Saturday, June 7, 2008

Dion Furthers His Commitment to Women's Issues

I have heard from many Liberals who know Dion personally that he is more committed to women's issues than any past Liberal leader and I have certainly liked what I've seen so far with some of the most important commitments being:

- Commitment to one third female candidates in the next election (which they are on pace to meet) and gender parity in candidates within 3 elections
- 50% female appointments to Crown Corporations and the Senate
- Re-instating a national child care program
- Restoring the funding and mandate of the Status of Women Department
- 30/50 poverty plan

It is a dramatic departure from the regressive Conservative government in charge of the country right now.

I was therefore pleased to see two further positive commitments Dion has now made. I already knew for some time that Dion would not let Bill C-484 ("unborn victims of crime") pass, though it is very good to see him come out and make it official.

The reality is that the law ALREADY allows for increased penalties against those who would assault pregnant women leading to the loss of the pregnancy. Judges make sentences based on the severity of the crime and if the woman has been traumatized (as woman would be who lost her baby unwillingly) the penalty will almost be greater. But is extremely dangerous to be ascribing virtual personhood to an unborn fetus in legislation as once you have that in legislation it is a slippery slope. I respect people's personal opinions (especially as a Catholic) but I am strongly opposed to legislating one's religious views. Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and Stephane Dion have all held the same view thankfully.

It is extremely telling that NOT A SINGLE anti-violence against women organization supports this bill and yet many pro-life groups do. It is my view that if this bill wasn't Ken Epp's attempt to re-open the abortion debate than I just don't think you would have the pro-life groups getting behind it. When Ken Epp actually says that he believes the bill will put pro-choice advoates in a greater position of having to justify to others why abortions are ever necessary, I think his intentions are being shown. As well, when not a single organization concerned with violence against women supports this bill you do have to question its necessity.

That said, I don't agree with those who have characterized those Liberals who voted for this at earlier readings as anti-choice. When you hurl such accusations at them in an attempt to get them to vote differently they are less likely to listen especially since the accusation is not true at all for a good many of the Liberal MPs who voted for this. I know some MPs legitimately believe that this bill (since it specifically says abortion won't be affected) won't re-open the abortion debate. I strongly disagree and I think the best approach is to lay out as clearly as possible without any personal attacks why those MPs who voted for this are wrong and why this legislation is not necessary to protect pregnant women against violence.

I want to commend the National Women's Liberal Commission and provincial Women's Liberal Commissions for taking exactly this approach in arguing against this bill to the Liberal caucus. I am sure they have changed some Liberal MPs minds about this legislation, but what's most important to me is that Dion has laid down the line and this will not become law.

The second commitment I was pleased to see is Dion's commitment to create a Commissioner for Gender Equality.

A Liberal government would create an independent Commissioner for Gender Equality to ensure that legislation and policies of the Government of Canada are examined with an equality lens.

This newly created office would be supported by enabling legislation which would mandate the Commissioner to report annually to Parliament. The Commissioner would also have the authority to audit federal government departments for gender-based analysis; examine existing programs and policies for their gender equality; whether those policies are in line with the Canadian government’s Federal Plan for Gender Equality as outlined
here; and to ensure international human rights commitments, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), are honoured.

Combined with the legislation that would be introduced to give the Commissioner his/her mandate, Canadians would have genuine accountability about the effect of their government on the quality of life of Canadian women and their families.

In addition, Mr. Dion announced Ms. Marleau and the members of Women’s Caucus will tour the country over the next few months to hear from Canadian women about the issues they are most concerned about. “We want to reach out to Canadian women to hear what they have to say on a number of Liberal initiatives, as well as other issues they want to highlight,” said Ms. Marleau.

“It’s important to listen to what women have to say about some of the most pressing issues facing our country and we will report back our findings.”

I think it's a great idea and this would be in line with what has been done in the UK, Australia and South Africa. I hope the other opposition parties can get behind this idea as well. It is a shame that the major news media hasn't really picked up this proposal of Dion's focusing more just on his (also important) opposition to Bill c-484.

