Photo credit: Guillaume Levasseur, Le Devoir

The election of Valérie Plante

Although municipal politics is often viewed as more open to women, electoral under-representation persists, even at this level, and it is particularly acute in the mayor’s office. In Canada, just 18% of municipal mayors are women. In 2017, Valérie Plante broke the glass ceiling, becoming Montreal’s first woman mayor in the city’s 400-year history. Media coverage of her victory drew attention to her gender, but did gender matter all that much to voters?

In “Gender, Municipal Party Politics, and Montreal’s First Woman Mayor,” Mireille Paquet and I show how gender did and did not influence the outcome. A survey of Montreal electors reveals that gender was not a salient factor in their voice choice. However, as we argue, gender did shape the organization of the campaign and party. This article has been accepted for publication in the Canadian Journal of Urban Research.

We suggest that Plante’s victory can be explained in part by a strategy that showcased a less leader-centric party and a degendered campaign that helped counteract stereotypes about women’s unsuitability for positions of political leadership. Rather than positioning parties as a barrier to women’s political participation, as most past research does, we theorize them as a mobilizing institution with the potential to facilitate women’s electoral success at the local level. We heed the call for more research on local politics and, in doing so, our analysis highlights the evolution of municipal political parties from highly personalized, singularly focused electoral entities to more institutionalized and embedded features of local governance.

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Tolley, Erin and Mireille Paquet (2021). Gender, Municipal Party Politics, and Montreal’s First Woman Mayor. Canadian Journal of Urban Research 30(1): 40-52.

Photo credit: Guillaume Levasseur, Le Devoir

Do women do better in municipal politics?

Conventional wisdom suggests that women might find greater electoral success in local politics than in politics at the federal and provincial level. Local politics is viewed as more part-time, less competitive, and closer to women’s perceived policy interests. But is this true? Do women do better in municipal politics?

Using a longitudinal data set that traces women’s presence in elected office in Canada, this study casts doubt on the notion of a municipal advantage. It finds instead that women are present in roughly equivalent proportions across all three levels of government and that their numerical presence has rarely exceeded 25 percent at any level of government. The article thus challenges a pervasive theme in the literature on women in politics.

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Erin Tolley. 2011. Do Women “Do Better” in Municipal Politics? Electoral Representation across Three Levels of Government. Canadian Journal of Political Science 44(3): 573-594.