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Ontario tries to empower women, but ends up with stale report

Engaging empowered women in Ontario is getting more political airtime, with more focus on the “status of women” in legislature. But will it have the desired impact of actually helping women in Ontario?

The province released an engagement paper on June 9 that describes the ways in which the government wants to increase women empowerment and close the wage gap. The paper includes a survey with questions about youth, economic opportunities, social attitudes, and leadership. These are significant issues for women and addressing them is important — as long as it is for and about the women in Ontario, instead of an election issue to win votes with no real purpose.

The survey asks Canadian citizens what they believe is the most important component to women’s empowerment via a series of detailed questions. The issue with the survey is that it offers several reasons why women don’t have complete equality in Ontario and doesn’t mandate the survey-taker to choose which issue is the most important on every question. This allows the people taking the survey to choose every issue and not specify what subject matters should be tackled first. It is fairly obvious that each of the four goals specified in the report is important, but asking if all of them are important is redundant. This is often seen in government surveys and makes a democratic and potentially helpful questionnaire essentially pointless.

Though Ontario is making strides with women, the efforts thus far is limited. For example, the province has committed to help 100,000 children obtain licensed child care over the next five years, but the subsidy waiting list in Toronto alone is 18 months long. There are also efforts to help 1700 low-income women gain financial literacy training, but there are thousands of women who still need help to gain education and training to move up in the world. Needless to say, more is needed and it shouldn’t be based on fulfilling commitments five years down the road, but should be fulfilled now.

The report is well-minded, but still lends itself to words such as “encouraging women to explore different careers”, and “supporting continued career progression”, but lacks specific goals with targeted language. Though it is important to “encourage” and “support”, women need action and specific goals with a ready-made budget instead of a tentative report and survey. Often, talking about women empowerment is seen as enough action when credible and supported goals need to be met to actually close the wage gap and promote women equality.

Women’s economic empowerment is a primary concern in Ontario and needs to be addressed with affirmative action as soon as possible. Between reports, surveys, and loosely mandated changes, there remains a gap on giving childcare to all women who need it so they can work. Pay wage gaps must also be addressed immediately, and board positions should be mandated to have 50/50 representation.  The engagement paper is yet another shining example of the government using ‘status of women’ to appease female voters — what will it take to get the real support and action women need?

Is the government scared of an informed youth?

*UPDATE: Since the publication of this piece, Women’s Post has been contacted by Paris Semansky, Senior policy advisor to Premier Kathleen Wynne, via Twitter. She insists the provincial government is not considering cancelling civics classes and will be keeping it as a distinct mandatory course in high school. Women’s Post will be keeping this piece online as it does represent an important discussion about youth involvement in politics, but note this update as you read.

 

“Today’s youth are too apathetic and lazy. They don’t care about politics. They don’t understand how their own government works.”

I’m a millennial, and despite my intense interest in the news, my teachers and political leaders often told me that I was not doing enough. My generation, they said, was too apathetic. They didn’t vote, they didn’t get involved, and they simply didn’t care. And whose fault is that, they would ask? Entirely yours, they would say.

It’s been almost 10 years since I graduated high school, and those statements are still thrown in the face of young people across the country. It’s not a politician’s fault they can’t engage with youth, right? These kids spend too much time on Snapchat and not enough time reading the newspaper, ect. ect.

But then, after all of the nagging and the finger pointing, the Ontario government has the gall to consider cancelling civic classes.

Civic class represent a mandatory half credit in Ontario high schools, and is paired with a half-credit “careers” course. It teaches the basics — how our government works, how to vote, and what people’s rights are as a Canadian citizen. The careers course, on the other hand, essentially teaches kids to write a resume and not to chew gum during a job interview.

These are two integral and important classes, classes that should not under any circumstance be dismissed. In fact, I would argue that each course should be a full credit. Kids should be taught how to budget, file their taxes, and negotiate a sale. They should be taught how to submit a deposition to city council, hold a legal protest, and where to find information on the bills being discussed in question period. They should be taken to see question period!

And yet media sources report that the provincial government is considering removing these critical classes from the high school curriculum. How much do you want to bed that they will still blame kids for not understanding how their own government works?

The province has a right to be scared. Civics is breeding a new generation of informed citizens, kids who understand that they don’t vote for a leader of a party, despite what every political campaign tells them. These kids understand that most promises are smoke screens for hidden agendas. They get it! They ask questions. They are skeptical!

And that’s a scary thought. All of a sudden, MPPs have to focus their political capital on a generation they previously ignored. They have to pretend to care. Their career could depend on the vote of a single 18-year-old entering university for the first time.

No wonder the province doesn’t want to invest in informed citizens. An informed citizen is dangerous to the entire political system. An informed citizen will vote, take part in the discussion, and advocate for change!

It’s much better to just knick that pesky habit before it even develops.

 

civics

Toronto Transit Alliance host symposium on the Big Move

Think big. That was the message being put forward by the Toronto Transit Alliance (TTA), their panel of guests and a room full of self-professed transit geeks. On the panel were Bruce McQuaig, President and Chief Executive Officer of Metrolinx, Richard Joy of the Toronto Board of Trade, Mitsy Hunter of Civic Action and Cherise Borda of the Pembina Institute. The Big Move is a transportation plan for the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area (GTHA) being put forward by the provincial government agency Metrolinx. At 25 years and $50 billion, the Big Move is the first plan of its kind. The potential is here to have a drastically positive impact on the GTHA. Everything from community connection to employment could be impacted. There is only one problem: How are we going to pay for it?

Sarah Thomson, Chair of the TTA and Publisher of Women’s Post, has been adamant about pushing for a 1% regional sales tax. Such a method would get those living and working in the region to share in the cost while raising more than $800 million per year toward municipal revenue. Is this the answer? Possibly.

There are a number of other tools that cannot be discounted. A recent report from Metrolinx advised the region look at a number of option revenue options; chief among them connecting expansion to property tax and tolling roads.

Whatever revenue tool the region chooses to utilize, this is an issue that needs to be resolved. As things stand currently, the region is losing $6 billion annually to gridlock. That number is only expecting to balloon to $15 billion by 2031. But Richard Joy made it clear that we have an opportunity if an early provincial election is called. He is calling on Ontarians to make this the ‘transportation election.’ Put transportation on the map during the coming election cycle. Transportation consistently ranks among health and education as the most important issues to Ontarians. It is time we responded to it as such by calling on the government to create a dedicated stream of funding specific to transportation.

One thing is certain: if governments and citizens do not address this now, the issue will get away from them. Transportation has already become a generational issue. If we act now we can make sure the next generation is not saying the same thing to us. So, as Thomson said to close the symposium, “Tell everyone you know about the need for revenue tools.”

 

For more information on the TTA’s proposals to ‘unlock gridlock,’ take a look at their website and follow them on Twitter at @TransitAlly and #UnlockGridlock.