Oxfam testimony to the Standing Committee on Finance (FINA) on Bill C-86

This is a transcript of the testimony by Diana Sarosi, manager of policy at Oxfam Canada, to the Standing Committee on Finance regarding Bill C-86.

Dear committee members, thank you for the opportunity to present Oxfam’s views on Bill C-86, the second act to implement provisions of the 2018 Federal Budget.

At Oxfam Canada, we put women’s rights and gender justice at the heart of everything we do, both here at home and in our work with some of the poorest communities across the planet. As such, we know that women are vastly overrepresented in the bottom rank of the economy. Nowhere in the world do women earn as much as men for work of equal value. Women shoulder 3 to 10 times more unpaid care work than men do, and they are disproportionately represented in the lowest-paid and least secure jobs.

This is true in Canada as well. Women make up 70% of part-time, casual and temporary workers and 60% of minimum wage earners. The gender wage gap persists, hovering at 32% on average and as high as 45% to 55% for Indigenous women, racialized women and women with disabilities. Women do 2 to 3 times more unpaid care work then men do and the labour force gap between men and women remains close to 10 percentage points.

Federal Budget 2018 saw some major investments in and measures to advance gender equality. Bill C-86 now ensures that the budget announcements translate into legislative action. I would like to offer thoughts and recommendations for two acts covered in Bill C-86: the new Department for Women and Gender Equality Act and the Canadian Gender Budgeting Act. There are many more measures in the bill that I could address, however the nature of omnibus bills is such that they make it difficult for stakeholders to review all elements in detail and provide substantive comment. This has serious potential to stifle democratic engagement and should be considered in light of the Government’s desire to meaningfully engage civil society.

Department for Women and Gender Equality

Oxfam congratulates the government for turning Status of Women into a full department. Canada has a ways to go to close the gender gap and a full department mandated to do just that is a significant step in the right direction. We are pleased that the department’s mandate includes a strong intersectional lens recognizing the full range of diversity in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. At the same time, we must not lose sight of women’s particular challenges and barriers in fulfilling their social, political and economic rights and we hope to see the department retain the strong focus on advancing women’s rights.   

Considering the current political climate around the world, this legislation is timely. The women’s rights movement remains underfunded and too many organizations are scrambling to provide services without having access to core funds to sustain their operations. Project by project funding is not sustainable to deliver quality programming. Whether advocating in favour of comprehensive sexual health education in Ontario or standing behind women’s rights advocates in Saudi Arabia, a department that will dedicate resources to supporting the strength of the women’s movement is an excellent investment. We encourage the new department to consider how they can learn from, and help Canadian organizations connect to, the global women’s rights movement – recognizing the universality of challenges women face the world over.

At the same time, the department must continue to build the capacity of all departments to deliver policies and programs that are based on gender analysis and work to advance gender equality. While capacity is growing, it is important that gender analysis is grounded in the reality of women and particularly the most marginalized ones. It is important that capacity building includes hearing from a diverse range of women and ensuring they have access to policy-making processes.

It is for these reasons that Oxfam would like to see a significant increase in the department’s resources to an amount of $100 million a year, with a significant amount of the department’s budget going to directly resourcing women’s rights and feminist organizations and core funding for these organizations.

The Canadian Gender Budgeting Act

Canada is long overdue for gender budgeting legislation. Oxfam applauds the government for finally legislating gender budgeting ensuring that no budget plan will ever be tabled without a robust gender analysis of all the measures in the plan. We are pleased that the gender analysis of the budget will be made public and that gender budgeting will apply for both the taxations as well as spending side of the budget, including transfers to other levels of government.

We recognize that it will take some time to meet the gold standard of gender budgeting. We therefore recommend that the government works closely with civil society to strengthen its capacity and to ensure greater participation of women in all their diversity in the budget process. The government should strive to apply a feminist approach to gender budgeting ensuring women’s voices and experiences are at the heart of budget and decision-making processes. Gender budgeting is not merely a technical tool to assess differential impacts but a means to promote gender equality in both process and outcomes. We call on the government to establish an advisory council on gender budgeting that includes diverse representation from women’s rights organizations.

I also want to remind the committee members of our recommendation made earlier as part of Oxfam Canada’s budget submission. We hope that the Finance Committee will also take leadership to ensure pre-budget consultations strive to advance gender equality. This can be done by ensuring at least 15% of witnesses are women’s rights organizations and to provide guidance to encourage all budget submissions to do their own gender-based analysis.

In closing, I would like to highlight that Oxfam endorses the views presented earlier today by the Equal Pay Coalition on the Pay Equity Act.

Thank you again for the opportunity to present today.

Publication Date: 
November 2018
Publication Author: 
Diana Sarosi