voters A candidate is nominated when moved and seconded  (orally or in writing) by eligible voters at the nomination meeting A candidate is nominated when moved and seconded  (orally or in writing) by eligible voters at the nomination meeting
Appointment of official agent Optional Optional Check with your band office Check with your band office
Nomination day 4 weeks before election day 4 weeks before election day Nomination meeting at least 42 days before election day Nomination meeting at least 42 days before election day
Usual election day Third Monday in October Third Monday in October No provision  for common election day for First Nation groups, check with your band office Within the period of 30 days before the term of office of the incumbent chief and councillors expires.
Election period At least 4 weeks At least 4 weeks At least 79 days At least 65 days
Term of office At least 4 weeks At least 4 weeks 2 years 4 years
Limits to campaign spending None None Check with your band office Check with your band office
Limits to campaign contributions by external parties Less than $5,000 in any year Less than $5,000 in any year Check with your band office Check with your band office
Limits to campaign contributions (self-funded) Less than $10,000 in any campaign period Less than $10,000 in any campaign period Check with your band office Check with your band office

Nominations

To run for office, you must submit a nomination form. Check with your Chief Administrative Officer, returning officer or city clerk to get the right form and for advice on filling it out. When you pick up the nomination form, be sure to ask if you need to make a deposit.

At least 5 people need to sign your form. These people are:

  • eligible to vote in the election
  • residents in the local jurisdictions on the date of the signing the nomination paper
  • residents in the ward for which you’re running, if you’re running in a municipality with a ward system

The form must include each nominator's name, address (street address or legal description of residence) and signature.

If you live in a City with at least 10,000 people, make sure to check your bylaws: the minimum number of signatures may go up to 100.

In a summer village, the nominators must be:

  • eligible to vote in the election
  • at least 18 years of age
  • a Canadian citizen
  • named on the certificate of title as the person who owns property in the summer village, or is the spouse or adult interdependent partner of the person named on the title

Affidavit

As a candidate, you will need to make an affidavit stating that:

  • you are eligible for nomination and not otherwise disqualified from office
  • you will accept the office if you are elected

You must swear or affirm that affidavit before a Commissioner for Oaths or the returning officer.

Make sure you are aware of the contents of Sections 12, 21, 22, 23, 47, 147 and 151 of the Local Authorities Election Act (0.1 MB).

Nomination day

Check with your municipal office for the nomination date day and location.

On nomination day, all candidates must submit nomination papers to the Returning Officer.

The returning officer cannot accept nominations after noon on nomination day.

Withdrawing your nomination

You have 24 hours (48 hours in a summer village) of the closing date for nominations to withdraw your nomination form. You will have to provide a written notice to the returning officer.

You can withdraw if more than the required number of candidates has been nominated for the office you were seeking. You can’t withdraw if it would result in fewer than the required number of candidates.

Insufficient nominations

If there are fewer nominations than the number of vacancies in any particular office, the returning officer will be available the next day (and for up to 6 days) from 10 a.m. until noon to receive further nominations. In a summer village, the returning officer will announce the time and place when further nominations will be received.

If the returning officer receives more than the required nominations by noon on any of the days, nominations will close and the election will be held as originally planned.

If the number of candidates nominated equals the number of vacancies in any particular office, nominations will close and the returning officer will declare the candidates elected by acclamation. That means the candidates are elected without having to hold the election.

Campaigning

Campaign teams

Campaign teams can vary depending on the size of the community you’re running in. You can choose anyone to work on your campaign, including:

  • relatives
  • neighbours
  • friends
  • volunteers
  • community groups
  • students
  • youth groups
  • academic groups

You can build your team and support for your campaign by:

  • attending community events
  • handing out flyers
  • identifying outreach and networking events
  • going door-to-door
  • chatting with elected officials
  • taking people for coffee or lunch

Positions

A team will require several positions, each with its own duties and characteristics.

