Three women in the Saint John area have launched what they’re calling a grassroots organization aimed at encouraging more women to run in the upcoming municipal elections in New Brunswick.
See Jane Run was founded by Rothesay Councillor Tiffany Mackay French, Grand Bay-Westfield mayoral candidate Brittany Merrifield and former election campaign communications director Katie Bowden.
Mackay French said the goal is to create a forum for potential candidates to talk about the challenges and successes of running an election campaign.
She said they also want to create a type of “campaign school,” complete with helpful information and guest speakers.
“And get people to help them with how to develop a platform, how to deal with the media, how to function on a board and on council, and all those things that, I guess, I wished that I had had five years ago,” she said.
Merrifield said female representation as mayors and councillors in New Brunswick is not where it needs to be.
Numbers from Elections New Brunswick seem to support her claim.
In 2016, only 23 of 105 mayors and 164 of 525 — about 31 per cent — of councillors elected were women.
“We’re coming up to a municipal election here in New Brunswick, across the board, so it seemed like a perfect time to get more people — more women — to put their names on a ballot,” Merrifield said.
Mackay French, who said she is reoffering for her seat at council, said their new group has drawn inspiration from similar groups like Femmocracy Now in Moncton and Women for 50%, a provincial advocacy group.
She said there has been a gap in Saint John that she wants See Jane Run to fill, not only for candidates but for women who want to get involved in a campaign or the election process.
“Just to know that they have a support group, give them some tools to how to deal with that negative criticism and also just to give them the confidence to put their name forward, I think that’s extremely helpful,” Mackay French said.
“You ask questions like, ‘What does a mayor actually do? What is the role of council?’” said Merrifield. “Those aren’t questions that you want to ask in the public, but this (is) a safe, supportive place for them to be vulnerable and lay it all out there.”
Municipal elections in New Brunswick are scheduled for May 10, 2021. They were postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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