Global News with Melanee Thomas 20 October 2019
While “women’s issues” should be everybody’s issues, experts say, there are certain matters that disproportionately affect women.
From a lack of affordable child care to higher rates of gender-based violence, the upcoming federal election highlights some of these problems — and the demand for policy-based solutions.
“Being a woman is not a universal experience,” says Amanda Kingsley Malo, the founder of PoliticsNOW, an organization that works to get women elected in Ontario municipal elections.
“But a lot of the things that concern women when they’re voting don’t always come up on the campaign trail.”
Here are some issues political experts say women may be thinking about when heading to the polls on Oct. 21.
Women often experience a different quality of healthcare than men do, research shows, with one study even finding they are less likely to receive CPR in public.
In clinical medical trials, women have historically been largely absent, too.
Velma Morgan, the chair of Operation Black Vote Canada, points to research that shows black patients’ pain is often taken less seriously than white patients.
For black women, this can be compounded as women’s pain in general is more often dismissed than men’s.
Women-centred treatment should be used to help close the gender gap in healthcare, the Canadian Women’s Health Network says.
During the first leaders’ debate, health care was not among the five topics raised. Abortion, on the other hand, was mentioned.
Where do the parties stand?
The Liberal’s health-care platform pledges to improve access to abortion and reproductive health care, mental health services and primary care providers, and to create a national institute for women’s health research.
If re-elected, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau also says his government would come to the rescue of an abortion clinic in Fredericton that could be forced to close its doors without the support of the province.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh‘s campaign platform is promising a range of policies, including a national pharmacare plan. The NDP has also pledged to declare a public health emergency on the opioid crisis and provide coverage for gender-confirming surgeries and health care for transgender people.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer promises to spend $1.5 billion to buy new medical imaging equipment for facilities across the country. He also vows to maintain and increase health transfer payments to provinces and territories.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says her party will enact pharmacare by 2020, expand access to abortion services, implement improved health care systems for Indigenous people, declare the opioid crisis a national health emergency and establish a national mental health strategy.
Affordable child care
A lack of affordable child care affects everyone, but it disproportionately targets women. The Canadian Women’s Foundation points out that becoming a mother can hurt a woman’s earnings and career — especially if she has to take extended time off work due to child-care costs.
Even when mothers do go back to work, they’re often the ones caring for kids once they get home, according to Melanee Thomas, a professor of political science at the University of Calgary.
Thomas says research shows that women spend more time doing unpaid labour, which includes child care and caring for aging parents.
Kingsley Malo says that affordable and accessible child care would “change the lives of women all over this country.”
“Affordable child care is imperative to our success because, unfortunately, so many of us are still more on the hook for familial matters,” she adds.
The issue of affordable child care is not new, but federal party leaders are pledging change.
Where do the parties stand?
Singh says if elected, he would spend $10 billion over the next four years to create 500,000 new child-care spaces in Canada, with the goal of offering free services for some parents.
Trudeau promises that a re-elected Liberal government would invest $535 million yearly to create up to 250,000 more spaces for before- and after-school child-care programs.
Sheer has pledged to help young parents by bringing in a 15 per cent tax credit for maternity and parental Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.
May’s Green Party says it will invest $1 billion annually “to ramp up federal child care funding” to achieve the international benchmark of at least 1 per cent of GDP.
Diversity and representation
More women need to run as elected officials, experts say, in order to ensure their perspectives are heard. A lack of female representation affects the issues that get covered, and the policies put in place.
Thomas says research shows that women in elected positions talk about different topics than men do, and are more likely to talk about gender, poverty and LGBTQ2 issues.
Kingsley Malo says that women, just by virtue of being women, bring forward a viewpoint that is often missing when only men are in power.
“When issues of health care come up or specific legislation that needs to be passed, we can be sure that women’s perspective are being considered,” Kingsley Malo says.
It’s also incredibly important that women of colour and Indigenous women hold political roles, too. For example, Morgan says that anti-black racism can be better addressed by having more black candidates in all levels of government.
“They have the lens of a black person who has lived experience and can help shape policy,” she says.