Women-in-politics group expands province-wide

·3 min read

See Jane Run, a grassroots organization promoting and supporting women interested in running for municipal office in the Saint John area, is expanding to help women across New Brunswick.

In a media release Friday, co-founder Katie Bowden said the municipal reform white paper will kick off the process for a series of November 2022 municipal elections. She said See Jane Run will be there to support female candidates and promote diversity provincially yet again.

“The 2021 election was a solid step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go before we see the diversity of our communities reflected around our province’s council tables,” Bowden said.

The sweeping municipal reforms mean 57 communities will have a municipal election next year, and 12 newly formed rural districts will elect councillors. Seven communities will hold by-elections to elect representatives for the communities merging with other municipalities.

Bowden said the 2022 election means they won't have to wait another four years before working toward the goal of more diversity in municipal politics.

"We will be continuing to encourage and welcome Black, Indigenous, people of colour and gender-diverse folks to offer as candidates and join our group," she said. "Ensuring there is a wide variety of perspectives heard both in the upcoming election and around the council table will be a huge win for our province.”

Formed in 2021, See Jane Run, which is run by volunteers, held a campaign college speaker series and private Facebook group for candidates and their campaign managers.

Along with Bowden, Rothesay Coun. Tiffany Mackay French and Grand Bay-Westfield Mayor Brittany Merrifield also co-founded See Jane Run.

“There is no party system at the municipal level, so candidates are on their own,” Mackay French said in the release. “See Jane Run fills that void, building a non-partisan community of support around our candidate group, helping them navigate the election process, ask questions in a safe space, tackle challenges together, and understand how to be successful at the job they’re running for.”

In the process of becoming a not-for-profit, the organization plans to begin fundraising to offer its campaign college materials in both French and English.

“Municipal elections are part of the leadership funnel that will see us eventually reach gender parity in the New Brunswick legislature, and elect our first female Premier,” Merrifield said in the release. “It all starts close to home – and now is the time to start thinking about offering your candidacy next November.”

Merrifield won't have to re-offer in the by-elections in 2022 when Grand Bay-Westfield merges with a chunk of the Westfield West LSD. The community will be one of seven holding a by-election to elect a councillor to represent what will become a former LSD.

Merrifield said the 2021 municipal election saw a significant uptick in the number of women running and an increase in the number of women who were successful at winning their election contests.

"The organization was key," she said. "When you're running municipally, there's no party support. You're kind of out there on your own."

As a result, four of five of the communities in the region elected a female mayor and four of five communities increased the number of women around the council table, she said.

"We feel we played a small part in that. We built awareness about the fact that women in politics are a good thing for building your capacity for diversity around the table and better policy," Merrifield noted.

She said women face challenges when entering politics that white male candidates don't.

"Women carry heavy loads from a work perspective and a home perspective," she said. "It's about talking to women about the fact that they can take this on."

Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal

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