Gary Burrill’s strange definition of ‘gender-balanced’

The Nova Scotia NDP is about to do something truly historic.

When the writ drops to launch the province’s 41st general election, the party will become the first to field a slate of candidates that’s at least 50 per cent female.

That’s a fantastic achievement — one that will no doubt serve as an inspiration to girls and young women across Nova Scotia.

But is it possible New Democrats have been too successful at recruiting female candidates? Is it possible their Women in the Legislature Fund is no longer necessary?

Of the candidates listed on their website this morning, three quarters are women or gender-diverse. Only one quarter are men.

Despite this lopsided roster, NDP leader Gary Burrill just told the Chronicle Herald his party will be offering “the first gender-balanced provincewide slate.”

That’s an awfully strange definition of gender balance.

Even Justin Trudeau, our self-described feminist prime minister, knows that gender balance is a 50/50 split.

That’s the formula he’s used for his cabinet since taking office in 2015, and that’s the truly egalitarian formula Burrill and the NDP should be using in the recruitment and development of candidates.

To be clear, the Nova Scotia NDP should absolutely be lauded for breaking the glass ceiling for women in politics this election, like it did 40 years ago when Alexa McDonough was elected leader.

And all parties should continue to support women who are interested in politics. That will help ensure all voices are heard and that Nova Scotia will have its first female premier in the not-too-distant future.

But calling the NDP’s slate of candidates “gender-balanced” is completely disingenuous.

And it fails to acknowledge the party’s real and growing gender problem: a lack of male voters, activists, and standard-bearers.

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