In lieu of International Women’s Day, it is nice to know that the Ontario provincial government has a vested interest in women’s issues. At the beginning of February, Dalton McGuinty’s government announced that $63.5 million would need to be cut from childcare services in Ontario. These cuts are part of McGuinty’s attacks on workers as he tries to balance Ontario’s provincial deficit.
McGuinty’s cuts to childcare will eliminate 7,600 childcare spaces in Ontario. Most working class parents expecting children in the near future will be unable to find childcare. Unlike the ruling class, most workers cannot afford to send their children to private daycares, or to hire personal nannies. Many working class parents, and especially single mothers, will be pressured to quit their jobs in order to take care of their children. The cuts to childcare are expected to cost at least 1,800 jobs in childcare. Furthermore, it is estimated that a further 1,100 jobs would be lost in related industries, and nearly 3,500 people would be forced to quit their jobs to take care of their children. The Ontario Liberals’ plan to save $63.5-million will end up costing $148.3-million, almost completely borne on the shoulders of workers. (All figures taken from www.nupge.ca ) This also runs counter to McGuinty’s childcare promises of 2003 where he had promised to invest $300-million into childcare. In the end, McGuinty is making those with the least amount of money to suffer the most, while he continues to throw subsidies and tax breaks to the bosses and bankers.
Like McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals, the federal Tories have also claimed to be concerned about women’s issues in the past and made token announcements that give them a human face in trying to advance the conditions of working women. The most notable example was the Conservatives’ introduction of a childcare allowance in 2006, where parents received a $100 cheque every month that was supposed to offset the costs of daycare for children aged six and under. $100 is almost nothing, especially as no province aside of Quebec provides affordable universal childcare, nor does it help parents who have children who are over the age of six. For example, private daycare of dubious quality in Toronto costs about $1000 per month. Higher quality publicly-run daycare costs $1300 to $1500 per month, but the waiting lists are ridiculous. Childcare costs more than full time work at minimum wage, giving working class mothers no choice but to go on welfare. Most importantly, the Tories have refused to create a national childcare programme, and even went so far as to eliminate partial childcare agreements that the federal government had previously signed with the provinces.
Also like McGuinty, when push comes to shove, it is working women that are forced to pay for Stephen Harper’s tax cuts and handouts given to the banks and corporations. The recent federal budget has cut funding to the Status of Women by 43%, forcing them to close 12 of their 16 offices across the country. The budget also slashes funding to numerous other groups that fight for better conditions for working women. According to one study, only 0.00006% of “stimulus” spending has gone to upgrading women’s shelters across the country, while three animal shelters have received three times as much federal spending! This just goes to show that the Federal Conservatives and Ontario Liberals are all in favour of women’s issues and equality so long as they benefit the government’s agenda, but as soon as women’s issues become too “costly” or “frivolous”, they are deemed unnecessary for society.
The Liberals and Conservatives, though, represent the interests of the bosses, and that of the rich. Their “feminism” is, therefore, a feminism of the wealthy. They are more than happy to provide female cabinet ministers with bonuses, and to proclaim that equality exists between the genders because women can now fight alongside men in Parliament. But, at the end of the day, when it comes to fighting for working class women who need accessible daycare for their children in order to hold a job, or when it comes to fighting for the maintenance of a non-governmental organization that helps struggling women in developing countries, the Liberals and Conservatives are more than happy to turn a blind eye in order to slash and cut funding. Olivia Chow of the NDP said it best in response to the 2010 budget when she said, “This budget clearly demonstrates where Stephen Harper’s priorities lie. Billions of corporate tax cuts for oil companies while childcare and childhood nutrition are ignored.”
While the suits on Bay St. and the politicians of the “big business” parties would like us to believe that they are doing everything possible to help the cause of women’s equality, the fact is that they only want to fight for women’s equality so long as it benefits them, rewards them with money, and promotes women of a certain stature (i.e. wealthy women). When it comes to fighting for the single mother who is about to have her third child, and needs to work a full-time job in order to support her children, the “big business” parties would rather spend their money elsewhere. Dalton McGuinty and Stephen Harper need to know that we will not tolerate this injustice.
Oppose childcare cuts by the Ontario Liberals!
Oppose Harper’s budgetary cuts to programmes that help women!