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Give women a voice: Vote for equality, social justice, transparency and good manners

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Image: Flickr/Carolyn Tiry

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I watched the entire first debate. The victors were May and Mulcair, followed by Trudeau. Harper sat on the sidelines hoping Mulcair and Trudeau would duke it out and that May would suffer a series of memory lapses so he wouldn't be held accountable for the misinformation he was dishing out. May, Mulcair and Trudeau all came out on top for another very different reason, the level of respect they showed each other and the prime minister. 

May consistently referred to Harper as Prime Minister. Mulcair and Trudeau called the PM Mr. Harper, a very acceptable term. Harper called his rivals, "guys." In fact, Harper has continued to use this dismissive, derogatory, condescending phrase in interviews and speaking engagements throughout the campaign.

Those with power, and those whose power is about to be usurped, have to make their foes less than equal to themselves. Attack ads are one method Harper loves. He also employs language to undermine the authority and abilities of those challenging him and his competency. 

For those of us working in the field of violence against women, this tactic is a favourite used by abusive men. Harper has mastered this maneuver. What Harper doesn't realize is that each time he refers to Elizabeth May as a guy he is alienating a large segment of the population -- women and their male allies.

But, let's move beyond language to look at how Harper's years in power reinforced and reflected white male privilege and a sense of entitlement. With his election in 2006, Harper began making drastic cuts to social services and non-profit organizations in a year when there was a $13 billion surplus. The destruction meted out to Canadian women and their families by the PM's office is well documented.

  • Regional offices for the Status of Women were closed in 2006. The federal organization can no longer fund women's groups working on advocacy or research.
  • Court Challenges Program of Canada was a national non-profit organization established in 1994 to provide financial assistance for important court cases that advance language and equality rights guaranteed under Canada's Constitution. All funding was cut.
  • Ignoring a national day-care crisis, Harper cancelled the $5 billion, five-year national child-care program originally created by the Liberals. Harper then tried to distract parents with monthly $100 payments which were increased this year to $160 per child under six years of age. Payments of $60 per child between six and under 17 years were added. This subsidy covers little more than a couple days of care each month and is taxed at the end of the year.
  • $165 million cut from the Aboriginal Affairs Department in 2010.
  • Environment Canada's budget by $88 million that same year.
  • Created in 1988 by Mulroney's government, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy was history after 2010.
  • Changes to the Employment Insurance (EI) system meant laid-off workers were forced to accept underemployment or face losing benefits. 
  • The age for collecting old age security was increased to 67. This caused hardship for many older women. It's well documented that older women often live in poverty and widows and single women do not benefit from income splitting.
  • Harper instructed his government to vote against Motion 444, A National Action Plan to End Violence Against Women in 2015.
  • Harper stated that an inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women, "really isn't high on [his] radar."
  • Funding cut to The Quebec Native Women's Association, Hamilton's Honouring the Circle transitional shelter, and the Native Women's Centre.
  • Rather than develop a much needed national housing policy, Harper told his government to vote against Bill C-400, an Act to Secure Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing for Canadians. Instead, Harper is set to cut funding to the provinces when current housing funding agreements expire.
  • 37 years after pay equity was implemented women still earn an average 71 per cent of what men earn annually. Harper's party is the only party without a plan to make this human right a reality by enforcing the legislation in a proactive way.
  • A national living wage and the idea of a guaranteed living income aren't on Harper's agenda.
  • Harper's government has no plans to create the national food policy needed to address poverty, hunger, health care, sustainable food production and processing that ultimately impact our nation's self-determination.
  • Annual six per cent increases in health transfers to provinces aren't guaranteed after 2016, but will be tied to economic growth plus inflation. Predictions are that these payments will decrease.
  • Women currently make up 52 per cent of the population of Canada. Women currently make up 42 per cent of the New Democrat caucus, 23 per cent of the Liberal caucus, and 19 per cent of the Conservative caucus. 

It's well documented that when women are treated equally then everyone benefits and life is better for all. So, it's very telling that Harper was the only leader to refuse to participate in a national debate dedicated to the issues concerning Canadian women.

Up for Debate, an alliance of 175 member organizations representing approximately 4.5 million Canadians, has embarked on creating an alternative to their national debate on women's issues. One-on-one interviews with party leaders from the NDP, Green Party and Liberals are currently being taped. The Conservatives continue to say they have "no comment" on their participation in this important project.

Questions posed to the participating parties will focus exclusively on women's issues. The interviews will be released on September 21 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at a live event to be held at Toronto's Isabel Bader Theatre. The event will be livestreamed and is open to all media. For more information visit www.upfordebate.ca

Let's work together and reclaim the Canada that stood for equality, social justice, transparency and good manners. On October 19 vote for a Canada that values all of its citizens regardless of gender. 

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Image: Flickr/Carolyn Tiry

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