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The New Brunswick Legislative Assembly. Photo by Christopher Craig

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant announced plans in March to introduce a bill in the legislature offering financial incentives for political parties that run female candidates.

The bill would adjust the existing per-vote funding model to be 1.5 times higher in ridings where the party’s nominee is female. By tying funding to the number of votes, supporters hope that political parties will be more likely to run women in competitive seats. Parties have been criticized in the past for insulating themselves from criticism by running large numbers of women in noncompetitive ridings.

“Those [political parties] who do a good job at it and get results will be rewarded, and hopefully that will continue the cycle of them making even more investments in their time and effort to have women as candidates,” Gallant told reporters assembled at the legislature.

The idea was among a list of recommendations in a report presented earlier that month by the independent commission on electoral reform, which also urged the province to adopt a preferential ballot system.

Only eight of the current 49 Members of the Legislative Assembly are women, a number which has been criticized as paltry by groups like New Brunswick-based grassroots organization Women for 50%. Founded in January, the group’s goal is to have women make up 50 per cent of candidates running in the 2018 elections. It plans on holding several instructional and teaching conferences in the run-up to next year’s election for any women potentially interested in entering the political fray.

The New Brunswick legislation would be the first of its kind in the country. Female underrepresentation is prevalent across all three levels of government in Canada, with the greatest level of scrutiny occurring at the national level. The country recently placed 50th out of 190 countries in an Inter-Parliamentary Union index measuring the percentage of national-level female politicians.

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