'Decades overdue': Equality groups call for election debate on women's rights
NDP and Green Party leaders committed Wednesday to a debate on women’s issues ahead of the 2019 election.
Up For Debate, a coalition of women’s rights groups, had planned a similar debate in 2015, but cancelled when Conservative and NDP leaders Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair said they wouldn’t participate. Then-NDP Leader Mulcair said at the time he wouldn’t take part in any debate that the then-prime minister was not participating in, after initially agreeing to do the debate.
“Last election we had Up For Debate. I was ready. We’d all committed,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May, noting key issues such as reproductive health, pay equity and child care. “These should not be even debatable issues in 2019,” she said. “I’m really thrilled to know that we have two party leaders here who are saying clearly, ‘We are up for debate. We’re not going anywhere.’”
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh committed to the debate and addressed access to abortions, the gender pay gap and violence against women. “I’m committed to these issues and I’m proud to be here to stand with this coalition today,” he said. “It’s my honour to be an ally.”
The last leaders’ debate on gender equality was in 1984, according to Paulette Senior, President and CEO of Canadian Women’s Foundation, who spoke at the press conference in Ottawa. After the cancellation of the debate in 2015, the group instead shared pre-recorded one-on-one interviews with leaders.
“This debate is decades overdue,” she said. “While we are seeing extraordinary movement, awareness and calls for change, interest is no substitute for action.”
Though neither Singh nor May addressed specific policy points, coalition leaders stressed the need for leaders to be transparent about their platforms as they relate to women’s rights issues.
“Complacency is a political decision too, and the Up For Debate campaign is built to demonstrate to all candidates that millions of individuals across this country will not remain complacent,” said Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.
Women made up more than 52 per cent of the electorate in 2015, according to Abacus Data.
“Gender equality is not a fringe issue,” said Senior. “This call for democratic debate is an opportunity for Canada’s would-be leaders to take a leading role in transformative change for all Canadians. So federal party leaders, we’re asking you again: In 2019, are you up for debate?”