"Today, we are calling on the government to name a minister to be responsible for the Status of Women," says Nancy Furlong, secretary treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour, which represents 140,000 workers. "After a century, Alberta women are a long way off from equality. Women here earn on average only 72 cents for every dollar a man earns," she says.
"Clearly, Alberta's system does not work and needs to be fixed. Naming a minister to be responsible for the Status of Women is a simple step to ensure that Alberta women don't fall further behind. Having one minister take responsibility for this important issue will help to bring focus and may lead to improvements," says Furlong.
"Nationally, Canada used to be a world leader in addressing equality between men and women. But over the last 10 years we've gone from leader to laggard and now rank near the bottom of Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in socio-economic equality alongside Turkey, South Korea, Mexico and the United States."
Within Canada, Alberta is the only jurisdiction that does not give women an institutional voice. Across the country, there are official advisory councils to government on the status of women, women's secretariats that form part of larger government ministries and, in select jurisdictions, entire ministerial portfolios dedicated to the status of women.
"Only in Alberta are women denied an official voice. We need to ensure women's rights aren't forgotten," says Furlong. "A Minister for the Status of Women would be able to analyze what happens in other jurisdictions to find which policies best contribute to women's equality."
For example, there is clear evidence that governments which invest in child care and early learning have a smaller pay gap between men and women. However, Alberta lags behind the rest of the country, with only 17 per cent of children having access to a regulated child-care space, compared with the national average of 20 per cent. In fact, Alberta is tied with PEI for the lowest spending per regulated child-care space in Canada.
"Alberta used to be at the forefront of the fight for equality, led by the Famous Five and their campaign to have women declared ‘persons' under the law. It is time for Alberta to take back that leadership role," says Furlong. "Alberta's women deserve better. We have waited 100 years since International Women's Day began. We must not be told to wait another 100 years."
Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer, Alberta Federation of Labour @ cell 780-720-8945