Kamloops has a history of gutsy female councillors

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
December 28, 2016 - 5:00am

KAMLOOPS — Our governments have a shortage of representation from women — that’s nothing new. In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tried to address it, appointing 15 women to his cabinet of 30 members. Still, of the 335 Members of Parliament, far less than half — 88 — are women.

In B.C., we have a woman premier but of the 22 cabinet ministers, nine are women, and of 85 MLAs, 32 are women.

Kamloops City council has a similar disparity; always has. The current nine-member council has three women, which has been average over the past several terms. Now, it will lose one of them, at least temporarily, as Coun. Marg Spina takes an indefinite leave of absence for treatment of breast cancer.

Spina broke the news on her Facebook page on Christmas Eve. “You can be sure I will put up the fight of my life,” she wrote.

It was a shocker, and the post brought hundreds of messages of sympathy and good wishes. Those who know her have no doubt she’ll be back as soon as she possibly can.

Spina is the latest Kamloops City councillor to encounter health problems. More than two years ago, then-councillor Nancy Bepple took a leave and then resigned after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After taking time to manage her illness, she ran again in November 2014 but was unsuccessful. She’s now the NDP candidate in Kamloops-South Thompson in next May’s provincial election.

Pat Wallace, an icon on council for decades, was away from her council duties for several weeks early this year after slipping on some ice and taking a bad fall. Despite that and other illnesses in the past, she always comes back.

The most famous female member of Kamloops council was Kenna Cartwright. After serving on council, losing a mayoral election, then finally winning the mayoralty in another try, she was claimed by leukemia while in office.

She remains the only woman ever elected to the top civic job in the city, and the only mayor to die in office.  Kenna Cartwright Park was named in her honour.

Correcting the gender imbalance in our governments is a challenge that we’re still a long way from meeting, but progress has certainly been made, as the numbers of women in political office slowly increases.

In Kamloops, the challenge remains but we can take heart from the fact that those women who have served and do serve on City council have often shown a special kind of courage and determination of which we can be proud. They have the kind of stuff that we need more of in our politicians.