Historically, women have struggled for power in a male-dominated society. Only recently have women become a more authoritative figure in Canadian politics. However, there is a significant lack of female leadership in comparison to male. In chapter fourteen of Canadian Politics, Lisa Young analyzes this topic in her incisive essay of Women (Not) in Politics: Women’s Electoral Participation. Her argument states that there is still minimal representation of women as political figures, which affects female Canadian citizens negatively.
This essay will confirm and update the significance of Young’s topic because the void of female presence in Canadian politics has a direct correlation between Canadian women and lack of sufficient government services. This will be analyzed by the considerable absence of female participation in politics and how is negatively affects single mothers using welfare programs and women of minority handling government services. To understand the negative impacts on Canadian women, this essay will first confirm and expand on Lisa Young’s argument of women not participating in Canadian politics.
In chapter fourteen, Lisa Young explains that considering the history of male dominance in society, there is some developing success for women becoming more involved in Canadian politics. However, she continues to explain that there is still little participation of women in this field of work, even though women are becoming more educated through their growing access to education (Young 284). This shows that though progress has been made, and women’s movements have been heard, the gap between the amounts of male to female politicians is very obvious.
Politics can be seen as a very competitive field, and only the ambitious survive. This could influence women to not pursue politics because men are more likely to support right wing political parties, which focus on individualistic values; while women are likely to support parties on the centre or left side of the political spectrum, which targets collectivist values (Young 286). Male dominated politics in relation to right parties on the spectrum explains why there is a strong presence of aggressive competition and individualistic goals in politics, which may deter women from political participation.
Lack of female representatives is greatly shown through the World Economic Forum, which Canada ranks poorly in. Canada ranks 38th in areas of political empowerment; as measured by years with female as head of state, women in ministerial positions, and women in parliament (Grant – The Globe and Mail). Tavia Grant from The Globe and Mail quotes the Forum that the reasons for this occurring are due to the relationship of the countries closing the gender gap and those that are economically competitive.
Unfortunately, Canada’s ranking is low and shows to be less successful in closing the gender gap; it reflects the small amount of women participating in politics within Canada. This predicament may be explained by how women face adversity in the field of politics. Lisa Young explains that once women are recruited to a political party, their duties are similar to their male colleagues; however, these women find themselves insufficiently influential within their parties (287). This may be because women in politics favour feminist stances in policy making, which conflicts with male politicians supporting individualistic values.
It can cause feminist politicians to argue injustice and inequality in support of female representation is policy making. Lisa Young states, “At meetings of the first ministers, where essential decisions about the character of the Canadian confederation are made, there are currently no women” (296). This conflicts with many issues women face because there is little representation by female politicians for these important problem areas. Especially for matters such as reproductive rights, child care programs or accessibility, and health care.
Female politicians face adversity once they find work in the Canadian political field. John Ibbitson from The Globe and Mail explains that, “many women must juggle family demands that men aren’t expected to meet; they are likely to have lower incomes than men and thus fewer resources; there probably are still some voters who are disinclined to put a woman in charge”. This shows that female politicians still encounter conflict even though they are in political positions. It may discourage women to participate in politics more so.
This is further shown by Professor Changfoot of Trent University, “Women may confront political parties nominating women and person of colour in non-winnable ridings, mass media less favourable coverage of women, as well as difficult access to candidacy money”. Changfoot shows that even though some female politicians obtain an influential position, there is still limited access to power. This easily prevents the progression of women merging into Canadian politics and achieving success. The exclusion of female representatives is parallel to the adversities that female Canadian citizens face from government services.
This is specifically shown by single mothers using welfare programs established by the Canadian government. Low participation of women in Canadian politics has direct impact on single mothers. Without female representation, Canadian single mothers using monetary government services, such as welfare, struggle to be a priority in government policy making. This causes negative impacts on these female citizens, primarily through welfare rate cuts, workfare, and prevention of welfare fraud. A drastic welfare rate cut first occurs in Ontario in 1995, when welfare recipient’s cheques were reduced 21.
6 percent; having a particularly devastating impact on single mothers (Little 241). Single mothers suffered from poverty stricken issues due to this cut, which could have possibly been avoided with more female involvement during this political decision. With single mother’s child-care responsibilities, it is hardly possible for them to support their families based on welfare cheques. Margaret Little states, “The National Council of Welfare reported that single mothers have fallen further and further below the poverty line as result of the Ontario welfare rate cuts” (241).
She continues to describe that these cuts are causing single mothers to make desperate attempts to find shelter in any condition (243). The impact of the welfare rate cut affects poorer single mother’s livelihood; but this seems to not be acknowledged during the decision making of this policy. This result could have been altered with a stronger female presence during political participation opportunities. Another example is the introduction of workfare to the welfare program by the Ontario Conservative government.
This expects that all welfare recipients participate in the workforce. This is especially conflicting for single mothers because it is an expectation for single mothers to be as involved in the workforce to the same degree as men and child-less women, which disregards their childcare responsibilities (Little 245). This time consumption can directly affect single mothers care for their children. The amount of time dedicated to workfare versus welfare cheques seems hardly suitable for single mothers providing for their families.
It appears even more so discouraging from Margaret Little’s research: “Community participants (workfare) are not considered real workers. Although they are eligible for Workers’ Compensation, the Employment Standards Act or Employment Insurance does not cover the,” (247). This suggests injustice to single mothers using the welfare program as it targets them in a demeaning style. For example, the Ontario Conservative government passed more restrictions for welfare applicants to reduce welfare fraud. One extreme change regards to spousal relations.
