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Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, right, and Beaches-East York NDP candidate Rima Berns-McGown attend a gathering on Mother's Day in the Beaches-East York riding in Toronto on May 13, 2018. Ms. Horwath announced that 56 per cent of the NDP candidates are women − a first for the party.

MARTA IWANEK/The Canadian Press

For the first time in Ontario NDP history, women make up more than half of the party’s candidate slate, Leader Andrea Horwath says, making it the highest percentage of the four mainstream parties in the province.

Standing in front of a group of NDP candidates and supporters in east Toronto on Sunday, Ms. Horwath announced that women comprise 56 per cent of her team for the June 7 election.

“What it says is that we care about the things that women care about,“ Ms. Horwath said. “We’re going to make gains for the women of this province.”

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As for the other three parties, women make up 52 per cent of the Green Party list, 45 per cent for the Liberals and 32 per cent for the Progressive Conservatives. However, all parties still have vacancies in their candidate rosters, so the gender percentages could fluctuate a little in the coming weeks.

These numbers are already an improvement from the 2014 Ontario election, said Nancy Peckford, the executive director of Equal Voice, an organization that supports the election of women in Canadian politics.

“The trend is not specific to the NDP,” she said. “ In this moment, we see nearly a 10-point jump among all parties.”

However, the NDP did lead the way in the 2014 election as well, with women representing 41.1 per cent of its candidates. That same year, the Liberals and the Green Party were both at 34.6 per cent and the PCs were at 25.2 per cent.

One of the new female candidates in this year’s election is Iranian-Canadian Saman Tabasinejad, who is running for the NDP in the Toronto riding of Willowdale. She said she was nervous at first, but that the local riding association was very helpful.

“The riding association in general was very supportive, and I think they wanted a woman candidate and also a woman of colour,” Ms. Tabasinejad said. “It’s really exciting because there are a lot of Iranian-Canadian men in politics, but not women.”

In addition to celebrating her majority-female roster at the Mother’s Day announcement, Ms. Horwath spoke about her party’s policy efforts to attract female voters. She touted promises including covering child-care costs for women earning less than $40,000, protecting health services for new mothers and advocating for pay equity.

For Ms. Peckford of Equal Voice, however, simply having more female candidates on ballots is not enough. Where women run and the “winnability” of a riding is crucial, she says, adding that data show women tend to end up in ridings where their chance of winning is not as strong as that of their male competitors. The number of elected MPPs is the percentage that truly matters, Ms. Peckford said.

In 2014, about 35 per cent of elected MPPs were women. “We are extremely hopeful that Ontario becomes the first provincial legislature to break 40 per cent,” Ms. Peckford said. “That would be a really auspicious outcome of this election, regardless of which party holds power at the end of the day.”

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