Pro­vin­cial elec­tion es­pe­cially im­por­tant for fe­male vot­ers

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - THE WEST - By Joan Grace

TUES­DAY, March 8 is In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day and I’ll be spend­ing part of it at the McNally Robin­son book­store at a U2011 Café Poli­tique, one of a se­ries of talks spon­sored by the Man­i­toba In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Re­search and The Duff Roblin Pro­fes­sor­ship in Gov­ern­ment.

The cafés are de­signed to en­cour­age Man­i­to­bans to par­tic­i­pate in the fall pro­vin­cial elec­tion, which will likely prove to be, as my col­league Jared Wes­ley ar­gued at the first café held a few weeks ago, a crit­i­cal one. As one of three speak­ers for the event, I’ve been asked to dis­pel some com­mon myths about women and pol­i­tics. And there are many myths to re­buff, such as mis­con­cep­tions that women aren’t want to make the case for is this: Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, your par­tic­i­pa­tion in the pro­vin­cial elec­tion ac­tu­ally mat­ters, and it mat­ters es­pe­cially for women. Here’s why. Health care, hous­ing, ed­u­ca­tion, child care, labour, jus­tice and so­cial as­sis­tance, to name a few, are pol­icy ju­ris­dic­tions of the prov­ince.

If de­vel­oped and im­ple­mented prop­erly by tak­ing into ac­count women’s re­al­i­ties and their ex­pe­ri­ences, these pub­lic poli­cies can have a dra­matic im­pact on not only the health and well-be­ing of women, but their abil­ity to take up em­ploy­ment to be eco­nom­i­cally in­de­pen­dent, to be treated with equity and re­spect in the work­place, or to be safe at home and in the com­mu­nity. As ex­pected, if we are hon­est, gov­ern­ments don’t al­ways live up to these ideals, even if there is good­will on their part to do so. And any sitting gov­ern­ment has to bal­ance com­pet­ing in­ter­ests. So it’s up to us as vot­ers and ad­vo­cates for women’s full so­cial and eco­nomic cit­i­zen­ship to do our part: We have to ask the tough ques­tions when can­di­dates come knock­ing at our door ask­ing us to sup­port them. We have to show up at town halls or at or­ga­nized lead­ers’ de­bates to be sure that women’s is­sues (which are all is­sues, re­ally) are part of the dis­cus­sion.

And there’s an­other rea­son why pro­vin­cial pol­i­tics and elec­tions mat­ter: Mak­ing Man­i­toba voices heard re­mains im­por­tant dur­ing a time of fed­eral mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ments.

There may well be op­por­tu­ni­ties to make some gains, par­tic­u­larly when the premier of Man­i­toba works with his coun­ter­parts as they ne­go­ti­ate with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment over, say, in­creases in trans­fer pay­ments. And if that proves dif­fi­cult, it’s still im­por­tant for women’s groups and ad­vo­cates of women’s equal­ity to off­set the ac­tions of the Harper Con­ser­va­tives.

The pro­vin­cial elec­tion mat­ters not just in Man­i­toba, but in na­tional pol­i­tics. To make it re­ally mean­ing­ful, par­tic­i­pate by be­ing an ac­tive cit­i­zen and cap it off by cast­ing your vote on elec­tion day. In the mean­time, join the dis­cus­sion at McNally Robin­son on March 8 at 7 p.m. Let them know you’re pay­ing at­ten­tion.

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