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LANA PAYNE: Spare us the faux outrage

If the Conservatives want Atlantic Canadians to let them back in then they have some serious work to do.
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It’s as if their own dismal record on women and equality didn’t happen, so inspired is their faux outrage.

This week Conservative women MPs continued to call out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for being a “fake feminist.” as if they give two cents for feminists and the fight for equality waged by them.

Do they think feminists will vote for them or will be fooled by the faux feminism within the Conservative Party?

You see feminists don’t cancel billions of dollars in childcare funding because feminists support and advocate for universal and affordable childcare. They know that this is critical to a more equal Canada for women.

You may recall that the very first act of the former Harper government was to eliminate childcare agreements with provinces, amounting to a loss of billions of dollars earmarked to help build a universal child-care system across the country.

Now, a dozen years later, and childcare remains inaccessible to most families, expensive and still a major barrier to equality for women. Instead, the Conservatives took those billions of dollars and handed them out in corporate tax cuts — money that for the most part sat on balance sheets instead of being invested in jobs and upskilling or wages.

Feminists also don’t slash funding to feminist organizations doing important work in communities across Canada, including supporting survivors of violence and advocating for an end to violence against women and girls and doing so with very little resources.

Feminists don’t weaken gun laws. They do what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did in response to a gross act of terrorism that took the lives of 50 Muslims while they prayed. They act to ban assault weapons and they do it decisively.

Feminists don’t attack pay equity as the Harper government did. Feminists understand that sexist wage discrimination must be addressed as part of a comprehensive equality plan. Indeed, so contemptuous were they of the very concept of pay equity that the Harper Conservatives barred women in the federal public sector from accessing the assistance of their unions to resolve pay equity.

And to be very, very clear feminists support reproductive choice. Full stop. They advocate for expanded access because women having control over their own bodies is critical to equality.

It’s safe to say the Conservative Party of Canada is not a friend of feminists nor of the things that collectively advance the equality of all women.

Their mockery of the prime minister who these days deserves plenty of criticism for plenty of things should remind Canadians of their own wretched record on women’s equality.

But the point of the mockery is not because Candice Bergen, Michelle Rempel or Lisa Raitt are suffering from feminist outrage on behalf of other women.

It’s rather one more reminder to their mostly anti-feminist base why any government that promotes equality, no matter how incremental, is a threat to them. It was and is a tactic designed to keep their base engaged and of course angry.

Because anger is their fuel.

I am sure in a basement somewhere, devoid of both sunlight and joy, the brains behind the Conservative Party’s communications thinks they are rocking it.

News flash, you are not.

But such is the bubble of politics in 2019. Such is the result of a political system that encourages extreme partisanship. Such is today’s political game. Civility is a thing of the past, but sadly not hypocrisy. That is alive and thriving in Ottawa.

Conservatives don’t get to lecture on feminism. Not with their record. Not with their disdain for the kind of collective and structural measures that are critical to achieve full equality for all Canadian women.

They may believe in their own individual aspiration to break through the glass ceiling, to their own entitlement to respect and equality, but that does not advance broader-based equality for women. It just means they personally made it.

If they really care about feminism and its goals, they should start by pushing their own party to include active measures that achieve equality for all women.

Until then, spare us the faux outrage.

Lana Payne is the Atlantic director for Unifor. She can be reached by email at Twitter: @lanampayne Her column returns in two weeks.

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