2018 Fundraising campaign

2018 Fundraising campaign

i Apr 25th No Comments by

Support the work of Women & Politics by participating in our fundraising campaign. Fill out the form that’s linked below to order; payment will be accepted via e-transfer or cheque. Orders will not be fulfilled until the donation is received.

Order here

Here are the items you’ll receive as our thanks for donating:

Magnet

magnet

Bookmark

bookmark2 bookmark1

Sticky notes

sticky-notes

Premium ballpoint pen

pen

W&P mug

wp-mug

Cotton short-sleeved t-shirt

t-shirt

50 for London mug

50-for-london-mug 50-for-london-mug-2

Two-tone tote bag

totebag

14oz tumbler

tumbler

 

 

50 for London: It’s Our Turn

i Mar 5th No Comments by

50 for London: It's Our Turn campaign school and civic engagement poster.

 

Women & Politics London, in partnership with Diverse Voices for Change (an initiative by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities), is hosting a one-day event where prospective candidates can learn skills to run an effective municipal campaign and Londoners who want to engage more with the City can learn about civic engagement opportunities. While our focus is to encourage women of diverse communities to attend, this event is open to all.

Our day will begin with our keynote speaker Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto City Councillor, and then the sessions will be divided in two streams:

Stream 1: Campaign School – learn about fundraising, friendraising, data management, canvassing, and volunteer coordiantion.

Stream 2: Civic Engagement – learn different ways you can volunteer with the City of London and sit on their advisory committees, boards, and commissions.

The day will conclude with a panel of former women politicians who will share their journey in politics.

A more detailed agenda will be shared with participants closer to the date.

REGISTER HERE.

*Lunch will be provided and childminding will be available.

Getting there: This is an accessible location. Parking is available behind the building and alongside the building facing Clarence Street. There are several bus routes to get to Pathways including the 7, 3,11,15,13, and the 26.

“We need an old girls’ network”

i Jun 29th No Comments by

Strong family-friendly policies and an “old girls’ network” are needed to encourage and support potential women candidates for politics, says a London sociologist who specializes in gender issues in the workplace.

“We need an old girls’ network. We need women supporting women and men supporting women as well,” said Brescia University College professor Helene Cummins, who recently received a Status of Women Award of Distinction for her work in advancing women in the workplace.

“More women are going into male-dominated fields like medicine and business, but women still tend to avoid the political spectrum. There are those multiple reasons, but they avoid conflict and aggressive social situations,” said Cummins.

She said “bully cultures” thrive in political settings and women are more likely to avoid those types of environments. There are female bullies . . . but typically, women are more communal. They typically seek to share power.”

The problem is, power isn’t being shared with women. While it’s been more than a year since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau famously quipped “Because it’s 2016,” when asked why he had appointed women to half of his cabinet positions, women continue to be greatly underrepresented at all levels of government in Canada.

As Cummins said, there are a multitude of potential barriers more likely to affect female candidates, many of them systemic. At city council level, those could include late-afternoon and evening meetings and absence of child care. In London, some politicians are pushing to have city council identify and address barriers to women candidates before the 2018 election.

Cummins has an instant suggestion.

“There should be daycare available,” she said, noting that statistically women continue to do the bulk of household work, which includes caring for children. “We have to have policies in place to support women in these vital roles.”

Those policies could include stricter code-of-conduct rules. Across the country, when asked why more women don’t enter politics about 30% of Canadians surveyed blame the negative environment, which includes hostility and aggressive campaigning, debating and public scrutiny.

Sheri Doxtator, former Chief of Oneida Nation of the Thames said she has experienced “sexism, racism and ageism,” while representing her community. “It’s in First Nation politics, in mainstream politics as well. People are slinging the mud, and so aggressive, and the name calling . . . it could’ve buried me,” said Doxtator, who was a facilitator at the 2016 Southwestern Ontario Women’s Political Summit and is organizing a similar event in Toronto for Indigenous women leaders.

“But it has always been my belief that the Creator has made women with such strength, honour and respect and such gifts that we will persevere. Women can deal with these things in a good way. Change the tone. I say, ‘I’m here to listen.’ For me, being a leader is not about telling people what to do, it’s about helping people become leaders themselves.”

