THE BLOG

MP Eve Adams' Expenses Keep Women in Politics

06/12/2013 12:40 EDT | Updated 08/12/2013 05:12 EDT

Running for office is a time-consuming, expensive venture. It is no coincidence that most successful candidates come from money. They can take all the time off required to run a successful campaign while keeping a roof over their heads. Financing a campaign is a lot easier for the well-heeled who can organise a passing of the hat at their exclusive golf & country club. Indeed, politics is not a level playing field. But things are slowly improving for the fairer sex.

MP Eve Adams was called out for claiming $2,777 in personal expenses during the 2011 campaign, that range from trips to the Spa and Salon to childcare. And so she should have.

Despite encouraging numbers, Canada still lags behind Afghanistan and Rwanda in the percentage of women in elected office. Many studies have been conducted to find the root causes. Among them:

    1. Women are substantially more likely than men to perceive the electoral environment as highly competitive and biased against female candidates.

    2. Women react more negatively than men to many aspects of modern campaigns.

    3. Women are still responsible for the majority of childcare and household tasks.

    4. Women still encounter barriers when seeking elected office and once in elected office.

These factors have kept women in the "weaker sex" category in politics.

ELECTORAL SPENDING LIMITS

It seems some MPs have difficulty keeping within the spending caps. It is hard to defend an expense claim such as nail salon visits or a $3 cupcake purchased weeks after election day. But some campaign expenses are fair game. Why wouldn't it be a legitimate campaign expense to provide childcare for a mom-candidate while she is campaigning 12-16 hours a day?

Do we want more women in politics or not?

A childcare subsidy is a small price to pay for increased gender balance in elected offices. Elections Canada shouldn't take 25 months to approve that particular expense.

In a man's world, the rules are written by men, for men. That's the only reason why a $200 personal expenses allowance would be instated by Elections Canada, making no gender distinction. Everyone knows grooming costs vary greatly by gender. Men can face the public in confidence without wearing makeup. In today's society, women aren't afforded such privilege.

Where all else is equal - both men and women, that is, require haircuts - it is women that pay an overwhelmingly larger amount for a trip to the salon than men do for a strap in a barber's chair. [source]

A male politician can wear the same suit everyday and no one notices as long as he changes his tie. Women candidates aren't afforded the same leeway. Moreover, the dry cleaning bill for said ensembles provides another glaring gender-pricing bias.

Same goes for dry cleaning. Both men and women visit the dry cleaners, but their costs differ greatly. A guy can take in a dress shirt to get washed and pressed for under $3. Women, by contrast, can't likely get a blouse dry cleaned for much less than $7 or $8.

It's about time for Elections Canada to adapt its personal expenses allowance based on the gender pricing reality, not on some utopia from the Mad Men era.

It's great to hear our elected leaders pay lip service to the unfinished business of the 20th century. The testosterone-dominated world of Canadian politics should follow its talk with some concrete actions to bring favourable electoral conditions to the fairer sex.

Allowing women to expense all childcare during the writ is a step in the right direction. Changing the "personal expense" rule to specify number of trips to the dry cleaners (or other enumerations) is another.

Finally, to the few privileged women MPs sitting in caucus today who have wrestled with the childcare issue personally: this is the opportune time to remove your muzzles and speak up for all working moms who need reliable and affordable access to daycare and/or live-in care givers.

It is ironic that MP Eve Adams wants to claim $1,877 in childcare costs while her government only offers $1,200 per year to working moms across the nation. It is understandable for mom-MPs to argue for childcare-coverage for themselves during the 30-day writ. It would be laudable if these MPs widened their fight to include the rest of Canadian working moms who are just as deserving.

Adams Defends Campaign Expenses