Aurélie Lanctôt, columnist at Le Devoir, addressed convention delegates about the impact of neoliberal government policy on gender equality.
Taking the example of the Quebec Liberal government’s austerity agenda, Lanctôt explained how major cutbacks in the health and social services sector have imposed an unsustainable burden on both those who provide and those who use the services, the majority of whom are women. A study by the IRIS institute has determined that a $7B gap was created between men and women due to government austerity measures alone.
Lanctôt added that while women suffer the worst of service cuts, it is men who have benefitted most from the government’s spending on economic growth because it favours male-dominated sectors such as extraction and infrastructure.
Lanctôt identified three things that would change the situation for women. First, women need parity
representation in legislatures and all-decision making bodies so that they are in a position to advocate for gender equality. Secondly, the minimum wage in all jurisdictions should be raised to at least $15 an hour. This would raise the average wage for all workers, but have a particularly positive impact on women who are over-represented in low wage jobs. Finally, the federal government must put in place a national policy framework that would guarantee women and all parents access to affordably high quality child care and parental leave.
“Austerity policies are blind to social concerns. Social justice objectives will never be achieved as long as they are subject to neoliberal budgets.” concluded Aurélie Lanctôt.