A new program will allow women municipal councillors to share information and will help preserve the accumulated knowledge of experienced municipal councillors. The Women in Local Government Project, which aims to increase the participation of women in municipal decision making, announced plans for the coming year, including a mentoring program, today, Oct. 19, in Sydney. “New women councillors are still often alone or in a small minority on Nova Scotia’s councils,” said Claire Detheridge, deputy mayor of Sydney and chair of the Women in Local Government Steering Committee. “This program provides a structure for sharing experience and advice between female colleagues. It will also help retain the skills and knowledge acquired over the years by more experienced councillors, who will begin to retire in larger numbers over the next decade or so.” Ms. Detheridge also announced other work for the project’s second year of operation. A bursary for female municipal employees who want to further their careers will provide an important support for women in administration. A fraction of Nova Scotia’s top municipal administrators are women at a time when municipalities, like other employers, are beginning to struggle to find talent to operate. A public awareness campaign about the role and impact of municipal government on women’s day-to-day lives aims to increase women’s voting and their application to advisory committees and boards. Workshops for municipal administrators and employees on how and why to involve women in decision making and on diversity began at the Association of Municipal Administrators conference in September. Information about the gender and age of voters is gathered during provincial elections but not municipal elections. This information could be used to help identify barriers to voting by pointing out who votes and who does not. A committee is looking at ways to gather voter information for future municipal elections. The goal of the project is for women to make up 30 per cent of candidates in the next municipal election. Two activities are vital for reaching this goal. The first is encouraging Nova Scotians to ask women to run for office. The second is to put in place municipal campaign schools that show women interested in running for municipal council how to plan successful campaigns and gain election skills. Experienced councillors and election campaign planners will be key resources for these programs. “We need more women in public decision making -– as citizens, as public employees and as elected officials,” said Carolyn Bolivar-Getson, minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act. “This project will help to ensure our municipal governments better reflect the communities they serve, which will make them better governments.” The Women in Local Government Project is a partnership of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, the Association of Municipal Administrators of Nova Scotia and the YWCA of Halifax. The project began in 2004 with a resolution approved by municipal councillors from across the province. In October 2005, councillors approved the recommendations of the Untapped Resources report, the result of research on women’s involvement in municipal government. The project is working to increase women’s input into municipal decision making as citizens, as employees and as elected councillors.