WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, April 3

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • At this week’s city council meeting, council accepted Rob Ford’s apology for his racist remarks but opted not to have the councillor attend anti-racist training. Council also rejected a motion to combine accountability offices, and will seek a third party assessment to review the four accountability offices.
  • The Toronto Police Services Board met yesterday to discuss the practice of “carding”, though the board ultimately voted to defer any decisions of the new rules until its next meeting on April 16th. For more background on the issue, check out these recent pieces from VICE and NOW.
  • Cheri Dinovo’s bill to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth passed its second reading at Queen’s Park this Thursday, garnering support from all 3 provincial parties.
  • The Ontario minister of community safety and correctional services is urging the federal government to reject the recent amendments to Bill C-279, as “it’s essentially legalizing discrimination” for transgender Canadians
  • The Ontario Attorney General concluded its review of Canada’s new prostitution laws, declaring them to be constitutional. Premier Wynne had previously express “grave concerns” as to the laws constitutionality, and coalition of organizations are urging the province not to enforce the new law, for fear that it will continue to put sex workers in danger.
  • Toronto was among several Canadians cities which hosted protests this Thursday to urge a retrial in the Cindy Gladue case. Alberta prosecutors announced they will appeal the non-guilty verdict.
  • As of April 1st, approximately 70,000 temporary foreign workers lost their legal status in Canada, following the new “4 and 4” rule which forces labourers to leave the country after 4 years and wait another 4 years to re-apply for a work permit.
  • Although women are overrepresented in public service, they are noticeably underrepresented among the sector’s top earners.
  • Last weekend, the Broadbent Institute hosted the Progress Summit in Ottawa, including a keynote from feminist gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian. Toronto school trustee Ausma Malik also attended and discussed her views on being a millennial in politics with Maclean’s.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, March 27

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, September 19

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, August 29

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • Etobicoke Centre councillor Glora Lindsay Luby announced she will not be seeking re-election, surprising council in a farewell speech on Thursday. Luby was frequently at odds with Mayor Rob Ford, who called her a “waste of skin” in 2005, and was one of the early voices calling for Mayor Ford’s resignation after his crack-cocaine scandal.
  • Canada’s premiers and aboriginal leaders are calling on the federal government to have key ministers meet with them for a roundtable discussion on the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women, after Prime Minister Stephen Harper ruled out a national public inquiry last week. Michèle Audette, the president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, welcomed calls for the roundtable as a first step in “a new chapter.”
  • After new data was released by a coalition of community activists and social agencies revealing that child poverty in Toronto has reached “epidemic” levels with 29 per cent of children — almost 149,000 — living in low-income families, three mayoral candidates spoke out on plans to combat child poverty, at a forum organized by local advocacy groups.
  • After the integrity commissioner found that Toronto City Councillor Maria Augimeri violated the code of conduct by calling political rival Gus Cusimano a “criminale,” Mayor Rob Ford expressed outrage that Torontonians would be footing the $5,000 bill to cover the cost of processing the complaint.
  • Playboy Magazine published a flow-chart that asks the question: when it is appropriate to catcall a woman in public? (Their answer: when she has consented the catcalling beforehand, or when she is literally a cat.)

Ask Your Candidate: Labour

By: Cherise Seucharan

Issues related to labour, such as wages and employment, are generally governed at the provincial level, but city councillors can still have significant impact on labour conditions. Recently, the Ford administration has claimed the drop in Toronto’s unemployment rate as one of their major achievements, and while this may have been true for the first three years of Rob Ford’s term, statistics show that unemployment has actually been on the rise since May 2014, coupled with increased in the number of precarious workers. Sandy Houston, President of the Metcalf Foundation, which recently released a report on Toronto’s workforce, says that, “The increasing numbers of people working and poor in the Toronto Region paints a troubling picture. When people can’t fully participate in society, it costs us all.”

Women are especially affected by labour policies. The gender wage gap in Ontario is currently 28%, which means female workers earn 72 cents to every male worker’s dollar. Women are also more likely to be employed in the service sector, which is more vulnerable to cuts, and are more likely to be supporting families on their income. Ask your candidate about how they plan to address these issues.

2009 City of Toronto inside and outside workers strike Mel Lastman Square. By CeciliaPang (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3A2009TorontoStrikeNY.jpg

2009 City of Toronto inside and outside workers strike Mel Lastman Square. By CeciliaPang (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons.

Do you plan on making improvements to the City’s Fair Wage policies? Will you introduce policies to support the growing number of precarious workers, and address the gender pay gap?

Toronto’s Fair Wage Policy, established in 1893, guarantees that people employed by contractors for the city are paid market wage rates and benefits for their respective fields. The policy needs to be continually updated to account for inflation and other factors, but in 2013 the policy had its first update in 10 years. Despite the fact that wages now take into account the new minimum wage rates and market levels, many of the wage rates still fall below, $16.60, the rate recommended by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives as a living wage in Toronto. Ask your candidate if they will push for continuous updates to the Fair Wage Policy, and for wages that take into account the high cost of living in Toronto.

