By TALA MUHTADI
Betty Disero made history Monday night by becoming the first female Lord Mayor of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Disero, who had served one term on NOTL council and 18 years as Toronto city councillor, won 50.1% of the vote.
“It feels great,” says Disero. “We fought a very hard campaign and I’m thrilled that the residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake have confidence in me to be their Lord Mayor for the next four years,” says Disero.
Traditionally, the town’s mayor has been called Lord Mayor and the British branding will remain despite Disero’s historical win.
According to the town’s clerk office, the term Lady Mayoress is usually used to refer to the wife of an elected Lord Mayor. There are no plans at this time to change the title of the office as this was the title acknowledged in The Regional Municipality of Niagara Act.
But overall, it was not a great election for women in Niagara. Only two won mayoral races in Niagara’s 12 municipalities — no improvement from the 2014 election. The other one was Sandra Easton in Lincoln, who won her second term.
Some had hoped female candidates would make significant gains on regional council. And there was movement but not a massive shift. There were 15 female candidates of whom seven won. Previously there had been four women on the 31-seat council.
Women are slowly beginning to jump into the political arena, that’s why more women are running even if they don’t win, according to Debbie Zimmerman, former Regional Council Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Grape Growers of Ontario.
“I think it has to do with understanding that you can still have a family and be in politics,” she says.
Zimmerman ran a women-in-politics group that started around two years ago to help encourage women to get into politics. Group seminars included women who had been involved in local government for a long time. An average of 50 women would show up at the seminars. “It is really opening up that opportunity to mentor and [to] help women have a better sense of what’s available to them as well,” says Zimmerman.
According to Zimmerman, this generation is going to change the way women view themselves. It won’t tolerate “poor behaviour,” or degrading comments from men.
“I think a lot of us who came before you have pushed on the glass ceiling but I think your generation is going to take it to the next level,” says Zimmerman.