N.B. advocacy group looks to clear hurdles for women in politics

There are still many barriers for women participating in politics, and a New Brunswick group is working to break down one that could, for some, make the difference between deciding to run and not.

With municipal elections only days away, a grassroots group called "See Jane Run" has been helping to support women in the Saint John area who have put their names forward.

"We've put on a campaign college, and we're just trying to offer a support space and give the candidates all the tools possible so that they have a successful campaign," says co-founder Tiffany MacKay-French.

The group is also looking to address an issue that might stop some women from wanting to run in the first place -- the publication of election candidates' home addresses.

For MacKay-French, who is running for re-election as a councillor in the town of Rothesay, N.B., it's an issue that she has personally experienced.

"I had a bit of a creepy situation with somebody trying to find out personal information from me," MacKay-French says.

"They were unsuccessful at the Rothesay Town Hall where I'm a councillor, and so they learned they could go to the returning office and find out all my personal information."

Kelly Vanbuskirk, lawyer for the group, has written to Elections New Brunswick asking that they remove address publication requirements.

Vanbuskirk says statistically speaking, public officials are subject to enormous amounts of online mistreatment.

"It can be threatening and very disconcerting for a public official or a public employee who is simply trying to do their job, to find out that these threats are coming at them, and the maker of the threat knows where they live," Vanbuskirk says.

Elections New Brunswick says it's an issue that is already on its radar.

"We can confirm that Elections New Brunswick is aware of the concern raised by this group, and that the chief electoral officer is in full agreement with the need for change," says spokesperson Paul Harpelle.

"This is a recommendation Ms. (Kimberly) Poffenroth intends to bring forward for both municipal and provincial elections."

Elections New Brunswick also said that during this election, the chief electoral officer has allowed a number of candidates who were not comfortable with having their addresses published on their website, to use the address of the local municipal returning office instead.

"Hopefully we can get this changed and make things a little bit easier for women that are running - and really not just women, any person that is running that doesn't feel comfortable with their address being published," says MacKay-French.