London’s Ward 5 Coun. Maureen Cassidy didn’t mince words. “It can get ugly. I’ve had a lot of experience with ugliness over the last year. But I was elected to do this job and I love my job,” she said. “We have to rally around women, support them and show them this is something women are good at. It’s also important to mentor young women.”

Support would help with the “imposter syndrome,” often suffered by women politicians, including Ward 10 Coun. Virginia Ridley, who recalled feeling like “the biggest faker out there,” for the first six months of her term.

Baechler too said she used to be “filled with dread,” every time she pulled into the city hall parking lot during her rookie year in 1993.

“As soon as I got there, my heart would start to pound,” she told WP. “It was an environment I wasn’t comfortable in. People would be skewered. If you went against someone who was aggressive and bullying, you’d suffer a backlash.”

Baechler believes a more gender-balanced government would be a less aggressive one and has long advocated for strong networks of support around women political candidates. She – along with London’s four women city councillors — is a mentor with King’s University College’s Head Start program, which is a Federation of Canadian Municipalities initiative that aims to increase participation of women on elected council.

“Men tend to have a more confrontational and aggressive style and approach to issues. Women look in and see this yelling back and forth and say ‘I don’t want to play that game,’” she said. “The more we see women appointed to those positions, the more women say ‘ok there’s a place for me.’ Those are all important pieces to changing the system,” she said.

Initiatives such as Women and Politics “Ask Her” campaign — which encourages Londoners to suggest a city council run to women who they think would make good city leaders – could be the push some excellent potential candidates need.

“Often times, women lack political self efficacy and are less likely to seek the recognition to run for politics,” said Brescia’s Cummins. “We need to highlight those unique skills they have and nurture them to be the best they can be.”

Jennifer O’Brien is a journalist in London, Ontario.

Diverse Voices for Change Initiative

i Sep 12th No Comments by

Since the inception of Women & Politics, we have advocated that local government policies need to be more inclusive of all women and genders. Whether it be the London Plan, the Municipal Budget, or any policy/service that the City provides, the voices and experiences of  all women need to be included in a more meaningful and concrete way. In addition, this work  needs to go beyond gender  to centre racialized, Indigenous and newcomer women who are noticeably absent from many decision-making processes and leadership roles. While white women make gains (albeit incrementally) in many of these areas, women from diverse communities are left even further behind.

So, we are excited to share that London has been chosen as one of the communities for the Diverse Voices for Change Project through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. This initiative is to  increase the number of women from diverse communities who are actively informed by, and engaged in, local government decision-making. Five municipalities, including London, Sioux Lookout, Montreal, Halifax and Edmonton will engage racialized, Indigenous and newcomer women in local decision-making processes and leadership roles.

The City of London, along with Women and Politics as a community partner, will work with women from diverse communities to implement strategies, recommendations, policies and procedures within the city that better represent women from racialized, Indigenous and newcomer backgrounds.

We are excited that the City of London has made the commitment to this project and is taking steps forward in becoming more inclusive and representative of all Londoners. This is just one step of many that needs to be taken, and we will continue to push our local government to be more responsive to gender and diversity needs in our City on all fronts. Stay tuned for more updates as this project moves forward and get in touch with us if you are interested in learning more or being involved in any of the work we do.

Women Who Inspire

i Apr 30th No Comments by

Here is a collection of stories from our March “Women Who Inspire” event.

The woman I have met in my education career who are mothers of children of autism. Not only do these women juggle career, family and self, they are faced with challenges often beyond their control each and every day. These women have become advocates, professors, and support systems to others mothers with children on the spectrum. These women even do this on their own and with very little interaction and support from the outside. Their love for their children is inspirational. They are my heroes.

I find I admire women more than I am inspired by them. Most women I am exposed to in real life are full of fear, who aspire to get married, get a house, have children. I can’t relate, I don’t live in fear and am usually the inspiration for others as a result. I am looking to be inspired by women in real life and in my community and thought Women & Politics would be a good start. So far, Shawna has inspired me to show up….so, so far, so good! Thank you for hosting this event, I look forward to more. – Jennifer

Michelle Landsberg – I am too young to really remember her advocacy in the 70s but recently read “Writing the Revolution” – a really terrific look back at the bravery of our early feminists who moved the needle in journalism! She made it easier for us all.

