Changing Alderman to Councillor, it’s time!

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Alderman to Councillor in Spruce Grove

It’s 2017, not 1917, yet here we are stuck with a name for our city council members that should have been left in the last century. Spruce Grove is the last city in western Canada and one of few cities in the entire world that still call their city councillors- Aldermen. Proud of that fact?

I’m a little embarrassed and quite frankly, disappointed that this is an issue and a change that still needs to be made in 2017. We can’t talk out of one side of our mouth and tell the world what a progressive and visionary city we are while the other side of our mouth is insisting we stay put with an outdated and patriarchal naming convention.

The title of alderman should be changed to councillor. And it should be one of the first motions that is made once the new council is sworn in.

Watch my video on why we need to immediate change the title of alderman to councillor on my Facebook page.

A little history for you and why this is a big deal.

What is an Alderman?

The definition of alderman is from old English and it it literally means “elder” or “old” man; of which I am neither. There is nothing gender neutral about the title of alderman, regardless of who tells tries to tell you differently. Nearly every other municipal government changed their name to councillor long ago, and we’ve yet to do the same. It is upsetting to learn that in January 2015, Alderman Searle Turton brought forward a motion to change the title of Alderman to Councillor. So nearly three years ago, we had the opportunity to do the right thing and vote in favour of it.

Voting Against Councillor in 2015

I don’t like working off rumour but this has to be addressed. There is talk that the vote was 7-0 until it was realized that incumbents for this election would have to change their election signs. Not a terribly big deal as us new candidates are forking out cash to get elections signs made. Long story short, the vote to change it to councillor was defeated 6-1, with Alderman Turton being the only member of council to vote in favour of it. How did the vote go from an expected 7-0 vote in favour to 6-1 against?

So why is this concern now? Of the six that voted against the motion, five are incumbents in this election. So where do they stand now on this issue? Do they feel the same way now that it seems to be an issue that has (rightfully) reared its ugly head? If re-elected, do you know if they commit to changing the name in October?

My question to them is this: why did you vote against the motion in 2015? What was it that prevented you from changing the title from a gender specific title to a gender neutral one? Is it because six of seven council members are men? Is it because six of seven council members are what you could consider “elderly”? So the name reflects the current make-up of council. But will it reflect the new council? Residents of Spruce Grove deserve to know why you voted against making the title gender neutral.

Behind the 8-ball for gender neutral titles

This is not a new concept. Firefighters are no longer firemen, police officers are no longer policemen, and flight attendants are no longer stewardesses. This is the way it is today– gender neutral! Language matters. Words matter.

Plus, we’ve heard the title is confusing to other municipal governments as well as our residents. I’ve spoken to countless people in the Grove that didn’t know what an alderman was. That’s a problem when you’re trying to get people out to vote and there’s a misunderstanding that an alderman is their city councillor.

Little to few women elected in our local government, ever.

As a woman, I feel this title does not represent me and neither do most of the 50+ % of women residents in the Grove. Heck, it’s been near unanimous support for the name change, men included!

As it stands, this is a veiled barrier for women to enter into local politics. It’s a shame really. Ever since I can remember, Spruce Grove has never had more than one woman alderman on council at a time. Our lone female council member is not running in this election. All five incumbents are men. Four of the five male incumbents are over age of 62. Elder men indeed.

Change is coming

I’m happy to see five women candidates so far and fingers crossed, we elect two to three of them this year! And one of our first motions, you can bet your bottom dollar on this, will be to change the title of alderman to councillor and be done with this ridiculousness. Count on it.