Thompson city Coun. Erin Hogan has been appointed chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) standing committee on increasing women’s participation in municipal government.
The topic has come to engage municipal government lobby groups in recent years. The Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) Task Force on Women in Municipal Government released a 46-page report entitled, Ballot Box Barriers: An action plan for engaging more women in the municipal democratic process, on June 8, 2010.
The appointment of Hogan as chair of the FCM standing committee on increasing women’s participation in municipal government was made by Karen Leibovici, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and a Ward 5 councillor in Edmonton.
Leibovici has a master’s degree in social work, is a former union activist, as well as a management labour relations officer, and served as Liberal MLA for the west-central Edmonton-Meadowlark riding from 1993 to 2001, when she was first elected to Edmonton city council. She was first elected to the FCM’s board of directors in 2002 and was acclaimed as president June 3 by delegates attending FCM's 75th Annual Conference and Trade Show in Saskatoon, succeeding Kitchener, Ont. Ward 2 Coun. Berry Vrbanovic.
Hogan, a policy analyst in the aboriginal relations division of Manitoba Hydro, joined the Crown corporation in November 2009, just before she was first elected to city council in a Dec. 9, 2009 byelection necessitated by the Sept. 22, 2009 resignation of then-councillor Cory Young, who moved to Winnipeg to take on his new role of agreements co-ordinator with Manitoba Aboriginal and Northern Affairs.
Then 25, Hogan, the youngest candidate in a five-way race, bested Luke Robinson, Margaret Allan, Khaled Hassanien and Peter Fancy to capture the seat. She was subsequently re-elected in the October 2010 general election, where Robinson also nabbed a seat.
Hogan first came to wide public attention through a letter to the editor she wrote Oct. 28, 2009, as a private citizen, after she attended a council-sponsored community neighbourhood consultation meeting at Wapanohk Community School, billed as a sort of a folksy back-and-forth with the mayor and council, on housing issues.
“Unfortunately, despite the promising crowd,” Hogan wrote, “I feel as though we were short-changed from having a productive community discussion on affordable housing in Thompson.
“The fact that the discussion devolved into a one-issue debate over the relocation of ball diamonds and potential disturbance to animal housing at the Thompson Zoo is not the most pressing issue.
“Rather, it is distressing that the city and council brought forward an affordable housing report on needs and wishful thinking, with no action to show for it. What we need to do and where we need to go is very different from: This is how we’re getting there. With no action, or plans for action, brought forward by the city and the noticeable absence of any representative from Manitoba Housing or UCN to contribute, my fellow concerned citizens and I were left to debate the pros and cons of the only shovel hovering over the ground, that of the UCN student housing development.
“In light of this misdirected discussion it seems the real issue was lost. The fact remains that affordable housing is a need in Thompson now.”
She went onto conclude, “We should be holding our city accountable, and expect them to do more than wait for UCN and Manitoba Housing to build. Many municipalities across Canada are struggling with the lack of affordable housing. While comparative studies are useful for shining light on the issue, the City of Thompson must do more than talk. The need is here now. All there is left to do is build.”
Hogan impressed many with her analysis of the affordable housing problem and the clarity of her thinking. She is now council’s external appointment to the Thompson Housing Authority, created by council Nov. 16, 2009 to signal its intent to get directly involved officially for the first time on an ongoing basis in affordable housing issues municipally. Council was acting on a request by Marilyn Duval, former executive director of the Thompson YWCA and then president of the board of directors of the Thompson Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation (TNRC), in a Nov. 10, 2009 letter, to establish the Thompson Housing Authority.
Hogan, who also chairs the recreation and community services standing committee of council, however, set off a brief firestorm almost three years later and was pilloried publicly after she wrote another letter to the editor May 30 – this time as an elected politician – reminding ATV users among the readership that motorized vehicles are not supposed to be used on the Millennium Trail.
While some agreed with her, the majority response that drew the most public support was typified in this online comment below her letter: “Dear Councillor Hogan - It is fine for you to complain about ATVs using the Millennium Trail, but what are you doing about it as a City Councillor? Not much, it seems … please give us a little less letter writing and public grandstanding, and a little more action. Do something about the problem. And for god's sake, don't fall into our illustrious do nothing mayor's pattern of just shooting off letters. Actually try dealing with the problem.”
Hogan completed an honours four-year B.A. in politics at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg between 2004 and 2008 and spent a semester studying at the International Centre for Students at Yeditepe Üniversitesi in Istanbul, Turkey in the spring of 2007.
She worked as a freelance journalist for The Manitoban, the campus newspaper at the University of Manitoba, in 2005 and 2006. She was also a participant in the Explore French Immersion Program in the spring of 2005 at Université Laval. Hogan also held a coveted government caucus intern position in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly Internship Program from September 2008 to June 2009.
“I am pleased to have Coun. Hogan play a key role in our team, and I look forward to working together in the year ahead to advance the interest of local governments,” said Leibovici. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is the national lobbying voice of Canada’s municipalities, speaking for almost 2,000 cities and communities representing 90 per cent of Canada’s population. Its 75-member national board of directors is comprised of municipal leaders from across Canada, and meets quarterly to set policy priorities.
"I’m looking forward to adding value to the work of FCM as I begin my third year on the board of directors,” said Hogan, about her new post. “I believe it’s important that the City of Thompson has a seat at the table and I am proud to represent municipalities throughout Manitoba as we undertake our work this year."
Hogan’s next FCM board meeting is in Laval, Que. from Sept. 5-8. The estimated cost of the trip is just over $1,900. The cost is picked up initially by the City of Thompson but the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM), who Hogan represents, reimburses Thompson later for her airfare hotel accommodations, parking and taxi fare charges related to the meeting. She is also scheduled to be in Ottawa for a board meeting Nov. 20-23, and Prince George, B.C. March 6-9 and back in British Columbia in Vancouver May 31-June 3.
“FCM’s successful advocacy with the federal government has brought significant benefits to the City of Thompson over the past five years,” the city says in a press release issued Aug. 13 by Melanie Bekevich, interim communications officer for the City of Thompson. “From the GST refund to the permanent federal gas tax fund, and now the federal government’s new, long-term infrastructure plan to build the roads, bridges, water and transportation systems Canada needs to support its families, businesses, and national economy.”