Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs's decision to call a snap election during a pandemic is unlikely to further the cause of getting more women to run for office, women on a CBC News election panel fear.
"I really am concerned that we're going to go backwards this time round in terms of the number of women who were actually elected because of the nature of this election campaign," Joanna Everitt, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick Saint John, said Tuesday on Information Morning Moncton.
Tammy Rampersaud, a Riverview town councillor, said she too is concerned having a campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic will drive women away from running. The four-week campaign will overlap with the start of school.
Rampersaud said women generally think about the effect their political careers would have on their families since they are still often the primary caregivers.
"A lot of people are worried about sending their children to daycare, of sending their children to school and what effects that will have, and they're considering homeschooling as well," said Rampersaud.
"I think that's a big deterrent for a lot of women out there."
The panellists comments' come after Women for 50 per cent, a group pushing for gender parity in politics, asked the leaders of five political parties in the province to have women make up half their candidates for the Sept. 14 election.
At dissolution, only 11 of the 47 seats in the legislature were held by women: five by the Liberals, four by the Progressive Conservatives, and one each by the Green Party and People's Alliance of New Brunswick.
Paryse Suddith, a lawyer in Moncton, said the province needs to make running for public office easier and more attractive for women.
"There needs to be more initiatives designed to interest women in politics and to support candidates ... to basically make it easier and more equal … so that we actually can take away some of those sticks in the wheels and some of those barriers," said Suddith.
Even making it in the parties' best interest to nominate more women doesn't always work.
Everitt cited legislation that provides more funding to parties for the number of votes that female candidates receive than male ones do.
The goal was to provide a financial incentive for parties to nominate candidates in winnable ridings, but this time around the parties probably aren't thinking about that.
"Because of those quick-called elections none of that was probably thought about as the candidates were being selected by the parties, [they] just don't have time," said Everitt.
Blame parties, not public
Everitt said research shows that it isn't that New Brunswickers are hesitant about voting for women, or any other underrepresented group, but that parties believe they are.
"We think voters are discriminating against women, against minorities, against LGBTQ candidates, but my research shows that's not the case," said Everitt.
"Voters actually prefer to have female candidates and they think highly of them … I do think that we're going to see not only fewer women who are running, but fewer people of colour, fewer LGBTQ candidates in this election, because the choices are being more centralized and held by the party elite, as opposed to people being able to be nominated for this role."