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Women in Nova Scotia Politics

In 1758, Nova Scotia elected the first representative government in Canada. It wasn’t until much later that women achieved full voting rights or stand for office.

The right to vote

Women in Nova Scotia gained the right to vote in 1920. Women voted before this date, but only if they met certain requirements. Technically, until 1851 women could vote because the only voting requirement was land ownership. There is documentary evidence from 1793 and 1806 that a handful of women did vote in elections held in those years. In 1851, legislation was enacted to explicitly exclude women from voting. The property requirement was also eliminated. In 1918, women were explicitly included in the legislation, but could only vote if they also fulfilled the property ownership requirement. Finally, in 1920 women in Nova Scotia achieved universal suffrage.

DateEvent

1758-1851

Women not specifically excluded from voting

1851

Women denied the franchise
 

An Act to Extend the Elective Franchise (1851, c. 2)

“Every elector in any election of Members to serve in General Assembly hereafter to be held in this province shall be a male, 21 years of age ..."

1918

Women property owners allowed to vote
 

Nova Scotia Franchise Act (1918, c. 2)
”Every person (male or female) shall be entitled to be registered in any year upon the list of voters ... if such person:

  1. Is of the full age of twenty-one years ... and
  2. Is a British subject ... and
  3. Either
    1. was ... assessed in respect of real property to value of one hundred and fifty dollars, or, in respect of personal property, or of personal and real property together, to the value of three hundred dollars or
    2. was ... in possession of real or personal property ... of the respective values hereinbefore mentioned, but was by law exempt from taxation; or ...”

1920

Universal suffrage takes effect for British subjects
 

An Act to Amend Chapter 2, Acts of 1918, entitled, “An Act to Amend and Consolidate the Acts in Respect to the Electoral Franchise” (1920, c. 49)

“Every person whether male or female and including a married woman shall be entitled to be registered …”

Elected office

In 1918 women in Nova Scotia gained the right to run for office through An Act to Amend the Statute Law (1918, c. 23 s. 1). Women stood for election for the first time in 1920. These women were Grace McLeod Rogers, who ran in Cumberland for the Liberal Conservative party, and Bertha A. Donaldson, who ran in Pictou for the Labour party. Six more women ran for office before Gladys Porter was elected in 1960 to represent the Progressive Conservative party for Kings North. It took 40 years for Nova Scotia to elect a woman to the House of Assembly after they were provided the franchise without the need to own property.

Nova Scotia women political firsts

DatePositionName
1960Elected memberGladys Porter
1980Party leaderAlexa McDonough
1985Cabinet ministerHonourable Maxine Cochran
1989Deputy speakerMarie Dechman
2000Lieutenant GovernorHonourable Myra Ava Freeman, CM, ONS, MSM
2013Deputy premierHonourable Diana Whalen

Nova Scotia women members

Note: Due to changes in electoral district names and party affiliations, some MLAs are listed more than once.