The Fair Wage Policy also represents the type of initiatives that can work with provincial and federal labour policies to improve worker conditions, especially for minority groups. As noted above, women in Ontario still earn less than men overall. Additionally, racialized workers earn 77.5 cents per dollar, while immigrant women earn even less, and are more likely to be working for minimum wage. Ask if your candidate would support expanding these policies to include provisions that help close the gender pay gap and support immigrant and racialized workers.

Would you privatize more city services?

While there are pros and cons to the privatization of city services, deciding to privatize any service would have a major impact on the labour force. With the numbers of precarious workers steadily rising across the GTA, unionized services address this issue by providing steady employment and a living wage for thousands of Torontonians. Under privatization, city workers have less power to negotiate and less protections overall, which have already come under fire during the past few years.

Ask if your candidate aims to privatize city services, and if so, are they willing to prioritize the right of workers in the process.

Does you support funding for Toronto’s libraries and public services?

Cuts to the infamous “gravy train” of funding to libraries and public services often translate to reductions in the staff that keep those programs running. The result is that public service workers have to take on a greater workload with the same resources. Often, full-time positions are downsized to part-time, non-salary jobs. In 2012, cuts to libraries reached a tipping point when Toronto Public Library workers held an 11-day strike in reaction to the increasing funding cuts, which greatly affected the employment of part-time workers (who were primarily women). The strike highlights the need for greater worker protection at these services which benefit many people across the city.

Ask if your candidate supports maintaining or increasing funding to Toronto’s public services.

Ultimately, the candidates we elect to City council are responsible for creating the labour climate that many of the city’s unionized workers will live in for the next four years, from outside workers to parks and recreation staff, from police officers to garbage collectors to library workers. Electing a council that will be fair and just when dealing with labour issues should be a priority for Toronto voters.

 

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, July 4th

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • At City Hall this week, the Executive Committee reviewed a report on Fare Equity for low-income TTC riders. The issue will receive further attention at next week’s council meeting.
  • Torontoist‘s Desmond Cole urges us to reflect on how Rob Ford’s bigotry impacts the targets of his slurs.
  • Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch wants corporations to voluntary set targets to increase female representation on boards. The suggestion prompted criticism from the the Liberals and NDP who claim the Conservatives have fallen behind in terms of gender parity at Crown corporations and other federal agencies.
  • Toronto has become the first and only municipality to join WBE Canada which connects women-owned businesses with potential corporate partners.
  • Toronto woman Mary Millard donated her $6 million fortune to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, The Toronto Zoo and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario. Other important notes: she loved Jane Austen and would “have been proud to call herself a feminist”. 

 

Rob Ford and Toxic Masculinity

by Steph Guthrie (@amirightfolks)

Violent temper. Refusal to admit wrongdoing. Penchant for expressing every feeling as anger. Penchant for expressing anger through physical intimidation. Homophobia and transphobia. Impulsive, risky behaviour with no consideration of potential consequences. Obsession with the competitive parts of politics (campaigning) and disdain for the collaborative parts. “Boys will be boys” brand excuses for egregious behaviour. Yup. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford sure is winning at Toxic Masculinity Bingo.

This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about Rob Ford’s embodiment of the socially-constructed norms that shape and constrain our culture’s understanding of what it means to Be A Man. I thought about it a lot after the Mayor violently confronted journalist Daniel Dale on the property adjacent to his home, fist cocked and charging at full speed.

I thought about it after reports quoted him calling Liberal Party of Canada leader Justin Trudeau a homophobic slur. And when he asked if a transgender person was “a guy dressed up like a girl or a girl dressed up like a guy.” And when he made homophobic comments about who really contracts HIV/AIDS and whose life is really worth something at the end of the day.

I thought about it when he voted (on every occasion possible) to cut all kinds of community programs that help all kinds of children and youth, believing instead that personal support of a football program exclusively for boys was sufficient to help at-risk youth in Toronto. Boy-only football programs are great for boys who like football, but not all boys do – and there’s a whole lot of other kids out there who aren’t boys, besides.

I thought about it a lot when I launched my personal blog with a post about my suspicion that Rob Ford is a woman abuser – based on the consistent history of domestic calls to his home (including one charge that was later dropped) – which I later deleted because a handful of male non-libel lawyers said it left me vulnerable to libel suits.

But it was hard not to think about it extra-hard when a video surfaced of an inebriated Rob Ford ranting in disturbingly graphic terms about his desire to “first-degree murder” someone. He was blind with anger and the evidence poured out of his erratic movements and rhetorical violence. His explosive anger appeared to be a result of things a third party had said about him; in other words, he craved physical violence as a response to some ostensible verbal wrongdoing.

