The UCP Celebrates Women, and You Should See It

“We support women and believe in building them up…” The UCP has done amazing things for women if you ask them. They invested $10 million into a program that will generate tons of jobs. They have funded childcare and are issuing tax cuts to generate jobs. The UCP also has several strong conservative women, such as Rona Ambrose, in their ranks. These female voices were fairly quiet throughout the UCP AGM 2020, but each one is eager to help women rise. Right.

Who said it:

 “You know what else? I’m also getting your husbands — they wanna get back to work…We’re getting your husbands back to work. Everybody wants it.” (Answer)

I think we all know who said it, but it’s getting really hard to tell the difference between Trump politics and that of Alberta’s UCP MLAs. Take Michaela Glasgo MLA’s comments as an example. (Yes, the one from the anit-carbon tax church fiasco.)

She knew it was wrong before she even said it.

Why? She admitted it. Directly before spouting the tripe shown above, the Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA embraced the spirit of Kellyanne Conway: “I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. And I’m sure I’m going to receive flack for it – I’m sure somebody is tweeting about it now, because why wouldn’t they be?” (My tweets included some expletives, so I decided to use the NDP MLA’s reaction, which is a much more parliamentary-like expression of my feelings.)

The UCP and The Support of Alberta Women

The UCP have pushed through numerous gender-deaf bills and decisions this session, but one, in particular, stands out. They’re particularly proud of it.

Earlier this year, the UCP began to brag about the $10 million investment in Women Building Futures. It was a massive investment. They tend to leave out some important details, however.

To pay for this big investment, the UCP quietly killed off scholarships that were put in place to continue the work of The Famous Five (Alberta’s Famous Five) among others. These 40 scholarships went to students who work to advance gender equality in the spirit of Nellie McClung, Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney, and Henrietta Edwards. To qualify, each student had to focus on industries that are under-represented by their gender…men in female-dominated industries and females in male-dominated industries. The Women Building Futures Program investment? It’s specifically for trades.

Women are greatly under-represented in the trades — vital jobs in our communities, and one of the fastest-growing segments in our economy pre-pandemic. However, there are serious problems with this whole concept:

  • The UCP can’t pull funding from women via advanced education cuts and the killing of other scholarships, move the loonies and toonies to another program, and call it an increase in spending or investment.
    • It’s dishonest.
    • Programs don’t work if they’re poorly funded, inadequately staffed, or cancelled. No one will receive the same quality of education, and it now costs everyone more.
    • Money and scholarships seem to have disappeared from existing programs without notice. (I’ve requested lists of these scholarships. We’ll see what I get. So far, I’ve not received a response from anyone.)
  • The UCP cancelled education funding and supports for thousands of women to funnel a fraction of it to a small handful of women in UCP “approved” programs.
  • The decision to only fund trade programs assumes that the UCP has the right to dictate where women get their education and in what industries. Not women. Not institutions. Not the free market. The UCP government.
    • It puts arts education, research into women’s health, gender issues, and other areas at a significant disadvantage. In short, it effectively cuts the advancement of women’s rights and equality off at the knees. This includes research into First Nations equality, Black equality, and many other groups.
      • This step runs the risk of permanently biasing research in these areas since only wealthy men and women will be able to afford most education programs outside of the trades.
      • It disincentivizes men who may want to work in female-dominated areas. By placing these limits, it prevents equality and helps to keep the issues faced by people in these industries hidden.
  • Only 3.9% of the people in trades are women.
  • It doesn’t address the poor work environment or culture that keeps women out of the trades. It is NOT just a lack of financial support for education.
  • The government has made it worse for women in trades by adjusting everything from overtime and the repayment of errors to receiving the last paycheck. And they further complicated it by considering anything that resembles not harming women as “pandering.”
  • Women have the lowest certification rates and the highest drop-out rates in the trades.
  • Women are more likely to have part-time, seasonal, or temporary positions.
  • Alberta has a large gender wage gap.
Alberta's gender pay gap is one of the largest in Canada

If the government truly wanted to see women succeed in trades, they would address some of the issues keeping them from making headway in the province. Instead, they play a magic shell game with the money, pat themselves on the back, and walk away smiling. Ms. Glasgo’s words confirmed this mindset.

A Failure to Understand Feminism and Intersectionality

Glasgo can bang her “equality for all” drum all she likes, but all it does is advertise her misogynistic viewpoint. And I don’t blame her personally for it. You can only be surrounded by the gender and racially-blind men of the UCP for so long. Eventually, some of their talking points become part of your inner monologue.

