Out of New Brunswick’s five major political parties, only the Green Party is promising a gender-balanced complement of candidates.
At a campaign stop in Mactaquac, N.B., on Friday morning to announce Louise Comeau as the Green candidate in Carleton-York, Coon said the party will also be announcing Indigenous and LGBTQ2s candidates in the near future.
“At this stage, with just a handful of ridings left to fill with candidates, more than half of our candidates are women,” he said.
“You will be seeing a diversity of candidates on our slate and over half will be women.”
In 2018 only the NDP reached full gender balance with women making up 51 per cent of candidates.
That election sent 11 women to the Legislature, which is about 22 per cent of the total seats, up from 16 per cent in 2014.
Normally, New Brunswick’s fixed election dates give parties more time to focus on recruitment in the lead-up to the writ period. But with a snap election called by PC Leader Blaine Higgs, parties are scrambling to find candidates before the Aug. 28 deadline, and some say that’s having an impact on recruitment overall.
“It’s been challenging in that way to get people committed to doing it when normally they would have a month or so to ponder the decision. They only have two or three days, so that has been a challenge in recruitment generally,” said Liberal campaign co-chair Robert McKee.
McKee said the Liberals are not necessarily targeting gender balance for their candidate roster, but have been working to ensure diversity is prioritized.
He mentioned Saint John Harbour candidate Alice McKim, a transgender woman, and Moncton South candidate Rene Ephestion as examples of the party’s commitment to diversity.
“We have actively been pursuing candidates ever since there were rumours of an election being called to get a good balance because we believe that you do need a diversity of people at the table,” McKee said.
The campaign manager for the Progressive Conservative party Louis Leger says they are on track to nominate the most women in the party’s history, but will not make it to a 50/50 gender split.
Leger says there are 20 women either nominated or in the mix to be nominated, although some will face contested nominations and may not win.
People’s Alliance leader Kris Austin says that gender balance has not been a determination as the party works to vet and nominate candidates.
“We look for individuals that believe our message, that want to carry that message forward … we don’t discriminate, we take people in as they come — look at their profile, their ambitions — who want to run, and we go from there,” he said.
Nathan Davis, a spokesperson for the NDP, says they are hoping to achieve gender balance, but the tight turnaround involved in nominating candidates for a snap election means that may not be possible. Davis says the party is nominating a significant portion of people under 25 as well as several transgender candidates.
Those tight timelines have meant that parties have had to throw out the regular procedure for nomination in some cases. When the election was called all sitting Liberal MLAs who had decided to reoffer were appointed by party leader Kevin Vickers, along with Robert Gauvin who was sitting as an independent after quitting the PC caucus earlier this year.
Coon said he has not been appointing candidates, but the party riding associations have been working diligently to vet and acclaim candidates.
Where riding associations don’t exist, the provincial executive has stepped in. Coon says there are about seven ridings left to go until they have a full slate.
Austin has been appointing candidates and the party has spent most of the first week working through and vetting applicants. He says they may not get to a full 49, but will be focusing on ridings where they think they have a shot to do well.
The PCs had a headstart with candidate recruitment. Leger says nominations began near the beginning of August to be prepared should the province go to an election. Nomination meetings have been taking place steadily since then and Leger expects a full slate should be ready by Monday.