Margaret H who at 100 published her first book (2016) “Call Me Ma’am” about her time during the second world war as a psychologist helping recruit women into the Canadian Army. – Dharshi

My mom – She got her Master’s Degree P/t while raising 5 children. At 50 she decided to go to school full – time to get her PhD. She graduated at 55 & went on to teach World Politics at the University of Windsor and she did this all while married to my dad a reluctantly supportive chauvinist. – Marnie

Charlotte Montgomery who was my boss and mentor 41 years ago. I will never forget Charlotte sharing that when the men went to World War II there were only women to do the men’s work and as soon as the men returned the women were sent back to be housewives, Teachers or Nurses. Charlotte did teach for many years and then started as a Teller at the CIBC and worked her way up to Assistant manager, Benefits Department. When I worked with Charlotte I don’t recall any women managers. I think she paved the way for many managers and women U.P.’s to come. – Louise

My sister who, despite being recruited by the company itself, overcame a reputation of only getting the job to fill a quota of women employees. Not only does she now lead her team, she is by far one of the best computer programmers I know. Oh, did I mention she achieved all these goals in her career while also raising two small children by herself? When I think of the term “Super Woman” or “Super Mom” I think of Julie. – Janice

Shawna Lewkowitz for supporting & making spaces for women of all types in so many ways, but especially via founding Women & Politics London – Laura

My mom because she’s constantly pushing me to try new things and speak up for myself – Beah

Me – I say myself as I’ve kept on keeping on despite the cards dealt. I don’t see plenty of women of colour in political leader roles so I teach my children that they can, even if I don’t reach politics. 12 years ago I was addicted to crack cocaine and came to London with $10 in my pocket and a knapsack on my back and 6 months pregnant. In 4 months, my partner and I secured our place and our children were returned to us. Since then I’ve worked our way up. Still have a long way to go but I am not where I was and that is just part of the story! Also, not enough women of colour are represented. – Toni

My Mum – I spoke to her brilliance and resilience in her campaign for NDP representative, but to say that was what inspired me wouldn’t do her justice. It was AMAZING yes, but it’s so much more. She strives to live her life as an example for my sister and I. She volunteers, she works, she speaks. She is my superhero. Every day she does her best for my family, for her community and for herself. How flippin’ cool is that?  – Gabriella

My friend Vanessa. She is a woman who has overcome so much. Poverty, adoption, colourization, mental health, addictions, housing insecurity and more. I watch her raise her beautiful family with so much love and grace. I see her developing into a young leader in the community with passion. I am always inspired by how she does all of this and grounds herself in what she’s overcome and she uses it to give herself strength instead of just putting it in the past and burying it. Our worst days give us what we need to create our most beautiful ones. – Suze

Marnie Sherritt – one of the three founders of Project 88. Our goal was to elect more women to City Council. In our 20-year work, we moved to 40% women on City Council. Marnie was always there, making muffins for our “How to run for elected office”, doing registrations, obtaining lists of candidates, mailing invitations to candidates. In fact, she did all the slug work while being absolutely reliable – and she still is.

My Daughter – who calls out gender based violence in her grade 5 class even when it isolates her. – Jodi

I am inspired by my teacher because she is nice.

My mother lost her mom when she was young and was moved into C.A.S and moved from home to home, eventually running away and living on the streets, homeless and finding meals in dumpsters. She quit school in grade 9 to work to get money to eat. She got pregnant at 17. She married and had two more kids, then divorced and worked so hard to make ends meet. She did whatever she could to not only make sure we had what we needed but often it was not unusual to see other kids from the neighbourhood at our house for dinner or staying for a week, month, even longer when their parents were going through problems. She was a tough mom but only when we needed it. She worked during the day and did school at night to earn her degree. She also made sure she gave back to the community, telling us it was her job to set an example for us; she has coached more than 100 kids competitive soccer, was the first female head coach of a club and many other firsts in the soccer world. She is also a very strong advocate for people who live in poverty, especially women. Every month she puts aside $50 and quietly picks one women in London who needs a hand and helps them. Last month it was a young girl going back to school who needed school supplies, the month before a young mom whose son was very ill in the hospital — she paid all of her parking. This and so very much more makes my mom my (and many others’) number one inspiration!! – Sarah

My Mom – my first example of what it looks like to be a leader. – Jodi

Young Women and Politics

i Apr 30th No Comments by

We had our first Young Women and Politics workshop in April at the Northwest Resource Centre. 24 girls and young women came together to learn about politics, socialize and meet local female politicians. Participants were asked to write a blog post to reflect on their experiences. Here are posts from two of the amazing young women who attended.

