The 2022 municipal election was the worst example of gender politics the Alberni Valley has experienced in the last two decades. And most of the ugliness played out in social media.
A number of female political candidates have said they received more negative or hateful comments this election campaign than ever before.
The number of insulting comments and messages city councillor-elect Cindy Solda received during this campaign—her seventh—has prompted her to bring her concerns to the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
Mayor-elect Sharie Minions has been the most active local politician on social media, and for the past four years has had to endure more public negativity than her Alberni Valley municipal government counterparts.
Many of the comments she receives are on topics she has nothing to do with. Others, targeting her personal business or family connections, are defamatory—the loose definition of which is damaging someone’s good reputation. It might be on social media, but it’s still governed by Canadian defamation laws.
City council candidate Carol-Anne Zanette was asked during an all-candidates meeting how she planned to be a city councillor and run a business. None of the male candidates who own or run businesses were asked the same question.
In 2018, Theresa Kingston and Patty Edwards—two Alberni Valley women who worked for decades with municipal governments—held an information session months before the civic election in an effort to encourage more women to run. They noted that in 2015, women made up just 14 percent of elected council in Port Alberni. The United Nations defines 30 percent as the minimum number required for government to reflect women’s concerns.
In 2022, between the city, Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and school board, there were more women (20) than men (19) who ran for office. And yet it was largely female candidates who received the brunt of negative social media—from inappropriate comments and questions to outright criticism.
How are we to attract more women to politics if this is the reception they receive?
When we have female political candidates second-guessing whether they will run because they are reluctant to face a barrage of negative social media, that points to a larger problem.
As a community, we must do better. The people who step up to represent us deserve better.
— Alberni Valley News