Namesort descending Party Constituency Start Date End Date
Adams, Barbara PC Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage 2017-May-30 2017-May-30
Arab, Patricia Liberal Fairview-Clayton Park 2013-Oct-8 2013-Oct-8
Atwell, Yvonne New Democratic Party Preston 1998-Mar-24 1998-Mar-24
Baillie, Muriel Progressive Conservative Pictou West 1999-Jul-27 1999-Jul-27
Bernard, Joanne Liberal Dartmouth North 2013-Oct-8 2013-Oct-8
Birdsall, Pam NDP Lunenburg 2009-Jun-9 2009-Jun-9
Bolivar-Getson, Carolyn Progressive Conservative Lunenburg West 2003-Aug-5 2003-Aug-5
Casey, Karen Lynn Liberal Colchester North 2011-Jan-10 2011-Jan-10
Casey, Karen Lynn PC Colchester North 2006-Jun-13 2006-Jun-13
Chender, Claudia NDP Dartmouth South (2013) 2017-May-30 2017-May-30
Cochran, Maxine Progressive Conservative Lunenburg Centre 1984-Jun-5 1984-Jun-5
Conrad, Vicki NDP Queens 2006-Jun-13 2006-Jun-13
Cosman, Francene Liberal Bedford-Fall River 1993-May-25 1993-May-25
Dechman, Marie Progressive Conservative Lunenburg West 1988-Sep-6 1988-Sep-6
Diab, Lena Metlege Liberal Halifax Armdale 2013-Oct-8 2013-Oct-8
DiCostanzo, Rafah Liberal Clayton Park West 2017-May-30 2017-May-30
Etter, Cora Progressive Conservative Hants East 1984-Nov-6 1984-Nov-6
Eyking, Pam Liberal Victoria-The Lakes 2013-Oct-8 2013-Oct-8
Godin, Rosemary New Democratic Party Sackville-Beaver Bank 1998-Mar-24 1998-Mar-24
Jennex, Ramona NDP Kings South 2009-Jun-9 2009-Jun-9
Jolly, Sandra Liberal Dartmouth North 1988-Sep-6 1988-Sep-6
Kent, Becky NDP Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage 2007-Oct-17 2007-Oct-17
Leblanc, Susan NDP Dartmouth North 2017-May-30 2017-May-30
Lohnes-Croft, Suzanne Liberal Lunenburg 2013-Oct-8 2013-Oct-8
MacDonald, Maureen NDP Halifax Needham 1998-Mar-24 1998-Mar-24
MacDonald, Helen New Democratic Party Cape Breton the Lakes 1997-Nov-4 1997-Nov-4
MacFarlane, Karla PC Pictou West 2013-Oct-8 2013-Oct-8
MacLean, Melinda Liberal Colchester County 1974-Apr-2 1974-Apr-2
Mancini, Marian NDP Dartmouth South (2013) 2015-Jul-16 2015-Jul-16
Martin, Tammy NDP Cape Breton Centre 2017-May-30 2017-May-30
Masland, Kim PC Queens-Shelburne 2017-May-30 2017-May-30
Massey, Joan New Democratic Party Dartmouth East 2003-Aug-5 2003-Aug-5
McDonough, Alexa New Democratic Party Halifax Fairview 1993-May-25 1993-May-25
McDonough, Alexa New Democratic Party Halifax Chebucto 1981-Oct-6 1981-Oct-6
McGrath, Mary Ann Progressive Conservative Halifax Bedford Basin 1999-Jul-27 1999-Jul-27
Miller, Margaret Liberal Hants East 2013-Oct-8 2013-Oct-8
More, Marilyn NDP Dartmouth South - Portland Valley 2003-Aug-5 2003-Aug-5
Norrie, Eleanor Liberal Truro-Bible Hill 1993-May-25 1993-May-25
O'Connell, Eileen New Democratic Party Halifax Fairview 1996-Jun-4 1996-Jun-4
O'Connor, Lila Liberal Lunenburg 1993-May-25 1993-May-25
Paon, Alana PC Cape Breton-Richmond 2017-May-30 2017-May-30
Peterson-Rafuse, Denise NDP Chester-St. Margaret's 2009-Jun-9 2009-Jun-9
Porter, Gladys Progressive Conservative Kings North 1960-Jun-7 1960-Jun-7
Purves, Jane Progressive Conservative Halifax Citadel (1967) 1999-Jul-27 1999-Jul-27
Raymond, Michèle NDP Halifax Atlantic 2003-Aug-5 2003-Aug-5
Regan, Kelly Liberal Bedford (2013) 2013-Oct-8 2013-Oct-8
Regan, Kelly Liberal Bedford-Birch Cove 2009-Jun-9 2009-Jun-9
Roberts, Lisa NDP Halifax Needham 2016-Aug-30 2016-Aug-30
Smith-McCrossin, Elizabeth PC Cumberland North 2017-May-30 2017-May-30
Streatch, Judy Progressive Conservative Chester-St. Margaret's 2005-Jun-21 2005-Jun-21
Treen, Joyce Liberal Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage 2013-Oct-8 2013-Oct-8
Whalen, Diana C. Liberal Clayton Park West 2013-Oct-8 2013-Oct-8
Whalen, Diana C. Liberal Halifax Clayton Park 2003-Aug-5 2003-Aug-5
Zann, Lenore NDP Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River 2013-Oct-8 2013-Oct-8
Zann, Lenore NDP Truro-Bible Hill 2009-Jun-9 2009-Jun-9

Nova Scotia women ministers

Cochran, Maxine Elizabeth Year 1st elected 1984
Progressive Conservative
Minister of Consumer Affairs
Minister of Culture, Recreation and Fitness
Minister of Transportation
Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women
Minister responsible for the Heritage Property Act
Minister responsible for the Residential Tenancies Act

Dechman, Marie Year 1st elected 1988
Progressive Conservative
Minister of Community Services
Minister of Consumer Affairs
Minister of Housing
Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs
Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women
Minister responsible for the Disabled Persons' Commission Act
Minister responsible for the Housing Development Corporation Act
Minister responsible for the Residential Tenancies Act

Jolly, Sandra Lynn Year 1st elected 1988
Liberal
Minister of Business and Consumer Services
Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs
Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs
Minister of Municipal Affairs
Minister responsible for Halifax Harbour Clean Up Incorporated
Minister responsible for Part II of the Gaming Control Act
Minister responsible for the Heritage Property Act
Minister responsible for the Housing Development Act
Minister responsible for the Liquor Control Act
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Boxing Authority
Minister responsible for the Residential Tenancies Act

Cosman, Francene Jen Year 1st elected 1993
Liberal
Minister of Community Services
Minister of Human Resources
Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women
Minister responsible for the Disabled Persons' Commission Act

Norrie, Eleanor Elizabeth Year 1st elected 1993
Liberal
Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs
Minister of Human Resources
Minister of Natural Resources
Minister responsible for Part II of the Gaming Control Act
Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act
Minister responsible for the Civil Service Act
Minister responsible for the Housing Development Corporation Act
Minister responsible for the Liquor Control Act
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Boxing Authority
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission
Minister responsible for the Residential Tenancies Act
Minister responsible for the Tidal Power Corporation
Minister responsible for the Women's Directorate

