ontario politics

Equal Pay Day: Time to Close the Gap

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 6.49.47 AMby Jarrah Hodge

This shouldn’t  be news for regular readers of this blog, but on average women in Canada still aren’t paid equally to men. In Ontario the pay gap is 28% and the Equal Pay Coalition of labour and community groups is calling for the provincial government to officially recognize today, April 9, as Equal Pay Day, just as it has been in the U.S., Australia, and many European countries.

As the coalition points out:

Equal Pay Day marks the injustice faced by women and focuses the efforts of governments, legislators employers and others on working together to close the pay gap.

The hope is that with greater awareness and action, the day can be earlier each year until it is no longer needed.

Here’s what you can do to help out: 

1. Email Premier Kathleen Wynne to ask her to recognize April 9 as Equal Pay Day. A form email is already set up on the coalition’s website – you just need to enter your info and hit send.

2. Wear red today to show your support and make the point that women are “in the red” in terms of their wages. Whether or not you’re wearing red, take a minute to get some more facts about the pay gap and make a commitment to talking to your friends, relatives, or coworkers about the gap and why it’s important to close it.

3. Tweet using the #EqualPayDay hashtag

4. If you’re feeling particularly motivated, check out the other action ideas the Coalition has put together (.pdf).

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(Source: fairontario.ca)

 

 

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 2 Comments

Are Canadian Women Politicians “Having a Moment”?

Wynne1

New Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne

By Megan Stanley

A brief scan of the headlines of various news stories over the past month suggests Canadian women are having quite a moment in politics. Largely prompted by the recent election of Kathleen Wynne in January as leader of the Ontario Liberal party, almost every national media outlet has produced a piece contributing to the growing public discussion on the representation of women in Canadian politics.

Even former Prime Minister Kim Campbell chimed in with an op-ed in the Globe & Mail calling for the establishment of gender parity in Parliament. According to the narrative created by these media stories, women politicians represent a new wave of game-changers on the Canadian political scene and their recent successes may signify shifts in our society’s attitudes toward gender and politics. Not too shabby.

With each story, the current state of the nation’s political affairs is reiterated: Canada currently boasts six female Premiers, some of whom govern provinces that are seen as key “have” regions in the Canadian economy. The recent Ontario Liberal leadership race, a critical election for the province, was dominated by two women candidates. The current federal Liberal leadership race features four accomplished women out of the total nine candidates seeking to change the face and direction of the party.

However, even considering these recent accomplishments, women remain vastly underrepresented in Parliament and provincial/territorial legislatures. Women comprise only 25% of MPs in Canada’s Parliament as of 2011, falling short of the critical mass (defined by the UN as 30%) needed to have a visible influence on legislation and political culture.

These facts and figures are consistently cited in both public and academic discussions, highlighting the dismal state of affairs for women in politics and calling for gender parity in all levels of government.

So, what’s the problem? Isn’t it a positive step forward for the Canadian public to recognize and respond to the need for a national discussion on women’s political underrepresentation? If gender parity in legislative bodies is the ultimate goal, doesn’t recognition and discussion of the problem help to reach it? Read more

Posted on by Megan Stanley in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics Leave a comment

Workers and Women: Supporting Ontario’s Public School Teachers

Teacher with student at a computerby Patricia Kmiec

On Monday August 27th the Ontario Legislature is meeting a week earlier than scheduled to determine if they are going to impose a wage freeze, and with the same bill take away the right to strike from the province’s public school teachers. This issue has been all over the media in this province for the last few weeks, but I have yet to see a substantial discussion of where gender fits into all this. After all, while teachers do represent a diverse group of workers, it is a profession that remains predominately female.

Statistics Canada notes that as recent as 2009, over 82 percent of elementary school teachers were women, and women hold the majority of teaching positions in high schools as well. When conservative-leaning commentaries on the radio or TV, and the comments of their listeners, insult the teaching profession, particularly elementary teachers, by calling them “overpaid babysitters”, they may not be explicitly disrespecting women, but that’s what I hear. And it isn’t the first time.

