Friday, 30 January 2009

Soccer Mom Budget

I have nothing against women who can afford to stay home and raise their kids, or those who can follow a successful career outside their home and afford a nanny or other costly daycare. However, they are not the majority of women.

The budget conjured up by Harper and Flaherty, under threat from a potential coalition government, does not address the needs of the most vulnerable, and that includes many Canadian women.

The income tax cuts will mostly help fairly affluent households. Upping the "baby bonus" amounts will not address the need of affordable day care and is just another perk for affluent households. Ditto for tax credits in support of kids' hockey camps and piano lessons. The "cottage deck" initiative does nothing to provide affordable housing for low income, fixed income, under-employed, unemployed and unable to work women across this country. There is also the failure to change Employment Insurance eligibility to provide income relief to many women who work in jobs that make them ineligible or hold onto part-time work that doesn't allow them to access the program.

I didn't expect better from Harper. Nor did I expect him to respect pay equity. You only have to look at the list of resolutions passed at the last Conservative Party convention to recognize how despised women's rights are in his party.

What really burns is to recognize that neither pay equity nor the failure to address the needs of the most vulnerable was not considered a "poison pill" by the official opposition.

Sadly, I was hoping that Ignatieff would prove me wrong and display some courage. Unfortunately, I was wrong. It seems that vulnerability is an abstract concept for this Ivy League "human rights" expert.

Thanks to the Regina Mom, who reminded many of us that Anita Neville is the LPC critic for Status of Women, I fired off this letter:

Dear Ms. Neville,

I live in a riding adjacent to yours so I am not writing as one of your constituents but as a concerned Canadian woman. I am writing to you today since you are the Liberal critic responsible for the status of women.

The budget presented by Harper's Conservative government is a failed attempt at addressing the severe recession we are entering. Mr. Ignatieff seems to recognize this but still insists on supporting it with the proviso of periodic report cards. This is a meaningless gesture that does nothing to protect the most vulnerable, which includes many women across Canada. This budget provides little of no relief for low income, single income, unemployed and working women.

Those who are fortunate enough to still have jobs need meaningful childcare supports, something former PM Martin recognized but didn't act upon fast enough. Those without jobs or earning low incomes need refundable tax credit mechanisms to supplement household income and not increases in income exemptions and bracketing that fail to provide women with non-taxable incomes little relief. Many of the women who will lose their jobs will not qualify for EI benefits based on the current system. And lose their jobs they will since most women are employed in the retail and services sectors (including health care) and the taxation and economic stimulus measures will not create very many opportunities or protect jobs in these sectors.

But what really galls me is that the Liberals have failed to demand a reversal of the government's attack on pay equity. We have known that this was on the table since Flaherty first presented his economic update in November. Failing to demand that this loathsome and regressive move be struck from the budget is reprehensible. While President Obama moves the US a step forward, PM Harper with support of the official opposition moves Canada two steps backwards.

I beg of you that you vote with your conscience and engage your caucus to re-examine their official position. This is not the time to play petty politics.

Yours respectfully,

Beijing York

Cross-posted at Resettle THIS!


Chrystal Ocean said...

Excellent letter.

Sent an email to Iggy on Tuesday (before he rubber-stamped the budget), cc'd it to Duceppes and Layton, and sent emails today to Anita Neville and Maria Minna. Pointed out to all how the budget so utterly fails to cushion the already poor from rising rents and food prices.

Asked that they vote down the budget.

'Course no one listens to me, but if enough of us make our objections known, well...

Beijing York said...

Seems that Hedy Fry has now been appointed an outreach committee chair on the Status of Women. I guess I should forward the letter to her as well.

My letter went out late in the day so I guess I shouldn't anticipate any response until Monday.

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