A record number of women are running in this spring's provincial election, although at 54, they only represent one-quarter of the names on the June 9 ballot.
The Progressive Conservative party is fielding seven female candidates — the same number as in 2006. The Liberals have 11, one fewer than last time. The number of women running for the NDP is up from 11 to 16.
The youngest political party, the Green party, has the most female candidates, with 20.
When the election was called earlier this month, fewer than 20 per cent of Nova Scotia's 52 MLAs were women — one of the lowest ratios in the country. Only New Brunswick and the three territories had fewer women in their legislatures.
Brigitte Neumann, with the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, expects the number of female candidates to build gradually over the years.
"I don't expect that we're going to see huge surges in participation," Neumann said. "We have relatively few openings in ridings where we have long-serving and highly esteemed politicians who also happen to be men. I think as retirements enter into those areas, we also have opportunities for women to enter."
The advisory council has been hosting campaign schools for women for the past five years in an attempt to encourage more women to run for political office. Neumann said many of the women who have enrolled are on their second or even third careers.
'Knocking down barriers'
The numbers have been increasing. In 2003, the NDP, Liberals and Tories fielded only 27 female candidates altogether. Three years later, there were 47 women on the ballot. This time, the four parties have 54 women running out of a total 212 candidates.
Also, for the second election in a row, there are four female candidates in the electoral district of Halifax-Clayton Park.
"It's perhaps more by coincidence than it is by design," said Linda Power, the NDP candidate in the race. But she doesn't think the NDP numbers are an accident, saying her party is about "knocking down barriers" for anyone who wants to run.
In Chester-St. Margaret's Bay, Tory incumbent Judy Streatch said it's important for the women who are elected to be positive role models.
"We can demonstrate to young women and older women in our communities that it's not a nasty profession. It's extremely satisfying. And yes, it's demanding. But today, what job and what profession isn't demanding?" said Streatch, who became a cabinet minister after her win in 2006.
In Bedford-Birch Cove, Liberal candidate Kelly Regan, wife of Liberal MP Geoff Regan, was waiting for the right time to run. With her two daughters now in university, she decided to put her name forward.
"It made it possible, we felt, for me to do this. If I had three young children, it would have been a different decision," said Regan.
Anna-Maria Galante-Ward found the Green party philosophy appealing. The former journalist, who is running in Kings-North, said she has a chance to influence her young party's policies, and she's not surprised the Greens have a number of female candidates.
Nevertheless, Galante-Ward faces a big challenge. The Greens have never elected anyone to the house of assembly. In June 2006, the new party picked up less than three per cent of the vote.
"It would be nice to win," said Galante-Ward, "but I'd be happy to change the landscape and increase the vote share of the party."
In the end, when it comes to marking an X on a ballot, voter Shirley Josey said gender is not a big concern.
"It doesn't impress me. It's just that you got to get the right people. It doesn't matter whether it's male or female," said Josey.
Nominations officially closed on Tuesday afternoon. Election day is June 9.