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Canadian Politics: What Are The Conservatives Conserving?

I guess the one positive thing there is to be said about the Conservative Party of Canada is they never cease to amaze me. If not on a daily basis then at least every week those rascals have always got some new thing up there sleeve to announce that can leave me slack jawed with wonder.

For a party with the word Conservative in its title they seem far more intent on tearing down decades of work done by their predecessors than conserving anything. If they are not intent upon preserving a Canada based on respect, compassion, and tolerance, what exactly are their plans for conservation?

They obviously don't include anything to do with:


The environment
reneging on the Kyoto accord
Caring for children
repealing the universal child care program/replaced by non-refundable tax credits maximum of $1200 per year per child
The First Nations people
Allowing situations like the Caledonia blockade to create resentment against natives by letting them get out of hand and not dealing with the treaty issue under dispute.
The rights of women
Cutting five million dollars from under funded Status of Women and closing all but four regional offices across the country
Human Rights and our constitution
Opening debate in the House of Commons on the issue of same sex marriage when the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled it unconstitutional to prohibit the unions.

While Prime Minister Steven Harper and his buddies had been promising the last item on the list since before even the last election, it's till sort of appalling to see them actually going through with re-opening the debate on same sex marriage.

The wounds have barely healed from the last time and he's giving people the opportunity to get their knives out and open them up one more time. The really nasty part of this is that no matter what anyone says or does the law can't be repealed without the government choosing to invoke the "Not Withstanding Clause" of the constitution. This clause, which was a sop to Quebec so they could have could opt out of minority language protection laws, allows a government to say, "not withstanding what the constitution says, we're going to go against it and deny people their human rights".

Since I believe you need to win a vote with at least a two thirds majority to invoke the clause, the Conservative party wouldn't be able to set same sex marriages aside no matter how much they may want to because they don’t' have the votes. All this debate is doing is sending a message to those who support Prime Minister Harper's party that he's still their guy and can be counted on to conserve the bad old days.

While the Conservative party's action on same sex marriage have been well telegraphed some of their other policy decisions have been receiving far less publicity. But it's going to be hard for people to ignore what they're doing when the federal Liberal party's Women's Caucus accuses them of wanting to keep women "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen".

Although you might find that rhetoric a little over the top, it's hard to argue with their claim that the Conservative party is attempting to role back the clock when it comes to the level of financial support offered to women's issues by the government. Since 1971 there has been a Status Of Women Canada (SWC) department as an entity within the Canadian government.

The SWC has worked to promote gender equality, and the full participation of women in the economic, social, cultural and political life of the country. The three areas that the SWC focus on primarily are improving and ensuring a women's ability to gain economic autonomy, (in other words not need a husband to pay her way) eliminating the systemic violence against women and children, and advancing the basic human rights of women.

The past twenty-five years have seen women make what appear to be significant gains in all areas but the reality is not as pretty a picture as we're led to believe. What does it matter if a women can get a job if she can't get day care for her children? How come the words "glass ceiling" still exist if they have parity with men in terms of pay and potential advancement? Why is that most murder victims are still the result of domestic violence and the women's shelter's are filled night after night if things have really changed?

Mr. Harper is very quite to condemn places like China over its human rights violations, but his government is cutting funding to programs which work with woman to ensure their basic safety, health, and well being. But maybe he doesn't think slashing nearly 25% from The SWC budget is that big a deal. Maybe reducing the number of regional offices from sixteen to four seemed like a good way to save money, but what kind of message does it send to women?

Now instead of being able to go for help about an issue concerning them, or a loved one, at a placed specifically designed for women, they are being shunted off into the regular bureaucracy. Instead of having a woman who has been trained to help you deal with negotiating the paths you have to travel to get a restraining order, you'll now be helped by the first available operator at the ministry's call centre.

When the government responds to the fact that women still only make 71% of what men make by saying we don't need to separate men from women in this country, but plan for them together, they have an agenda that does not include advocacy for women's rights. In fact one of the reasons for closing the regional offices according to Heritage Minister (for some reason the Heritage Ministry is responsible for the SWC, perhaps because the Conservatives plan on making it part of our heritage instead of a functional part of government) Bev Oda is the fact that they were too concerned with being advocates and lobbying the government on behalf of women.

It seems to me an odd thing to say that an advocacy group doing advocacy work is not doing their job properly. In fact she makes it sound like the fact that they had the nerve to be lobbying on behalf of women meant that somehow or other they no longer cared about their clients. In spite of the government denials, I can't help but think that the opposition has it right; it really looks like they are trying to completely eliminate SWC.

Budget cuts are one thing, but to already start a misinformation campaign aimed at making it sound like the people who work at SWC are out of control and need to be stopped before they can waste all of the taxpayer's precious money is another all together. I wouldn't be too surprised that if the Conservatives hang on to bring in their own budget by the spring, they will either take steps to try and phase it out all together, or completely reshape its focus.

I'm sure that if you asked a Conservative Party of Canada spokesperson what it is they are actually conserving, as they seem to be dismantling so much of what defined Canada as a country, he or she would have some nice set answer. They'd probably mention something about values and standards with absolutely no meaning except to them and their cronies.

Their values and standards are exactly the sort of thing that the legislation that created the Status of Woman Canada was designed to fight, and that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms section of our Constitution was created to defend us against.

The Conservative Party of Canada exists to conserve itself and what it believes in, not the Canada that many people have spent so many years making into one of the most tolerant nations of the world. Let's try to conserve that country instead of one that's based on some being better then others.

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