Photo: Deni Verklan

Opinion: why women should be rushing to the polls

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By: Deni Verklan

Childcare isn’t usually something most university students think about when casting their ballot, but it really needs to be.

I know, I know, most university students don’t have kids, so I won’t bore you with the fact that in Toronto, childcare costs, on average, as much as a two-bedroom apartment downtown or that low and middle income families can’t or can barely afford quality childcare.

The question of what happens to those families who can’t afford it and why we need our government and the rest of Canadians to support childcare was brought up at the Oct. 8 Vote For Childcare panel.

For panellist Erin Filby, whose family can barely afford her son’s childcare spot, it made more sense for her to stay home than to spend most of her paycheque on childcare. And she is not alone.

According to Status of Women Canada, women are more likely to work part-time and to care for children under five year old for an average of 6.5 hours per day in 2010, compared to just over three hours a day for men. The report also found that 64.4 per cent of mothers with children under three were employed in 2009.

That leaves 35.6 per cent of unemployed mothers, who “are this huge, untapped economic resource, just stagnating. It’s bad news for parents, and it’s bad news for a stagnating economy and that is bad news for everybody,” said Filby, an Early Childhood Education student.

Since the Conservatives came into to power in 2006, Canada has fallen to 23rd in the United Nations’ world ranking of gender inequality. A Status of Women Canada internal report, which was received by the CBC in an Access to Information request last month, also showed that gender equality in Canada has fallen behind other developed countries.

But Harper has done nothing to address women’s issues in Canada.

He has ignored the national and international outcry over the 1,181 missing and murdered aboriginal women by dismissing it as “crime,” not a “sociological phenomenon” and that “Um it, it isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest.”

He has ignored the 50,000 plus signatures of the Up For Debate petition, demanding a televised national women’s issues debate, by declining to participate. NDP leader Tom Mulcair withdrew, citing Harper’s absence, and the debate was cancelled.

He even declined to participate in a one-on-one interview for the Up For Debate panel that was screened in September with interviews from the four other party leaders.

“Here we were on the verge of having a debate on women’s issues for the first time since 1984 and the woman party leader who wants to do it is me, and because two men decide they don’t want to participate, it doesn’t happen,” Green party leader Elizabeth May said in her Up For Debate interview with journalist Francine Pelletier.

He has ignored the UN Human Rights Committee’s recommendation of implementing gender pay equity legislation, despite the fact that Canada’s gender pay gap is double the global average. Canadian men are paid 20 per cent more than women in equal positions and there are few opportunities for women to advance in their field, despite 75 per cent of working age women have a post-secondary degree, compared to 65 per cent of men, according to a Status of Women Canada internal report.

A gender pay gap exhibit prior to the Vote For Childcare panel demonstrated these low wages by comparing cable television service technicians, where 96 per cent of technicians are male, and early childhood educators (ECE), where 97 per cent of ECEs are female. Although only 65 per cent of technicians had a post-secondary education, compared to 70 per cent of ECEs, the technicians earned almost $26,000 more annually.

He has ignored the need for a national strategy to curb rates of violence against women, where every six days a Canadian woman is killed by her partner, according to a Status of Women Canada internal report.

He has ignored the right to religious freedom with his tirade against the niqab during citizenship ceremonies, despite the fact that a female officer prior to the ceremony confirms the identity of these brave women.

He has ignored women’s rights for nine years too long.

So let’s stop this stagnation of the economy and women’s rights.

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