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Keesmaat announces plan to improve gender parity at city hall

Mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat says that if elected she will make sure that she puts women at the “heart of governance” in Toronto by introducing new gender parity requirements for City of Toronto boards and senior staffing positions within the civil service.

Keesmaat made the announcement during a press conference at the corner of Queen and Bay streets on Friday morning.

She said that while women make up 52 per cent of Toronto’s population, they only made up 31 per cent of the city council elected in 2014 and could make up an even smaller percentage of the slimmer council that will be elected on Oct. 22.

“Some current woman councillors have chosen not to run and others will now run head-to-head against each other. After election day there may be too few elected women in this city to even form a gender equal executive committee, however we can take concrete steps to build a fairer government for everyone and that starts with the way people are doing the day-to-day work that keeps our city moving forward. We need to make sure that women are included in the decision making itself,” she said.

Keesmaat said that hundreds of positions on city’s boards will have to be filled over the next four years, creating an opportunity to shape those decision-making bodies in a way that will ensure they are more reflective of Toronto’s population.

Likewise, she said that in ensuring that there is gender equality in the awarding of senior leadership positions at city hall, the civil service will slowly become more reflective of the people it serves.

“When I took on the job as the chief planner in the City of Toronto I saw the amazing potential we have as a city but I also saw that not enough women were in position to contribute equally to that growing potential,” she said. “As the chief planner, I joined a department led entirely by a team of male directors. Hard working and talented men to be sure but I could not believe that not a single woman was among them so I worked to change that. It took five years to bring balance to our team but we did it.”

Keesmaat said that in addition to her plans to institute gender parity requirements on boards and at the senior levels of the civil service, she would also push council to adopt a gender responsive budgeting process that it similar to one utilized by the federal Liberal government. That process ensures that all budget items are scrutinized with a commitment to gender-equality in mind.

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