In less than two weeks, Ontarians will be heading to the polls for a provincial election. Here, at Evidence for Democracy, we’ve launched our Vote Science campaign for the first time at the provincial level!
Vote Science is a non-partisan effort to advocate for science during elections in Canada. The campaign empowers individuals (like you!) with the tools you need to reach out to local candidates on science-related issues.
As a part of Vote Science, and with the help of nine E4D volunteers, we partnered with Elect STEM to find out which candidates have a degree in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or medicine (STEMM).
Overall, of 482 candidates, we found that 25% (124) have a degree or background in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM). In contrast, in 2021, Elect STEM found that only 11% (i.e. 14 out of 124) of Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) in Ontario had a STEMM background.
Elected officials from different fields, such as business, agriculture and the trades, all bring valuable perspectives to our democracy. Experts in STEMM are no exception, and can help ensure that science and evidence become a priority in public policy.
In reviewing candidate backgrounds, two additional statistics stood out. Firstly, when looking at party distribution among the 124 candidates with a STEMM background, we found that 42 candidates were from the Green Party, followed by 33 candidates from the Liberal Party. Secondly, of those with STEMM backgrounds, a majority (91) had a science-related degree.
Note: We included undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as college diplomas and certificates, that were related to STEMM. All members with a STEMM background were included, regardless of whether their highest credential is in a non-STEMM field or not. The STEMM categorization was based on the highest STEMM degree earned by the candidate. Data was collected from a variety of sources, including LinkedIn, Wikipedia, news articles and through verification emails to candidates. The data is valid as of May 14, 2022.
In addition to myself and Caitlin Fowler, the following E4D volunteers were also behind this critical effort: Michelle Goldenberg, Fairuz Karim, Emma Lash, Lucksini Raveendran, Mehnaz Ahmed, Robert Alvo, Sepinoud Siavoshi, Stephanie Ruddock, and Nell Libera.
Meet some of our volunteers below!
Robert Alvo is a conservation biologist, bird expert, and author of Being a Bird in North America (BABINA). Robert first discovered his passion for the natural world at age ten. His family had just moved from Montreal to Greece, and his walk to school took him through the hills of Thessaloniki. His fascination with the birds and other wildlife in the countryside ignited his lifelong study of the natural world.
After high school, Robert returned to Canada to study biology at Queen’s University in Kingston. While working on his Master’s degree at Trent University, Robert examined the effects of acid rain on the Common Loon, and has continued that research for over thirty years. The latest results from this project were published in 2009, reporting on 25 years of research. During his career as a conservation biologist, Robert founded Canada’s first Conservation Data Centre (1988), wrote and translated numerous species accounts for the provincial atlas The Breeding Birds of Quebec, wrote eight national (COSEWIC) status reports for the Canadian Wildlife Service, negotiated land protection deals for Quebec’s arm of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and managed Parks Canada’s species database.
Mehnaz Ahmed is a Medical Editor and published researcher currently working for Tank Worldwide, a pharmaceutical marketing agency:. Prior to her current role, Mehnaz completed a Masters degree in Pharmacology from the University of Toronto, where she worked on a clinical trial investigating an intervention for an early stage of vascular dementia. It was through studying in a clinical research setting where she fostered her fascination with science communication, motivated by the opportunity to advocate for patients in all clinical settings and stages of medical research.
Mehnaz is passionate about advancing mentorship and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in any role she takes on, having been selected to be a global media ambassador for the Dove/Getty Images/GirlGaze #ShowUs campaign. Her goal with E4D is to continue to advocate for patients and citizens alike through science advocacy.
Lucksini is a health policy researcher who has worked in private and public sectors. Throughout her masters training and experiences, she focused on advancing equitable and sustainable access to health service delivery for diverse priority populations. This also includes addressing knowledge gaps to better bridge scientific evidence and public policy through engagement with various levels of government. Additionally, she’s supported global innovators in program evaluation for a portfolio of maternal and child health projects implemented in low-and- middle-income countries. She continues to serve on advisory committees that support the emerging mental health needs of youth, seniors, people facing homelessness and racialized communities as part of COVID-19 recovery efforts. She is passionate about racial justice and the need to incorporate a health equity, trauma-informed and anti-oppressive lens in the development and implementation of future policies across Canada’s healthcare system.
Fairuz Karim is a graduate student at the University of Toronto in the Translational Research Program and holds an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour with a double minor in Sociology and Sustainability. Fairuz is passionate about the intersections between sustainability, equity, health services, and policy. She is interested in advancing human-centric problem-solving in community health contexts. She aspires to work with communities to be a part of interventions and change for a more equitable healthy society.