Nominations for the province's 2021 general election officially closed on Saturday, with 41 women and one non-binary candidate in the running.
In this election, 12 more women have put their name on the ballot compared to the previous election in 2019, where 29 women ran. In 2015, there were 33.
"It's exciting to see the number of women candidates growing, and also other forms of diversity entering into that political sphere," said Courtney Clarke, media liaison with Equal Voice NL — a group dedicated to electing and supporting women in all levels of government.
Clarke said she thinks the uptick in women running is going to be a trend seen globally. In Canada, she says, Equal Voice has been working hard to encourage women and members of other marginalized communities to get politically active and engaged.
"I think it's just a sign of the times," she said.
When you break down the number of women running across party lines, the Liberals have 14 women running this year, which is four more than in 2019. While the NDP have 17 women on the ballot, an additional nine more since the last general election. One woman is running for the NL Alliance, out of six candidates in total, while the PCs have nine, down one from the last election. There are no women running as independent candidates.
Meanwhile, Clarke believes the province's parties have been doing a good job in attracting more diverse candidates.
"We've been seeing, from all of the political leaders, a support and encouragement for there to be diversity, especially with our current leaders across the parties," she said.
Over half of NDP candidates are women or non-binary
NDP Leader Alison Coffin was back in St. John's on Saturday, knocking on doors and drumming up support with her party's candidates around the province's capital.
The NDP has 33 candidates gunning for seats in this election. Notably, just over 51 per cent are women or non-binary and 15 per cent are Indigenous.
"[I'm] really, really pleased. I think we have excellent representation across a wide variety of experience and expertise," Coffin told CBC News.
"We have a range of people who [are] a little bit older and have some solid experience, and then we have a lot of youth who provide an invigorating perspective, a new perspective, on the world."
But, Coffin said, it isn't always easy for women to enter politics. Add a snap election call, a winter storm and the ongoing pandemic and things are more difficult, which she said has left the party seven candidates short of running a full slate.
Coffin said women need a little more time to prepare for a campaign and face challenges such as preparing childcare arrangements, plans for income, and difficulty obtaining donations.
"The supports are really important, but also they need some comfort and knowledge knowing that there's a little bit of security there and support in helping them start their election campaign," she said.
Clarke agrees, and said there are more barriers for women to overcome when entering politics.
The campaign has been happening for just over a week now, and candidates are already facing abuse, sexism and harassment based on their gender.
"All politicians get some hate, but female candidates get that general political harassment and then, on top of it, they also get that gender-motivated harassment which is a whole other level of abuse," said Clarke.
"And it's unfortunate because it's this kind of gender-based disrespect that makes women hesitate before putting their name on the ballot."
Things to fix
PC Leader Ches Crosbie echoed Coffin and Clarke's remarks about women having greater difficulty in attempting to run an election.
Crosbie told CBC News it would have been easier for more women to sign on if the election had been slated for the fall.
"They typically have child-rearing and family responsibilities that complicate the decision to make the commitment on a short notice," Crosbie said of the winter election call.
"But, it is what it is.… If you look at the 25 people who stepped up to run in districts we did not hold, close to a third of those are women."
Crosbie said a fixed date for an election would be a step in the right direction for getting more women to come forward seeking a seat in legislature.
He also agreed that women have a more of a challenge in coming up with financial support for their campaigns. He said fixing or reforming election financing would help the cause.
On the Liberal front, Leader Andrew Furey was not made available virtually to CBC over the weekend. But, Waterford Valley Liberal candidate Tom Osborne said Furey has done a good job in attracting a diverse slate, but there are things that can be changed within the legislature to attract more people to politics.
Osborne, a former Speaker of the House of Assembly, said he tried heavily to bring decorum and respectful dialogue within the walls.
"You'll attract more people with respectful dialogue, and this mud-slinging that sometimes happens in politics and the dirty politics, those are the olds days and that should be long gone," he said.