SAVE THE DATE! SMA will hold Why Your Vote Counts: Women's Equality and BC's Provincial Election, an all-candidates debate and much much more, on April 1st, 2017, at SFU Woodwards World Arts Centre.

We are seeking keen SMA activists and members to join our Planning Committee and contribute to building an excellent event. For more information, please email We look forward to hearing from you! If you want to drop into a planning meeting to check out the process, ask us about the next one and drop in to meet everyone. 

Please see below to read transcripts of a sampling of key note speeches delivered at our previous Women's Equality & the Federal Election: Why Your Vote Counts event during our last federal election.


Women's Equality & the Federal Election: Why Your Vote Counts! A Public Education Primer.

SMA is happy to share with our members and anyone else who could not attend, and also the general public, selected panel presentations delivered at our event on September 24th, at SFU Woodwards, by Shelagh Day and Iglika Ivanova. Please stay tuned for the presentations by Cherry Smiley, and Grace Lore, Equal Voice. 

The Federal Government’s Role

Remarks for SMA's Women’s Equality and the Federal Election, September 24, 2015

Shelagh Day

A strong and committed federal government is essential to achieving equality for women in Canada. The federal government needs to play a leadership role, not just by holding up women’s equality as a value that Canada stands for, but by structuring programs, taxation, laws and policies so that the distribution of resources and benefits advances women’s equality.

Strong social programs, including adequate social assistance, civil legal aid, child care, health care, home care, and access to adequate affordable housing create equality for women.

Women are persistently poorer than men. Why? Because we are still the primary caregivers for the young, the old and the ill. Much of women’s caregiving work is unpaid, and it limits women’s availability for paid work. The lack of affordable safe child care constrains women’s choices. And in the paid labour force, women tend still to be employed in the “caring occupations” and this “women’s work” is lower paid. We are also more likely to have part‑time jobs, with no job security, or benefits.

Because of the tight connection between women’s lives and various forms of caregiving, social programs play a central role for us. Programs, like health care and child care, shift some of the burden of caregiving from the shoulders of women to the state. They make it more possible for women to work, go to school, and be active in public life.  And income security programs, like unemployment insurance and social assistance, soften our economic dependence on men. All of these are equality‑creating programs.

Historically, the federal government has played a central role in the creation and maintenance of national social programs through the use of its spending power. It has supported, and set standards for, programs delivered at the provincial and territorial level, by transferring money designated for expenditure on certain social services and placing conditions on the transfers.

So it is a simple fact that when the federal government backs away from a leading role in social policy, when it transfers monies to the provinces and territories with no designations, and when, through tax cuts, it shrinks the revenue base that supports social programs, women are pushed backwards.  Canada’s dramatic fall on the UN gender equality index comes as no surprise.

Let’s talk about poor women.  The link between women’s poverty and vulnerability to violence is now widely acknowledged. When women are poor, they more likely to be coerced into sexually exploitive relationships with men, including prostitution.  If they don’t have adequate incomes, women cannot leave violent men because they cannot feed and house themselves and their children.

We all know this. Yet welfare rates across the country for every household type fall well below the poverty line. The federal government no longer attaches conditions to its transfers to ensure that social assistance is adequate to meet basic needs.

It is not credible to say that we believe in ending violence against women, when we are not prepared to provide women with social assistance that is above the poverty line.

Canada has no national anti-poverty strategy, and the provinces and territories cannot end poverty alone. A national anti‑poverty plan for Canada has been called for by a Parliamentary Committee, over 600 social justice groups, UN treaty bodies, the UN Human Rights Council and thousands of Canadians. Canada Without Poverty has developed a detailed national anti-poverty plan for Canada, that includes a national housing strategy.  Canada’s big city mayors and the Canadian Federation of Municipalities say that Canada has a housing and homelessness crisis, because there is not enough affordable housing to either buy or rent.

