The Ad-Hoc Coalition for Women's Equality and Human Rights - Pre-2008 Budget - Women Call For New Budget Priorities

    OTTAWA, Feb. 24 /CNW Telbec/ - Women across the country are calling for
new government priorities that reflect the realities they face, not the
Conservative cuts to programs that have characterized government action in the
past year.
    "Budgets are all about choices," says Pamela Cross, Director of Advocacy
and Public Policy for YWCA. "The federal government can choose to continue
down the same destructive path that favours cuts to critical programs and
funding of questionable wars, or it can choose balanced funding that responds
to real needs of Canadian women and their families."
    A report from TD Economics released before the 2007 economic update
estimated that the federal surplus would be $14.5 billion in 2007-08, rising
to $27.5 billion by 2012-13. In spite of the nation-wide housing crisis, the
struggle parents face in finding affordable childcare, and the rising cost of
post-secondary education, the Harper government has made the decision to
whittle away the surplus through massive tax-cuts ($60 billion over 5 years),
an aggressive debt reduction plan ($10 billion), and huge increases in
military spending ($7.2 billion in Afghanistan alone). Any new tax cuts
revealed in this budget will likely require even more cuts to critical program
spending. These measures have eaten into surpluses, putting critical programs
at even greater risk in the event of an economic slowdown.
    It is clear that Canadian women are being left out in the cold by the
federal government's current strategy. Instead of choosing more of the same
approach that ignores the well-known realities of women, the Harper government
would do well to finally set the kind of budget priorities that would deliver
substantial benefits to Canadian women and their families:

       - Affordable housing. With 1.5 million Canadian households (many
         with children) at risk of homelessness, the time for a National
         Housing Policy with supporting federal funding is long overdue.

       - High-quality, affordable, accessible child care. Over the last three
         years, more than $2 billion in federal child-care funding has flowed
         into a virtual accountability void.  Less than 20% of Canada's
         children and families have access to regulated early learning and
         child care services.  Fees have gone up and families are struggling
         to find care for their children in the current patchwork system. The
         government must restore multi-year federal funding for childcare
         through dedicated capital transfers to community-based, not-for-
         profit childcare services to assure that child care is available for
         all children and families that need or want it.

       - Accessible post-secondary education. Unmanageable student debt risks
         making post-secondary education a luxury that is out of reach for
         most women. In addition to restoring and increasing federal funding
         transfers to the provinces, this budget must clearly articulate a
         plan for moving Canada's expensive and unfair student loan system to
         a grants-based funding formula.

       - A commitment to women's equality. Increase Status of Women Canada's
         budget to $50 million and the re-open regional offices and improve
         training of government departments on gender-based analysis.
         Increase funding to the Women's Program at Status of Women Canada to
         provide grants to women's organizations that provide research and
         advocate for women's interests. Appoint a Gender Equality
         Commissioner to ensure that Canada fully upholds its equality
         commitments under domestic and international law.

    This government refuses to acknowledge the heavy costs of tax cuts and
military spending. By cutting taxes, bankrolling a war and funneling public
funds into debt reduction, the Harper government is choosing family
instability, homelessness, student debt, and gender inequality in Canada. It
is no wonder that there was a 9.5% "gender gap" in the Conservative vote
during January 2006 election - women do not trust Conservative priorities.
    It's time for women's voices to be heard and for families to become the
true priority in government spending - what's good for women is good for

    Founded in 2006, the Ad-Hoc Coalition for Women's Equality and Human
Rights is a group of over 25 regional and national women's organizations that
have come together to monitor and advocate for federal government leadership
on gender equality in Canada.

For further information:

For further information: Cathy Tilsley, The Ad-Hoc Coalition for Women's
Equality and Human Rights, (613) 355-7842

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