Make women’s issues election issues

Women’s issues always disappear at election time, so I decided to take a quick pre-election look at the platforms of Ontario’s main political parties to see what they had to say on this topic.

I found a desert.

What do the platforms tell us?

The NDP mentions gender equity and gender-based violence  in its Vision for Ontario, which is more than the three other parties do, but it is little more than a nod to what should be an important plank in every party’s platform, especially given the shocking death toll from acts of femicide in Ontario so far this year.

The Liberal Party’s website talks about raising the minimum wage, pharmacare and free tuition for post-secondary education, all of which, of course, would have a positive impact on women. However, despite the current government’s commitment to gender-based violence, nothing on the website indicates any policies aimed specifically at women’s equality or ending violence against women.

The Green Party sets its issues out under three headings: jobs, people and planet. It has the most detailed description of its platform of any of the four parties I looked at, but even so I could not find the word women anywhere.

The website for the Progressive Conservative Party is mostly full of excitement about its new leader, Doug Ford, who tells us he is committed to defeating the “morally corrupt Wynne Liberals.” There is no sign of a platform or even key issues the party plans to campaign around, but we do know from Ford’s comments that he intends to try to roll back Ontario’s sex education curriculum and has said that he wants to require parental consent for a minor to obtain an abortion.

What can we do?

If the political parties are not going to make women’s issues election issues, we need to do it for them. We can call for a provincial leaders’ debate on women’s equality/gender-based violence issues. We can set up all candidates’ meetings about the issues that matter to women in our ridings. We can ask questions about key women’s issues at all candidates’ meetings in our ridings. We can survey candidates to get their opinions and commitments about these issues.

And what are those issues? Here are a few to get us started, but add to my list by posting suggestions in the comments section at the end of this blog:

  • Ending gender-based violence: The GBV strategy announced recently by the present government is an important step, but more needs to be done
  • Addressing violence against Indigenous women
  • Housing: lack of affordable, safe housing forces many women trying to leave abusive relationships onto the street or back to their abuser
  • Childcare: it is hard to find a job when you can’t afford to pay for good quality child care
  • Sex education curriculum: the curriculum introduced by the present government provides children and youth with important information so they can keep themselves safe and treat themselves and one another with respect
  • Creating safe workplaces: women need to be safe from intimate partner violence and sexual violence/harassment in their workplaces
  • Increasing sexual safety at school: post-secondary educational institutions still do not respond adequately to sexual violence on their campuses
  • Ending women’s poverty: Increasing the minimum wage and basic income guarantee are just two components of a strategy to move women out of poverty

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