Good afternoon. Thank you for the invitation to speak. My name is Tina Agrell and I am here on behalf of Advancement of Women Halton, a coalition of more than twenty community groups and agencies in the Halton region.

Applying a gender lens

I am here to remind you of your government’s undertaking to look at each line of the upcoming budget through a gender lens and incorporate a gender equity perspective .

A gender-based analysis of proposed budgets allows for the assessment of how a certain policy may affect women.

* We want Gender Based Analysis of all future Ontario budgets

Making a gender statement

Since the 2017 Federal budget, all spending proposals submitted to the Treasury Board are required to provide proof that gender was considered. (1)

Toronto City Council has also finalized a gender-responsive budget plan. The plan includes the development of a data collection strategy designed to assess the gendered impacts of budgetary and policy decisions. (2)

* We want all Ontario Provincial government spending proposals to provide proof that gender was considered

* We want a data collection strategy to assess gendered impacts of budgetary and policy decisions

Pay Equity

Ontario MPPs have noted that, increasingly, women’s participation in the paid labour force doesn’t just benefit women—it helps the whole economy. (3) A study by the Royal Bank of Canada estimates that the GDP could grow by 21 per cent if women had pay equity. (4)  These issues are not adequately addressed by a basic income proposal alone, and therefore basic income has to be part of a larger packet of social policy measures, if it wants to maximise real freedom for all.

* We want pay equity in Ontario

* We want basic income to be part of a larger packet of policy measures to promote gender equity

 Budget Measures

What kinds of budget measures could achieve the goals of greater gender equity in the labour market?

For years these have been access to affordable, high quality post-secondary education and reliable and affordable childcare.

In particular young women are currently less likely to obtain degrees in high-demand fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which can offer better career and income opportunities. (5)

And according to Statistics Canada, Ontario has the highest cost of full-time child care, with an average cost of $677 per month. Affordable, quality day care is still the stuff of dreams. (6)

Expanding access to education and to childcare is usually seen as very expensive, but that fails to take into account how, ultimately, they pay for themselves in the form of higher tax revenues. In the case of childcare, this payback is immediate. In 2008, each $100 of subsidy for child care paid out by the Quebec government resulted in an additional $104 in tax revenue in the same fiscal year for the province, both from the mothers now freer to work productively and from the newly created jobs of child care workers. (7)

* We want improved access to affordable, high quality post secondary education

* We want reliable and affordable child care

Other budget measures could pay off by preventing costs, both financial and human. Ontarians spend millions a year coping with the terrible price of violence against women. On any single day, women and children fleeing domestic violence are turned away from shelters because they are full. (8)

Well-targeted programs for shelters and supports could forestall huge costs and misery.

* We want well-targeted programs for shelters and supports

Gender budget analysis simply asks: do your budgetary initiatives generate more equality or less? For the Wynne Liberals, the answer should be a resounding “more.” There are precedents world-wide.

Walking the talk

Canada hosted a national conference in Paris last year on best practices in gender budget analysis, even as we were figuring out ourselves how best to do it. The OECD showcased Prime Minister Trudeau, who opened their conference on Business, Finance and Gender on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2017. (9) This year Minister of the Status of Women, Maryam Monsef, will host a National Round table on Gender Based Analysis

 Living within our means

Our governments have consistently placed priority on tax cuts or eliminating the deficit. Keeping taxes low means making choices that impact the most vulnerable members of Ontario’s population. And invariably that means women.

By 2020 there is a projected surplus of almost 1 per cent of GDP between what we collect in revenues and what we spend. According to the Centre for Policy Alternatives. by 2020, 1 per cent of GDP could fund a provincial child care program, an affordable housing strategy, a post-secondary granting strategy, Pharmacare, community infrastructure (including transit and neighbourhood revitalization) and still leave more for any other initiatives. (10)

* We want 2020 surplus to be spent on provincial child care program, affordable housing strategy, post secondary grants, Pharmacare and community infra-structure

This is not a bean counting exercise, it is a benefit counting exercise, using robust data and responsible government to improve services and save costs

Will the Ontario government opt for process over substance, citing lack of resources as the excuse, or will it kick-start a new fiscal sensibility, where men and women are equals?

