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Cash incentives for parties could help get more women in politics: MPs

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A House of Commons committee is making a cross-party call for the federal government to offer financial incentives to political parties that nominate more women candidates to run for election.

The recommendation is one of 14 recommendations the status of women committee made in a new report about the ongoing under-representation of women in politics, titled “Elect her: A roadmap for improving the representation of women in Canadian politics.”

“Despite their growing political participation, women represent just 35 per cent of all legislators in Canada and remain under-represented at all levels of government,” the report said.

“Increasing women’s participation in electoral politics is essential for achieving greater gender equality. Having more women in elected office is about more than achieving equality in a traditionally male-dominated field — it could also have significant effects on public policy.”

The committee zeroed in on the role that political parties play, saying they should work harder to get more women to run by eliminating sexism and biases that might be built into their recruitment efforts.

One potential fix, the committee says, would be to offer cash incentives, such as subsidies, to encourage parties to help more women get nominated and then elected.

Witnesses and experts who spoke to the committee cited New Brunswick’s example of changing the formula for the per-vote subsidy to favour female candidates in provincial elections. Votes received by female candidates are weighted 1.5 times greater than votes received by male candidates in the province, which encourages parties to run women in competitive ridings where they are more likely to win.

The federal per-vote subsidy was eliminated in 2015.

The government must now respond to the report. Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef’s office has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Studies looking at the issue have found that when party members are given the option to vote for female nominees, they often do. In addition, early and long nomination campaigns are more likely to attract female contestants, the committee heard.

But the rules and processes associated with nomination and election campaigns can be complicated, and decision-making within parties was described by some as “opaque.”

“Women may benefit from increased transparency and accountability in nomination and election campaign processes, as this would confirm that all candidates are subject to the same rules,” the report says.

The committee said Ottawa should also consider encouraging parties to set voluntary quotas for how many female candidates they plan to field and publicly report on efforts to recruit female candidates after every general election.

Other recommendations include a call for publicly funded education campaigns and training to counter the negative effects of gender-based harassment of female politicians, both in traditional and social media. The committee also said Statistic Canada should get more funding to expand its data collection on the participation and engagement of diverse groups of women in political activities.

The MPs who worked on the report plan to ask to another Commons committee, which studies electoral issues, to consider looking into ways to eliminate gender bias in the design of voting ballots. A letter would also go to House Speaker Geoff Regan to ask him to examine ways to eliminate gender-based heckling in the House of Commons.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press



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Poll suggests majority of Canadians favour limiting immigration levels

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OTTAWA — Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says he is concerned by numbers in a new poll that suggest a majority of Canadians believe the federal government should limit the number of immigrants it accepts.

Sixty-three per cent of respondents to a recent Leger poll said the government should prioritize limiting immigration levels, while just 37 per cent said the priority should be on increasing the number of immigrants to meet economic demands.

Hussen says the result is concerning because he has heard directly from employers who are in desperate need of workers, and immigration is key to meeting those needs.

He says he understands some Canadians may be worried about the ability of communities to absorb more newcomers due to housing and other infrastructure shortages, but he says the answer is to invest more in those areas rather than cut immigration.

The poll suggests Conservative voters are far more likely to disagree with Hussen — 81 per cent of Conservative respondents said they favoured limiting immigration levels, while 41 per cent of Liberals, 44 per cent of NDP supporters and 57 per cent of Greens were in favour.

The online survey of 1,528 Canadians, randomly recruited from Leger’s online panel, was conducted between June 7 and 10 for The Canadian Press. 

The Canadian Press

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NDP promise to expand universal health care, starting with national drug plan

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HAMILTON — The federal NDP says if it is elected this fall it will expand Canada’s health-care system, starting with fast-tracking a universal drug plan to ensure a late 2020 start date.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says if his party forms government after the October federal election, it will inject $10 billion annually into a national pharmacare program.

The NDP proposal would see the pharmacare program start sooner than an expert panel recently recommended.

The panel said a national list of prescription drugs for pharmacare should be established by Jan. 1, 2022, and be expanded no later than Jan. 1, 2027.

The NDP policy comes in a new “commitments document” — dubbed A New Deal for People — unveiled today at the Ontario NDP convention in Hamilton.

In remarks provided to the media in advance of his convention speech Sunday morning, Singh says the plan would save families who already have insurance coverage $550 a year.

“For the first time, every single Canadian can count on this,” he said. “If you need medication, if someone you love needs medication, you can get it — period. Paid for with your health card, not your credit card.”

Singh said the NDP plan would also eventually expand universal coverage to dental, vision and hearing care as well.

The 109-page document also contains promises to create 500,000 more affordable housing units, expand grant programs for post-secondary education and address the cost of cellphone service and high-speed broadband.

The party is pledging to spend a billion dollars in 2020 to enhance child care across the country.

The document also promises to restore door-to-door mail delivery to all communities that have lost it — which would cost $100 million — and to establish a gasoline-price watchdog to monitor fuel prices and prevent “gouging.”

The party says it would raise government revenues to pay for its policies through a number of measures including increasing corporate taxes and by creating a so-called “wealth tax.”

Taxes on the richest Canadians — those with net worth of $20 million or more — would jump by one per cent, generating several billion dollars annually in revenue.

“The Liberals and Conservatives have been working for the people at the very top instead of working for you,” Singh said. “We are going to change that.”

The party would roll back corporate tax cuts provided by previous governments to 2010 levels, an increase from the current 15 to 18 per cent, generating billions more for government coffers a year.

Singh said the party would also institute a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax on residential purchases to prevent housing markets from overheating.

The NDP does not make a specific promise to balance the federal budget.

“In all cases, we will manage debt and deficits responsibly, borrowing when required to defend the services that Canadians and their families rely on, and moving to balance when prudent,” the document says.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

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