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Waste Connections faced a shareholder proposal this spring from the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation calling on it to release a formal, written diversity policy, as well as plans and timelines for increasing the number of female board members and executives.DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

The shareholders of Waste Connections Inc. demonstrated that one female director on a corporate board is, in their eyes, no longer enough.

The company, a member of the S&P/TSX 60, faced a shareholder proposal this spring from the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation calling on it to release a formal, written diversity policy, as well as plans and timelines for increasing the number of female board members and executives.

It passed with support from 64 per cent of the shareholders. Law firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP says it’s the first time in Canadian history that a shareholder proposal on gender diversity has passed. It was the only shareholder proposal of any kind to pass among the 62 in Canada studied by Davies in 2019.

Waste Connections came to its shareholders in the spring with one woman among its seven directors. Proxy-advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services recommended a Yes vote, contrary to Waste Connections’ wishes, saying it lagged Canadian companies in female representation and the company disclosed neither a formal gender policy nor a target to fix that.

In an interview, chief financial officer Mary Anne Whitney said Waste Connections was looking for an additional board member at the time of the annual meeting and later added a woman, making two of its eight members female. “We had identified that diversity, specifically gender diversity, was one of the factors that should be considered. That was a priority for us.”

Ms. Whitney declined to comment on the status of a formal diversity policy for the company.

While the company’s administrative offices are based in Houston, the company is considered Canadian by S&P Dow Jones Indices, because its corporate home is in Ontario.

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