The nail in the coffin came later on when his mother sneered at a television reporter that she wouldn’t want her son, who clearly has a debilitating issue with substance abuse, “off in some rehab” – she’d prefer to focus on the size and shape of his body as the real problem. It hurt to watch. It was a painful reminder of how men are socialized to never show weakness or softness; how often a man caring for himself is perceived as unmanly, how men must be strong at all times. It said a lot about why he may have ended up in the sorry state he has.

There has been a lot of talk in Toronto this last week about enabling in the context of Rob Ford’s substance abuse, which is good, but the public writ large seems to enable his toxic masculinity. People who called Daniel Dale a wuss on Twitter for being afraid of a much-larger man approaching him violently? Enablers. People who said Ford’s “murder rant” was just the kind of murderously violent speech we all engage in when we’re a little angry? Enablers.

But then, when it comes to the replication of gender norms, most of us are enablers. Toxic masculinity is not “men being awful”; rather, it is people of all genders holding, performing and perpetuating rigid ideas of who we are allowed to be. Rob Ford, in particular, has spent a lifetime striving to perform what a Rich, Powerful White Man should be (a whole other level of toxicity beyond the merely masculine). His pursuit of idealized masculinity seems unmistakably modelled after that of his simultaneous bully and protector brother, who has often been framed by the media as “the smart one” and seems to have always been perceived as more competent, more likeable, more of A Man.

Articles imploring Rob Ford to step up to some ill-defined code of manhood do not help matters. It is not useful or accurate to frame honesty, accountability and “honour” as masculine traits, nor is it ever helpful to implore someone to “be a man.” Why not just “be a decent, trustworthy human being”? Why gender that? This kind of macho posturing only serves to validate idealized masculinity and reductive, binary understandings of how gender can and should influence identity.

Consider for a moment if a woman sharing Ford’s documented track record of physical aggression would ever have been elected Mayor of a major city. More likely she would have long ago been perceived as “unhinged” and cast out of the leadership pool in her chosen field. Yet we laud – or at least will grudgingly accept – this behaviour from a man, so much so that we elect him to a prime position of public trust. His impulsive expressions of anger are part of what endears him to so many as a ‘regular guy,’ one they could ‘have a few pops with.’ Boys will be boys, right?

If we want more gender diversity in politics, we need to understand that a) a good politician can come equipped with a wide variety of character traits, not all of them about cutthroat aggression and cold calculation, and b) there is immense diversity within genders and no trait is “naturally” masculine or feminine – we choose to understand and value traits in these binary ways, and if we want to, we can choose to change that.

Women explaining politics to each other

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Jennie Worden holds up some ideas we generated

Last night was a perfect example of how passion, ingenuity, and a sense of humour can turn a frustrating incident into something constructive.

On Sunday, Mayor Rob Ford made some (I expect) very well-intended but clumsy comments offering to “explain how politics works” to interested women in Toronto. Many women in my Twitter feed seemed outraged in that kind of bemused, exhausted way. We needed an outlet.

On Monday, we penned an open letter to the Mayor to take him up on his offer and organize a WiTOpoli event about running for office at which the Mayor could be keynote. On the same day, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam did us one better and organized an event for the #WiTOpoli community (i.e. any woman interested in Toronto municipal politics). She cheekily called it the “Explain How Politics Works to Women” Coffee Party, and framed it as a collaborative opportunity for women to discuss the representation/inclusion of women in politics amongst themselves, with the input and support of a councillor. A portion of the proceeds from food and drink sales will go to Fife House, a supportive housing organization for people living with HIV/AIDS. Naturally, we were enthusiastic.

Last night over coffee and beer, we shared our experiences engaging with politics and politicians, our perceptions of the unique challenges women might face breaking into the field, and what kinds of changes we could effect on a micro or macro scale. I met a bunch of whip-smart people for the first time, including firebrand activist Susan Gapka (who I’ve admired from afar for some time and was thrilled to finally meet). The room was filled with other women whose names I expect will become familiar to you in the future as they shape the political landscape in Toronto.

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Siva Vijenthira and Susan Gapka – new friends!

New friend Arianne Matte circulated sheets of flipchart paper with ideas about how to break down some of the barriers for women who might otherwise run for office. Other attendees jotted down their thoughts on post-its until every sheet was covered with them. I chatted at length with one attendee about the logistics and challenges of deputing before Toronto Council committees. I chatted at length with another about her plans to run for office in the near future. Read more in Robyn Doolittle’s Toronto Star article about the evening.

It was hard not to be inspired and energized by the ideas, connections and ambition that emerged from what began for many of us as a negative experience. From mayoral lemons, a truly delicious lemonade.

Steph Guthrie is co-founder of Women in Toronto Politics. You can follow her on Twitter at @amirightfolks.

Open Letter to Mayor Rob Ford

Yesterday on his radio show, Mayor Rob Ford lamented the dearth of women in politics, and offered to make himself available to the women of Toronto to explain to us how politics work. It was an offer Women in Toronto Politics couldn’t refuse, so we issued an open invitation for Mayor Ford to speak at an upcoming WiTOpoli event at his convenience.