OTTAWA, Jan. 21 /CNW Telbec/ - Advocates for women's equality have sent
an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and opposition leaders, urging
them to consider measures that affect women in the upcoming budget.
"Women are half the population of Canada and they cannot afford to ignore
us," said Aalya Ahmad of the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women's Equality and Human
Rights. "Currently, women are less able to access EI, and are more likely to
be in precarious work and to be penalized in the job market when child care is
"Women are going to bear the brunt of this economic crisis, particularly
marginalized women," said Jane Warren of Feminists for Just & Equitable Public
Policy. "Disabled women, for example, are likely to suffer further
marginalization, with increased barriers to education, resources, employment
and opportunities, even over and above the barriers faced by able-bodied
The coalition is calling for spending on social infrastructure projects
in addition to traditional infrastructure spending; for example, a national
child care program that would support Canadian parents' participation in paid
employment as well as creating jobs in a traditionally female-dominated
sector. "It's shovel-ready and a sound long-term investment," said Emily King
of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada. "Good quality child care has
been proven to return substantive benefits to society on a number of levels."
Many organizations are concerned that the Conservative government, with
its track record of opposition to women's equality, will use the economic
crisis to push for more regressive measures.
"We're watching this budget very carefully," said Johanne Perron of the
New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity. In the November economic statement,
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty proposed to make pay equity a bargaining chip
between employers and unions. "To date, the government has not yet rescinded
this proposal," said Perron. "That worries a lot of women."
"The equality of women is non-negotiable, especially in tough economic
See the full text of the open letter to Mr. Harper, opposition leaders
and Status of Women Minister and critics below.
Dear Mr. Harper,
In anticipation of the upcoming budget, the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women's
Equality and Human Rights would like to call your attention to budgetary
measures that would strengthen our economy by strengthening the equality of
women in Canada.
Women across the country are extremely concerned about Mr. Flaherty's
proposal in the November economic statement to make pay equity a bargaining
chip between employers and unions. To date, the government has not yet
rescinded this proposal.
The Ad Hoc Coalition urges you to oppose any such proposal in the
upcoming budget. In the 21st century, women's equality is not, and should
never be, a bargaining chip. It is irresponsible to continue to impose
discriminatory wages upon half the population by ignoring the remedy,
particularly in a time of economic crisis. Equal pay for work of equal value
is one of the "fundamentals" of a healthy economy. This can be attained by
implementing a pro-active pay equity law, as the 2004 federal Task Force
Canadian parents need a national child care program that meets the "QUAD"
principles (Quality, Universal, Accessible, and Developmental). A faltering
economy can only benefit from improving people's access to the labour market,
which would be greatly facilitated by having dependable child care services.
Currently, soaring child care costs and lack of spaces keep many women who
choose to work unemployed or underemployed.
A monthly handout cannot substitute for a child care program that allows
real choice. We can and should do better for our families. The Ad Hoc
Coalition urges you to consider the long-term stability of the economy in
supporting a quality child care and early childhood education program that
meets our children's developmental needs.
Women are particularly vulnerable in the current economic crisis as we do
not have adequate access to Employment Insurance and what access there is
cannot sustain us through a period of unemployment. Although women pay into
EI, most women don't qualify for benefits. 70% of part-time workers are women
and almost two thirds of minimum wage earners in Canada are women. With wages
far below the poverty line already, many women can't live on 55% of their
salary, even for a short period of time. To stimulate the economy and prevent
poverty, improve access to EI and increase the level of benefits for
part-time, contract and self-employed workers in the upcoming budget.
Finally, the Ad Hoc Coalition strongly encourages you to ensure that the
stimulus package includes investment in social infrastructure. Social
infrastructure investments stimulate the real economy, not the speculative
economy, by creating jobs, not giving CEOs bonuses or across-the-board tax
cuts. Social infrastructure can provide affordable housing and anti-poverty
programs, support green technologies and environmental incentives, and improve
conditions for First Nations in their territories and Aboriginal people across
the country, in particular Aboriginal women, who disproportionately suffer
from poverty and violence. Any stimulus package that does not take social
infrastructure into account is short-sighted and short-changes Canadian
taxpayers. Social infrastructure creates jobs and strengthens economies, not
only during this period of financial crisis, but for the future.
On behalf of the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women's Equality and Human Rights,
thank you for your consideration,
Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe, Elizabeth May,
Helena Guergis, Maria Minna, Nicole Demers, Irene Mathyssen
For further information:
For further information: Aalya Ahmad, co-coordinator of the Ad Hoc
Coalition for Women's Equality and Human Rights, (819)-503-6969