What will Budget 2009 hold for Canadian women? Not much, if the history of the Harper government is any indication.
Since coming to power in 2006, the Conservative government has axed the national childcare program, cut $5.5 million in funding to Status of Women Canada — resulting in 12 of 16 of their offices closing across the country —, and made threats against the pay equity program.
Am I being bitter by not expecting anything in that $21-billion deficit for Canadian women?
To be fair, these cuts didn’t affect all Canadian women. According to the 2006 census, there were only 5.5 million families with children at home, and only slightly more than 5.5 million children under the age of 14.
Not all women work, either. According to that same census, only 76.3 per cent of women age 25-54 in Canada work for a wage. These same women average an annual income approximately $15,000 less than the average income of their male counterparts.
Of course, this could be because women traditionally take lower paying positions than men. But exploring why is an entirely different blog entry.
If a woman believes she is being paid lower than her male colleagues for the same work, she can take her case to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
But not for much longer if the Conservatives have their way.
Last November, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced they would scrap the pay equity process in favour of legislation that would make pay equity part of the collective bargaining process.
That’s great – if you’re unionized. How many women working at Wal-Mart, for example, can afford to pay for a lawyer to take their employer to court in order to receive wages equal to their male colleagues?
Quitting and finding another job isn’t an option for most people, particularly if you have a family. But juggling kids and a career became harder for Canadian families after the Conservatives axed the national childcare program and replaced it with $1,200 a year per child under six years old.
That isn’t enough to keep children in diapers, let alone daycare. It’s great if you can stay home with your children, but when the average two-parent family with both parents working only made $76,000 per year in 2006, not many women have that luxury.
So what’s next? Best case scenario is the status quo, as Harper isn’t going to reinstate old programs during a time of economic recession. Worse case scenario? We’ll just have to wait and see.