More than 50% of voters in Ontario are women. And we are ready to give our support and help fight the battles.


               Will the Ontario Government lead the way?


1.Department of Finance Canada: Budget 2017

Empowering Women to Lead in the New Economy

2. The Public Policy Governance Review February 2017

“Budgets Speak Louder than Words” Emily Wong

3. Toronto Metro April 2017

“MPP Cheri Di Novo brings gender lens” Gilbert Ngabo

4.RBC Economics Research March 2017

“The State of Women in Canada’s Economy”

5. Catalyst January 2018

“A Leaky Pipeline in STEM Education”

6.Statistics Canada November 2015

“Child Care in Canada” Maire Sinha

  1. Policy Network Newsletter April 2015

“A Child Care win-win” Pierre Fortin

  1. The Globe and Mail March 2017

“Canadian Shelters Forced to Turn Away” Tavia Grant

9. Minister of Status of Women Mandate Letter

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau October 2017

 10.Centre for Policy Alternatives March 2017

Rebuild, Rethink, Renew. An Alternative Federal Budget


An Evening with Minister Flynn and Bill 148

On Tuesday November 28, 2017 at the Local 707 Galaxy Hall, Advancement of Women Halton, Community Development Halton, Halton Non-Profit Network and Poverty Free Halton worked together to host an evening of conversation with MPP and Provincial Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn on the implications of the newly passed Bill 148, the “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act.”

Oakville and District Labour Council Chair Dave Millar welcomed the approximately 200 attendees and introduced the M.C. for the evening Joey Edwardh, Executive Director of Community Development Halton.

Minister Flynn spoke very frankly about the need for revisions to existing labour relations laws and the process his government had followed to bring these to completion. He did not hesitate to confess that there were difficulties along the way but felt that the end product was an enforceable document that would serve to change the lives of Ontarians for the better.

Lesley Sprague of Poverty Free Halton and Tina Agrell of AWH circulated among the audience to collect their written questions.

The host organizations each had an opportunity to pose a question to the Minister.

Oakville and District Labour Council, Dave Millar, Chair asked: The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act signals significant changes to Ontario’s labour and employment legislation. What strategies does the Government of Ontario have to guarantee that workers become aware of their new rights and how can they be empowered to move beyond fear, to act on these rights?

Minister Flynn noted that information will be made available to workers and that the government will hire many new enforcement officers to inspect working conditions and enforce the new act.

Poverty Free Halton, Maureen Weinberger, Chair asked: There are exclusions in this legislation that leave out some of our most vulnerable workers. We are very concerned about this.

Halton and surrounding jurisdictions are still considered rural areas where agricultural workers are employed. Agricultural workers are some of the province’s most vulnerable workers, and they are excluded from the new legislation, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. They will continue to operate under the grossly inadequate Agricultural Employees Act of 2002. This means Ontario will continue to be the only province in Canada where farm workers do not have the right to unionize, a right that had been given in the 1990’s, was taken away by a previous government and not restored by yours.  Why did your government not move to protect agricultural workers immediately in this new legislation?

Minister Flynn explained that discussions were already under way to address this issue.

Advancement of Women Halton, Ancilla Ho Young, Chair asked: AWH welcomes this legislation, because it goes a long way towards improving conditions for women in the workforce. Can you tell us how the Fair Work Places, Better Jobs Act fits in with the ongoing work of the government on gender equity and wage parity?

