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06/06/2018 19:03 EDT | Updated 06/06/2018 19:13 EDT

Women In Ontario Should Vote NDP To Expand Wynne's Progressive Legacy

Polls tell us that Ontarians do not want a Liberal government, and that most ridings are now a battleground between the Conservatives and NDP.

Kathleen Wynne was supposed to be our champion, a progressive premier with an agenda that would affect the lives of many women. For a short time, she was.

Wynne introduced an action plan to end violence against women, progressive workplace harassment legislation with Bill-132, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Actstarted to roll out more aggressively during her leadership. All of these feats made great strides for women across ability. Her bold sexual education curriculum was going to help children understand and respect each others' bodies and consent. It has the potential to reduce bullying and sexual assaults.

Even the very nature of who she was represented us well: an openly gay woman, and the first Premier to march in Pride, with her partner smiling at her side. Wynne was a symbol of our progression away from rigid rules about gender and sexuality toward a more progressive society.

Richard Lautens via Getty Images
Premier Kathleen Wynne at the Toronto Star's office on May 28, 2018.

In a press conference on Saturday, Wynne conceded that she and the Liberals would lose the upcoming election, and urged Ontarians to vote Liberal to prevent either party from forming a majority government. The implication is that a New Democratic Party government and a Conservative government are equally dangerous.

Polls tell us that Ontarians don't want a Liberal government, and that most ridings are now a battleground between the Conservatives and NDP. A vote for the Liberals splits the anti-Conservative vote in most ridings, where the safer bet is NDP.

If Liberals do not vote strategically, we likely won't end up with a minority government of any kind; we'll end up with a Doug Ford majority.

A Ford government would be devastating for women. Despite not having a costed platform, Ford has been very clear that he would cut at least $6 billion from the public sector. That would have to include huge cuts to healthcare, education and other professions dominated by women, just as it did during Premier Mike Harris' government.

Women are disproportionately affected by poverty, from being relocated to low-paying, precarious, undervalued work, such as childcare and service and administration, and the gender wage gap, which disproportionately affects racialized and Indigenous women.

Ontario Thrive, a "non-partisan coalition of individuals and organizations asking ... candidates for measurable commitments on gender equity," detailed some of the risks in a Toronto Star article published this week.

The authors write that "approximately 90 per cent of trans and gender variant employees report experiencing workplace harassment and/or violence stemming from their gender identity and expression."

They also point to the work being done to decolonize schools and institutions, which would have a direct impact on violence against Indigenous women and separation of families. Multiple Conservative candidates have said they would restrict abortion access. Ford has vowed to scrap the sex-ed curriculum.

Polls show us that women don't trust Ford

By implicitly endorsing a Conservative government, all socially progressive aspects of Wynne's legacy will be erased. Putting politics aside, it's devastating to see her as the sacrificial lamb, stepping away from the race in a last-ditch effort to save her party. This cynical move undoubtedly discourages women from running for public office.

But, because personal is political, we must now vote for our own survival. These high stakes are in part to blame on our electoral system, but also Wynne's refusal to back down when we know the Liberals don't have the support to form any kind of government. This is enraging, because it shows that Wynne would rather the Conservatives win than ensure the safety and well-being for the women of Ontario.

Polls show us that women don't trust Ford. According to CBC's Vote Compass, 59 per cent of women gave Ford a zero on trustworthiness, and his average rating was 1.9 out of 10. Looking at voting intentions, women will vote NDP first, Conservative second, Liberal third.

According to Ontario Pulse, the NDP's provincial lead is due to support from women under the age of 44, but young people have the lowest voter turnout.

Randy Risling via Getty Images
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath at the Toronto Star office on May 22, 2018.

Many politicians and political pundits, including Wynne, have compared Ford to United States president Donald Trump. According to American exit polls, 53 per cent of white women voted for Trump. Part of Canadian identity is a sense of a pronounced difference from Americans; that what happens there could never happen here. Will this election prove that belief to be false?

Will women who usually vote Conservative just stay home if they don't trust Ford? Will women formerly supporting Wynne stay home, made apathetic by defeat? We don't know yet, but they shouldn't.

The NDP has a stellar candidate list, including amazing community advocates such as Laura Mae Lindo, Nikki Clarke, Felicia Samuel and Jill Andrew, just to name a few. Fifty-six per cent of their candidates are women, and they're fielding one of the most diverse slates of candidates we've seen. They're also running the first trans woman candidate in provincial history.

Representation isn't enough, but that's why giving power to these candidates through their election is essential to have a chance at equity in the political system, and society.

More from HuffPost Canada:

An important part of living in a democratic society is the ability participate in the political process. Anyone can choose to opt-out. Sometimes there are consequences for that decision. In this case, the consequences would be dire.

We have the power to elect a passionate and principled woman who can be our champion. We have the responsibility to elect Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath.

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