My experience at the Young Women and Politics Session

My experience at the Young Women and Politics session was amazing. There are so many reasons why this session was a very tremendous experience for me. I have gone to many workshops for young women and how to feel confident, but Women and Politics really showed a perspective on inner beauty. The beauty of leadership. As many will know, being a leader is a very difficult task when it comes to politics for women. But this workshop was eye-opening in terms of options for young women in politics. A big part for me at this session was how they talked about the word “Feminist.” This word at first may be scary to some people. It was for me at first — until Women & Politics. They’ve really showed me that this word only means equality. Equality in the sense of being equal between men and women. I found it eye-opening to see that a word that sounds so strong could be just a simple well-known fact to me. Ever since I’ve heard that, I’ve been telling people that I’m a feminist and that is something I thought I would never say. Another big aspect that really caught my attention was “Breaking through barriers.” This was a big part that stuck with me even after the session was done. After hearing that term, I was really starting to see the barriers that occurred everyday that I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t been to the workshop. Everyday stuff, like how I noticed that my gym teacher picks boys to be team leaders and not girls. This really caught my eye and I was surprised to see it. In summary, Women and Politics demonstrated that being a leader and confidence is the best beauty a girl can have. -Christina Keane Sanchez (13)

Turning 25% into 50%

I went to the “Young Women and Politics” event last weekend and I thought it would be good just to have some background knowledge on politics but I actually learned so much! I learned that there are no lines like everyone thinks there is to get involved in politics, what the real– not what society thinks — meaning of a feminist or feminism is, what it’s like to be a politician as a woman and how we can get in involved. There is no line between politicians and “regular people”; you can call your local MP and talk about how you can get involved helping out with your community and move up from there.

 “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Society thinks that we want to be better than men but the definition says “equality to men.” We don’t want to be compared to men like, “Oh you can’t go into politics, that’s for a man.” Even if those aren’t the exact words, it’s implied. Only 25% of the politicians are women. I would definitely go to something like this again and I encourage other girls to come out as well so we can turn that 25% into 50%! – Georgia Harrington

Women Who Inspire – Margaret Hoff

i Mar 1st No Comments by

Margaret Hoff inspires me because I have been hearing her voice for many years. She has the courage, passion and commitment to give voice to issues of importance in London; issues that may be controversial, issues that challenge the ‘status quo’. Margaret continues to give voice even when ignored, shut down, or strongly opposed. She makes things happen – no matter how long or hard she has to invest to do it!  She founded London’s Daycare Services Committee, worked on London’s Governance Task Force, focused community efforts on transit, housing and electoral reform. Most importantly to me as a member of Women and Politics, she co-founded Project 88 with other inspiring women. This went on to be Project 91, 94, 97 and 2000, an important initiative to get more women elected in London. She continues to work on behalf of women in our community, and provides advice to our Women and Politics group. Her voice makes a difference, and inspires others to raise their voices. We can do so much with our united voices, so let’s all be inspired by Margaret and use our collective voice to make London a better place for women!

 
Submitted by Sue Hillis

Women Who Inspire – International Women’s Day

i Mar 1st No Comments by

As part of International Women’s Day and the Pledge for Parity, we are launching a new series called “Women Who Inspire” with an event at Winks Eatery at 6:30 p.m. We want to collect and share stories of everyday women in London who inspire you. By sharing and telling these stories, we hope to inspire more women to see themselves as leaders.

