Canadian Women's Groups Disappointed With Federal GovernmentMonday, July 26 2010
Canadian Coalition for Women's Equality The Canadian Coalition for Women’s Equality (CWE) is extremely disappointed that the federal government has once again released a budget which ignores its commitments to women.
Despite Minister Goodale‘s promise in the House of Commons on February 8th that he would take “gender factors” into account, this budget has once again let women down.
In its presentation to the Finance Committee, the CWE made the demand for increased federal supports in the areas of social housing, child care, income security, legal aid, and support for immigrant settlement programs as well as increased spending through the Canada Child Tax Benefit. The CWE also called for the conversion of non-reimbursable tax credits for persons with a disability to a reimbursable credit. All of these measures would have gone a long way to alleviating women’s poverty and promoting women’s equality.
In our view, some of the major pieces of the template required for securing Canada’s social foundations are totally absent from this budget. “The government has once again chosen to prioritize tax cuts to wealthy individuals and corporations over investing in our seriously dilapidated social infrastructure and women’s equality” said Lise Martin, Executive Director of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women. Indeed, the government has deliberately chosen to provide $13.4 billion in tax cuts over the next three years rather than invest in programs that could reduce women’s vulnerability to poverty.
“For the 2.4 million women currently living in poverty have very little to celebrate today. The government has not followed through on its housing promises nor has it made substantive changes in the EI program. These programs matter a lot for women” said Michèle Asselin of the Fédération des femmes du Québec.
While the government has made a commitment to a national child care program we see no accountability mechanisms to ensure the QUAD principles are respected. Women in Canada are looking for a child care program which is affordable and of high quality. The program must ensure inclusion for all and meet the multiple needs of women, including those living in rural areas and shift workers. This budget does not clearly deliver on these issues.
Of the $398 million over five years set aside for immigrant settlement and integration programs, a mere $20 million is to be disbursed in the first year. “It is heartening to see that the government has specifically targeted immigrant accreditation and settlement” said Anu Bose of the National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada. But again “we have a case of back-end-loading- the bulk of the spending is only in years four and five. It would have been useful if funds could have been earmarked to advance immigrant women’s equity.”
Finally, the Parliamentary Committee on the Status of Women’s recommendation to increase funding by 25% to the Women’s Program of Status of Women Canada has been ignored. Minister Frulla, however, managed to secure $688 million for culture and sport. Where does women’s equality fit into the Minister’s priorities?
In the same vein, a long standing promise to fund the Sisters in Spirit
Campaign spearheaded by the Native Women’s Association of Canada appears
to be unmet.
For more information please contact Sara Torres at (613) 563-0681 ext
224 or Nancy Peckford at (613) 292-7941.
'The adage 'you can't judge a book by its cover' comes to mind when analyzing the 2005 Federal Budget," says Elaine Teofilovici, CEO YWCA Canada. "When we examine the details we find that this budget is long on future commitments and short on immediate solutions," continues Teofilovici.
The good news comes in the resources ear-marked for child care. It is well understood that a child care system that meets the QUAD principleswould go a long way to improve equity for women in Canada. However, Teofilovici explains that, "When we analyze the 'commitment' to child care in this budget we are disappointed. There are no accountability mechanisms in place for the dollars allocated; there is no long term vision. We need assurance that the system will be built on evidence based research, not political whim. This means a not-for-profit system that provides excellent, affordable quality child care."
Never-the-less, promise after promise, budget after budget, the federal government is ignoring women's needs and rightful place in Canadian society.
YWCA Canada and other Canadian Women's Equality groups have identified solutions to improve the status of women in Canada. "We work with Canadian women everyday; we know what they need to reach equality," explains Teofilovici.
Women need affordable housing; access to legal aid; an increased Child Tax Benefit; decent and equal wages; quality, affordable child care; accessible education; and programs that support the economic and social progress of the 2.5 million women who currently live in poverty in Canada but are continuously ignored in federal budgets.
Women cannot continue to bare the brunt of a growing surplus. The federal government has realized seven years of surplus largely by barring part-time and contractual female workers from accessing employment insurance. This is not acceptable.
