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Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Woman’s Place: At the Heart of our Democracy, Our Economy, Our Communities and Our Future

A Woman’s Place: At the Heart of our Democracy, Our Economy, Our Communities and Our Future
February 1st, 2012

New Democrats have a long and proud feminist tradition that spans from fights for childcare, pay equity, reproductive choice and legal reform to electing the first woman to lead a national political party and running a historic number of women candidates in the 2011 election. This commitment to the advancement of women is both a core value and a practical strategy: New Democrats know that when women can fully participate, Canada is a stronger, fairer and more caring country.

Women have won incredible gains in opportunities and formal equality within the last generation, thanks to the persistence and dedication of women and the women’s movement. But after decades of improvement, in Stephen Harper’s Canada, that hard-fought legacy of achievement and the promise of a more equal future are at risk.

Today, women in Canada earn just 70 cents for every dollar earned by men, and more than half of single women over age 65 now live in poverty. Regardless of their job status, many women are struggling to make ends meet as the primary caregivers to children and the elderly. Meanwhile, half of all Canadian women will experience criminal violence in their lifetime—including sexual assault and domestic abuse.

Instead of working with women to meet these challenges, Stephen Harper has responded by attacking pay equity, drastically reducing funding to groups which advocate for the rights of women, and proposing to weaken the Old Age Security that many senior women depend on.

The real majority of Canadians reject this attack on women’s equality. Like Paul Dewar, they know that women must have a place at the heart of our democracy, our economy, our communities and our future as a country.

Paul Dewar is a lifelong ally of the feminist movement who looks to his mother Marion Dewar and New Democrat Member of Parliament Rosemary Brown as his political role models. From integrating equality and respect in his career as a teacher to campaigning for women’s role in peace building as a Member of Parliament, Dewar has made women's equality a centrepiece of his commitment to Canada.

As Canada's first New Democrat Prime Minister, Dewar will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the women's movement in advancing equality:

Economic Equality

To build a better future for Canada and Canadian women, a Paul Dewar led New Democrat government will begin by tackling gendered economic inequality. Women work hard and deserve a fair chance in our economy – working hard to make ends meet should mean that families can get ahead. A fairer economy starts with lower tuition fees, ensuring that quality post-secondary education is within reach for women in Canada, without leading to massive personal debt. It means investing in affordable, accessible, quality, not-for-profit child care, which gives women and families the opportunity to fully participate in the job market. And it means targeted measures to address poverty and homelessness, which is still a persistent threat to too many women and their families.

An NDP government led by Paul Dewar will:

- Adopt the recommendations of the federal 2004 Pay Equity Task Force report, including adoption of a new proactive pay equity law and expansion of pay equity coverage to include women and Aboriginal workers, workers with disabilities, and workers of colour;

- Make education more affordable by increasing federal grants for post-secondary education and training by $200 million/year; and

- Invest in a National Housing Strategy by partnering with provinces, territories, and municipalities to build new affordable and accessible housing units;

- Ensure women can fully participate in the workforce by implementing a national child care program to create a network of affordable, high-quality, licensed, non-profit childcare spaces from coast to coast to coast;

- Protect seniors by ensuring they have access to strengthened CPP/QPP benefits, Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement at age 65;

- Extending existing legislation to allow caregivers to collect Employment Insurance while taking time off work to care for ailing family members for up to six months;

- Introduce a new Caregiver Benefit, modelled after the Child Tax Benefit, to assist low and middle-income families with the costs of everyday needs while caring for elderly or dependant family members;

- Create a federal tax credit for fertility treatments, starting from the first attempt;
Create an independent investment fund to provide start-up capital for women entrepreneurs.

Democratic Equality

New Democrats have many exceptional women in our ranks. But the truth is that we need to do more to ensure that women are involved at every step in our democracy. Many organizations across the country are doing innovative work to engage women in the political process, but under Stephen Harper funding has been severely curtailed. It’s time to change that, beginning by boosting funding for women’s organizations and removing rules that prevent them from doing research and advocacy if they receive federal funds. From the community level to the halls of Parliament, Paul Dewar is committed to building a better Canada by putting more women on the ballot, in Cabinet, and at the highest levels of government.

An NDP government led by Paul Dewar will:

- Guarantee that at least half the members of Cabinet will be women, while respecting regional balance;

- Encourage political parties to nominate women as candidates by tying public financing to the number of women each party fields as candidates;

- Move to a fairer voting system based on proportional representation, which will increase the proportion of women and visible minorities in elected office;

- Establish Status of Women as a full government department, and mandate it develop expertise in gender equality and gender budgeting in every department;

- Re-establish funding for women’s advocacy organizations, which has been systematically dismantled by successive Liberal and Conservative governments.

Social and Cultural Equality

Canada’s strength is its diversity: two official languages; a thriving Aboriginal culture represented by the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities; a growing understanding of the important contribution made by people regardless of their ability; and families from every corner of the globe. Everywhere you look, women are leading the charge for greater equality and understanding between these communities. Paul Dewar will work in solidarity with women to move Canada forward.

An NDP government led by Paul Dewar will:

- Tackle family reunification backlogs to ensure that families can stay together, settle, and build lives in Canada;

- Invest in a national home care strategy to allow seniors to stay in their homes longer and reduce the burden on existing acute care services;

- Double federal funding to provincial Legal Aid programs to ensure that all women, no matter what their income, have access to justice;

- Include gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and amend hate crimes and sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code to provide explicit protection for transgender and transsexual Canadians;

- Improve public awareness of violence against women, particularly Aboriginal women and women with disabilities, through the consistent collection and publication of comprehensive national statistics;

- Improve Aboriginal women's access to justice by working with Aboriginal women’s organizations, survivors of violence and family members to launch a national inquiry into the overwhelming number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

Women’s Health and Security

Every woman has the right to be safe at home or in the community, but half of all Canadian women will experience violence at least once in their lives. Community organizations that support women have been left to deal with the huge need for services on shoe-string budgets – and the unacceptable result is that over 400 women were turned away from shelters on an average day in 2010.
Canada can do better to tackle violence against women, and to address the systematic barriers to quality health services that still exist across the country. The health services women receive shouldn’t depend on postal code.

An NDP government led by Paul Dewar will:

- Establish a fund to allow provinces, municipalities, and community organizations to build transition houses for women and children escaping violence, particularly in rural areas;

- Partner with the White Ribbon Campaign to launch a national, multi-year awareness campaign encouraging men to end men’s violence against women;
Enforce the Canada Health Act and ensure access to safe, legal, and free abortion on demand in every province in Canada;

- Develop, in partnership with Aboriginal communities, a national strategy for maternal and child health that includes access to safe water, midwifery services, healthy food, and improved hospital care.

International Equality

Women are the secret engine of economic growth, increased equality, and stronger democracy in the developing world. Given the most basic support, investing in women brings incredible results: for every 1 percent increase in the proportion of women with secondary education, a developing country's annual per capita income growth rate will go up about 0.3 percentage points. For Canada to make a difference in the world, we need to deliver for girls and women.

An NDP government led by Paul Dewar will:

- Pursue an international campaign for the elimination of rape as a weapon of war;

- Make economic, educational and democratic empowerment for women and girls a core focus of Canada's development policy;

- Promote women's meaningful participation in peace building as a central plank of our international diplomacy, and implement Canada’s National Action Plan on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security;

- End the ban on funding for organizations that provide women with a full range of options for family planning.

Paul Dewar's commitment to women's equality will make Canada a stronger and more caring country.

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