Sunday, October 25, 2009

Michael Ignatieff Makes a Commitment to Canadian Women

I don't believe that Michael Ignatieff was really aware of how politics are played in Canada now. He had campaigned for Pierre Trudeau when he was younger, and since his father was a Canadian diplomat, knew his way around the halls of government.

But he was unprepared for the personal, venomous attacks by Stephen Harper and the Reform-Conservatives. Mining tapes and lectures, looking for just the right soundbite to discredit the Liberal leader. Six months of having his image float by on television. It was like having a stalker.

However, I'm glad he's over his shell shock and coming out now emphasizing his priorities. He already took a bold stand on a national childcare plan, wanting that to be his legacy, and that of his party's. Ken Dryden spent several years on this, but with the stroke of a pen, Harper cancelled the entire thing. Charles McVety is taking the credit and was an invited guest of Jim Flaherty's when the announcement was made in the House of Commons.

Another commitment for Mr. Ignatieff is getting the country back on track when it comes to women's issues. Harper gets his cues from Real Women of Canada and the Religious Right, but Mr. Ignatieff takes his cues from us.

And this is not all smoke and bluster for political brownie points. You are not invited to head up the Human Rights Department at Harvard if you are sexist, and in his Massey Lectures, delivered in Canada; he speaks openly about several issues relating not only to women's rights, but women's struggles.

"Women still do not receive equal pay for equal work and the burdens of unpaid child care still fall disproportionately upon them .... This inequality is not imagined; it is painfully real. In Canada, statistics show that even now, after a generation of feminist progress, 70 per cent of the burden of caring for the children, the aged, the disabled, and the sick falls on women, most of whom receive no pay for these essential tasks.

"But feminism was much more that a revolt against certain kinds of sacrifice, notably the sacrifice of female identity...
(The Rights Revolution: CBC Massey Lectures, Michael Ignatieff, Anansi, ISBN: 978-0-88784-762-2)

He speaks not only of rights, but recognition. Young women today take a lot for granted, so when Harper removed the word 'equality' from the status of women, it may not have had the same impact, as it would to those of us who fought so hard to have that word put in.

When the Reform-Conservatives secretly rewrote our foreign policy to have 'gender equality' removed, maybe they can just shrug their shoulders.

I'm glad that the Liberals are addressing women's issues again, and making this a priority. This is not the Canada of the 'Promise Keepers', and we've worked very hard for the strides made over the last few decades.

Ignatieff is getting hammered in the polls, especially in Ontario; partly due to the provincial Liberals, who seem to be getting it from both ends. The new Conservative leader is a Mike Harris protege. Another neo-Conservative from the Leo Strauss school.

But I still have confidence in the Canadian people, because our worst nightmare will be a Harper majority. I've followed his Reformers for two decades now, and they have not changed. Women will be 'put in their place', because that's where they believe women should be. Very troubling for someone who's been down that road before.

Ignatieff commits to women's issues
Liberals pledge to improve equal pay, launch search for missing aboriginal women and improve support for seniors

OTTAWA – Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is committing his party, if elected, to improve equal pay for women, launch a full-scale investigation of missing Aboriginal women and establish a national program of day-care and early learning.

He singled out these policies today among a wide-ranging set of proposals affecting the health, work lives and security of women put forward by the Liberals' national women's caucus.

Ignatieff said his party will commit to more pledges on women's issues in advance of the next election.

"This is a party that's always understood the challenges faced by women," Ignatieff said as his party released the third version of the so-called Pink Book prepared by caucus members.

Among the other proposals the women's caucus would like to see a Liberal government adopt are:

— A federal-provincial poverty reduction strategy "to deal with the persistent problem of poverty among women."
— Easing qualifications during the current recession for receiving Employment Insurance benefits.
— Conduct a review of the pension system.
— Develop a national housing strategy to help low-income Canadians.
— Improve government support for seniors.
— Work with the provinces to ensure an adequate supply of health care professionals by 2017.
— Set up a national 1-800 hotline number for women who are being abused.
— Bring in legislation to protect and assist victims of human trafficking

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