Nova Scotia

More women, people of colour running in Halifax municipal election

There are more women and people of colour running as candidates in Halifax's municipal election in October than in the previous election.

'It may not be at the rate we want it to be, but it is progress,' says former candidate

Eighty-two candidates are running in 15 Halifax districts in the October election. Another district has been acclaimed. (Robert Short/CBC)

There are more women and people of colour running as candidates in Halifax's municipal election in October than in the previous election.

In 2016, among the 50 candidates that ran in districts that were not acclaimed, 26 per cent were women and 14 per cent were people of colour.

In 2020, among the 82 candidates running in districts that are not acclaimed, 28 per cent are female and 16 per cent are people of colour.

Shelley Fashan, who ran in District 2 Preston-Chezzetcook-Eastern Shore in 2016 but is not a current candidate, said she's encouraged by the number of people of colour who have put their name forward.

"I have confidence in the people that are running," said Fashan. "It may not be at the rate we want it to be, but it is progress."

Fashan adds there are a number of barriers, including financial support and systemic racism.

"It's a challenge of perception," said Fashan, who is Black. "People are used to having a middle-aged white guy do this work, and not the face of a Black woman."

How to encourage people to run?

Meredith Ralston, a political science professor at Mount Saint Vincent University, agreed that it could take more time to create a more inclusive council.

"It's absolutely crucial to have diversity," said Ralston. "The question is how do you get there when many people are discouraged from running."

The Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women hosted a Campaign School for Women in 2018 at Mount Saint Vincent. But Ralston said the vitriol on social media can prevent women and people of colour from getting involved.

"Unfortunately, politics these days is like a mixed-martial arts event," said Ralston.

In District 10 Halifax-Bedford Basin half of the candidates are women. In District 8 Halifax Peninsula North two of the three candidates are Black, including the incumbent.

But there are still a quarter of HRM districts where no women are running and in half of the districts there are no persons of colour vying to be a councillor.

Record in Pictou area

Meanwhile, there are a record number of female candidates in the six municipalities in the Pictou area. There are 51 candidates running in Pictou County and the towns of New Glasgow, Pictou, Stellarton, Trenton and Westville. Thirty-five per cent of them are women.

"I think it's very exciting to see this type of leadership come to the table," said Debbie Wadden, who has been acclaimed in District 2 in Pictou County and was first elected in 2008. "We want diversity, we need that, and it's long overdue."

The town of Wolfville has continued to attract more women than men to its municipal races. In 2016, five women were elected to the seven-person council. In the 2020 campaign there are eight women running for mayor and councillor positions out of a total of 12 candidates.

According to Ralston there can be a "snowball effect."

"The more women are there, the more women see themselves in the role," said Ralston. "Once you hit a critical mass, usually 30 to 35 per cent, it kind of snowballs."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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