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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
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.
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
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
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|
Local Authorities Election Act(0.1 MB)
Municipal Government Act (1.6 MB) orSchool 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 Regulations|
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|
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
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).
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.
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.
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:
- community groups
- 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
A team will require several positions, each with its own duties and characteristics.
|Financial chair / Treasurer||
|Media and Public Relations Director||
|Election day coordinator||
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:
- 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.
You may want to build your own timeline using this suggested timeline as a guide. Keep in mind that every election campaign's key activities will depend on your community's size, the order of government and the time of year.
|16-8 weeks before election|
|8 weeks before election||
|7 weeks before election||
|6 weeks before election||
|5 weeks before election||
|4 weeks before election||
|3 weeks before election||
|2 weeks before election||
|1 week before election||
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.
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.
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
Alberta Municipal Affairs
Provides an overview of rules and responsibilities for candidates in municipal elections, the guide is not designed for women specifically.
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:
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
Equal Voice and Carleton University’s Centre for Women Politics and Public Leadership
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:
Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women
Municipal Campaign training guide which
Newfoundland Women’s advisory committee
Designed to support running for town council/school board/Regional Economic Development Boards.
Newfoundland Women’s advisory committee and Equal Voice
Based on Nova Scotia’s Votes for Women Fourth Edition guidebook, adapted to Newfoundland context.
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.|
This open access online course explains the basics of the law relating to municipalities, particularly in Alberta.
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.|
Maple Leaf Web
|This article introduces the organization and institutions of local government and how it relates to other levels of government.|