A disturbing trend is emerging from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's dealings with women's issues, women voters, women MPs. Does Harper harbour haterade for the sex he considers to be weaker?
As MP Bev Oda has chosen to abort not only her ministership, but her political career, the bombshell has informed a troubling narrative on Harper's Conservatives' treatment of womankind. The glaring variances with which the Prime Minister has acted towards male and female MPs' improprieties is starting to raise Canadians' suspicions of Harpers frame of mind regarding the fairer sex.
Starting with 2008 Foreign Affairs Minister and Quebec MP Maxime Bernier's gross disregard for national security with the now infamous Julie Couillard affair, Bernier was allowed to resign from cabinet while retaining relative stature within the Conservative Party.
Peter MacKay's numerous blunders, including the billion dollar boondoggle called the "F-35 fighter jet purchasing contract discrepancies" and the accompanying $47,000 photo op he allowed taxpayers to swallow, have yet to sink the Maritime Minister.
MP Dean Del Mastro, the source of yet another national embarrassment, has faced Elections Canada's escalating investigation on a host of alleged election expenses. As the Prime Minister's parliament secretary, MP Del Mastro remains in his coveted post.
Harper's treatment of these male Ministers contrasts to the way in which the PM turfed former Environment Minister Rona Ambrose in 2007 after his office scripted the embarrassing rhetoric about the Kyoto Accord and Canada's "Fossil of the Year" stance on the on global warming on the international stage. MP Ambrose then garnered a role as female prop; seen sitting behind the PM's left shoulder in the House of Commons for the benefit of ever-present TV cameras.
Former MP Helena Guergis was ceremoniously kicked out of Cabinet via unsubstantiated -- some might called "trumped up" -- reports. The whole soap opera reeked of sexism in a Cabinet that was swift in offering up women's heads to the guillotine, while protecting the Old Boys Club members.
Aside from Conservative female MPs, Harper crushed in 2006 Status of Women, a federal agency which "no longer fights for equality, that dirty word having been removed from its mandate. The agency exists to facilitate women's participation in Canadian society." Funding to numerous women's organisations was promptly eviscerated in 2010.
Many policies of the Harper government have indirectly affected women: from the drive to defund refugee healthcare -- affecting the care of pregnant women fleeing war, poverty and violence. What can be said of a government willing to leave mothers-to-be out in the cold during pregnancy, labour and birth?
Other indirect knives were thrown at Canadian women when the abortion debate was revisited in the House of Commons earlier this spring. Somehow, the well-known stranglehold the PMO has on its MPs freedom of expression was allowed to be untied for this singular issue aimed at reversing reproductive rights to the dark ages. The motion was defeated.
Women in the developing world were not so lucky -- Harper's Conservatives lobbied, in 2010, to remove birth control in the G8 plan to protect mothers. The Harper doctrine is opposed to "a strategy to improve the health of mothers and young children in poor countries," effectively cementing their place at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.
Finally, the ever-growing number of workplace sexual harassment and improprieties at the RCMP, which had been swept under the rug for years, seem to foster a government-backed toxic environment for its female members, who were left to fend for themselves.
As the Harper government's war on women rages on, anti-woman proposals which have been blighting in the right-wing fringe for years have come to fruition. Harper's Conservatives have found stunning success in their attempts to turn back decades of gains in the rights and status of women -- domestically and abroad -- regressing women back to the weaker sex.
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