By Sue Tiffin
Published Dec. 20 2018
A phone call to Algonquin Highlands council from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister for the Status of Women Maryam Monsef was celebrated with a round of applause after it occurred at a Dec. 13 council meeting.
Trudeau and Monsef called to congratulate the council – Mayor Carol Moffatt Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen and councillors Julia Shortreed Lisa Barry and Jennifer Dailloux – on being one of the only all-women councils in Ontario’s history.
“I think it’s terrific that he did that” said Moffatt noting the call and reason for it is a non-partisan issue. “It’s simply the leader of our country reaching out to a small community to acknowledge a milestone in municipal government or in government in general.”
Moffatt said the call which was about 10 minutes long was easygoing and friendly.
She said that although she had written some notes she didn’t rely on them during the discussion in which she said she took the opportunity to get a plug in for the area’s partnership with the Trent-Severn Waterway and the issue of water levels.
“He asked what our biggest issue might be and I replied that the environmental and lake stewardship of our 600 lakes was vital as it touches every aspect of our economy and lifestyle” said Moffatt later on social media. “…The PM touched on his paddling trips in Algonquin the important role of women in government and called us trail-blazers. We all agreed that we hope for a time when the gender make-up of a council doesn’t matter.”
During the phone call Monsef and Dailloux who have worked together in their humanitarian work efforts in Afghanistan were also able to share a hello and express interest in reuniting in the future.
“They had a great conversation about women in politics their priorities for their upcoming term and the impacts of climate change on the Trent-Severn Waterway” Braeson Holland press secretary Office of the Minister of Status of Women told the Times of the phone call.
Moffatt said she received a call from the prime minister’s office the morning of the council meeting noting the call could not be made public. She said she was disappointed to not be able to share the moment with the community though she understood the decision.
“The prime minister’s phone calls are not typically open to media” said Matt Pascuzzo press secretary Office of the Prime Minister.
On the same day Trudeau and Monsef also called to congratulate the all-women council in the town of Spanish Ont.
“While it shouldn’t be a newsworthy accomplishment the numbers show that it still is” said Ryan Young special assistant to Monsef “…Women represent less than a third of seats in Parliament and in provincial and territorial legislatures and only 18 per cent of mayors and 28 per cent of city councillors. The Government of Canada recognizes the need to increase the number of women in leadership positions because when more women participate in politics and civic life we get decisions that better reflect the diverse needs and experiences of people in Canada.”
Moffatt said the rare call from a sitting prime minister to the county should be acknowledged but also that the group was ready to get to work for the township.
“To me not unlike the milestone of the all-female council this was yet another milestone on what appears to be a continuing path of interest in this issue and now it’s over. And we have a lot of work to do. We’ve got a big agenda and we have big issues to discuss” said Moffatt. “…[W]e tuck that away in our little memory books and we move along to the work at hand.”
Also that same day Monsef’s title changed to Minister for Women and Gender Equality.