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Women’s representation in P.E.I. legislature holds steady with six elected

Dawn Wilson, executive director of the P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government, encourages women to get involved in local politics.
Dawn Wilson, executive director of the P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government. - SaltWire file photo

Six women were elected as MLAs in Tuesday’s provincial election, one more than in 2015.

The result means that just under one quarter, or six out of 26 representatives in the legislature, will be women.

Though Tuesday’s result represents an increase in women’s representation, it doesn’t go far enough, said Dawn Wilson, executive director for the Coalition for Women in Government in P.E.I.

“We need to acknowledge that there’s still a lot of work to do,” she said, noting women make up 23 per cent of all elected MLAs after Tuesday, falling short of a record set in 2006 when 26 per cent of P.E.I. MLAs were women.

“We’re really just kind of holding steady,” Wilson said.

The province currently ranks 10th among all 13 provinces and territories in terms of women’s representation in the legislature.

“(They) have an opportunity now to set some short-term and long-term goals for their parties to see more women be recruited, get nominated and to run in competitive ridings.”
-Dawn Wilson

Five of the six women elected are members of the Green party, the new Opposition. Among them will be rookie Green party MLA Karla Bernard. The teacher and youth counsellor beat out Liberal incumbent Richard Brown in District 12 Charlottetown-Victoria Park, who had served the district for four terms.

After her victory, Bernard said that gender barriers were never going to hold her back from running in the election. She said that a leadership course that she took with her party before running “just solidified it for me and made me realize I can kick down those barriers.

“Because every one of those barriers that were brought up was a reason I wasn’t running, (and) I wasn’t going to let that be my reason,” she said.

Tuesday’s election saw 31 women run as candidates, eight more than in 2015. But Wilson said that she hopes party leaders are already planning for more women candidates in the future.

“(They) have an opportunity now to set some short-term and long-term goals for their parties to see more women be recruited, get nominated and to run in competitive ridings.”

Women elected Tuesday include: Darlene Compton, PC, District 4 Belfast-Murray River; Michele Beaton, Green, District 5 Mermaid-Stratford; Hannah Bell, Green, District 11 Charlottetown-Belvedere; Karla Bernard, Green, District 12 Charlottetown-Victoria Park; Lynne Lund, deputy leader of P.E.I. Green party, District 21 Summerside-Wilmot; and Trish Altass, Green, District 23 Tyne Valley-Sherbrooke.

There is an opportunity for one more woman MLA when a byelection is held in the coming months for District 9 Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park.

  • With files from Jason Malloy, Jensen Edwards

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