Nova Scotia

Richmond County's all-male council says no to funding for women's conference

The all-male Richmond County council has decided not to lend financial support to a leadership conference that would encourage more women to run for office in eastern N.S. However, women from Richmond County are now getting that support elsewhere.

Conference to promote female politicians seeks financial aid to help participants with child care, travel

Richmond County councillors decided against financial aid for a conference that is intended to encourage women to run for local municipal or First Nation band office. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

The all-male Richmond County council has decided not to lend financial support to a leadership conference that would encourage more women to run for office in eastern Nova Scotia.

The Town of Port Hawkesbury is hosting a conference in May to encourage more women to run for municipal and First Nation band elections.

Organizers have asked local governments to provide financial aid to help participants with child care and travel costs.

Several are on board, but not the men on Richmond County council.

Warden Brian Marchand said councillors did not oppose the idea at Monday's meeting, but they didn't support it, either.

Warden Brian Marchand, foreground, says candidates should pay for their own training, and he says women are at no disadvantage compared to men. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

"It's not that I'm against it," he said. "It's good for these things to be put on and people should have the ability to go to them on their own."

Marchand said candidates should pay for their own training, but he also said the idea might have received more support if the conference had included men and women.

"There are many women that are mayors and wardens right across this province and probably right across this country," he said.

"There are many women in politics right across the spectrum from provincial to federal, so I don't think they're at a disadvantage in any sort of a way as opposed to men."

So far, six of 16 local governments have offered financial support for 22 women to participate, including:

  • Potlotek First Nation
  • Guysborough County
  • Victoria County
  • Inverness County
  • District of St. Mary's
  • Town of Antigonish

Victoria County supported the most, with eight women, and Inverness next most with six women.

Since Richmond County refused to grant funding, two Richmond County business owners sponsored a woman each, and citizens in the county supported seven more.

Coun. James Goyetche said he has spent 23 years on Richmond council and it was only in the last three years that councillors were all male.

He said a former warden was female and she was also head of what is now the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities.

Coun. James Goyetche says it would be 'irresponsible, and kind of stupid, to use taxpayers' dollars to encourage somebody to run against me.' (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Goyetche said female politicians have served Richmond County well, but it's not up to taxpayers to support them.

"That's up to the electorate to decide," he said.

"I think it would be kind of irresponsible on my part, and kind of stupid, to use taxpayers' dollars to encourage somebody to run against me."

Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said only 22 per cent of politicians in the 10 municipalities and six Indigenous communities in eastern Nova Scotia are women.

Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton says if general elections can't be held because of restrictions under a state of emergency, a byelection should be out of the question. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"Gender equity certainly starts with an acknowledgement that it's not a level playing field for women in politics," she said.

Since Monday, she added, private businesses and citizens in Richmond County have called to offer financial help for participants.

"All kinds of support in the community has been coming forward," Chisholm-Beaton said.

She said Marchand has since contacted her and told her the issue may come back to council.

"I don't think the door has been permanently closed," she said.

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About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 16 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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