Nova Scotia Election: Liberals field the most men, Tories the most white candidates

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Nova Scotia’s three main party leaders are defending the levels of minority representation and gender equity among their candidates standing for election. Legislature reporter Marieke Walsh breaks down the numbers – May 1, 2017

As Nova Scotia’s political parties hit the campaign trail, the Liberals are fielding the most men, and the Progressive Conservatives the most white people.

The NDP are the closest to presenting a gender-equal slate of candidates. Once all NDP candidates are registered, 45 per cent of them will be women — 23 of 51.

READ MORE: All our Nova Scotia Election 2017 coverage

The Progressive Conservatives meantime have 17 female candidates, and the Liberals have 12. The Liberals have two more women running on their ticket than they had in their caucus which included 10 female MLAs.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil defended his party’s record of women politicians by pointing to his history in government. “I want women in seats that we can win,” he said.

And he highlighted that his government appointed a record number of six women to cabinet. Including him, there were 11 men in his cabinet.

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“Find me another time in the history of the province when you can say that,” McNeil said Monday. “I think it’s unfair to suggest that our party, a party that has stood beside women to have them elected in meaningful ridings.”

Asked if he was suggesting that the other parties are fielding women candidates in unwinnable ridings, McNeil avoided the question.

No gender parity in office without gender parity on the campaign: senator

Speaking to Global News, Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard said equal representation starts with the candidates that parties put on the ballot.

“It’s 2017, we can’t have gender parity in office if we don’t have gender parity in terms of people running,” Bernard said.

She said the parties and the legislature need to create the “conditions that make it possible for women to run.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia had lowest rate of women running in federal election

Barriers like irregular and long hours at the legislature, financial security to run a campaign, and adequate options for child care and other care-giving responsibilities are among the issues that Bernard said can be tackled.

However, she said so far, she hasn’t seen a “strong commitment to making the change that’s needed.”

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When the legislature was dissolved on Sunday, 14 of the 51 MLAs were women.

One racial minority among Progressive Conservative candidates

Among the three major parties, the Tories fall to the back of the pack on diversity — with just one candidate who is a racial minority.

On Sunday, Baillie deflected the issue saying it’s a “problem” that “all parties face.” Pressed on the point that it’s a problem facing his party in particular, he doubled down.

READ MORE: Halifax council candidates try to break through council’s white wall

“I don’t think any party has done enough to have people of colour, African Nova Scotians, reflected in their own membership or in their candidate base,” he said. “We are working very hard to continue down that road.”

The Liberals lead the way among the three major parties with seven minority candidates — four of whom were also elected in 2013. The NDP have five candidates who are racial minorities.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill defended his party’s record on diversity saying his candidates are an “honest reflection” of Nova Scotia.

Glass ceiling for women, concrete ceiling for racial minorities: senator

Breaking into politics as a racial minority is even more difficult than as a woman, Bernard said.

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“There’s a glass ceiling for women, but for some of us, there’s a concrete ceiling.”

She said the election of Lindell Smith to Halifax Regional Council was an important milestone because he’s an African Nova Scotian and also because he’s young. But she also said celebrating the rare breakthrough shows a broader problem.

“Until we have leaders working with grassroots to dismantle the concrete ceilings, we will still have to celebrate the ones and the twos of us who manage to break through,” she said.

She said parties need to make sure they are welcoming, and increase their outreach and mentoring to get more people to run.

“We need to make sure that every citizen in this country feels important,” she said. “And one of the ways that we can do that is to make sure that those voices are represented.”

The 2011 National Household Survey places racial minorities and First Nations people at 11 per cent of the population in Nova Scotia. While the Liberals are representative of that percentage, Bernard said given the history of marginalization, it should be a “priority to go beyond” that ratio.

Liberal candidates:

  • 39 men
  • 12 women
  • 7 racial minorities

Progressive Conservative*:

  • 34 men
  • 16 women
  • 1 racial minority

*The Tories have one more candidate to nominate

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NDP candidates:

  • 28 men
  • 23 women
  • 5 racial minorities

Atlantica candidates:

  • 3 men

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