We used to hear a lot about the feminization of poverty. It hasn't been in the news much lately. Yet women remain among the poorest of the poor in Canada, and the percentage of women living in poverty is growing. Almost 19% of adult women are now poor - the highest rate of women's poverty in two decades.
On October 15, women, children and men will take to the streets in more than 140 countries in the World March of Women. Marchers will demand an end to poverty and violence against women. On the eve of the march, Premier Ujjal Dosanjh and Joan Smallwood, Minister of Women's Equality, are co-hosting a conference in Vancouver on women's economic equality. As an attempt to raise the profile of women's issues in BC, this event is necessary and timely. There is, however, an urgent need to move from talk to action.
There is something so disheartening about having to argue in favour of pay equity in the 21st century. How can this still be a controversial issue? Yet it remains so here in B.C. Business interests are outraged that the government intends to introduce pay equity legislation. Their main worry? It will cost them money. Is this a reason NOT to have modern pay legislation? No. Of course it will cost businesses money. And, they should pay it -- after all, they have profited by underpaying women since the province began.
BC is not meeting its obligations to women under international human rights law. That was the clear message of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in comments issued last week in New York City-just in time for International Women's Day (March 8).
After years on the back pages, child care is once again on the agenda. The federal government is talking about a national child care plan and the federal budget included $935 million for early learning and child care. On March 13th, federal/provincial/territorial Ministers agreed to spend these funds over the next 5 years to improve access to affordable, regulated, quality child care programs. Here in BC, however, we are moving in the opposite direction, cutting money from child care and "restructuring" child care funding in ways that erode access.
"I have tried 5 different babysitters. I wish I could send my child back to the daycare centre; he loved it there - but when we lost the subsidy we had to leave. We can barely pay our rent and buy food."
With a federal campaign on, promises are flying faster than the puck at a playoff game. Most recently, Paul Martin pledged several billion dollars for child care over the next five years. This isn't the first time federal Liberals have promised major action on child care. Canada's kids deserve a government that will deliver.