Women have the right to equality and the federal government has a key role to play in fulfilling the human rights of women. This requires fulfilling women’s right to an adequate standard of living, and creating and maintaining the national social programs that will support and enhance our equality.

So what will your parties do to end women’s equality deficit?


Remarks by Iglika Ivanova

Senior economist at CCPA-BC

Women’s Equality and the Federal Election: Why Your Vote Counts

Vancouver, BC, 24 September 2015

  The gender gap in Canada’s economy and what public policy can do about it

Thank you for this opportunity to share some of our CCPA research on the important role that public policy can play in moving us towards greater gender equality.

Let’s start with the basic facts.

In almost every industry, at every education level, working part-time or full-time, women in Canada are paid less than men. Canada’s gender pay gap is 8th-largest among OECD countries. Women working full-time, full-year earn 20% less on average than their male peers. Women of colour, First Nations women, immigrant women, women with disabilities are even farther behind. The gap has narrowed by less than 2% over the last 20 years.[1]

It’s remarkable how little the federal government’s done for women’s equality since 2000. Public funding for research on gender equality has been cut sharply. So has the budget of the Status of Women Canada, the federal organization tasked with improving the lives of women. We have seen the closure of many women’s rights organizations.

Women’s unequal place in the economy is very much connected to all the other issues we’re talking about tonight – it makes us more susceptible to poverty and to violence. Which is why it’s essential that we see these issues as interconnected and tackle them together, rather than in isolation.

One of the big challenges I see is that barriers holding women back today are less visible than they were 30 years ago. We tell our daughters that they can grow up to become anything they dream of – scientists, surgeons or prime ministers. I’m probably the first generation that grew up hearing that. The first generation in which women went to university in larger numbers than men. But we are still a lot more likely to be teachers and nurses than scientists, engineers and politicians. And even in the fields we work in, we’re less likely to be promoted to decision-making roles in our organizations.

Why does this happen?

I see two main reasons – first, actual sexism, or the belief that women have secondary status to men, and second, the question of caregiving and whose responsibility is it to care for society’s children, elders, and those who are ill.

Tonight I’ll focus on caregiving. For a number of reasons, caregiving is still assumed to be the job of women. Despite getting more education and working more, women continue to do considerably more unpaid caregiving work at home then their male peers. This simply leaves less time to work in the paid labour force, focus on their career, engage in the community, run for office.

This is where the federal government comes in. Social programs that shift the burden of caregiving from the shoulders of women and make them a collective, societal responsibility instead are absolutely essential for women to fully and equally participate in the economy.

When a federal government chooses to prioritize tax cuts at the expense of social programs, this holds women back.

Canada’s lack of affordable childcare often forces women into career choices that limit their earning power. This reduces women’s financial independence and it also means women are less able to save for their retirement and more likely to be poor in their senior years. Inadequate home support for the sick and elderly compounds the problem.

These are the types of things that countries with smaller gender gaps than Canada are doing differently. They are making it easier for women to combine paid work and family responsibilities by having affordable quality child care, home care and elder care programs, generous parental leave provisions, paid sick time and longer paid vacations.

One more thing. At the moment, women and men across Canada tend to work in different occupations. When our main job creation strategy is boosting the resource sector, infrastructure spending, or manufacturing – this is not gender-neutral. We need a jobs plan that also boosts sectors where women work. And, large federally funded infrastructure projects can be structured to require a certain share of jobs (say one fifth) to go to underrepresented workers, like women, people of colour, First Nations, youth.

I’m all for telling our daughters that the sky’s the limit. But we need to put in place the kind of public policies that I mentioned if we don't want to be lying to them.

Iglika Ivanova is a senior economist and Public Interest Researcher at the BC Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

[1] The statistics in this paragraph are drawn from: Kate McInturff and Paul Tulloch. 2014. Narrowing the Gap: The Difference That Public Sector Wages Make. CCPA: Ottawa.



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