Warning: At one point the abolition of the NB ASCSW is compared to women’s gaining the right to vote. You read that right.
I have decided to circulate some of my own random thoughts concerning the debate in
the Legislature yesterday in part to urge all supporters of the Advisory Council to keep
this issue on the front burner. Because I teach in less than an hour, this e-mail will
necessarily be short.
While the Opposition consistently referred to letters and e-mails they had received as
well as to public statements to the media, and on the blog, facebook and twitter, no
member of the Government admitted to having received any communications at all
opposing their decision.
The Premier and Fincance Minister showed contempt for the Council’s supporters in the
gallery and outside it by absenting themselves from the floor of the Legislature for entire
debate, returning only in time to vote.
The women members of the Government were left to ‘carry the ball’ and the argument
they used most often was that this Government has more respect for women than the
previous Government as demonstrated by the election of women and by the
appointment of women at the Ministerial level.
The Opposition pointed out a few useful facts for those of us who will seek to continue
to pressure the Government to reinstate the Council. Although it was clearly stated in
the Conservative Party platform circulated during the election campaign that the
Conservatives would consult with the Advisory Council, during the five and a half
months they have been in office they have not consulted with the Council even once.
The Council had only fifteen minutes warning that it was to be shut down. In fact, the
person left in charge of the office on budget day got the news from reporters. No
women’s advocacy group in the Province has come out in favour of the Government’s
decision. No one was consulted. Minister Blaney tells us this was a difficult decision,
but apparently it was hers alone, as there seems to be no evidence of consultation of
others. Perhaps it was not a difficult decision for her at all. She does have a history of
disliking the Council.
The Minister further stated that the Opposition was merely playing Party Politics by
defending the Council, and that by so doing they were attempting to pit women against
women. It seems to me that the Minister herself has done this by publicly attempting to
balance the Council against 14 front line workers.
Opposition leader reminded the Government that the Council had been established by
an Act of the Legislature (under Richard Hatfield’s Conservative Government) that
instructs the Finance Minister to provide necessary funding for the Council and raised
the question of whether cutting the Council’s funding in this way was legal.
In this regard, the Government is now taking the position that they have not abolished
the Council, they have only decided not to fund it. This is difficult to take seriously. But
if they do revoke the Act, this will certainly fall under the category of abolishing the
Finally, the Minister and the other women Ministers claimed that the Council was a
duplication of services. They don’t seem to get the idea of an arms-length body — or
more to the point, they don’t want such a body. The Minister claimed that all the
statistical information published by the Council came from Government anyway, which
doesn’t happen to be true, but even if it were true, the point is that Government does not
publicize these statistics, because they do not always look good for the Government.
Let us draw information from the newsletters, put it out there in the media, and ask the
question: When did you last receive such information from your government? Women
need and arms-length body.
Professor of History and
Acting Coordinator of Women’s Studies UNB