Budgets, throne speeches and a little sexism

Lana
Lana Payne
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There was much the Harper Conservatives could have done in last week’s budget to avoid an election.

After all, as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said, budgets are about choices.

And the Harper Conservative government chose to do none of the things that could have avoided a spring election.

That’s because ultimately the federal Conservatives — despite all their disingenuous claims — actually want an election.

They also want to be able to blame the fact we are having one on the opposition parties and, if at all possible, deflect attention away from their scandals, lax ethics, charges of Parliamentary contempt and abuse of power.

We will see if their plan is successful over the coming weeks as the mud slinging goes into high gear — or rather higher gear.

The budget was sprinkled with a few crumbs, targeting groups of voters aimed at buying their support. Boutique tax cuts and credits and a totally inadequate increase in the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), $300 million compared to the $1.2 billion needed, were among the few low-cost measures in the budget. 

At the same time, the Conservatives are going full speed ahead with their reckless corporate tax cuts which benefit mostly super-wealthy corporations like the banks and oil and mining companies.

Since 2000, corporate tax rates have been slashed, tens of billions of dollars have been handed out in tax cuts to wealthy corporations, and yet the rate of business investment has stayed the same.

To add insult to injury, corporate Canada is sitting on nearly $500 billion in cash while investment in plants, equipment, machinery and training remains very weak. It’s time they started doing their part.

The fact of the matter is oil

and mining companies will invest because of high prices. They don’t need another round of corporate tax cuts.

The banks don’t either if the profits, bonuses and salaries they are dishing out are any indication. Canada and the citizens of Canada need these corporate taxes to ensure the benefits of these high resource prices are shared with all Canadians. It’s call sharing the wealth or nation building.

Instead, the people continue to get crumbs and quite frankly, we deserve better.

•••

Last week, we made history in our province. The glass ceiling received another hammering.

A throne speech with a decidedly woman’s lens touted the benefits of early learning and child care, and the notion that “a person’s path to opportunity should not be barred because she is a woman.”

Debate on the throne speech in our legislature was led by three women, including our province’s first woman premier.

But really challenging sexism, in its many forms, is still a work in progress.

That was obvious from the debate in our province around the appointment to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) of Elizabeth Matthews, former director of communications to Premier Danny Williams. Ms. Matthews has since withdrawn her name from the appointment process.

Political appointments are exactly that: political appointments. Every government makes them, including the Liberals when they were in power and I suspect if the NDP was to hold government, they, as well, would want some say in who represents their government on boards.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a better way of doing these appointments. For example, we need well-rounded people on boards like the CNLOPB. What we don’t need are boards filled with industry or corporate types.

The CNLOPB, for example, could benefit from additional union/worker health and safety expertise. But then this is also why we need an independent safety authority as recommended by commissioner Robert Wells.

If the tragedies in our offshore have taught us anything it is that the owners, the operators and the industry need to be challenged and they need their feet kept to the fire when it comes to putting safety first. This isn’t achieved by stacking boards with only corporate or industry types.

Ms. Matthews, while not a health and safety expert, is no shrinking violet. Anyone who did the kind of work she has done had better be quick, smart and tough. Had her appointment been successful, she would have been the only woman on the board of the CNLOPB.

These boards also need some gender balance. After all, if women are left out of the places where decisions get made, then society is missing out on a necessary and different perspective. And we will not advance equality.

Did Ms. Matthews face extra or different scrutiny?

I can think of dozens of men, including former politicians, who have been appointed to boards and I do not recall much discussion or questioning of their qualifications or their abilities, nor did they have to be experts in everything. What exactly made them more qualified for their appointments than Ms. Matthews?

Yes, we should question and criticize political appointments, vigorously so. But that criticism should be applied equally.

Unfortunately, the lesson and message from the Matthews example is that the test for women is different and the bar is still higher.

Yes, women should absolutely be qualified for the positions they hold, but the bar should be the same for men and women.

Lana Payne is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by email at lanapayne@nl.rogers.com. Her column returns April 9.

Organizations: Harper Conservatives, CNLOPB, Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Petroleum Board NDP Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • mary
    March 26, 2011 - 22:20

    I think this sexism call is off. With the Cougar crash still so very fresh and with the need for safety being so much in the limelight it is no surprise at all that the appointment became an issue.

  • Herb Morrison
    March 26, 2011 - 16:16

    The failed attempts to appoint both Andy Wells and Elizabeth Matthews to the CNLOPB were alleged to have been politically motivated patronage appointments. It was common knowledge at the time, that then-Premier Danny Williams favoured Andy Wells for the position as head of the CNLOPB. It is alleged that the same Danny Williams orchestrated Ms. Matthews appointment to the CNLOPB before he left office last December. Neither the gender of Andy QWells or the gender of Elizabeth Matthews had anything to do with their being touted for positions on the CNLOPB or the subsequent objections raised concerning the attempts to appoint them to the CNLOPB. Concerns were raised because it was alleged that both the appointments were acts of political patronage and because it was alleged that both Andy Wells and Elizabeth Matthews klacked the necessary qualifications to serve on the CNLOPB. Sexism wasn't an issue in either case..

  • Newsflash for Lana
    March 26, 2011 - 11:48

    Perhaps you're not up on current events but the federal conservatives were not brought down because of the budget. Also, you seem to have forgotten about the Andy Wells fiasco CNLOPB. The only people who supported him were from St. john's and that was because they wanted him gone as mayor. Sexism isn't limited to one gender.