Position Duties Characteristics
Campaign Manager
  • Main Administrator
  • Ensures planning and execution of all key steps in campaign
  • Helps recruit volunteers
  • Assists with Budget / Signing officer
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Time commitment
  • Friendly attitude
  • Multi-tasker
Financial chair / Treasurer
  • Identifies donors
  • Solicits contributions
  • Sets up bank account
  • Manages receipts and bills
  • Prepares final records
  • Comfortable with asking for donations
  • Financial management skills
  • Well connected in the community
Media and Public Relations Director
  • Prepares news releases
  • Designs campaign literature
  • Organizes events
  • Graphic design skills
  • Photography skills
  • Writing and marketing skills
  • Connected with the local media
Volunteer coordinator
  • Defines areas for canvassing and literature distribution
  • Recruits volunteers for areas
  • Prepares canvass list and trains volunteers
  • Detail oriented
  • Teambuilding skills
  • Time Commitment
  • Access to a vehicle
Signs director
  • Identifies locations for signs
  • Obtains permits
  • Erects and removes signs
  • Monitors signs for repairs/replacement
  • Manual labour (can lift boxes up to 25 lbs)
  • Access to tools
  • Access to a vehicle
Election day coordinator
  • Organizes callers
  • Prepares list of drivers
  • Books venue for results night
  • Recruits and trains scrutineers
  • Available on election day
  • Understands scrutineer role

Platform

Your campaign platform tells voters why they should vote for you and why are you the best candidate for the position. Identify your campaign theme by focusing on the challenges and opportunities in your community. Your platform should touch on the following topics:

  • The difference you want to make in your community
  • What you want to bring to your community
  • How your campaign style will match your municipality, your personality and your resources

Your platform message should be:

  • clear
  • concise
  • honest
  • credible
  • persuasive
  • targeted to your voters
  • able to stand out

It is important to avoid promises of money or any other valuable consideration, like an office or job, to a person to vote or refrain from voting at an election.

Also stay away from threatening violence, injury, damage or intimidation to force a person to vote or refrain from voting at an election or to obstruct a person from voting.

Creating an online presence

  • Start with an internet search about yourself to see what the public might find about you when they look online.
  • Delete any unwanted pictures, personal information or blog posts.
  • Before you announce your intent to run, prepare a biography with your background, career, personal goals and achievements.
  • Consider creating a website with your name as the domain name (i.e. www.janesmith.com).
  • Create a Facebook page for a cost-free way to increase your public profile, and to provide a direct way for people to contact your campaign team.
    • Make sure someone is always monitoring your page.
    • Post events and updates from the campaign trail.
  • Post a YouTube video that describes you and why you are running as another way to connect with potential voters.
    • Consider hiring a professional videographer for a high quality product.
    • Film yourself  outdoors for a more interesting setting and natural lighting.
    • Keep your video short (2-3 minutes).
    • Direct viewers to your webpage or Facebook page for more information.

News releases and news conferences

  • Host a news conference when you have a major announcement, like announcing your candidacy:
    • Make sure to send a media notice to inform news outlets about the time and location.
    • When selecting your news conference venue, make sure it meets your audiovisual and space requirements.
  • Send a news release when you have something new or important to say, like reacting to your opponents’ views or issues in the media:
    • Don’t overwhelm your audience. Keep news releases short and interesting.
  • Put together a media kit to give to media. It should include:
    • Your biography and professional resume
    • Your campaign platform
    • Contact information
    • High quality headshot

Town hall debates, forums and other speaking engagements

Follow this advice when you join speaking engagements:

  • Be prepared to explain why you would be the best representative for your community.
  • Keep your answers short and to the point.
  • Stick to your main points or key messages.
  • Be honest and consistent.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t try to improvise.

Dealing with sexism

  • Develop positive professional relationships with all media in your community to ensure your campaign receives fair and accurate coverage.
  • You don't have to answer inappropriate or personal questions.
    • Explain why you refused to answer the question.

