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Voters cast ballots for more diverse leadership on regional council

Among the political newcomers: Regional council will have its first Black woman and first woman also living with a physical disability
Vote 2
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Municipal councils across the region will soon have a new look about them.

While at the polls, voters in the Region of Waterloo also seem to have cast ballots in favour of more diversity among their elected leaders.

Heading into Monday's vote, just about half of all leadership positions in the region were held by women. As of Tuesday morning, that will soon be up to three-in-four.

Five of seven regional mayors are also soon to be female while, when it comes to regional council specifically, voters also elected the first Black woman and first woman living with a physical disability.

"So I see new faces and a broadening of the representation basis, by which I mean the people who hold elected office," said Peter Woolstencroft, Professor Emeritus, Political Science, University of Waterloo. "I've been concerned for some time those who are making political decisions for us are not being drawn widely from our diverse population."

Meantime, continuing to dig deeper into Monday's results and another one of the main story lines has to be the fall of Kathryn McGarry in Cambridge -- in one election, out the next.

"McGarry beat Doug Craig four years ago on a wave and discontent and time for a change but there were certain things that she had to deal with which had the effect of alienating this sector or that sector of the population," said Woolstencroft, adding she may have ultimately suffered a similar fate. "There's something [in Cambridge] that when issues come up they become very heated and I don't have an explanation for it."

Woolstencroft went on to suggest McGarry's defeat, though she lost to a fellow councillor in Jan Liggett who has actually served on Cambridge council twice as long, also demonstrates incumbency may not be all it's cracked up to be.

"Your first attempt at re-election is difficult and uncertain because the original enthusiasm that put you there four years ago will have faded away but you've accumulated a record that's easy for critics to attack you for," he said.

Woolstencroft said that could also prove beneficial for your opponent's war chest while your donations dry-up a bit on the expectation you're a shoo-in.

"So you become vulnerable to the well-focused opponent who has an issue, one that is incendiary in the sense you get strong feelings one way or another, and then you focus those 'anti-' feelings in a particular direction."