Platforms should contain more than fiscal policy

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Women's issues are not going to be a prominent topic of debate among candidates in the ongoing campaign for federal office. But, although it is not typical for minority issues to be heavily publicized during elections, where political parties stand on matters such as pay equity and female representation in government will have a considerable effect on the future of Canadian women.

The Liberal Party of Canada has been in power for the last seven years, and in that time proved their worth to women as an organization concerned with gender equality in every respect. According to the National Women's Liberal Commission Representative for Alberta and the North, over half of the senators and Lieutenant Governors appointed by the Chr├ętien government since 1993 were women. Also, since 1993 the Liberals have been responsible for the appointment of the first woman in Canadian history to hold the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and the number of female judicial appointments has risen 16 per cent. There are a multitude of other facts and statistics available regarding the Liberals contribution to the fight for women's rights, ranging from pay equity concerns to the funding of breast cancer research programs.

This is in sharp contrast to the Canadian Alliance, which does not even mention gender issues in their list of social concerns. Unlike the Liberals, the Alliance does not stress equality, but instead puts emphasis on "strength, compassion, and fundamental rights" as their foundation for social policy. In fact, one might conclude that from their Web site's lack of acknowledgement of women in general, they might not be concerned with gender issues at all. By failing to return e-mails as well as managing to dodge any inquiries made in person regarding their position on women's issues, it almost seems as though they are trying to prevent their views on a woman's place in society from being publicly known. In considering this, the question of why they would want to do this comes up. Reflecting on the scandals created by their previous public declarations of their views on minority rights, such as their position on homosexuality, one might deduce that the reason they are being so secretive is that they do not want to generate this kind of negative publicity so soon before an election.

For the non-Liberal concerned with attaining national gender equality, the NDP, the Tories and the Green Party are alternatives to the Alliance. The NDP feels that pay equity, nationally administrated child care and affordable housing are major issues for women in the 21st century, while the Tories are most concerned with problems related to poverty and plan to implement several new tax exemption policies to aid women in tight financial situations. The Green Party subscribes to National Organization of Women philosophies and lists women's rights as a concern of their department of human rights and development.

So when weighing the issues, which will no doubt soon be brought up in upcoming debates and campaigns, keep women in mind while considering the candidates. This will be an excellent chance to advocate women's rights, and there may not be another like it for a long time. Don't let it go to waste.