This is the anti-fraud initiative that makes single mothers using the welfare program no longer be allowed to live with a spouse; even single mothers that continue to communicate with ex-partners so that the children maintain a relationship with their fathers (Little 251-252). This extreme aspect of the “anti-fraud” initiative directly targets single mothers and further prevents them from maintaining a stable lifestyle for their families. If there was an increase of female representatives in Canadian politics, this intrusion could possibly have been prevented.
Margaret Little adequately displays the correlation between the lack of female participation in politics and how it affects single mothers using the welfare programs. This continues to be shown through pay equity cuts and mothers needing daycare. Rand Dyck explains the relationship between the Harper government and women: “several observers have noted that the Harper conservatives were unlikely to win a majority government without greater support from the female half of the electorate” (154). It clearly shows the demand for more female participation in political procedures.
Dyck then explains the disregard of women in politics: the Harper government “cancelling the Court Challenges Program and Martin’s federal-provincial childcare agreements. It deliberately slipped a provision into the 2009 budget that took pay equity away from jurisdiction of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and put it into a collective bargaining process” (155). The pay equity cut and cancellation of government programs have a direct impact on Canadian single mothers. It affects their sources of funding for childcare and financial security for their homes.
This battle for funding of childcare is also shown by how women only qualify up to a year of maternity benefits in the Employment Insurance program, then struggle to find and fund sufficient care for their children (Dyke 160). This conflict is even more trialling for single mothers whom are the only source of income for their family. The limited support from the Canadian government for childcare needs have a significant impact on female citizens and their struggles for financial stability. The possibility of this being altered is within reach if female representation increases in major political decision making.
Women’s struggle from the governmental programs continues to be shown through minority female citizens within Canada. Minority women in Canada, particularly Canadian immigrants and women of disability, suffer from lack of recognition within government assistance programs. Canada’s immigration process follows a point system, which is considered unjust because it divides the acceptance of immigrants into a social class structure: the more money you have – the increased chance of acceptance to Canada (CRIAW 6).
Canada’s point system judges immigrants based on the amount of points one can obtain, in areas such as education and language skills. The Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW) states, “This discriminates against women because women have been denied access to education, training, and employment opportunities. As a result, most women entering Canada are unable to qualify as independent immigrants” (6). The CRIAW’s research explains the difficulties foreign women face when trying to get into Canada; especially when they are denied the same educational rights in their home countries.
CRIAW continues to explains, “Most women enter Canada as sponsored immigrants, which means that they are financially dependent on their sponsors, usually their husbands… It means they do not qualify for many social services and programs” (6). This displays the struggles of minority women in Canada to obtain financial support from government programs. As immigrants to Canada, they cannot qualify to the same programs many other Canadian women do; thus becoming racially and sexually discriminated. To have female representatives for these particular issues could provide a solution for this problem.
Discriminatory examples of women coming to Canada continues for female immigrants under the Live-In Caregiver program, which ensures that women live in their employers home, cannot take other work, and can only stay in Canada until a date specified by their Employment Authorization (CRIAW 7). The Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women states, “They are frequently unaware of their rights and employers have threatened them with deportation and other measures to ensure their silence about abuse working conditions” (7).
The Live-In Caregiver program by the federal government is a classic example of the disregard of women when making policies of economic alternatives for Canadian immigrants. Without awareness of these issues, the politicians involved in making these programs are unable to remedy the problems minority women are facing today; with more female participation, the outcome may be altered. Another example of this discretion is women with disabilities and their usage of government programs.
Disabled women, out of all peoples of disabilities, are the least likely group to be employed and out of the labour force compared to adults without disabilities or men with disabilities (Pinto 129). Paula Pinto explains, “Programs linked to labour force attachment, such as employment insurance or workers’ compensation, usually offer better benefits than social assistance, but women with disabilities are more likely to have government transfers as their primary source of income” (129).
This shows that women with disabilities are not receiving sufficient benefits through the disability income system, and may have an increased chance of a poverty stricken lifestyle. Disabled women that do not have an acceptable source of income are forced to have their special needs unmet and not receive adequate care. The arrangements for the government programs for the disabled discriminate against women with disabilities. An increase of female representation for these women may help meet the needs for women with disabilities and for women immigrating to Canada.
Through minority women using government programs, and single mothers as recipients of welfare, and the lack of participation by women in Canadian politics, one can understand the need for more female politicians in government. In chapter fourteen, Lisa Young explains how there are women not as involved in politics as the average Canadian citizen may believe; even though, historically, women have a greater presence in politics than they ever had before. By confirming and expanding on Young’s argument, this essay displays how the absence of women in politics greatly affects female
Canadian citizens. The negative impacts of the void of female participation in Canadian politics reflect onto women’s use of the government services and programs provided to them. Governor-General Michaelle Jean clearly states the explanation of Canada’s need of a female presence, “Empower women and you will see a decrease in poverty, illiteracy, disease, and violence” (Senior 97).
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Ibbitson, John. “Rise of Women in Canadian Politics Is Unmistakable and Unstoppable. ” The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail, 11 Sept. 2012. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www. theglobeandmail. com/news/politics/rise-of-women-in-canadian-politics-is-unmistakable-and-unstoppable/article4535879/>.
Little, Margaret H. “The Leaner, Meaner Welfare Machine: The Ontario Conservative Government’s Ideological and Material Attack on Single Mothers” in Making Normal, edited by Deborah Brock, pp 235-258. 2003.
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