Edmonton Election: How well do the candidates reflect the city's diversity?

Candidates in Edmonton’s upcoming election are largely white, but women and visible minority candidates are more frequently found on the ballot compared to the recent federal election, CTV News analysis shows.

CTV News examined candidates' websites and online presence in an effort to document how well women as well as racially diverse candidates are represented among candidates.

“What we see is that the elected representatives do not reflect the composition of the population,” said MacEwan University political scientist Chaldeans Mensah.

“The good news is we've seen more people putting their names forward from the non-white segment of the candidate pool. We're beginning to see some progress there.”

White candidates make up a majority of about 65 per cent of all candidates running in mayoral, council and school trustee races later this month.

South Asian and Black candidates were the next most frequently found racial backgrounds at about 17 per cent and 10 per cent of all candidates, respectively.

Those numbers are significantly better than those found from last month’s federal election, where 82 per cent of those running in Edmonton-area ridings were white.

“We're beginning to see some progress there,” said Mensah.

The census shows about 37 per cent of Edmontonians identify as a visible minority.

Three candidates were omitted from the analysis: two have since withdrawn from seeking office, and one candidate’s information could not be determined.

WOMEN REPRESENTED

Women are also better represented in the upcoming city election, albeit mostly focused on races further down the ballot.

Analysis shows that a nearly equal split of men (67) and women (63) are running across all races, but also that the majority of women candidates are running in school trustee races.

About one-third of candidates in the Edmonton area were women in the recent federal election.

That ratio is echoed in this month’s races for council and mayor, where men represent about two-thirds of candidates, 55 out of 82.

A majority, or 29 out of 48, of school trustee candidates are white women.

Women make up almost exactly 50 per cent of the city’s population, according to the most recent national census.

HISTORICAL DIVERSITY LACKING

Nine of the 11 members of the outgoing city council are men and two of the 11 are of a visible minority.

Throughout its history, Edmonton has elected one woman mayor and about 30 councillors. The city has never elected a visible minority candidate as mayor or a female visible minority as councillor.

Mensah says challenging those historical trends will take time and effort.

“Nobody's going to vote for you because of your income from a diverse background,” he said.

“They just want to see whether you've paid your dues.”

Mensah says seeing greater diversity at the city level is a bit unexpected given the role political parties play in high-level elections to recruit and retain candidates from diverse backgrounds.

Without parties, he says, local candidates are left to build their own brands.

“It's a system that gives prominence to your name recognition based on what you've done in the community,” he said.

“And, if you've done good work on the ground, we'll get to know you, and you will have a chance of being successful.”

While Mesah says the participation of minorities in this year’s contest is a welcome sign, simply running is not enough.

“It's one thing putting your name forward, it’s another thing winning,” he said.

“We need to also see that translated into victory.”