Gender parity top-of-mind following N.S. municipal elections

Click to play video 'Gender parity achieved at Halifax city hall during unprecedented election' Gender parity achieved at Halifax city hall during unprecedented election
WATCH: Record number of women elected to public office in municipal elections across Nova Scotia. Halifax saw its first Black female councillor and Cape Breton elected its first female mayor. Alexa MacLean has the story.

The Nova Scotia municipal elections have wrapped up over the weekend, and some municipalities have shown a commitment to gender parity.

In fact, 11 towns in Nova Scotia have elected or acclaimed women as mayor.

  • Cape Breton Regional Municipality: Amanda McDougall
  • Yarmouth: Pamela Mood
  • Lunenburg: Carolyn Bolivar-Getson
  • Colchester: Christine Blair
  • Kentville: Sandra Snow
  • New Glasgow: Nancy Dicks
  • Queen’s Municipality: Darlene Norman
  • Annapolis Royal: Amery Boyer
  • Antigonish: Laurie Boucher
  • Port Hawkesbury: Brenda Chisholm-Beaton
  • Wolfville: Wendy Donovan

Cape Breton’s McDougall is the first woman to serve as mayor in the region.

Read more: Cape Breton Regional Municipality election results: Amanda McDougall elected mayor

The Halifax Regional Municipality had several big wins as more women were elected to the 16-member council than ever before.

Half of the regional council seats will be filled by women in this term, including Cathy Deagle Gammon, Becky Kent, Trish Purdy, Kathryn Morse, Pam Lovelace, Patty Cuttell, Lisa Blackburn and Iona Stoddard.

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Click to play video 'HRM Election Recap: Iona Stoddard' HRM Election Recap: Iona Stoddard
HRM Election Recap: Iona Stoddard

Stoddard is the first Black woman, and first woman of colour, to be elected to HRM council since amalgamation in 1996.

She told Global News on Monday that having eight women on board is going to be “a good look” for council.

Stoddard, who says she has a financial and provincial justice background, ran in the 2016 municipal election, but didn’t get enough votes that time around.

She says she believes there was a lot more focus on needing women, and women of colour, in politics in the 2020 election.

“Just the fact that there’s going to be more diversity on council, I think that’s going to make a statement for Halifax,” Stoddard said.

Click to play video 'HRM Election Recap: Iona Stoddard' HRM Election Recap: Iona Stoddard
HRM Election Recap: Iona Stoddard

Grace Evans, an expert on gender parity in Nova Scotia politics, says it’s “exciting” to see a gender-balanced council in Halifax.

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“We need people at the decision-making table to reflect our communities. I think it’s great,” Evans says.

Evans says she believes people are starting to realize what an impact the municipal government can have on things like property tax and policing, that impact everyday life.

“I think more women decided now is the time to come forward, now is the time to bring our voices to the table.”

Evans is also the author of a forthcoming book, On Their Shoulders: The Women Who Paved the Way in NS Politics, that tells the stories of all 50 female MLAs in Nova Scotia’s history.

Read more: Celebrating the 50 women elected in Nova Scotia politics and encouraging more in the future

She says gender parity has been a long-standing issue for politics in the province.

Whether it be child-care responsibilities, social media harassment over physical appearance or familial status, Evans says women are often discouraged from participating.

“I commend all the women that put that aside and still decided to run, and I hope the don’t face those barriers in the same way with the new council,” Evans says.

Read more: Women win big in HRM election; Mike Savage returns as mayor

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She says she hopes the new council produces outcomes that encourage people from diverse backgrounds to participate.

“It will maybe carry over into provincial and federal elections and people will be more inclined to put their name on the ballot, and vote.”