In the next election the female vote will be crucial and I'm glad to see the Liberals aren't neglecting the issues that matter most to women. In stands in stark contrast to the Conservatives. I had to laugh when I read this Don Martin article awhile back that implied that Harper is successfully winning over female voters with his policies. The reality is Harper has taken a few baby steps forward with product safety regulations which is a valid thing to be doing, but it pales in comparison to all the major steps background this government is taking. Martin seems to take women for fools saying that obviously Harper doesn’t care about women but women will basically fall for his half-hearted efforts to show he is female friendly. Never mind the cuts to status of women, removing the drive for gender equality from its mandate, killing the popular child care plan and failing to create any new child care spaces since they've come to government, failing on poverty, pay-equity and a host of other Harper is failing to address. Women haven't been blind this past two years and aren't now. Perhaps Don Martin should have talked to some more women to see their thoughts before penning that article.

If Harper really wants the female vote perhaps he wouldn't have spent the past two years gutting all the positive advances for women that past Liberal governments had made. He should have a real child care plan that actually addresses the need for accessible affordable child care spaces. He should show a real commitment to gender equality in the House of Commons by running more female candidates, having more females in cabinet and giving at least some of them some clout (name ONE female minister that seems to have Harper's ear). He should have a real plan for addressing poverty. He should get behind Dion's proposal of a Commissioner on Gender Equality. Harper shows his true colours by failing to take on such proposals and that's why women still solidly prefer the Liberal party to his.

I give the NDP credit for seriously addressing gender issues and gender equality over the years but women know we desperately need a better government and the NDP can't provide that, they simply can't. A Liberal government will provide the leadership we need and it is clear that the large majority of women in this country don't want a renewed mandate for Stephen Harper.

A Liberal government will be the most progressive on women's issues than any that preceded it and I hope the NDP will work with them to make this happen.

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janfromthebruce said...

My liberal MP is Paul Steckle. He has faithfully voted against equal marriage, and any anti-choice legislation. He is voted for this Bill, which is consistent with his liberal voting behaviour.
Acknowledging that there are obvious right-wingers who would fit quite nicely in the Harper's Conservative, such as Emerson, would be a good start.
Remember this was the same liberal supposed progressive party that demolished our social safety net, drastically cut back provincial transfer payments, rejigged IE so working people ended up paying off the the debt and not those with lots more income, and who were drastically reduced from collecting these same benefits, and oh yah, it was women who ended up mainly not being able to collect benefits, although they had to contribute, due to their pt-time and intermittent employment status.
These liberal cuts and restructuring policies were what Brian Mulroney could only dream of.
We've all been there and done the libs - watch out as they just never get her done. Point in case, since 1993 they promised a national childcare program, but alas it wasn't till they were in a minority govt situation that they found the "daycare religion." Long on progressive talk, but just don't walk the walk, unless they fear losing power.
I drank that koolade so can understand how seductive it can be, but after repeated disappointments, well I just laugh when I hear the trotting out, once again, of those progressive songs, but once back in power, they always dance on the right.

Danielle Takacs said...

No one, not even the NDP disputes that tough choices were necessary to get our fiscal house in order in the 1990s. The child care plan was actually in the 2005 budget at a time when the Liberals were quite high in the polls. The NDP voted against it at first reading and don't seem to care if a child care plan ever comes to fruition since they don't seem to mind if Harper is Prime Minister for the next decade. So they seem content to have a Prime Minister who has been worse for women (by the NDP's own admission) than anyone that preceded him.

I can admit I wish I would have seen a comperehensive child care plan come sooner but the Liberals did deliver and it wasn't at a time when they were afraid of losing power like you claim. The Liberals are the only party that can bring back a credible child care plan and that's just the reality NDP supporters refuse to admit.

That said, Stephane Dion has gone farther than any past Liberal leader on women's issues and gender equality. I know from my conservations with female members of caucus that Stephane Dion is firmly committed to following through on all his commitments to women once in office and has been more committed to gender issues than any past Liberal leader. And he HAS walked the walk on female candidates - at last count Liberals were on pace to exceed his commitment to have at least one third female candidates which goes beyond what the Liberals have achieved in any past election.

So I am confident Stephane Dion would be an excellent Prime Minister for women and I think he would work well with the NDP to get things done on this score. After all Jack Layton has even praised Dion as being a different kind of leader, a "man of principle and conviction" that he thought Liberals would never elect because of that. So even Layton admits Dion follows through on his word. So I hope as many women as possible can behind Dion in the next election as we will all be better off with him as PM.