Members of the national women’s group REAL Women brought their concerns before Progressive Conservative and Liberal members of Parliament on November 18 at a national lobby held on Parliament Hill. The lobby was attended by over 250 REAL Women supporters from across the country. Members of Parliament were keenly interested in the brief presented by REAL Women, and gave the group encouragement and support.
The REAL Women brief, presented by Gwen Landolt, Peggy Stacy, Diane Watts and Barbara Stasuk, focused on the stresses on the Canadian family today. Within this context, the issues of daycare, pornography, divorce and homosexuality were discussed, as well as ways in which families with full-time homemakers might be better compensated. REAL Women also presented its position on funding of women’s groups.
The organization would prefer to see an end to funding of all special interest groups. However, as it appears that this is not to be the case, they have submitted an application for a grant in the amount of $1 million to the Secretary of State Women’s Programme in order to “catch up” with radical feminist groups that have been extensively funded for many years. Previous grant applications to this programme by REAL Women have been summarily refused, and the group claims an overt discrimination on the part of those responsible within the Secretary of State department.
Recommendations made by REAL Women included the replacement of the marriage exemption in the income tax system with a full-time homemaker’s tax credit and an increase in the child tax credit for middle and lower income families.
The group sees these changes as preferable to a homemaker’s pension, which would apply only to women in a comfortable tax bracket and provide a measure of financial security for the future. REAL Women point out that the financial pressures of a young, growing family are here and now, and a homemaker’s tax credit would provide an immediate financial break for families blessed with full-time homemakers caring for dependant children. It is their view that public policy should favour the mother at home on an equal basis with women in the paid workforce and that one way to achieve this equality is by putting more dollars at the family’s disposal.
With this option, it is believed that many women who are now working because of economic necessity would be able to remain in the home, thereby providing full-time care to their children, and at the same time. Negate the expense of child care to others. It would also provide the advantage of opening up more employment opportunities, since fewer women would be seeking employment in the paid workforce.
REAL Women also proposed a system of joint income tax returns between spouses to eliminate the tax penalty for single income families. Under the proposed system, spouses would have the option of filing joint returns which would have lower tax rate than a single return, therefore providing a lower tax rate for those families struggling on a single income.
On the issue of pornography, REAL Women expressed their support for the intent of the Pornography Bill proposed by former Minister of Justice John Crosbie which expressly prohibits sexually explicit material. The group believes that this material is exploitive of both women and children and adversely affects behaviour and changes attitudes toward sexuality. They recommend that the definition of pornography, which includes the prohibition of sexually-explicit material as set out in the new Pornography Bill, which is to be brought forward during this session of Parliament.
REAL Women presented their concerns relating to child care and their objections to the concept of “universal” daycare. They believe that every family that so chooses should be able to look after their children in their own home, and that children require a close, continuous, nurturing relationship with a single caregiver, preferably a mother. In their brief, REAL Women point out that child care experts have long recognized that children do not thrive well in large, impersonal, institutional or group settings. Therefore, REAL Women disagree with the recommendations of the Katie Cooke report which called for government-funded universally available daycare, free to every Canadian child by the year 2001 at an annual cost of $11.3 billion. Not only is this cost prohibitive, says REAL Women, but the scheme fails to meet the needs of children.
The women’s group also took exception to the manner in which government studies on the issue of daycare have been undertaken, pointing out the exceptional number of government-financial radical feminist organizations presenting briefs to the Parliamentary childcare committee. All of these groups recommended universal daycare. REAL Women wonder how many individuals and family-based groups contributed to the proceedings and whether the committee actually heard the voice of grassroots Canadians on the child care issue. They point out that according to a recent Gallup poll, the majority of the public do not agree with the concepts of publicly funded universal daycare.
The position of REAL Women on the issue of child care is that because of economic necessity daycare is often an essential and invaluable service, and when parents require assistance with child care it should be of the highest possible quality. They believe, however, that it should be the parents’ right to choose the kind and location of daycare that best accommodates their family value system and the particular needs of their child, whether it is government subsidized or not. Therefore, when child care is required, they recommend that direct payments be made to the family, allowing it to choose the kind of care, whether in the home or outside the home, according to the family’s values and the needs of the child.
At the conclusion of the presentation to members of the Progressive Conservative caucus, an invitation was extended by Geoff Scott (Hamilton-Wentworth), Chairman of the Standing Committee on Secretary of State, for representatives of REAL Women to appear before this Committee and voice their concerns. Other Members of Parliament urged REAL Women members to write to their MPs; they stated that they hear only from members of the National Action Committee in the Status of Women (NAC) and that MPs must be able to show support for their constituents in defending the concerns of REAL Women.
The presentation to the members of the Liberal caucus seemed less positive due to the influence of chairman Lucie Pepin (Outremont) who actively disagreed with many of the positions expressed by REAL Women representatives. However, the objections of Ms. Pepin were tempered by the support expressed by several other Liberal Members of Parliament.
REAL Women members present for the lobby were pleased with the support shown by more than fifty Members of Parliament in attendance. Wendy Woodcock of Winnipeg stated that her Manitoba group felt that it was important for them to have a representative at the lobby, and she felt that the MPs had been very responsive to the concerns of REAL Women. The lobby was also judged a success by Sachiko Ogura of Montreal who welcomed the opportunity to express her views to Members of Parliament. Marian and John Van der Meer, also of Montreal hoped that the positive atmosphere of the lobby would result in government funding to REAL Women.
REAL Women representatives will be meeting further with senior government officials and will continue to lobby on behalf if pro-life, pro-family women across Canada.