Minister Flynn felt that the Act was one piece in a developing system of gender equity and wage parity. His colleagues in Provincial parliament are working on other aspects of employment and pay for women

Halton Non-profit Network, Jody Orr, Coordinator asked: The Ontario Government provides funding to non-profit organizations that serve as delivery agents for a wide range of important if not essential services to Ontario individuals, families and communities. Research has shown that approximately 80% of a non-profit’s expenditure is on wages, salaries and benefits, (and we know that wages and salaries in the sector tend to be low.) Over the last decades, government funding to non-profits has remained stagnant while, at the same time, government expectations as to accountability reporting and evaluation have increased dramatically with no parallel commitment to pay for these increased costs.  Therefore, while supportive of measures to increase the minimum wage, the Halton Non-profit Network would like to ask the Minister what commitment his government has to ensuring government funding will increase to non-profits in a timely fashion, so as to assist these organizations to meet their wage obligations in January without making cuts to staffing or essential programs and services?

Minister Flynn pointed out that negotiations were in progress in order to resolve this issue in time for January 1, 2018

Community Development Halton, President of the Board of Directors, Jan Mowbray asked

Community Development Halton believes that the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act will positively affect working conditions in the non-profit community services sector. However, government has a unique relationship with the sector where Government is both funder and regulator. This creates an imperative that demands a non-legislative commitment to address the complexity of the Government’s relationship with the non-profit sector and its contribution to human well-being and civicness. Minister Flynn, will you advocate for and convene a cross-Ministry roundtable of representatives from the non-profit community services sector and the funding sector to develop an innovative and sustainable funding formula and labour market strategy that supports and sustains the sector and, ultimately, their contribution to the health and well-being of people across the province?

Minister Flynn welcomed this idea and suggested a future meeting in order to discuss it more fully.

There were also many interesting questions from the audience. Minister Flynn responded to them all in full and clearly had an in depth understanding of the new act and its ramifications. There has been some dismayed reaction from small business owners to the proposed increase in minimum wage and this will need to be addressed. Some union members expressed their disappointment that the government had legislated a return to work after a strike by community college staff. It was pointed out that it would be a shame to condemn Bill 148 because of this, as it represents a major advance in Labour Relations, a move unprecedented by other governments. The evening ended with coffee and cookies, provided by the organizers.

AWH was satisfied with the event and feels that it is important to ensure free and frank discussion of new and proposed legislation, rather than resorting to demonization of political parties and wholesale rejection of policies based solely on partisanship.


Gender Equality under the Indian Act

Thursday October 5, 2017

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:

Advancement of Women Halton(AWH) was established in 2008. We are a non-partisan, issue oriented collaborative of community groups. Our mission is to promote advancement of women by developing and supporting social, political, cultural and economic strategies to achieve gender equality municipally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Our key issues are democracy, poverty, childcare, violence perpetrated against women, affordable housing, pay equity, diverse and marginalized women, distribution of income and reproductive rights to name a few.

AWH acknowledges the government’s continuing efforts to focus on women’s equality locally and internationally which was clearly demonstrated in your address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on the plight of the Indigenous People in Canada.

Unfortunately, earlier, on June 21, 2017 which is National Aboriginal Day, we were saddened to learn that the government did not include full gender equality rights in Bill S-3 because it would be too costly. The cost of eliminating sex-based inequalities in sex registration under the Indian Act is not a valid reason recognized in international human rights law.

Indigenous women and their children have been waiting for over 40 years for comprehensive amendments to the Indian Act. By not acting on this opportunity, Canada we believe, is in contravention of the United Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People and contrary to the findings of Canadian courts and the international human rights bodies that have urged Canada to act beyond what the government is currently doing.

Ensuring gender equality under the Indian Act will help to ease the human rights crisis faced by Indigenous Women in Canada and will complete some of the work Canada needs to do to end the legacy of colonialism.

AWH members and supporters would like to know when the Liberal Government will ensure full gender equality rights in the Indian Act and Bill S-3? Or repeal the Indian Act altogether?

We look forward to your response.


Ancilla Ho-Young

Chair, Advancement of Women Halton

Bill 148, Fair Work Places, Better Jobs Act

July 18, 2017

Mr. Eric Rennie, Clerk, Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs

Room, 1405 Whitney Block

Queen’s Park, Toronto Ontario

Dear Mr. Rennie:

Advancement of Women Halton (AWH) is a non-partisan, issue-oriented collaborative of more than twenty community groups and agencies in Halton Region, our mission is to promote the advancement of women by studying, supporting and responding to issues of local, national and international importance.

