Gender Equity in the 2018 Federal Budget

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The federal government introduced initiatives in the 2018 budget to realize two promises similarly made in the past by New Democrats: a pledge to pay equity in the public sector so all employees receive equal pay for work of equal value, and the promise to strengthen the mandate of Status of Women, which the Liberal government made a permanent department.

The budget invests heavily in the advancement of women in the Canadian workforce, funding five weeks of supplemental parental leave, allowing MP’s to take maternity leave, and encouraging an increase of stay-at-home men. The new “use-it-or-lose-it” incentive allows fathers or non-birth parents to take parental leave, allowing women to return to work earlier after giving birth. These measures are designed to further reduce the gender gap in the labour market which has been closing gradually in the last 40 years. According to Statistics Canada, in 2017, nearly 83% of women aged 25 to 54 were in the workforce, up from less than 54% in 1977.

Despite significant achievements by women in high-performance sports, such as in the Olympics, the Liberal government continues to express concern about other areas of sports such as involving women in senior ranks of coaching and management. These concerns were largely reflected in a 2016 study by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport which found that 41% of girls aged three to 17 and 84% of adult women do not participate in sports.

Regarding women entrepreneurs, the budget allocates $250 million for Export Development Canada to help women entrepreneurs access global markets. Furthermore, women farmers in Canada should have access to a new lending product through Farm Credit Canada.

On women in trades, Kate McInturff (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives) commented, “there is also some money for training in an attempt to incentivise the private sector to promote women, though there’s no actual mechanism to ensure that happens.” Women currently make up just 11% of trades workers in Canada, and the Liberal budget aims to narrow the gap with a $19.9 million Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women, over the next five years; the grant would give women in certified trades $3,000 for each of their two years of training. Still, Kate McInturff posed the question of how to address women dropping out of trades because of hostile work environments.

On gender-based violence, the government is allocating $86 million over five years to strengthen existing initiatives. The budget includes funding to prevent teen dating violence, rape crisis centres, and $25.4 million in legal aid over five years to help sexual harassment complainants.

Overall, many of the gender-focused aspects of the budget are designed to show results over five years, hoping to narrow gender gaps in Canada in the medium to long-term.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.