Thank you to the Niagara District Council of Women for hosting the “Women in Niagara Politics – 2018 Candidates Public Forum” last night.
Like many others, I was both very surprised by and extremely pleased with the turnout.
I understand that some people were not able to get into the room or may have left early, so I am sharing here what I shared with the attendees last night.
Thank you for joining and staying with us this evening to discuss the importance of having more women in political leadership positions throughout Niagara.
My name is Laura Ip, and I’m running to represent the people of St. Catharines at Niagara Regional Council.
This year’s election is the most important in years, because – together – we need to Reset the Region.
We need to return integrity, accountability, and transparency to Niagara Regional government.
I have participated in three election campaigns prior to this one and, while other candidates in those campaigns have, I have never campaigned on integrity, because I felt it should be a given. This time, it’s at the top of my list.
There is some very interesting recent research that indicates “that the inclusion of women in local councils is strongly negatively associated with the prevalence of…corruption.”
There is less corruption where there are more women.
I’ll be clear here, because there are men in the room thinking, ‘well, not me’: I am not suggesting, nor would I ever suggest, that women are better or smarter than their male counterparts. Rather, the research gets at what happens when long-established networks are broken up by the presence of people with different experience and different concerns. Balance is key to a well-functioning government.
There needs to be balance in age, gender, ability, background. Balance is the key.
We also know from numerous research studies that organizations function better; make better decisions when there are more points of view at the table.
When there are more women at the table, problem-solving and decision-making change to take more people into consideration. When women make decisions, they are more likely to consider everyone in the community and how their decisions will impact them.
Whether women are discussing what are considered the ‘hard’ services like road maintenance projects and waste management or what are considered the ‘soft’ services, like public health and seniors’ and children’s services, they are considering how the effective delivery of these services impacts the community as a whole.
When you vote for me for one of the six St. Catharines seats on Regional Council, you’re voting for someone who has a well-rounded base of experience in municipal government. In addition to having worked for two mayors and a municipal CAO, I also sat on St. Catharines City Council. This means I know what the Municipal Act does and does not permit us to do as individual councillors, as a whole Council, and as a government body.
I’ve been active in the community for more than 25 years, including having been the founding Secretary/Treasurer of Quest Community Health Centre; sitting as Vice Chair of the Niagara Workforce Planning Board; sitting on many other boards and organizing committees, as well as participating in numerous charitable events; and I would be remiss not to mention that I am the founder of Underdogs Boxing Club, a volunteer-run, non-profit that – among other things – provides programming for survivors of violence.
We need a Council that will work to improve and integrate our transit system, increase our stock of affordable housing, and spend taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently, whether it’s on $50 million projects or how they claim their expenses.
We need a Council that prioritizes and understands the needs for seniors’ and children’s services, public health, waste management, road maintenance, and good management of the many other essential services they deliver.
We need a Council that cares about you; that makes decisions in the best interest of all of the citizens of Niagara.
On Monday, October 22, I hope you’ll vote to Reset the Region. Thank you.
Following opening remarks from each of the candidates, we were asked two questions.
How will you be accountable and show respect to the citizens of Niagara?
My answer (generally, as it was not prepared): Being accountable and showing respect are about communication. We have too many regional councillors who choose to just not speak with the media and that’s a main channel for us to get information to you. I have also committed to have bi-monthly coffee meetings with citizens, so that I can share information and they can ask me questions. I can also be reached on social media, via e-mail, or by phone for anyone who has questions about decisions I’ve made or things I’ve said or done. Further to that, because I am already familiar with the Municipal Act and Bourinot’s Rules of Order, I can stand up for respect of citizens during meeting while staying within those bounds.
What is your top priority?
My answer (generally, as it was not prepared): I’ve written extensively on my website about the alleviation of poverty and the many facets of that. To ensure we are spending money on the things it needs to be spent on and spending it well, I would like us to develop a Niagara-specific poverty reduction strategy.