March 7, 2020
Ontario Conservatives launched their war on women the moment they took office.
March 8 is International Women’s Day. What better time to take a look at the PCs abysmal record on women’s issues?
The most recent misogynist attack came Thursday, when the government withdrew $1 million in extra funding for rape crisis centres, money that is desperately needed to provide services to sexual assault survivors in our province. After the cut was made public, a government source said the funding would arrive, just from a different source. That source failed to mention that the PCs have already assured that rape crisis centres will struggle financially. They did it in their first year in office, by cutting promised funding by $14.8 million dollars.
In a country where one in three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, ensuring that sexual assault survivors get the help they require must be a priority, just not under a Conservative government in Ontario, apparently.
This is not a government that cares about equality. Instead it eliminated key equity ministries responsible for the Status of Women, and another important avenue to women’s equality, the Anti-racism Directorate.
The Conservatives’ cuts keep on coming, every single one having a disproportionate effect on women in this province.
From dismantling decent work laws to funding cuts to legal aid, or callous cuts that cause the closure of child care spaces, the Ford government is skilled at creating barriers along the path to attaining equality for Ontario women.
Pay equity is one example. First, the PCs paused the Pay Transparency Act, an important tool for pay equity, despite the fact that racialized women in Ontario face a 38 per cent pay gap, Indigenous women face a 48 per cent wage gap, and women on average make 29.3 per cent less than men.
The PCs continue their war on women’s wages with Bill 124, which undermines the collective bargaining process protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Bill 124 limits compensation increases to a rate far below inflation for public sector workers. Women are the largest segment of employees in the public sector, with racialized workers making up a significant portion of the workforce.
Before Bill 124, they could be confident that their wages and benefits would be freely and fairly negotiated in collective bargaining. Unions have a proven track record of fighting for equality, and are central to bargaining wage increases that will close the gender pay gap in Ontario’s public service, and beyond.
These public sector workers, most of them women, are nursing professionals, personal support workers and nursing home care staff. They are child care workers. The majority of them make at or near minimum wage.
We’ve seen the government focus its attacks on public education, another sector with a majority-women workforce.
The hard truth is that every cut the government is making has a disproportionate effect on women in this province.
The PC’s misogyny is expressed in its own ranks as well. From Sam Oosterhoff’s clumsy anti-choice statements, to the demotions of key women within the Cabinet: Caroline Mulroney, Lisa MacLeod, Lisa Thompson and Merrilee Fullerton. If you’re a woman in Ontario, the PC party is not looking out for you.
Women know that when we fight, we can win. A case in point is the recent pay equity victory for midwives.
The Persons Case paved the way for all women in Canada to gain the right to vote.
The Premier likes to refer to “The People.” I have a newsflash for him: “The People” includes all women.
On February 22, in Niagara Falls outside the PC Policy Conference, we witnessed an outpouring of protest from the people of Ontario. I guarantee that when election day comes in 2022, women in this province will take a hard look at which candidates are working for equality, and which ones have shown that they only care about the little guy.
Women are joining forces in our unions and in our communities.
Friends, we will take every opportunity in the lead up to the next election to stand up for women. The mobilizing has already begun. Doug Ford and his Conservatives’ war on women will not end well for this government. The power of many women voting will defeat them.
Mark my words.
Happy International Women’s Day.
Patty Coates is the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, which represents 54 unions and a million workers in Ontario. For information, visit OFL.ca and follow @OFLabour on Facebook and Twitter.
- Op Ed
- Women Workers