To Minister Goodale's recent public assertion that a gender analysis would be maintained in this budget, Teofilovici responds, "This is not a budget that will change the systemic challenges faced by Canadian women. In particular, single mothers, immigrant, visible minority and aboriginal women will remain exactly where they are today: at the bottom of the social and economic ladder in Canada". The National Council of Women of Canada
“Once again our Government has produced a balanced budget that offers something for everyone. The commitment to the armed forces and the tax relief measures for business are not the priorities of National Council of Women of Canada. It looks like an election budget,” said Catharine Laidlaw-Sly, NCWC President.
NCWC is dismayed that there is not any mention of improved programmes for housing the homeless. Canada still has a serious deficit of safe affordable housing for lower-income Canadians.
NCWC notes with approval the doubling of the maximum amount of medical and disability-related expenses that the unpaid caregiver can claim. However, since there is an arbitrary ceiling in place ($10,000/year), we need to know what analysis has informed this decision.
NCWC deplores that the Early Learning and Child Care programme is still no more than an initiative, but realizes that since this is a joint programme, both federal and provincial and territorial governments will have to co-operate and demonstrate the necessary political will to invest in Canada’s future citizens.
NCWC regrets that once again there has been no attempt to address the issue of maternity leave for women who are self-employed, even though the Minister evidently knows that they are an important contributor to Canada’s economy. This leave is still part of the EI system. Maternity is NOT unemployment! Ask any mother.
NCWC also is concerned that the biggest immediate benefits from the tax relief measures will go to wealthier citizens; low-income seniors get small immediate relief and it will take years for them to get the full benefit, time some do not have.
NCWC notes that commitment to the Kyoto Protocols has disappeared by name, that there are several positive moves but the approach is piecemeal. We anticipate more clarity in the Environment Minister’s plan. Child care money good first step; accountability needed
Ottawa made a solid downpayment on child care in the federal budget today, acting on its long-awaited $5-billion promise.
"It's a strong start, but we are concerned about the first-year trust," said Monica Lysack, executive director of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada. "It takes away the ability of the federal government to ensure the provinces and territories meet the principles of quality, universality, accessibility and developmental programming. The good news is that the trust is limited to one year and the government seems to be acknowledging the long-term problems of using this mechanism."
Lysack said the association wants to be involved in developing the accountability package that will come after the first year.
She said advocates across Canada will continue to closely monitor provincial and territorial child care spending. They will also lobby for future federal legislation that requires the provinces and territories to submit plans showing how they will produce quality, universal child care services.
"Funding without strong accountability won't transform a substandard service into a good system," Lysack said. "Over $1-billion federal dollars intended for child care have gone to the provinces and territories without strong accountability requirements through the Early Childhood Development initiative and the Multilateral Framework Agreement, yet the government would be hard-pressed to show the difference the money has made. The federal government must report to Parliament on child care spending."
The association wants the new child care money to expand non-profit services. This will help assure better quality, stop big-box commercial child care from setting up shop in Canada, and avoid added monitoring costs to make sure child care chains comply with standards.
Lysack said advocates will also press the government to make a commitment to more money beyond five years. The absence of a firm funding guarantee helped scuttle the anticipated child care agreement earlier this month. "The provinces and territories need to be able to move with confidence to create quality services to meet rising future demand."
The association represents more than 140,000 child care advocates: parents, caregivers, researchers, union members, women's groups, students and others. It expects a solid multilateral deal to come out of the next federal/provincial/territorial child care meeting. If some provinces or territories stonewall, the government should seek bilateral agreements with provinces and territories that are ready to go.
Child care is a critical component of family supports whose time has finally come, Lysack said. Canada has spent over $7 billion on the Child Tax Benefit, and has expanded its parental leave. While there's more to be done in these areas, parents desperately need action on child care.
There are only 315,000 regulated child care spaces for Canada's 2.1 million children under six years of age.
"Canada's families need good child care they can count on and afford. They've waited for decades for governments to solve the child care crisis. They can't wait any longer."