The Honourable Chrystia Freeland
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
House of Commons Ottawa, ON
Re: Roundtable with women’s rights and equality-seeking organizations for Federal Budget 2021
Dear Minister Freeland,
In this unprecedented moment in history, federal budget priorities need to be rethought to shape what Canada will look like after COVID-19. The pandemic has had disproportionate economic, health and social impacts on women in Canada, particularly those who belong to Black, Indigenous or racialized communities, (im)migrant and refugees, women living with disabilities or members of the LGBTQ+ communities. It is for this reason that experts are calling the pandemic induced recession a she-cession. It is critical that diverse women’s voices are front and center in consultations for Budget 2021 to respond to the realities of these inequalities. As a part of your Ministry’s pre-budget consultations, we are asking you to host a roundtable with women’s rights organizations and feminist leaders from across the county on priorities for the next budget over the coming month.
Under your government’s leadership, we have seen steady progress in incorporating gender analysis in the budget process. The Canadian Gender Budgeting Act has been instrumental in ensuring budgets now include a gender analysis and framework to measure progress. Through these actions, important initiatives have been spearheaded to level the playing field for women and other equality-seeking groups in Canada and abroad. However, significant gaps remain and Covid-19 has laid bare and exacerbated existing inequalities. The gender wage gap has hardly narrowed in the last 20 years, and the lowest number of women are currently in the workforce since 1986. School closures and inaccessible child care makes it difficult for women to enter the workforce, and women spend almost double the time than men on unpaid care work.
Women’s rights organizations and feminist leaders from across the country are well positioned to provide some concrete actions for you to take in the next budget to further advance gender equality and to lay the ground for a feminist recovery plan for Canada.
Women’s rights and feminist organizations have struggled to have their voices heard in fiscal policy discussions. For example, last year the Standing Committee on Finance consulted with close to 300 Canadian organizations and individuals on the priorities for Federal Budget 2020. A mere two per cent of the witnesses were women’s rights organizations and only seven per cent of witnesses spoke about gender equality and women’s rights. The Federal Budget is an important tool to advance gender equality. To do so, it is important that women’s voices are at the heart of the budget process.
COVID-19 has forever changed the world and we know we have a long way to go to address the impacts. But it is also a time to envision and lay the ground for a future that is more equal, sustainable and inclusive for all. The only way we will overcome the COVID-19 crisis is to make the economy work for women. Fiscal policy is a feminist issue and it is essential that women in all their diversity have a voice in budgeting processes.