Women’s groups claim their priorities not on candidates’ radar

Toronto Women's City Alliance research and administrative co-ordinator Melissa Wong (right) speaks at Social Planning Toronto's October research and policy forum on Oct. 5. The forum addressed women's issues and city services in the upcoming municipal election. (TWCA_forum)

The co-ordinator of the Toronto Women’s City Alliance says mayoral front-runners have virtually ignored women’s issues this campaign.

Today, Social Planning Toronto,  a non-profit research organization, staged “What’s at stake: Women, city services and the municipal election,” a forum to address women’s issues in the upcoming Toronto municipal election. The forum brought together speakers from the University of Toronto, York University and the Toronto Women’s City Alliance.

According to Melissa Wong, research and administrative co-ordinator for the TWCA, candidates have been quiet so far on the subject of women’s equality in Toronto.

“From what I’ve seen, women’s issues are not a big issue, unfortunately. I’ve barely heard any of the mayoral candidates talk about women,” she said.

The TWCA previously held a mayoral debate on Sept. 10. When the candidates were asked if they supported the creation of a women’s equality office, only one did—Sarah Thomson.

“It really showed that that they didn’t have a depth of understanding of the issues facing women in Toronto and how they can be addressed,” Wong said.

According to Lisa Philipps, a law professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall, issues,such as poverty, lack of child care and homelessness, arise when cities cut back on social services in order to balance budgets. Currently, 24 per cent of Toronto women live in poverty according to the TWCA.

“When I look at the platforms of the leading mayoral candidates, I see a lot of emphasis on balanced budgets and fiscal credibility. While these things are not, in the abstract, problematic… the focus on that really concerns me,” she said.

Philipps said women are more likely to require social services, so they’re the ones who suffer when governments slash spending. But with the federal and provincial governments downloading services to the municipal level, she said it’s tempting for the city to drop the burden on individual households.

“The city is the last line of defence in terms of protecting services that are important to the most vulnerable groups in society,” she said. “If the city begins to be complicit in that agenda of reducing services in order to hold the line on taxes… then I think we’re in trouble.”