We are writing in response to the proposed Bill 148, Fair Work Places, Better Jobs Act 2017.

Our priority is to support the introduction of the $15-hour minimum wage, as it will increase security and opportunity for more people. Our member groups have advocated for nine years to express our concern for the growing inequity in Ontario, Canada and throughout the world. We acknowledge the concerns of some of the business community and hope to address them with the following.

Some labour lawyers have suggested that Bill 148 signals the “Clear intention of the Ontario Government to focus on unions and employee advocates to the detriment of business and a strong economy, with a resulting negative impact on job creation and economic activity in Ontario in both the long and short term.” Critics think that the workplace changes could decrease the attractiveness of Ontario to businesses looking to expand operations or set up shop. We would ask, are economic growth and improved rights for employees mutually exclusive?

Today, Ontario’s minimum wage is $11.40 per hour. Adjusted for inflation, this is barely one dollar higher than its value in 1977. Yet over the same four decades, the average productivity of workers has increased by 40%. Around 1 in 10 Ontario workers earn minimum wage today, an individual working full-year, full-time on the minimum wage can still fall below the poverty line. Over 60% of workers earning minimum wage in Ontario in 2015 were over the age of 20, as were over 80% of those making $15 or less.

While Canada escaped the harshest impacts of the 2007-08 financial crisis, our country has also seen a slowdown in growth. We risk further stagnation without reinvigorated economic motors. Those who earn lower incomes spend more of what they earn than do those with higher incomes, and therefore raising the minimum wage could play a role in economic revival and improving macroeconomic conditions. There are many possible reasons for minimum wage increases to lead to little or no job loss. Studies have indicated lower turnover, more on-the-job training, greater wage compression (smaller differences between higher- and lower-paid workers) and higher productivity after minimum wage increases. In short, raising the minimum wage makes for better, more productive workplaces.

From fear mongering headlines, you would think nobody ever dared to raise the minimum wage before. However, we have been raising the minimum wage for over 70 years and there is zero evidence of “job killing” consequences. The National Employment Law Project analyzed 7 decades of industrial data and failed to find any correlation between wage increases and employment levels. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD) report for 2014 found that inequality (and the accompanying reduction in consumer demand) prevented 6 – 9% of US economic growth in the past 20 years. When workers have more money, they spend it locally. Consequently, businesses have more customers and are able to hire more workers, which further drives economic growth. There is no doubt that employers will find ways to adjust their business model to continue to make a profit. They did this when we collectively decided, through legislation, that seven-year-olds should no longer work in factories, or when we legislated an eight- hour workday and gave workers a weekend. Businesses survived then and they will again.

Our second concern is with precarious work and its impact on women. Precarious work is part-time, contract, minimum wage work, with no union and no pension. Half of Ontario workers earning less than $15 per hour are aged 25-64, and the majority are women. Women workers represent a larger percentage of the workforce than they did 20 years ago, but they are more likely to work part-time and earn lower wages.

Canadian studies indicate that women are more likely to be engaged in precarious work than men. For example, women are over-represented in part-time and temporary work. The link between precarity and temporary and part-time work, as well as work in certain low-skill job categories, also illustrates the gendered and racialized nature of precarious work. Women, immigrants and racialized persons are each over-represented in these types of jobs. There has always been a gender wage gap but this is significantly higher among indigenous women (57%), women with disabilities (46%), immigrant women (39%), and racialized women (37%)

Self-employed women tend to be concentrated in more precarious forms of self-employment. They often choose self-employment for the flexibility it allows in balancing work and family. While this may suggest that these women have control over their work life, the fact is that women remain primarily responsible for unpaid labour in the home. The decision to adopt precarious work in order to meet that responsibility is not really a choice but a practical necessity. In some cases, women choose part-time or temporary jobs since it allows them the flexibility to fulfil home and care-giving responsibilities. This choice is illusory, as is necessitated by employers’ or society’s failure to accommodate these responsibilities. In other cases, women work part-time because they are unable to find full-time employment.

