Article and Photo by Jason Setnyk
Cornwall, Ontario – In the photo pictured above, Sarah Good and Carilyne Hébert embrace on election night, October 24, 2022. Locally, it was a historic night, as the top 3 voted for City Councillors in Cornwall’s 2022 Municipal Election were all women. This is the first Cornwall election where three women finished in the top 3 for total votes. What makes this accomplishment even more impressive is that only 5 of the 27 candidates running as councillors were female.
Sarah Good, who will soon start her first term, finished first with 5478 votes (8.40% of the vote). Carilyne Hébert, who will begin her third term, finished in second with 4439 votes (6.80% of the vote). While Elaine MacDonald, who will start her fifth term, finished in third place with 3880 votes (5.95% of the vote). In addition, Carol A Boileau finished with 1911 votes (2.93% of the vote) and needed just another 809 votes to be elected. While Mary Jane Proulx, who ran on a one-issue platform concerning feral cats, finished with 1610 votes (2.47%) and needed another 1110 votes to be elected.
Seven male candidates rounded out the other top 10 spots for Cornwall’s City councillors. Despite 22 of the 27 candidates being male, the top 3 candidates had 21.15% of the total vote, while all five women running had 26.55% of the vote.
Sarah Good, Carilyne Hébert, and Elaine MacDonald, who finished in the top 3, share their reaction to this historic vote and ponder what can be done to attract more female candidates to run in the future.
According to Sarah Good, who finished first, there is a desire for more diversity in Cornwall, including women taking on more leadership roles. Also, Sarah is a working mother with young children, and this fresh perspective resonated well with voters.
“Three progressive female candidates took 21.15% of the total votes cast. There is clearly an appetite in our community for more women in leadership roles and for more diversity overall. I am incredibly encouraged by these results and am hopeful that it will inspire more women and people from other underrepresented groups to run for office. The most successful candidates have all fostered strong social networks through their work and volunteerism and were able to call upon those networks for support in their respective election campaigns. I brought my present-day experience of having young kids in school and daycare, of using our parks and recreational facilities on a regular basis, and of being a working mother. A perspective that was otherwise absent from Council,” Sarah Good replied.
Next, Carilyne Hébert, thrilled by the results, says this election proves that if women run, women will get elected.
“I was thrilled to see the women come out on top this election, but it proves a point I’ve been saying for a while. When women run, women get elected. People want to elect women. The problem is that there are not enough women running. If I’m speaking for myself and the political women in my life, we govern and lead with our hearts. I know we can be criticized for being “too emotional”, but I think that’s an advantage,” Carilyne Hébert responded.
Elaine MacDonald, the longest-running politician on City Council, has noted that she and Bernadette Clement have finished in two of the top 3 before.
“Yes, though I believe there were always 2 in the top 3, between Bernadette and me. Perhaps the 3 women have a bigger profile in the community, and hence their names are already out there. Sarah not so much in her own right, perhaps, but certainly family name which works by extension, with Jesse frequently writing letters to ed and parents well respected. Cari and I frequently make the news outside of Council, so that makes for profile,” Elaine MacDonald added.
Senator and former Mayor Bernadette Clement endorsed Sarah Good for City Council. In addition, Sarah Good had the support of Lee Theodore as campaign manager. Also, Sarah Good ran an ambitious and impressive campaign knocking on many doors, putting up plenty of signs, using professional graphic design work, an impressive social media presence, and clear messaging that resonated well with many voters.
What can be done to attract more female candidates in the future? Sarah Good teamed up with lawyer Michele Allinote and organized a few Ladies in Leadership gatherings to network. Events like this could be a good starting point to get more women interested in running for politics.
“The low number of female candidates in this election was disappointing. Women need to support and uplift one another. We ought to be working for each other’s success, as it will benefit us all—representation matters. The more diversity we have on Council, the greater diversity I believe we will see in new candidates. Unfortunately, this job doesn’t pay enough to attract a ton of qualified people, at roughly $22K. We need more people to enthusiastically support and donate to deserving campaigns. In an effort to engage more potential candidates and help build strong networks, myself and Michele Allinote organized the ‘Ladies in Leadership’ gatherings, which took place in Cornwall in July and August 2022. Each event hosted 25-30 female business owners, professionals, artists, scientists, politicians, etc. There have already been some promising potential candidates who’ve expressed their interest in running in the coming term (both male and female), and I will work to help support these new candidates in whatever ways I can, just as I was supported in my own campaign by many incredible people. I encourage other elected officials to do the same,” Sarah Good noted.
Historically, different groups of people lacked representation in politics. Although there is a way to go towards equal representation, there has been a paradigm shift in recent years, with much more diversity present at different levels of government. Women like Bernadette Clement and Elaine MacDonald were an inspiration for Carilyne Hébert, and hopefully, with more representation and new representation, it will inspire others to run in the future.
“One of the reasons you don’t see as many women running for any kind of office is the lack of representation. It’s the same for minority groups like people of color, persons with disabilities, members of the LGBTQIA community, and many others. Like women, they are not well represented in all levels of government. If we don’t see other people like us in the roles as we grow up, we don’t think it’s for us. We need to ask women to run, and tell them they are more than qualified and that they are ready. We are self-doubters, and we need to seek out and support women we want to see as leaders. I was lucky when my interest in politics began that I had women like Bernadette Clements and Elaine MacDonald in my life. It was easier to see myself in that kind of role,” Carilyne Hébert reflected.
Five-time councillor Elaine MacDonald shares she has pushed for credible women candidates to run. Also, she ponders the pandemic’s impact on women and how this could have impacted the total number of candidates.
“How I wish I knew the formula. I tried hard to convince a few very credible candidates to no avail. This is material for a much longer discussion but home ties and heavier share of home responsibilities, accentuated by COVID since 2019, make for an exhausted pool of candidates. Studies showed that COVID brought in a she-cession economically, which related directly to women losing workforce places as they shouldered an uneven amount of COVID related responsibilities. In home-schooling for example,” Elaine MacDonald explained.
Canada’s women’s suffrage movement made history in 1916 when women could vote for the first time (in a provincial election in Manitoba). In 2018, 102 years later, Bernadette Clement made history in Cornwall, Ontario, becoming the first woman Mayor. Four years after that, three female candidates finished top-3 in votes for Cornwall’s City Council. Although the future is uncertain, there is optimism that even more women will be inspired to run next time.