Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Women and the Harper Conservatives (yes, this is the Gun Control Yenta!)

Seems my little friends at were wondering what I've been up to, since they hadn't heard much from me over several months. So I've decided to put some of my further gun control musings up here. Enjoy them,


The Gun Control Yenta

From the London Free Press Web Site, Sept. 4/08 (not long before the Federal Election):

The Harper Conservatives routinely poll 10 percentage points lower among women than men. Since women outnumber men in Canada--and because women live longer, too--the logical conclusion is that the Conservatives majority prospects will only worsen with time (which may explain why they're so hot to call this election).

In fact, the Conservatives are the most woman-free party in Parliament, with women making up only 11 per cent of the Government caucus; where women made up one-quarter to one-third of candidates among the other parties for the 2006 election, women only accounted for 12 per cent of Conservative candidates. But despite the fact that they need more of us to achieve majority government status, they still haven't figured out that this means providing policies progressive Canadians, women among them, can support.

Instead of a national daycare policy, they throw us $100 a month in pin money. Instead of respecting the laws of the country--whether it be concerning the gun registry or the fixed election date which they made such a fetish-this Conservative government gives legislation it finds inconvenient a pass. Instead of statesmanship, we get mud-slinging and a Prime Minister too busy to attend when Canada hosts an international conference on AIDS. Instead of a health minister, we have a right-wing ignoramus who hectors doctors on the subject of safe injection sites, a man who would rather attend last week's Democratic National Convention than even give the impression he gives a crap about the listeriosis crisis. And speaking of listeriosis, instead of consumer protection, we get regulations that give industry greater responsibility for inspecting itself, not to mention that, with twelve people already dead from tainted meat and the number almost certain to climb, we get an agriculture minister whose position, basically, is "kwitcherbellyachin', the system works."

Instead of protecting and enhancing women's rights, we get the gutting of the Status of Women office. Instead of spearheading national standards on diagnostics for pathology labs (which might prevent the kinds of snafus that continue to endanger hundreds of women with breast cancer across the country), instead of laws that ensure equal access to abortion, we get a proposal to make it "an offence to injure, cause the death of or attempt to cause the death of a child before or during its birth while committing or attempting to commit an offence against the mother." So glad they're on top of this epidemic, at least.

Instead of the promised new openness and transparency in government, we get attempts to hide our soldiers' coffins when they arrive on planes from Afghanistan, and ministers who must clear all their remarks through the PMO. Instead of integrity, we get David Emerson's floor-crossing before the ink is even dry on the oath swearing him in. Instead of honesty in campaigning, we get the "in-and-out" elections scandal and a Prime Minister who insists (without any evidence) that the Liberals are forcing him to pull the plug on his own government. And let's not forget Karlheinz Schreiber, Brian "I only had a couple of coffees with the guy" Mulroney, and Maxime Bernier ("all Beauce, no brains").

Instead of Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, or even Sarah Palin, we get Laureen Harper: under the 'Leader' menu, the Conservative website gives her thirteen photos to Stephen's one, and commentary that highlights her offering 24 Sussex Drive to the Ottawa SPCA as a foster home for kittens. Mrs. Harper may be a wonderful person but whoever okayed her profile needs reminding this is 2008, not 1948!

The modern gender gap in Canadian politics dates to 1993, when an eleven-point gap in support among women outside Quebec for the new Reform Party was observed, according to Elisabeth Gildengil and her colleagues in the study "Gender and Vote Choice in the 2006 Canadian Election." This gap persisted despite the Reform Party's "[reconstituting] itself as the Canadian Alliance in an effort to soften its image." And to what do the political scientists attribute the gap? To women's resistance to arguments "about the benefits of the market economy and the need for restraints on government activity," to women being "more open to non-traditional life styles and more supportive of social minorities." In short, women do not and will not support the key policies of social conservatives: the beliefs that "what's good for General Motors is good for the country," that abortion should be recriminalized, gay marriage outlawed, and the death penalty reinstated.

Women, as Gildengil and her fellow political scientists put it, have "different political priorities and concerns than men," which may be overstating things a tad. Still, it's perhaps clear to everyone except the Conservative brain trust that they need us to win a majority. Given how little progress they have made on the gender front, it truly boggles the mind that Mr. Harper is champing at the bit to drop the writs.

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