Historically, women have been the majority of public school teachers since the public system emerged in Ontario in the middle of the nineteenth-century. The move to compulsory public schooling for all children created a demand for a large number of teachers to fill the posts quickly. It also created for the first time a tax-funded system of schooling, and those in charge wanted to spend the least amount of money possible.

In the early years of public schooling women could be paid as little as half as much as their male colleagues, a situation remedied only in 1951 with the Fair Remuneration For Female Employees Act in Ontario. Besides traditionally receiving less pay than men, women teachers also had marital restrictions placed on them, requiring that they cease working as teachers once they married. While school boards began to hire married women more regularly in the 1920s and 1930s, a ban on such discrimination was not made law until the 1970 Women’s Equal Opportunity Act in Ontario was passed to ban discrimination based on marital status.

With the province’s School Boards’ and Teachers’ Negotiation Act in 1975, teachers were finally given the right to bargain with the government for rights, equality, and standards in their workplace, and it is not surprising that they used it to fight for increased benefits and restructured pay structures based on seniority, education , and experience. The Ontario’s teachers’ unions have been an example to workers across the country, and it is still recent memory in Ontario when they stood up to Conservative Premier Mike Harris in the 1990s

Although it appears that public support for teachers in this case is low, (Toronto Sun editorials and comments might give you that idea) it is more crucial than ever that we back their right to fair bargaining and their right to strike. I’ve noticed that the rhetoric surrounding this issue insists that teachers who want to keep the right to strike and not accept the wage freeze don’t care about the children, and if they don’t care about children they aren’t good teachers.

Rather than being seen as workers who want (and deserve) the same rights that are granted to other workers in this country, they are seen as caregivers who should be ready and willing to give up all their rights so that parents and students are not inconvenienced. I know that it is impossible to know how this situation would look if the majority of teachers were men. Would they still be called ‘unskilled babysitters’? Would they be expected to be selfless and put others’ needs over their own? I somehow doubt it.

While Canada is getting used to no-strike and back-to-work legislation from our federal Conservative government, such initiatives from the so-called ‘union-friendly’ Ontario Liberals is a bit surprising, although not unprecedented. This dangerous path of taking workers’ basic rights away is harmful to more than just teachers, or public sectors workers, but to all workers, men and women, across the country. I know that the province is in financial trouble, but the Liberals have yet to convince me that taking the right to strike away from our teachers is the golden ticket out of debt.

(Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons)

Posted on by Patricia Kmiec in Feminism Leave a comment

Fair Ontario Campaign Aims to Close the Gender Pay Gap

With the Ontario provincial election day looming on October 6, LeadNow.ca has teamed up with Ontario’s Equal Pay Coalition in a new campaign to end the gender pay gap. From their website:

“As we get ready to head to the polls, candidates aren’t talking about the fact that Ontario has one of the highest gender pay gaps in the world. Women working in Ontario make 29% less than their male peers. The gender pay gap affects all of us, men and women, and this election is the perfect time to start working together again for a fair Ontario.”

FAIR Ontario is pushing provincial election candidates to adopt a plan that’s Funded, Accountable, Integrated, and Real, including funding enforcement through the Pay Equity Commission and Tribunal, restoring the Pay Equity Legal Clinic, increasing the province’s minimum wage, and setting timelines and goals to ensure accountability.

Here’s the campaign video:

What I like most about their website is that they tackle the argument that we can’t afford pay equity head-on:

“Pay equity is not a privilege or a frill. It is the law. The right of those doing “women’s work” to be paid on the same basis as those doing “men’s work” is a fundamental human right of Ontario women which is guaranteed by provincial human rights laws and by international commitments made by Canada to ensure women’s equality in employment.

If you’re in Ontario and want to support the campaign, visit their website and send a message to your candidates for MPP.

-Jarrah

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 1 Comment