Campaign timeline

Time Actions
16-8 weeks before election
8 weeks before election
  • Establish official headquarter.
  • Launch your website, Facebook or Twitter.
7 weeks before election
  • Host a campaign launch event.
  • Mail out letters to your community.
  • Arrange breakfast meet and greet with local community groups and general public.
  • Meet with the local media.
6 weeks before election
  • Issue a news release on your campaign.
  • Host a “Meet the candidate” event.
  • Host a fundraiser.
5 weeks before election
  • Distribute lawn signs and posters.
  • Continue hosting “Meet the candidate” events.
  • Plan dates for mailing and literature distribution.
4 weeks before election
  • Issue news releases.
  • Follow up on fundraising event.
  • Participate in town hall debates.
  • Install lawn signs.
  • Solicit and prepare endorsement ads.
3 weeks before election
  • Issue news release on new topics.
  • Re-contact people who have promised contributions.
  • Follow up on fundraising event.
  • Canvass door to door and by telephone.
  • Participate in town hall debates.
  • Post ads in newspapers.
2 weeks before election
  • Issue news releases.
  • Canvass door to door and by telephone.
  • Distribute flyers.
  • Pick up all necessary materials from returning officer.
    • You are entitled to have one official agent or scrutineer at each voting station.
    • Your returning officer will explain how official agents and scrutineers are appointed.
    •  An official agent or scrutineer must be at least 18 years of age.
1 week before election
  • Distribute flyers.
  • Name a scrutineer for every poll.
  • Canvass door to door.
  • Publish endorsement ads.
Election Day
  • Make sure all your volunteers vote.
  • Coordinate telephone campaign to known supporters to offer transportation and child-minding services.
  • Arrange transportation to voting stations.
  • Do not canvass or solicit votes in or immediately adjacent to a voting station.
  • Do not display or distribute campaign material inside or on the outside of a building used for a voting station.
Post-election
  • Host a party to thank your team and celebrate yourself.
  • Send thank you letters to all your contributors.
  • Thank the electorate.
  • Keep all your records for the next election.
  • File your campaign disclosure statement.
  • Remove your lawn signs and posters.

What you can do

  • Make a list of all the reasons why you’re running and why voters should choose you
  • Write a brief statement about yourself that answers these questions
  • Develop your message and stay on it
  • Practise in front of mirror, in front of friends and with your team
  • Create a promotional page or social media page
  • Host a news conference or send a news release to announce your candidacy and your message
  • Canvass door –to-door and by telephone
  • Take part in community events
  • Distribute campaign flyers
  • Put up posters and lawn signs
  • Join town hall debates or public discussions
  • Make time for yourself. Running for office is hard work and requires a lot of time and energy.

Fundraising

Before you start fundraising, research to estimate your campaign costs.

Keep a record of all your contributions and expenses for at least 2 years.

Allowable campaign expenses

  • your personal expenses
  • cost for a work space, accommodation, goods or services for proper election campaign expenses
  • payments for the costs of printing and advertising
  • reasonable transportation costs for a candidate or speakers travelling to and from public meetings
  • transportation costs for any person connected with your campaign, and for the proper purposes of an election

Campaign bank account

Open a bank account in your own name or the name of the campaign if:

  • Your campaign contributions exceed $5,000 in total.
  • Your campaign contributions and your own funds exceed $5,000 together.
  • Your self-funded campaign exceeds $10,000.
  • All contributions must be deposited in that account and the money is to be used only for campaign expenses.

If you are funding your campaign completely and it comes to less than $10,000 in a campaign period, you do not need to open a bank account.

Financial contributions

You will need financial contributions to fund campaign activities, but fundraising activities also give you a chance to introduce yourself to the community:

  • Start by creating a list of donors you could target
  • Develop convincing reasons why donors should contribute. If someone wants to give you in-kind support consider these options:
    • knocking on doors
    • working the polls on election day
    • organizing a get-out-the vote drive
    • hosting an event
    • putting up posters, yard signs and bumper stickers
  • Explain how you will use  these funds (e.g. flyers, signs, print ads)
  • Fit your fundraising approach to each potential donor and the amount you plan to request
  • Get an early start: raising money early can help you to raise larger sums later in your campaign
  • Consider electronic donations to make it easy to donate to your campaign

Campaign disclosure statements

  • This statement shows how you spent the funds you collected.
  • File your campaign disclosure statement with the municipality on or before March 1 after a general election
  • Use the right form. It includes information about the campaign contributions you received, other funding sources, campaign expenditures and your campaign surplus or deficit.
  • If you are funding your campaign completely and it comes to less than $10,000 in a campaign period, you do not need to file a campaign disclosure statement.

