Women take over Edmundston's municipal election race

Five Edmundston women are banding together over a common goal: to win a seat at the city's council table.

If successful this May, the group could make history as the most women ever elected in Edmundston.

The four announced their intentions to run together on Monday, the day after International Women's Day.

"It's never been done before," said Ward 2 candidate Denise Landry-Nadeau.

Landry-Nadeau  is joined by Sylvie St-Onge, Marie France Fournier and Karen Power, each of them businesswomen and entrepreneurs in their community.

It's not that we don't want the men anymore. It's that we want to be equal.  - Denise Landry-Nadeau

Edmundston has four wards, each represented by two council members.

Landry-Nadeau said it's time some of those seats were filled by women.

"Usually, it was a man's world at the city council, and I think people are ready to have change," she said.

"It's not that we don't want the men anymore. It's that we want to be equal." 

Joining them in the race is Lise Ouellette, a current councillor who hopes to become Edmundston's first female mayor.

Ouellette will take on Deputy Mayor Charles Fournier in the race to succeed Mayor Cyrille Simard, who announced earlier this year that he won't be running again.

Submitted/City of Edmundston

Ouellette is Edmundston's only female councillor and she's looking forward to having some camaraderie at council. 

"It's like being any minority in any situation. You prefer not to be the only one."

For Ouellette, having balance and different perspectives around the council table is an asset.

"Don't vote for me because I am a woman, as you should not vote for somebody because he is a man," she said.

"I expect citizens to look very carefully at the candidates, hoping that they know that a balanced council makes better decisions."

Making history 

It's not the first time New Brunswick has seen a large number of women run in a municipal race in one community.

For example, in 2008 Port Elgin made history by electing an all-female slate of candidates.

Even today, Port Elgin's leadership is made up of one man and four women, including Mayor Judy Scott. 

The small town also made history by electing New Brunswick's first female mayor, Dorothy McLean, in 1959.

Historically though, the world of politics is male-dominated, according to women's equality advocate Norma Dubé.

"I think the women have always been there,," she said. "The issue has been that perhaps they weren't being given the same consideration or the same opportunities as perhaps their male counterparts in wanting to get involved in politics."

According to data from Elections New Brunswick, the numbers are slowly getting better. In the 2016 municipal election, 23 women were elected as mayors and 164 were elected as councillors.

But compared to the 82 male mayors and the 361 men who were elected to councils, there's still a big gap.

Elections NB

"It is extremely important and I think critical that we have women in these roles because they will raise issues that are not necessarily top of mind for their male counterparts," said Dubé

That's why she has been involved with the Women for 50% initiative, which aims to get more women into politics in New Brunswick. 

She said working with women so they see themselves reflected in leadership roles, or holding campaign schools so that they know the ins and outs of politics are all ways to eliminate barriers.

Five women running together in a New Brunswick city is a sight that gives her hope.

"I love their courage in doing this, I wish them the best, and I wish we would see that in every municipality across the province," said Dubé.

Nomination papers for candidates are due by 2 p.m.  on Thursday, April 9. Voters in municipalities across the province head to the polls on Monday, May 11.