Our first event will be hosted by Sophie Helpard, President, University Students’ Council, Western University. Sophie will tell us a bit about her own story, maybe touching on a woman or two who has inspired her along the way, and then we are going to ask you for your own stories. We want to hear who inspires you – a paragraph or a few bullet points is all you need to share. You can send us your stories beforehand by:

  • Tweeting @fempolildn
  • Messaging us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/womenpoliticslondon
  • Emailing info@womenandpolitics.ca
  • Filling out the form below

and we will share them in the leadup to our event. Or, you can just come out on March 7th and tell us in 2-3 minutes who inspires you and why.

If you are more of a sit back and listen kind of person, we still want you to come out. We will have cue cards for you to write your inspiring woman story on, or you can just kick back and take it all in.

And since we know, women just don’t inspire women, they inpsire all of us, we welcome everyone to our event. Women, men, children, you name it, we want you there.

Registration is not neccesary but it will help us plan our event. If the day comes around and you have three friends you convinced to come but they didn’t register, please don’t worry, bring them along.

So get thinking:  who are the women in London and area who inspire you and why? What is their story?

We can’t wait to hear about it!

*Childminding available

* If you need special accommodations, please let us know in advance by emailing info@womenandpolitics.ca

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Candidate survey results – Kate Young, Liberal Party of Canada, London West

i Nov 23rd No Comments by

How do you think our current electoral system (FPTP) impacts women and minority groups? What difference would a proportional representation model or other electoral reform make to these groups?

Our current electoral system impacts women and minorities in two ways. First, as potential candidates and elected officials. Both groups are already under-represented politically in Canada. As we see in Europe, countries with proportional-representation have a higher representation of women within government. In Canada, parties and leaders dominate the public discussion; so, if there is no political will to ensure that a fair representation of women and minorities exists, then it is impossible to translate that to a ruling government. In other electoral systems, there is room for further nuances which can better and more accurately represent the values of the population voting. I believe we need a new electoral system that better represents all Canadians. The second impact is on the voter who must choose only one candidate and then, either feel as if they’re not represented at all, or worse, there is no one on the ballot who speaks to their values and experience as a woman, an immigrant, someone of First Nations heritage, etc. This further disenfranchises voters. Every vote counts and all Canadians deserve a voice in Ottawa. When every one is heard, then we can have policies and laws that truly reflect our country.

The Fair Elections Act removes the provision for people to vouch for those with no ID. This has the potential to disproportionately impede people such as those experiencing homelessness from voting. What is your plan to ensure these individuals are able to vote?

Canada depends on immigration and our Canadian values embrace our social responsibility to refugees. It is in our best interests to ensure that all newcomers to Canada have access to the resources they need on their path to becoming Canadians, if they choose. We believe that immigrants should be reunited with their families abroad as quickly as possible. We also believe that refugees must have access to the health care, especially mental health care, they often need urgently after leaving countries in the midst of war and other tragedies. The recent debate over allowing more Syrian refugees into this country is an indication of how the present government’s views of refugees is not in step with the citizens of Canada.

Newcomers to Canada experience high levels of social isolation and often have multiple barriers to receiving optimal healthcare. If elected, how will you and your party address these challenges?

Canada depends on immigration and our Canadian values embrace our social responsibility to refugees. It is in our best interests to ensure that all newcomers to Canada have access to the resources they need on their path to becoming Canadians, if they choose. We believe that immigrants should be reunited with their families abroad as quickly as possible. We also believe that refugees must have access to the health care, especially mental health care, they often need urgently after leaving countries in the midst of war and other tragedies.

Please comment on Bill C24, the legislation that gives the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship and also makes it more difficult to become Canadian.

The Liberal Party is opposed to Bill C-24. Processing times for all major categories of immigrants, as well as for visitors, have skyrocketed over the past five years. At the same time, the bill proposes to increase the fee for new citizens from $100 to $300. This means would-be new citizens are getting double the waiting time for triple the fee. Further, while we agree with that Canadian citizenship is a privilege and that new citizens should be genuinely committed to our country, we disagree with their decision to extend language tests from those aged 18-54 to the broader age range 14-64. The age 14 is too young, while 64 is too old. We also believe that the Bill will actually devalue citizenship by making it harder to obtain and by providing the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration with extraordinary discretionary powers to revoke a Canadian’s Citizenship with limited access to judicial appeals. While we agree that individuals charged with serious crimes like terrorism or treason should face the severest legal penalties, it is a basic principle in our democracy that those making the laws cannot also be the ones enforcing them. This is the role of Canada’s judicial system, not politicians.