MacDonald, Mary Maureen Year 1st elected 1998
New Democratic Party
Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs
Minister of Finance
Minister of Gaelic Affairs
Minister of Health
Minister of Health and Wellness
Minister of Health Promotion and Protection
Minister responsible for the Credit Union Act
Minister responsible for the Liquor Control Act
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation
Minister responsible for the Securities Act
Minister responsible for the Utility and Review Board Act

Purves, Jane Stopford Year 1st elected 1999
Progressive Conservative
Minister of Education
Minister of Health
Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission
Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat
Minister responsible for the Youth Secretariat Act

Bolivar-Getson, Carolyn Anne Year 1st elected 2003
Progressive Conservative
Minister of Emergency Management
Minister of Environment and Labour
Minister of Human Resources
Minister of Immigration
Minister of Natural Resources
Minister of Seniors
Minister responsible for Part II of the Gaming Control Act
Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women
Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act
Minister responsible for the Liquor Control Act
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation
Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission
Minister responsible for the Utility and Review Board Act
Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Act (Except Part II)

More, Marilyn Ann Year 1st elected 2003
New Democratic Party
Minister of Communications Nova Scotia
Minister of Education
Minister of Immigration
Minister of Information Management
Minister of Labour and Advanced Education
Minister of Labour and Workforce Development
Minister of the Public Service Commission
Minister of the Voluntary Sector
Minister of Volunteerism
Minister responsible for Part II of the Gaming Control Act
Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act
Minister responsible for the Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act
Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Act (Except Part II)

Whalen, Diana Caroline Year 1st elected 2003
Liberal
Minister of Finance and Treasury Board
Minister of Justice
Minister responsible for Part II of the Workers' Compensation Act
Minister responsible for the Credit Union Act
Minister responsible for the Elections Act
Minister responsible for the Human Rights Act
Minister responsible for the Insurance Act
Minister responsible for the Liquor Control Act
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Police Complaints Commissioner
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Police Review Board
Minister responsible for the Regulations Act
Minister responsible for the Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act
Minister responsible for the Securities Act
Minister responsible for the Utility and Review Board Act

Streatch, Judy Year 1st elected 2005
Progressive Conservative
Acting Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act
Minister of Communications Nova Scotia
Minister of Community Services
Minister of Education
Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage
Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women
Minister responsible for the Disabled Persons' Commission Act
Minister responsible for the Heritage Property Act
Minister responsible for the Liquor Control Act
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation
Minister responsible for the Youth Secretariat Act

Casey, Karen Lynn Year 1st elected 2006
Liberal
Chair of Treasury and Policy Board
Deputy Premier
Deputy President of the Executive Council
Minister of Education
Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development

Minister of Finance and Treasury Board
Minister of Health
Minister responsible for Part I of the Gaming Control Act

Minister responsible for the Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act
Minister responsible for the Chartered Professional Accounts Act
Minister responsible for the Credit Union Act

Minister responsible for the Insurance Act and the Insurance Premiums Tax Act
Minister responsible for the Liquor Control Act
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation
Minister responsible for the Securities Act
Minister responsible for the Utility and Review Board Act
Minister responsible for the Youth Secretariat Act
Minister responsible for Youth

Progressive Conservative
Minister of Education
Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development
Minister of Health
Minister responsible for the Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act
Minister responsible for the Youth Secretariat Act
Minister responsible for Youth

Jennex, Ramona Year 1st elected 2009
New Democratic Party
Minister of Education
Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development
Minister of Emergency Management
Minister of Immigration
Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
Minister responsible for the Residential Tenancies Act
Minister responsible for Youth

Peterson-Rafuse, Denise Year 1st elected 2009
New Democratic Party
Minister of Community Services
Minister of Seniors
Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act
Minister responsible for the Disabled Persons' Commission Act

Regan, Kelly Maureen Year 1st elected 2009
Liberal
Minister of Community Services

Minister of Labour and Advanced Education
Minister of the Voluntary Sector
Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act
Minister responsible for the Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act
Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Act (Except Part II)
Minister responsible for Youth

Bernard, Joanne Year 1st elected 2013
Liberal
Minister of Community Services
Minister of the Voluntary Sector
Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act
Minister responsible for the Disabled Persons' Commission Act

Diab, Lena Metlege Year 1st elected 2013
Liberal

Minister of Acadian Affairs and Francophonie
Minister of Immigration
Minister of Justice
Minister responsible for Part II of the Workers' Compensation Act
Minister responsible for the Elections Act
Minister responsible for the Human Rights Act
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Police Complaints Commissioner
Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Police Review Board
Minister responsible for the Regulations Act
Minister responsible for the Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act

Miller, Margaret Year 1st elected 2013
Liberal
Minister of Environment

Minister of Natural Resources

Arab, Patricia Year 1st elected 2013
Liberal

Minister of Internal Services
Minister of Communications Nova Scotia