Advisory Council on the Status of Women
June 24, 2004
For immediate release
Women’s Equality Must Be On Political Agenda
Advisory Council on the Status of Women
The Advisory Council distributed its "Federal Election 2004: Guide to the Issues" in the first week of the election campaign. In it, they outlined eight areas Island women had identified as vital to advancing equality rights: legal aid, divorce reform, abortion rights, recognition of unpaid work, early childhood care and education, maternity and parental benefits, women's voices in national debates, and electoral reform. The Advisory Council invited the parties to respond to a key question on each topic and were pleased to receive responses to all questions from representatives of the local NDP, Liberals, Greens, and Conservatives.
"We're happy the parties took the time to respond to our questions," says Lisa Murphy, Director of the Advisory Council, "although what we wanted most of all was for the parties and candidates to acknowledge these issues in their policy directives and their campaign materials and on their websites. We need the political parties and the candidates to recognize that women and the issues that many Island women are concerned about are not an afterthought."
Local candidates' campaign materials are almost entirely silent on women's issues. However, the parties took time to prepare positions and make suggestions on government reforms in issue areas that would advance the status of women. They made these responses available to the Advisory Council, and the Council wants to make them public.
"The parties' responses to our questions are carefully thought-out and well articulated," says Advisory Council researcher/policy analyst Jane Ledwell. "They make good — and important — reading for all Islanders," The Advisory Council has compiled the local candidates' thoughts on the issues and supplemented them with analysis. "We hope that this resource will be helpful to women who are still making up their minds about who to vote for in the final days of the election campaign," says Ledwell.
The local responses to the Advisory Council's questions are particularly valuable because the national parties' platforms are uneven in their treatment of questions important to women. The Advisory Council has noted some of the national trends.
"Nationally, the Liberals at least acknowledge that women face special challenges in the workplace and at home and are making some efforts to get more women into politics," summarizes Director Lisa Murphy.
She continues, "While the provincial Binns-led Progressive Conservatives have done some great work to strengthen Island families, including paying for kindergarten, the federal Conservative platform doesn't suggest there is such a thing as a women's issues. Their founding principles presume we all get equal opportunity to make our own lives and that we make our own luck. We don't. For example, in the Island workforce it's women, not men, who mostly work in lower-paying jobs in virtually all sectors. That's because women face barriers to equality. Not so lucky after all."
Murphy says, "The national NDP platform addresses women's concerns most completely, and incorporates equality-supporting ideas into almost all its mainstream policies. For example, when they talk about renewing cities, they always talk about affordable housing for low-income families."
She concludes, "Gender equality is a core principle of the Green Party and underlies all their policies and policy-making."
"The local candidates' responses to our questionnaire reflect the national platforms," says researcher Jane Ledwell, "but their answers to Island women's questions give a much more revealing picture of local candidates' priorities and how they will work for change if elected. The next challenge is for the parties and candidates to consistently address women's equality in all aspects of their policy and campaigning."
The PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women's document of candidates' responses and Advisory Council analysis is available on-line at www.gov.pe.ca/acsw or by calling 368-4510.
Lisa Murphy, Director
Jane Ledwell, Researcher/Policy Analyst
PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women
PO Box 2000 (9 Queen Street)
Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
tel 902 368 4510 fax 902 368 4516