The provincial government has recently committed to providing incentives to political parties who help increase the number of female candidates in an effort to diversify the legislative assembly, however visible minorities remain unrepresented with no immediate plans for a similar initiative.
Eight of the 49 seats in the New Brunswick legislature are occupied by women, a ratio the government would like to see changed.
“We’ve been very keen as a government to do everything we can to advance women’s equality here in our province,” said Premier Brian Gallant. “One of the ways to do that is to have more women involved in the political process and hopefully sitting in the legislature in Fredericton.”
“We’ve put in a policy that will have an incentive that is financially based for parties to encourage them strongly to up their efforts in recruiting women to run for office and also hopefully get nominated,” Gallant explained.
Making up approximately half the provincial population but less than 20 per cent of current MLAs, women are underrepresented in the legislature.
But they aren’t the only ones.
Visible minority groups are even less represented.
“It is important to work toward diversity in the legislature, in city councils, in boards and commissions,” said Alex LeBlanc, executive director of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council (NBMC). “To make sure that the voices of the constituents are there and understood.”
Census data from 2011 puts New Brunswick’s visible minority residents at 2.3 per cent of the total population, strikingly lower than the 19.1 per cent of Canada’s total population that same year.
Still it’s a growing population, and one that the NBMC doesn’t think should be left out of the political world.
“Real diversity is broader than gender. It includes youth, it includes aboriginals, it includes persons with disabilities,” LeBlanc explained. “Of course immigrants and visible minorities are an important part of true diversity.”
LeBlanc admits it isn’t an overnight process but thinks there are immediate steps that can be taken which will in turn help bolster the number of residents of visible minorities involved in the political process.
“In the short term we can do things to ensure there are open channels of communication through consultations, through ongoing committees, advisory groups of immigrants that can help inform government or inform the political parties of their policy positions.”