How would you address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada? Do you support an inquiry?

We can only move forward by acknowledging the failures and egregious wrongs of the past. This issue has gone on too long and without facing this head on, we have failed our entire country with this ongoing national tragedy. A Liberal government will immediately launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. We will work with First Nations and Aboriginal partners to develop a process by which it is established. That process will be fully inclusive, designed to find justice for the victims and healing for their families. An inquiry would seek to recommend concrete actions that governments, law enforcement, and others can take to solve these crimes and prevent future ones. We must acknowledge and accept the truths of why this has happened. Only then can we understand the root causes and take action to ensure it does not continue.

Education funding levels in First Nations have long been noted to be sub-standard to what is provided across Canada. On average on reserve education spending is $2000 less per student than what is offered by the provincial education systems. What steps would you take to begin closing the funding gap for First Nations students on reserve?

We are committed to closing the gap for First Nations students on reserve. An initial, immediate new investment of $515 million per year in core annual funding for kindergarten through grade 12 education for First Nations. This will rise to over $750 million per year by the end of our first mandate. It includes not only the funding promised and never delivered by the current government, but an additional $325 million annually.

Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy. Where do you stand on creating such a strategy?

The Liberal Party of Canada believes that every Canadian has the right to safe, adequate and affordable housing. We understand that affordable housing is a possible solution to many of our society’s challenges. Child poverty, struggling veterans, high student debt, and the precarious lives of people experiencing mental and addiction issues are all addressed with better housing. Our platform will include measures to encourage the construction of new, affordable, purpose – built rental housing, investments in innovative programs for supportive housing, as well as predictable and sustained new funding for affordable housing. Liberals will prioritize significant new investments in affordable housing as part of the Liberal’s historic ten-year investment of nearly $20 billion in social infrastructure. We will provide $125 million per year in tax incentives to increase and substantially renovate the supply of rental housing across Canada and we will finance the construction of new, affordable rental housing for middle and low income Canadians. Tackling the housing shortage requires collaborative planning between all levels of government, meaningful engagement with community stakeholders and Canadians, as well as sustained funding. A Liberal government will work collaboratively with all our partners to increase the availability of affordable housing.

Federal funding for homelessness through the Homelessness Prevention Strategy (HPS) has not been increased since its inception over a decade ago. As the rates of homelessness have increased significantly since that time, would you increase funding? What other strategies might you recommend to reduce homelessness? As well the steady decline of low cost housing is contributing to the homelessness problem. What suggestions would you have to address the issue of increasing access to affordable housing?

As discussed in the previous question, the Liberal Party is committed a National Housing Strategy. We also called on the government to recognize the continued need for the HPS. As elected representatives, our duty is to stand up for all Canadians, especially those who do not have the basic neccessities. The purpose of the Homelessness Partnership Fund, originally created by the Liberal Party of Canada, was to provide funds to allow the provinces and cities to determine where funds were most needed. This partnership and the funding must continue. Only by providing people who are homeless with the services they need, from housing, to training, and addiction and mental health treatment can we lift them out of their circumstances, giving them a fair chance to feel the same dignity that all Canadians deserve.

Candidate survey results – Peter Fragiskatos, Liberal Party of Canada, London North Centre

i Nov 23rd No Comments by

How do you think our current electoral system (FPTP) impacts women and minority groups? What difference would a proportional representation model or other electoral reform make to these groups?

