Locally Grown examines who makes up Canada’s local political leadership, how local leaders enter public life, and how they experience the job.

In Canada, federal and provincial legislators tend to command the spotlight.

But what about the thousands of municipal politicians who, apart from ensuring potholes are filled and garbage is collected, are doing the vital work of designing and redesigning their communities?

Last year, the Samara Centre joined the Canadian Municipal Barometer, a partnership of universities and researchers surveying mayors and councillors across Canada. Today, we bring you the results of the first of three annual surveys in Locally Grown: A survey of municipal politicians in Canada.


Locally Grown examines who makes up Canada’s local political leadership, how local leaders enter public life, and how they experience the job.

The survey finds:

  • City council is not a gateway office: High-profile examples of municipal politicians making the leap to provincial or federal politics are the exception, not the rule. Generally speaking, local politicians would rather stay in local politics than run at other levels of government.
  • Civil society talent pipeline: Most local politicians point to involvement in community associations and neighbourhood groups as experiences that helped them prepare for public life, instead of taking more explicitly political paths to office.
  • Lonely work, hours vary: Unlike other orders of government, a profession in local politics is often part-time rather than full-time, with the majority of municipal politicians relying on little or no staff support. 
  • Not all roads lead to City Hall: While diversity in representation is pivotal to ensuring that all voices can be heard at the decision-making table, local governments have a long way to go in this regard.

Given the vast differences in size, scope, and capacity among Canada’s municipalities, it’s difficult to draw a straightforward picture of municipal political life.

Recognizing that there is no single model for healthy democratic representation at the local level, Locally Grown concludes by considering different ways to foster more effective and diverse leadership.

Read the full report at samaracanada.com, and tell us what you think on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.


Graduate-level research assistants wanted

The Samara Centre is excited to partner with Ryerson University on a collaborative research project entitled “Democracy after COVID-19: What Lessons Can Canada Offer and Learn?” Led by Professor Sanjay Ruparelia, the project will examine the ramifications of the pandemic upon governance in Canada through practically-oriented and policy-relevant research, and disseminate its findings to scholars, practitioners, and the broader public. Applications are due at noon on Friday, January 29th.


On the lookout for new leadership

In case you missed our announcement, the Samara Centre will soon be launching a search for our next Executive Director, and we are hoping to attract a diverse range of talented candidates. The chosen candidate will spearhead our mission to make Canadian politics more accessible, responsive, and inclusive, injecting fresh insight and perspective into our work. Stay tuned for more details, and please share the news across your professional and social networks!


The Samara Centre for Democracy

P.S. Did you know that we depend on the generous support of individual donors to bring you the kind of non-partisan research and programming featured above? If you cherish Canada’s democracy as much as we do, please consider supporting our work by making a charitable donation today.


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