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Pamela Palmater: Are federal platforms meeting the needs of women in Canada’s economic recovery?


TORONTO, ON – Less than a week to go until Election Day and federal leaders continue to travel the country to campaign on the issues they believe are most important to Canadians, including pandemic response , housing, long-term care homes, health, health care, climate change, employment and the economy.

While child care has received some attention both in debates and during the election campaign, the issue has not been as prominent as the issues of long-term care homes or the creation of ‘jobs, for example. This represents a real failure on the part of party leaders to show Canadians that women’s issues are integral to the overall economic, social and climate health of the country and, more importantly, how social supports work together to support or exclude women.

The three main parties – Liberal, Conservative and NDP – all made the same pledge to create a million jobs. What we haven’t heard is how each party plans to specifically target jobs for women who have been disproportionately affected during the pandemic.

The number of women who have left the workforce since the start of the pandemic is more than ten times the number of men. Women overwhelmingly work in industries that were declared essential services during the pandemic, but these women are disproportionately over-represented among those earning minimum wage or less.

We also know that 90% of the staff working in long-term care homes are women and that 91% of the nurses who care for our family members in hospitals are women. Across all industries, women still earn much less than men – a whopping 23% less. For Aboriginal women, this number is even lower at 35% lower.

So the way forward after the pandemic should go beyond just creating jobs – it must also be about providing the social services and wages needed to help women access those jobs – many of which are needed. essential to the health and well-being of our families.

If we know that it is women who are on the staff of long-term care homes and provide critical nursing care in our hospitals, not only do we need to make sure the federal parties have a plan to pay better wages. , but many will never go to work – no matter what the salary – if they don’t have access to affordable child care. To that end, the Liberals promise to work for a $ 10 / day child care center and have already signed agreements with most provinces and territories to help increase spaces and reduce costs.

The NDP made the same promise for $ 10 / day in child care, but the Conservatives would scrap the agreements with the provinces after the first year and instead focus on a tax credit. According to independent financial analysis, women and families would be much better off under the Liberal and NDP plan than the Conservatives’ plan, up to $ 10,000 better per family.

For women to be supported to work and access those promised one million jobs, they not only need access to affordable child care, but also to affordable housing. Statistics show that over 25% of all Canadian families with children are lone-parent families and among these families, about 88% are headed by single women. This is particularly the case for Indigenous families where 34% live in single parent households and over 80% are headed by single Indigenous mothers. To that end, the Liberals promise to build or repair 1.4 million homes over four years and ban foreign ownership, which pushes up home prices.

The NDP promises to build half a million affordable homes over ten years and preserve 1.7 million homes over the next four years and impose a 20% tax on foreign buyers. The Tories promise to build 1 million new homes over three years, urge developers to defer capital gains taxes and also impose a ban on foreign ownership. What is missing from these promises is how the plan will ensure that women, especially single mothers, will benefit.

We also know, through the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, that Indigenous women suffer higher rates of domestic violence, state violence and societal violence. Thus, a strong housing plan in an indigenous context must also include access to safe, temporary, transitional and permanent housing that takes into account the multiple and overlapping crises faced by indigenous women and children from generations onwards. historical and ongoing genocide, systemic racism and violation. of their fundamental rights.

Women in general, but Indigenous women in particular, are disproportionately affected by climate change and, therefore, special measures are needed to address housing needs that Canadian women may not face, such as melting arctic ice, flooding and other climate related issues. In addition, many First Nations women and families do not have access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities on reserves, which means that federal commitments to address both climate change and Access to safe drinking water must be part of a comprehensive package of support for indigenous women.

To that end, the Liberals are promising a national aboriginal housing strategy, $ 2 billion for on-reserve housing, additional shelters and the elimination of all water advisories. The NDP also promises to eliminate all water advisories, create a national Indigenous housing strategy, help fund shelters and fix mold in existing homes on reserve. The Conservatives are also promising a national Aboriginal housing strategy, but no specific funding commitment for new homes. Instead, their platform says Indigenous communities should be supported to meet their own housing needs. When it comes to drinking water on reserves, the Conservatives will only target high-risk water supply systems and there is no specific commitment to address the specific situation of aboriginal women.

Promises by federal party leaders to increase jobs, take age into account, create affordable child care, and increase access to affordable housing are all important initiatives. However, it is important to evaluate these platforms to see which party has a plan that will target women in these initiatives to ensure that they are not disproportionately excluded. This is especially true for Indigenous women who face additional barriers on a daily basis related to systemic racism, violence and discrimination.

The future of Canada’s economic, social and climate health depends on federal party leaders who combine social supports to target women and address long-standing discrimination against women in Canada and centuries of genocide against indigenous women.

Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer specializing in Indigenous and human rights law. She holds the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University.

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