Trudeau’s tax plan be­trays his party’s fem­i­nist prin­ci­ples

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - GLOBE FOCUS - ANNE NIEC BEV­ERLY JOHN­SON

The num­ber of women prac­tis­ing medicine in Canada has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly over the past 20 years. Fe­male physi­cians join the ranks of other women en­trepreneurs who op­er­ate as small busi­nesses in Canada. We cel­e­brate the vic­to­ries they have made in fol­low­ing their dreams against all odds and we stand with them against the un­fair tax changes pro­posed by a gov­ern­ment that dares call it­self fem­i­nist.

The cur­rent changes pro­posed by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment chal­lenge the eco­nomic se­cu­rity of small-busi­ness own­ers in Canada and, in par­tic­u­lar, neg­a­tively af­fect women as child bear­ers and pri­mary-care providers for their fam­i­lies. That’s why we’re march­ing to Par­lia­ment Hill today, to take our mes­sage to the Hill that fe­male small-busi­ness own­ers have enough to worry about.

As physi­cians, we see the bur­den of care placed on women that comes from their role as moth­ers and daugh­ters. Fe­male small-busi­ness own­ers face par­tic­u­lar chal­lenges that af­fect them in these roles, es­pe­cially given the 24/7 na­ture of the small-busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment and the com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion it takes for those who start a small busi­ness to suc­ceed.

Yet, de­spite the chal­lenges and risks, women are start­ing their own busi­nesses at in­creas­ing numbers. Women who be­gin small busi­nesses are typ­i­cally young, in their child-bear­ing years and, as women, they typ­i­cally make less money than their male en­trepreneurial peers. The wage gap is ev­ery­where.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian Trade Com­mis­sion Service, 35.6 per cent of the self-em­ployed work force in 2012 was com­prised of women, with a greater con­cen­tra­tion in some sec­tors, such as pro­fes­sional ser­vices, ac­com­mo­da­tion and food serv- ices. The num­ber of women with post­sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion has in­creased to 71 per cent in 2013 from 43 per cent in 1990. It should be no sur­prise that women are mak­ing huge in­roads in the small-busi­ness sec­tor.

Yet, all is not equal for fe­male en­trepreneurs.

When a woman starts a small busi­ness, she hires staff to man­age her of­fice and as­sist with clients or pa­tients. In­cor­po­ra­tion al­lows her to pay her staff, buy of­fice sup­plies, rent space and pay for all the other ex­penses in­curred by small busi­nesses across the coun­try.

When it’s time to have a fam­ily, in­cor­po­ra­tion al­lows a fe­male small-busi­ness owner to plan for her ma­ter­nity leave. For small­busi­ness own­ers, the busi­ness doesn’t stop when the baby comes. She is still re­spon­si­ble for main­tain­ing her of­fice, em­ploy­ing her staff and ar­rang­ing for client cov­er­age, or else her busi­ness risks fail­ure. Many fe­male small-busi­ness own­ers are sin­gle women; others may be the sole in­come earn­ers in their fam­i­lies.

When it comes time to re­tire af­ter a long ca­reer serv­ing her clients and com­mu­nity or pa­tients and their fam­i­lies, in­cor­po­ra­tion al­lows her to in­vest in her fu­ture so she can re­tire with­out fi­nan­cial worry. As women typ­i­cally face greater lev­els of in­come in­se­cu­rity at the end of their work­ing lives and into re­tire­ment, this should be par­tic­u­larly wor­ry­ing to a fem­i­nist gov­ern­ment. This leg­is­la­tion will con­tinue to dis­ad­van­tage women well into their old age.

Fe­male small-busi­ness own­ers face myr­iad chal­lenges on the road to suc­cess. Work­ing long hours and keep­ing their staff em­ployed while feed­ing their fam­i­lies can take a toll on a per­son. The same stresses men face, women face, too, with the added per­sonal and so­ci­etal ex­pec­ta­tions they face as moth­ers and daugh­ters, re­spon­si­ble as the pri­mary care­giver for their fam­i­lies.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has claimed to be work­ing with women. It claims that a gen­der­based anal­y­sis in­formed the last bud­get, and we have more women min­is­ters than ever be­fore. Yet, the implications of this pol­icy for fe­male small­busi­ness own­ers have not been clearly thought out.

In­stead of push­ing rhetoric that di­vides Cana­di­ans, per­haps Ot­tawa’s fo­cus could be put on pro­grams that bring us to­gether – such as a na­tional child-care pro­gram, na­tional se­niors strat­egy or a na­tional hous­ing strat­egy. These pro­grams would help all women, in­clud­ing small-busi­ness own­ers, to be ac­tive eco­nomic agents and be moth­ers, too.

Dr. Anne Niec is pres­i­dent and Dr. Bev­erly John­son is pres­i­dent-elect of the Fed­er­a­tion of Med­i­cal Women in Canada, a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to em­pow­er­ing fe­male physi­cians at all stages of their ca­reer.

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