When Wendi James Poirier signed up for Municipal Campaign School, she expected the workshops to boost her skills for the campaign trail.
But they also boosted her confidence.
“I was put at ease – knowing that resources were there, knowing that there was a network of not just other candidates but people in the community who would support women to run,” she says.
James Poirier is one of close to 40 women who have attended Municipal Campaign Schools offered by the PEI Coalition for Women in Government and the Federation of PEI Municipalities.
The goal is to encourage more women and under-represented genders to run in November 7 municipal elections across the province.
According to Women in Prince Edward Island: Statistical Review (2020), 39.7 per cent of councillors and 26.9 per cent of mayors in cities, towns, and rural municipalities were women after elections in 2018. Sweta Daboo, Executive Director of the PEI Coalition for Women in Government, notes that representation of women is higher municipally than in other levels of government on the Island. “We hope to keep up this momentum and gain even higher numbers. Increased representation is a positive for democracy.”
Women political candidates face unique challenges. Daboo notes women are often the main caregivers at home, making work-life balance more difficult. They may feel more hesitant to run against incumbents. They may be more prone to doubt their abilities or face roadblocks raising funds. Women politicians are also more likely to encounter harassment or violence.
Daboo says Campaign School facilitators aimed to provide women candidates with more than political know-how. They also provided encouragement. “We hoped to help them build confidence and develop a strong network of women who can support and mentor one another.”
Alanna Jankov, a Charlottetown city councillor and Campaign School presenter, agrees the schools provided an important venue for women to share and connect.
“We need more women supporting other women,” she says. “Mentorship is key.”
The Municipal Campaign Schools are facilitated by the PEI Coalition for Women in Government in partnership with the Federation of PEI Municipalities thanks to funding by Women and Gender Equality Canada in partnership with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.