AWH wholeheartedly supports measures in the Bill that eliminate pay structures that discriminate against female workers. We also support equal pay for temporary, part-time, casual and seasonal employees who perform the same job as permanent employees.

Thirdly, emergency personal leave is a concern we would like to address as it affects women disproportionately. We know that women tend to be primary caregivers, and we are living in a generation where women are now caring for both their parents and their children. Two days of personal leave within a calendar year are simply not enough to care for yourself let alone your dependants. This becomes a public health concern as women take personal care days off to care for others and leaving no days left to care for themselves. Women are often forced to attend the workplace where they are ill because of the financial constraints that unpaid days’ place upon their personal income. Women often fear of losing their jobs and being seen as unreliable when taking sick leaves. These unpaid days off work put unnecessary financial constraints and continues to perpetuate poverty. As Andrea Horwath (Ontario NDP) writes:

“Workers with unstable, part-time and contract work should have access to paid sick and personal emergency days. It’s not right to force a person to choose between taking care of their health, or protecting their budget for the month. It is important to include a reasonable number of paid days to cover illness and personal emergencies.”

Section 2 (7) of the bill states that the first two days must be taken as a paid leave and the subsequent unpaid days after. This places limits on a woman’s budgeting needs, as there are times when financial reasons would allow a day to be taken as unpaid and days and when it would be better to paid personal days. In eliminating this choice, this puts unnecessary demands and limits on a women’s planning capabilities.

Ending violence against women is something that we as member groups of AWH have been actively advocating and to which we devoted numerous efforts to. Although we do commend the start of this process, two days is absolutely not nearly enough for victims of domestic violence. Leaving an abusive partner is not something that can be resolved in two days when the issues are as complex as violence.

Survivors need time. The workplace is often the first point where a woman will be stalked after leaving her abusive intimate partner. It is simply unsafe for her to continue to be exposed to abuse and the survivor needs time to seek social services and get medical attention, let alone relocate to a shelter or a safe place for herself and her children. In addition, the legal proceedings drag on for months in most complex cases. Hindering a woman’s ability to earn an income at a time when she needs it most is unacceptable and we need to do more to protect women escaping violence.

Due to our concerns regarding the complex nature of such cases, we are in support of Bill 26 which provides for up to 10 days paid leave for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, as well as additional unpaid leave, workplace accommodations and training. We urge that this new legislation be amended to include the provisions of Bill 26. There is a need for more clarity regarding the reasonable evidence that evidence is required. It is a step in the right direction to no longer have a health care practitioner provide evidence as this is associated with additional time off. We believe by removing the need for evidence from a health care practitioner this will help women seek support services from agencies and experts that women choose in the field for this evidence and would facilitate the support structure for these women.

Lastly, we agree with the new scheduling provisions that call for minimum pay of 3hours, even if the work was less time. We also agree with The Right to Refuse requests to work on a day that is not scheduled to work, however, this is fraught with concerns. Many women who work precarious employments have experience many negative problems when exercising their right to refuse. When the answer is “no” there is often a negative reaction, a backlash a change in attitude towards the employee. This leaves many concerned for the security of their jobs. In reality, we have to understand the unbalanced power dynamic that often puts women in fear for their jobs in the first place before we can encourage women to exercise this right without fear of reprisal. This is a good rule of law but in reality, will it work?

We all benefit from living in a place where all workers are fairly valued, there are protections for the most vulnerable workers, and where work pays enough to lift people out of poverty.

It’s important to point out that women, recent immigrants, Indigenous People, and racialized workers have been disproportionately impacted by the shift to low-wage, precarious work. They will be the primary beneficiaries of these new changes to labour standards in Ontario. These changes are long overdue.

On behalf of the members of AWH,


Ancilla Ho-Young

Chair, Advancement of Women Halton (AWH) (Attached)