British Columbia

111 women ran in B.C.'s election, just 34 were elected

Women's representation in the B.C. Legislature is up just 1% compared to 2013.

'The fact that we haven't increased that much since 2013 is . . . disappointing,' says researcher

Left to right: Trang Nguyen, Morgane Oger and Jonina Campbell were first-time candidates who did not get elected. Oger lost a tight fight to incumbent and former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan. Nguyen was up against former NDP leader Adrian Dix and New West school board chair Jonina Campbell ran against veteran NDP incumbent Judy Darcy. (Trang Nguyen/CBC/Vivian Luk)

A record number of women ran in B.C.'s provincial election, but that failed to translate into an increase of women in the province's legislative assembly.

While 111 women were on the ballot, only 34 were elected.

Based on the current numbers, 39 per cent of MLAs elected Tuesday night were women —  a one per cent increase over the percentage of women MLAs at time of dissolution of the legislature for the 2017 election.

All three parties had record highs in the number of female candidates. Forty-one percent of Liberal candidates were women, compared to 50 per cent for the NDP and 37 per cent for the Green Party.

With 34 out of 87 seats in the legislature now held by women, B.C. leads Canada in terms of gender representation in provincial politics.

But Grace Lore, a senior researcher with Equal Voice, an organization that tracks women's participation in politics, says more needs to be done.

"The fact that we haven't increased that much since 2013 is, in itself, disappointing, but it's more than that, because we had an opportunity to," she said.

"We saw an increase in terms of candidates, and so we would have liked to have seen a similar increase in the number of women elected."

Barriers to entry

Lore said that, according to an analysis conducted by Equal Voice, female candidates with the B.C. Liberals and the NDP were more likely to have run in ridings where their party lost by 10 per cent in 2013.

They were also less likely to run in ridings where their party had previously won by that proportion of votes.

"Because women are disproportionately in these ridings where there's a real uphill slog and disproportionately not in ridings where there's a pretty good chance, we didn't seen that increase at the legislature," she said.

"Nomination and incumbency are really big barriers for women entering politics, and nomination races are tougher when the party has a stronger chance of winning." 

Some ridings with women candidates were nail-bitingly close, with mixed results. 

NDP candidate Morgane Oger in Vancouver-False creek lost a tight race to B.C. Liberal incumbent and former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan.

In Courtenay–Comox, NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard was declared the winner, taking the riding from B.C. Liberal Jim Benninger — but by a margin of just nine votes.

Lore said it's likely no coincidence the other provinces with high representations of women in politics — Ontario and Alberta — are also two provinces with women premiers.

"We need to make sure these woman are in competitive or party stronghold ridings more often," said Lore.

"Politics hasn't caught up with lots of professions that facilitate support."

Wih files from CBC's On The Coast