Dear Premier Alward,
The New Brunswick Federation of Labour is shocked by your government’s decision to eliminate the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status Women.
This independent body created through legislation by the Hatfield government in 1977 has a long history of raising political and public awareness on the status of women in New Brunswick. For example, the New Brunswick Advisory Council was the first advisory council in Canada to raise domestic violence as an important issue for women.
In short, the Advisory Council is a central voice for the women’s movement in the province. Currently, it provides timely statistical updates so we can measure how far we have come and enables organizations such as the Federation of Labour to focus our work for the years to come. The Advisory Council also hosts numerous lunch and learn events on questions of importance to New Brunswick women. Its work is pertinent and important.
As you are aware, although women represent half of our population, they are under-represented in many spheres of society. This includes in elected office. Without focussed attention, these gaps will not be closed over time.
We do not agree that the Women’s Issues Branch of the Executive Council Office is able to fulfill the mandate of the NB Advisory Council on the Status of Women. The Advisory Council was created as an independent voice for New Brunswick women. It is effective because the Advisory Council is trusted by women, organizations and unions. These relationships and the Council’s understanding of women’s issues, fostered over time, are due in large part to the independence of the Advisory Council. Its independence is central to its success and effectiveness.
Contrary to what Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney stated in the Legislative Assembly on March 23:
“It was a tough decision, but it was the right decision.
We will continue to work with all these women who have
done such tremendous work throughout the years,
because we are united and will continue to be so.
You cannot divide us.”
Many women and men do not agree with this assessment and strongly disagree with your government’s decision to axe this independent and effective body. Already, the amount of money allotted by the provincial government to women’s issues is small, amounting to 0.05% of total expenses.1
It appears means spirited of your government to cut the budgetary allowance allotted to women’s issues by 9%2, when already the amount spent to advance women’s equality issues is so low. Most government departments were called to decrease their budgets by 2%.
We are calling on you to honour your platform commitment to New Brunswick women and to work more closely with the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women and to reverse your decision to abolish the Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
Michel Boudreau is the President of the N.B. Federation of Labour.
Sandy Harding is the Vice President for Women’s Issues with the N.B. Federation of Labour.