Originally posted at A Side of Feminism.
Another election has come in gone here in Canada, and the Conservative Party has won the majority, with a total of 167 seats in the House. The NDP have now taken their place as the official opposition with 102 seats. This is the first time in history that the Liberal party did not finish either first or second. With all of these changes, I question the future of women’s issues with the Conservative Party.
Since 2004, Canada as seen a drastic decrease in institutional and political support for women’s rights. In 2004 was also the first time since 1993 that the Liberal Party were re-elected with a minority government. Heading up the main opposition was the newly amalgamated Conservative Party of Canada, led by Stephen Harper. By 2006, the Conservative Party was elected with a minority, and have remained in this position until this past Monday. Despite their position as a minority government, Stephen Harper and Conservative Party have managed to implement a number of policies which have strongly contributed to this decrease in the support for women’s rights. Here are a few examples of the decisions which have been put in place since 2004:
- The Status of Women Canada, a federal departmental agency founded in 1976, which focuses on increasing women’s economic security and prosperity, encouraging women’s leadership and democratic participation, and ending violence against women was forced to shut down twelve of its sixteen offices in 2006, under the pretext that “women’s and men’s issues do not need to be separated” (Heritage Minister Bev Oda). In addition, the phrase “gender equality” was removed from the agency’s mandate. See more.
- Also in 2006 (the year Stephen Harper became Prime Minister), the Conservative Party eliminated the childcare funding agreements set up by the Liberal Party, which would have placed $5 billion in the public childcare system over the next five years. This was replaced by the Conservative Party’s own childcare plan which included: $250 million in tax credits for capital investments in childcare spaces and a taxable (!) payout to parents of $100/month per child under the age of six. Given that daycare in Canada costs approximately $500 – $10o0 a month, the taxable payout would do next to nothing in helping families. See more.
- The elimination of the Court Challenges Program, which was designed to assist equity-seeking groups with the resources to challenge laws that they feel may violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This program was implements shortly after the ratification of the Charter and has contributed to several successful challenges such as the judgment guaranteeing pay equity and marriage rights for same-sex couples.
- After pledging $1.1 billion international funding to maternal and child care initiatives over the course of 5 years at the 2010 G8 Summit, the Conservative Party stated that it would not contribute funding to projects which include abortion services. This is despite the fact that there are approximately 500,000 childbirth-related deaths in developing countries each year, often due to women becoming pregnant too young or too quickly after another birth.
These are just a few of the many funding cuts that have been implemented since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister. These cuts were decided by the Prime Minister’s Office with little to no consultation with those affected and had not been mentioned in the election platform.
If you’re still not convinced, take a look at some of the statistical changes. In 2004, Canada was ranked 7th on the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index. By 2009, Canada had fallen to 25th on the Gender Gap Index and 73rd in the UN Gender Disparity Index. According to the 2007 Stats Canada report “Income Trends in Canada,” the gender wage gap, which had gradually moved towards greater economic equality, has come to somewhat of a halt in the past decade. In 2005, Stats Canada reported that women were earning 70.5% as much as men, with the situation looking even more dire for women of colour, earning 64% as much as men, and for Aboriginal women, earning a meager 46% as much as men. How can the Conservative Party reasonably justify cutting funds to agencies like the Status of Women who work tirelessly towards ending these inequalities? Canada has also recently been ranked 20th out of 43 developed countries on the 2011 Mothers’ Index, down from being tied in 7th place with Australia in 2004. It’s a huge drop showing that minimal maternal leave benefits of 17 weeks with 55% of wages paid is not enough. With these facts and numbers in our hands, what can we hope to expect from the Conservative Party as it enjoys the safety of its majority over the next few years.
For a detailed report, on Canada’s position in regards to women, go to http://www.opseu.org/committees/pwc/april-6-2011-report-highlights-support-decrease.htm