A trailblazer in P.E.I.’s political landscape is the inspiration for a fundraiser that aims to encourage more women to run for the provincial legislature.
Members of the NDP women’s committee met this weekend to plan for this year’s Hilda Ramsay Fundraising Dinner, which was started in 2008 and is held every second year.
Ramsay became the first ever woman to run in a P.E.I. election when she put her name on the ballot in 1951 for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation party, which later became the NDP.
While she was not elected, Ramsay helped open the door for other women to run in politics.
“That was a long time ago, for her to do that it was a big deal,” said NDP president Leah-Jane Hayward.
The dinner has helped establish a fund that sees $1,000 in support to every woman candidate who runs for the P.E.I. NDP.
Hayward said the fund was a great help when she ran provincially.
While she was unaware of the fund when she decided to run, she believes it could be a make-or-break factor for some potential candidates, especially those who may need childcare or are underemployed.
“I think it could (make or break their decision) if they knew there was that lovely little amount of money to come their way,” said Hayward.
NDP Women’s Committee president Lynne Thiele said she is still reaching out to possible guest speakers for this year’s dinner, which will likely be held sometime in September. Previous speakers have included Nikki Ashton, Olivia Chow, Linda McQuaig and Sally Armstrong.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for women and our whole committee to see what changes we want made and to see how important it is to have women in office,” said Thiele. “We have found that whether it’s in the boardroom, in parliament or in any government that women add something that can’t be given if it’s just all men.”
Organizing the dinner as well as a provincial leadership convention are the two main issues the party is focused on, said Hayward.
The party has yet to see a set date for a leadership convention and while no names have publicly come forward as candidates, Hayward said several individuals have expressed interest in running.
With federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh having seemed to revitalize the party by recruiting new members and appealing to youth during the fall’s leadership convention, it appears there is some hope that can be replicated on a provincial level.
Claire Byrne, a youth member of the party, said she’s hoping to bring more younger voices into the provincial NDP, especially those who feel they’re not being represented in organized politics.
“(Singh) was able to speak to the youth in a way I think other parties don’t necessarily do,” said Byrne, who also pointed to last year’s proportional representation plebiscite as creating a drive for some to become more involved in politics.
“There’s a constant back and forth (between Liberals and PCs in P.E.I.) and I think now people are becoming more aware that is not sustainable and it’s not creating the results we want to see.”