When individuals and groups lack representation in parliament, they lack a voice. Proportional Representation (PR) has the potential to improve representation among women and minorities. As such, it would obviously strengthen our democracy by granting a greater role to those who so often find themselves excluded from the formal political system. The experiences of other countries – and the Nordic states in particular – affirms this. But while FPTP falls short in ensuring fair representation, I don’t think we can expect or rely on PR to serve as some kind of panacea. As far as electoral systems are concerned, we need to make sure that the way we vote creates the conditions for the kind of democracy we want. Voting is just one aspect – albeit a very important one – of democracy. For me, a genuine democracy is one that allows for active engagement, participation and respect. PR would benefit Canada as far as formal parliamentary representation goes, but my concern is that it fails to provide incentives for greater civility. This is why I support preferential voting (the Alternative Vote, or AV, variation), which can allow for proportionality but is not designed to guarantee it. In my view, the benefits of AV outweigh concerns about the fact that it cannot ensure a proportional parliament. The key reason I favour AV over PR has to do with its potential to generate a kinder and more civil politic. Ranked balloting – the central feature of preferential voting – pushes those who are running to engage each other in a more respectful and cordial manner. When such incentives are in place, constructive debate and genuine citizen engagement become possible. And if we want to create a society where traditionally marginalized groups feel included and valued, then we need to look at systems that encourage their participation. In short, we need to be worried about more than just seat counts. The Liberal Party of Canada is committed to enacting electoral reform within eighteen months of forming a government. While we want to move away from the unfairness of the First-Past-The-Post system, we will not commit to a particular reform until the matter has been studied thoroughly.

The Fair Elections Act removes the provision for people to vouch for those with no ID. This has the potential to disproportionately impede people such as those experiencing homelessness from voting. What is your plan to ensure these individuals are able to vote?

This (Un)Fair Elections Act is an affront to Canadian democracy and that is why the Liberal Party has committed to repealing it. Because it will prevent the use of vouching and the use of voter information cards as a means of legitimate identification, more than one hundred thousand Canadians could be turned away at the polls this October. According to the Conservatives, there are 39 options for identification allowed at the polls. The truth is that voters need ID that has their photo, name and current address and very few of the acceptable forms of identification provide an address (an exception is a drivers’ licences and paper copies of utility bills). Many advocacy organizations and respected commentators have criticized these reforms because it will make it difficult – even impossible – for marginalized and under-represented citizens to vote (including seniors, the disabled, indigenous peoples, the poor, and students or youth) simply because they do not drive or have their name on their household’s utility bill. The Liberal Party has committed to restoring the voter-ID cards that Elections Canada accepted at voting stations prior to the introduction of the act. I will work with any local organization or citizen-led effort trying to help those who are likely to be impacted by making sure they know what pieces of ID will be accepted on election day.

Newcomers to Canada experience high levels of social isolation and often have multiple barriers to receiving optimal healthcare. If elected, how will you and your party address these challenges?

We need to strengthen the ability of settlement agencies to do their job. Their staff are equipped with the expertise to help newcomers access the healthcare system. The Liberal Party also feels strongly that reuniting families is a crucial part of a successful immigration policy and essential in attracting the best and brightest. Just as important is the fact that family reunification provides newcomers with a support network, such as family involvement in childcare. When strong support networks are in place, health challenges – and this includes mental health concerns – can be mitigated. Although Mr. Harper’s Conservatives present themselves as the party of family values, placing limits on reunification to 5,000 each year has caused serious harm. In essence, the federal government has put a stop to the family reunification dreams of tens of thousands of Canadian families. This began with a dramatic increase in wait-times and has persisted under the false pretense of addressing a backlog they created. The result is that they are keeping families apart. On top of all this, rather than ensuring that there exist are sufficient resources to process immigration files, the Conservatives have been closing visa offices abroad and within Canada.

Please comment on Bill C24, the legislation that gives the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship and also makes it more difficult to become Canadian.

 The Liberal Party is opposed to Bill C-24. No government should ever have the ability to take away an individual’s Canadian citizenship. Any Canadian who commits a crime ought to be punished. Yet, the revocation of citizenship crosses a line that we must never accept. Without citizenship, the rights and equality we enjoy become meaningless. I also want to add that while this position reflects my stand and that of the Liberal Party, it was John Diefenbaker, a Conservative Prime Minister, whose government changed the law in 1957 to ensure that no Canadian would ever be stripped of their citizenship. Until recently, this is an issue that all parties agreed upon. But Mr. Harper has changed this. Bill C24 is another example of the Harper Conservatives using fear for political gain. As far as other reforms addressed by the legislation, it needs to be pointed out that the government’s own data shows that processing times for citizenship applicants have doubled under their watch, from 15 months in 2007 to 31 months in 2012. The government acknowledges that inadequate resources are the main reason for this increase. Indeed, processing times for all major categories of immigrants, as well as for visitors, have also skyrocketed over the past five years. At the same time, the bill proposes to increase the fee for new citizens from $100 to $300. This means would-be new citizens are getting double the waiting time for triple the fee. Further, while we agree with the government that Canadian citizenship is a privilege and that new citizens should be genuinely committed to our country, we disagree with their decision to extend language tests from those aged 18-54 to the broader age range 14-64. The age 14 is too young, while 64 is too old.