Campaign guides and resources

Title Author Overview

Running for Municipal Office in Alberta – 2013 (0.1 MB)

Alberta Municipal Affairs

Provides an overview of rules and responsibilities for candidates in municipal elections, the guide is not designed for women specifically.

  • Before you file your nomination
  • Filing your nomination
  • After filing
  • Election day and later
  • Excerpts from Municipal Government Act

Getting to 30 by 2030: Municipal Elections in Canada: A Guide for women candidates (0.7 MB)

Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM)

As part of their Getting to 30 by 2030 initiative, FCM has recorded webinars providing instruction and best practices around five key electoral challenges and published an accompanying campaign guide:

  • Campaign literature
  • Social media
  • Media relations
  • Deciding to run
  • Campaign financing

Getting to the gate

Equal Voice

This online campaign school meets the requirements and demands of running for public office from the Band Office to the Prime Minister’s Office, based on consultations with Aboriginal Women

  • Introducing Deep Roots, Strong Wings
  • Aboriginal Women in Politics
  • Why and how to get involved
  • Where and when should I run?
  • Understanding the election process
  • Challenges and opportunities
  • Financing
  • Building your dream team
  • Building a communications plan
  • Time to get started

The Essential Guide to being elected

Equal Voice and Carleton University’s Centre for Women Politics and Public Leadership

Content Overview:

  • Getting started: Making the Decisions
  • The Road to Candidacy
  • The Road to the Legislature
  • Self-Assessment Exercise
  • Points for developing a campaign strategy
  • Sample of an eight week campaign calendar
  • Fundraising Tips

Votes for Women, 4th edition (0.6 MB)

Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women

Votes for Women was first produced by the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women in 1991 as a resource to Nova Scotia women looking for practical information on entering the political arena. This guidebook provides advice on municipal, provincial and federal elections including:

  • self-assessments exercises
  • information on jurisdiction and relevant duties
  • how to secure a nomination, run a campaign and estimate the costs of running.

Information Kit – Inclusive Participation in Municipal Life (0.4 MB)

Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women

Municipal Campaign training guide which

  • reflects on the importance of the participation of women in decision-making positions within the community
  • teaches more about the role of municipalities
  • provides tools for managing an election campaign, including several suggestions for a campaign plan, fundraising, communication strategy, etc.

A woman’s manual on organizing an Election Campaign (0.7 MB)

Newfoundland Women’s advisory committee

Designed to support running for town council/school board/Regional Economic Development Boards.

  • Planning - the key to success
  • Building a campaign team
  • The many jobs that need doing
  • Campaign strategies & how they work
  • Election day and post-election day plans

Organize to win! A Political guidebook for women (1.0 MB)

Newfoundland Women’s advisory committee and Equal Voice

Based on Nova Scotia’s Votes for Women Fourth Edition guidebook, adapted to Newfoundland context.

Keys to Elected Office: The essential guide for women

Barbara Lee Foundation

Nonpartisan guide is a concise look at what it takes for a woman to run and succeed, based on research from on women’s campaigns in the United States.

Now that you’ve been elected (0.3 MB)

Alberta Municipal Affairs

This booklet presents an overview of your responsibilities as a municipal councillor and is intended to help you to understand the powers and duties of a municipal council.
Municipal Resources Handbook Alberta Municipal Affairs This detailed webpage includes information on: acronyms, agenda preparation, basic principles of bylaw, election procedures manual, in-camera discussions of council, preparing Council Meeting Minutes, and property taxation.
Municipal Officials Directory Alberta Municipal Affairs Search for municipal officials through this directory.
Municipal Profile Search Alberta Municipal Affairs This database provides a profile of each of Alberta's municipalities, including location, population, elected officials, history, revenues, tax rates, and more.

Local Government Law in Alberta

Athabasca University

This open access online course explains the basics of the law relating to municipalities, particularly in Alberta.

Elected Officials Education Program

Elected Officials Education Program

The Program is jointly owned by AAMDC and AUMA, and provides municipal elected officials with an opportunity to broaden their knowledge and skills.

Local Government in Canada: Organization & Basic Institutions

Maple Leaf Web

This article introduces the organization and institutions of local government and how it relates to other levels of government.