PEI Coaliton for Women in Government says financial barriers keep women out of office

The PEI Coaliton for Women in Government is seeking more supports for female candidates in the province — which it said could mean allowing candidates to claim expenses for child care while campaigning.

Women's group wants to see P.E.I.'s democratic reform break down barriers for women entering office

Dawn Wilson, executive director of the PEI Coaliton for Women in Government, said democratic reform should help more women enter politics. (CBC)

The PEI Coaliton for Women in Government is seeking more supports for female candidates in the province — which it said could mean allowing candidates to claim expenses for child care while campaigning.  

The group was in Charlottetown on Tuesday to present to the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal, a committee looking into possible electoral reforms for P.E.I.

The coalition held interviews with several women candidates from all parties after the 2015 provincial election.

The coalition's executive director, Dawn Wilson, told the committee one of the key challenges was the expense of running a campaign.

"Almost all of the women we talked to referenced finances as a challenge to political participation," she said. 

The group wants P.E.I.'s Elections Expense Act to be amended to allow candidates to claim costs for child care, elder care or care of a vulnerable or dependent adult incurred during an election campaign.  

"If, for example, you have to campaign in the weekend or evening, and you're paying someone to watch your children, candidates should be able to claim those expenses." 

The group says Elections Canada does allow some similar expenses to be claimed at a federal level.  

"Making changes like this would not only make it easier for women to run, but would also support male candidates who have caregiving responsibilities," said Wilson.

The group also suggested the province should consider easing the requirements for which candidates are eligible to claim expenses. 

Right now candidates must win at least 15 per cent of the vote to qualify, the coalition says that should be dropped to 10 per cent, noting that four more female candidates in P.E.I. would have been able to claim expenses if that were the case in 2015.  

"For younger first time candidates it would make a big difference," said Wilson.

The Coalition for Women in Government is also asking for gender and diversity of candidates to be considered with any electoral reforms.  

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