And they are blind.

When the federal government creates a budget or policy, it completes a GBA+ assessment so they can understand how women of all kinds are affected. This assessment was put into place in 1995 by the federal government, and they reaffirmed their commitment in 2015. (You can see a fine example of the gender assessment requirement in regards to the Canadian Energy Regulator Act and others here.) Alberta also supposedly has this framework, but they can’t be bothered to use it.

They don’t know how their policies affect women because they can’t be bothered to find out. Instead, they prefer anecdotal evidence, which, one can only assume, comes from party supporters. (Anecdotal evidence is not evidence, but that’s an entirely new rant.)

Why won’t Alberta’s Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Leela Aheer speak up and do her job, which she defines here (in her own words):

Responsibilities for Alberta's Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism, and Status of Women Leela Aheer

It’s simple. The dereliction of duty on the minister’s part appears to be all about not rocking the boat and playing nice with the boy’s club.

UCP Women Toe the Party Line

UCP issues manager spreading racist, far-right conspiracy-theory like propaganda on intersectionality

Premier Kenney doubled down on his party’s disdain for anything that doesn’t focus on white men by calling intersectionality a “kooky academic theory.” He buys into the idea that intersectionality values the opinions of one group over another. The party even spread a video that flirted with far-right conspiracy theories that feature a full rainbow of inaccurate and prejudiced views.

When you consider that Ms. Glasgo is inundated with this sort of rhetoric almost daily, you can understand why she’d risk proving she’s an inconversant misogynist. She stands to lose her political tribe if she stood up and spoke out.

It’s always easier to be complicit.

Those Kooky Intersectionalists

Intersectionality, if done in addition to Gender-Based Analysis+, is the idea that race, class, sexual identity, gender identity, class, and other factors all change the way someone interacts with society and its systems. The intersectional and GBA frameworks aim to make decision-makers aware of potential problems in an attempt to prevent systemic biases from creeping into modern policy and decision-making.

That’s it.

Nothing sci-fi, earth-shattering, painful, or horrific — just making sure everyone affected has a chance to share how something uniquely affects them. But, in the UCP, having an opinion not pre-approved by the boys club is societally and politically dangerous.

Dismissing Women-Friendly Policies as Pandering is Incorrect and Sexist

First of all, “pander” can be defined as to “gratify or indulge (an immoral or distasteful desire, need, or habit, or a person with such a desire…)” I’d like to know what part of considering other’s experiences Ms. Glasgo finds distasteful? Why is her experience the only one of value?

Calling this sort of thing “pandering” is the “all lives matter” equivalent of the Black Lives Matter movement. (I’ve included the video below if you don’t understand why that’s a problem.)

The new bill introduced into the house this week concerning Alberta’s Francophone community would be pandering for Ms. Glasgo, would it not? So, why would she support pandering to 7% of Alberta’s population but not women and francophone women? Or, black francophone women, children, and families? Or any of the other female or female-identifying groups? Again, not “instead of,” but “in conjunction with.”

To assume that considering the unique needs of women can only occur at the expense of men is a joke. Intersectionality and gender assessments do not force you to focus solely on the needs of these groups. They aim to ensure these groups are not excluded, disproportionately discriminated against, or unintentionally prevented from enjoying the same advantages of their white male counterparts.

It also doesn’t mean that such harm is inflicted intentionally; it often happens without us even knowing it. Unconscious and implicit biases are the sneakiest and most damaging forms of sexism and racism precisely because they’re hard to spot and unintentional. Open-box questions on performance reviewsprofessional language and how jobs are advertised are just three examples of this problem. Again, it is why these frameworks exist in the first place.

If You Don’t Support Women, Get Out of the Way

I saw a quote years ago that said, “Men do not protect their women because they’re delicate, fragile, or incapable. They stand by their women because they’re important, resilient, and able.” Perhaps, UCP and its women should take some time to consider the spirit of that quote. Being complicit in this 1930s time warp we find ourselves being sucked into is undoing generations of hard work by Albertans and Canadians.

Dear Ms. Glasgo,

The Government of Canada has a course to help you understand what a Gender-Based Analysis + is and how it works. I suggest you and your UCP caucus take it before you stand up to discuss your approach to Alberta’s women. In addition, you owe Alberta a genuine apology that includes a list of actions you will take to make sure such sexists comments never leave your lips again.