How would you address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada? Do you support an inquiry?

The extraordinarily high disappearance and homicide rates faced by indigenous women in Canada is unacceptable and part of a systemic problem that requires careful scrutiny. Our party fully endorses the need for an inquiry and completely supports the recent recommendations published by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Liberal Party won unanimous parliamentary support in 2013 for a motion in the House of Commons for a special committee to investigate this issue and suggest solutions addressing the root causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls across the country. Unfortunately, the Conservative government used their majority on the special Parliamentary committee to do away with its report.

Education funding levels in First Nations have long been noted to be sub-standard to what is provided across Canada. On average on reserve education spending is $2000 less per student than what is offered by the provincial education systems. What steps would you take to begin closing the funding gap for First Nations students on reserve?

Only one in three First Nations youth living on reserve graduate from high school and the funding gap is a key reason why. Reversing this unacceptable situation will require strong leadership and our party is ready to provide it. Whereas Mr. Harper’s Conservatives have only committed to improving the graduation rate by eight percent by 2018, Liberals will commit to doing better. It was a Liberal government that negotiated the Kelowna Accord in 2005. That agreement – turned aside by the Conservatives – was built on a foundation of real engagement with First Nations leaders and communities. It would have provided $1.8 billion over five years to improve high school graduation rates so that they matched with those found in the rest of Canada. It also aimed for a fifty percent increase in the number of students graduating from post-secondary education. Mr. Harper’s government did commit funds to address the gap. However, their approach failed because it ignored the need for a grassroots approach that consulted a wide range of voices and perspectives among First Nations. It is therefore no surprise that the reforms introduced by Conservatives have gone nowhere. Bringing about a different outcome will require MPs to begin a dialogue with First Nations communities in their riding as to how the problems plaguing First Nations students can be addressed. I am ready to engage in that dialogue.

Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy. Where do you stand on creating such a strategy?

The Liberal Party’s stand on this question is as follows: Canada faces a stark shortage of affordable housing – making it harder for Canadian families to make ends meet. But we need more than just affordable housing. We need housing that’s accessible and available to the people who need it. Liberals believe the federal government should invest in the development of more affordable housing units to help Canadian families ease their cost of living. Every Canadian has the right to safe and affordable housing. Current programs to provide affordable housing are short-term and under-resourced. Every year, 1.8 million Canadians are in need of housing, including approximately 300,000 homeless. Yet, the government is in the process of ending rent-geared income subsidies to co-operative housing and other social housing projects that make affordable housing more accessible. Tackling the housing shortage requires collaborative planning between the orders of government and sustained funding. On a personal note, I also want to say that housing is essential if we are to address the issue of mental health and its consequences. According to a recent study that appeared in the Globe and Mail, for each $1 spent on housing and assistance for the homeless, more than $2.00 is saved in prison, hospital and shelter costs. In other words, housing is not only a morally appropriate policy but an approach that is fiscally responsible.

Federal funding for homelessness through the Homelessness Prevention Strategy (HPS) has not been increased since its inception over a decade ago. As the rates of homelessness have increased significantly since that time, would you increase funding? What other strategies might you recommend to reduce homelessness? As well the steady decline of low cost housing is contributing to the homelessness problem. What suggestions would you have to address the issue of increasing access to affordable housing?

More will be said about this issue in our platform. In the meantime, the Liberal Party believes the following: Canadians deserve a high quality of life and are committed to a poverty reduction plan for Canada. Canadians deserve a high quality of life where everyone is given a real and fair chance to succeed. Liberals are strongly committed to a poverty reduction plan for Canada. Little progress has been made in reducing the poverty gap under the Conservative government.