Feminists watching closely for gender-based analysis in Budget 2017

Indeed, something to watch for.

Whether this will be done seriously for key budget initiatives or more generally will indicate the degree to which the government is serious and the public service able to deliver an informative and meaningful assessment of the budget’s impact on women (and which sub-groups of women).

And of course, GBA is only part of the required diversity analysis required for all employment equity and other groups:

When Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivered his fall economic statement, much of the fanfare focused on the deficit, the infrastructure bank and efforts to attract foreign investment.

Something else caught the attention of a select group of people — mainly women — that Morneau never mentioned in his speech.

“To ensure that the government continues to deliver real and meaningful change for all Canadians, it will submit Budget 2017, and all future budgets, to more rigorous analysis by completing and publishing a gender-based analysis of budgetary measures,” said the statement released Nov. 1.

That one sentence, virtually ignored by the rest of the country, caused a flurry of excitement for those whose work touches on issues affecting women and girls.

They are now anxiously awaiting the results of the commitment, and there are some signs of movement.

“It’s historic and it’s important, but there is a lot of work to be done,” said Kathleen Lahey, a professor of tax law at Queen’s University.

The idea behind gender-based analysis is to think about how a certain policy might affect men and women, or boys and girls, in different ways, along with taking age, income, culture, ethnicity and other intersecting factors into account.

If the analysis — ideally done early on in the process — reveals one gender would experience disproportionately negative impacts then policy-makers have the opportunity to reshape things or otherwise mitigate those effects.

Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier reacted strongly to the idea Monday.

“More identity politics nonsense from those who want bigger and more interventionist government pandering to every subgroup of Canadians,” Quebec MP posted to Twitter.

‘Good for the economy’

Isabella Bakker, a political scientist at York University who has done research on gender budgeting, said the process is actually good for the economy.

“There’s a lot of economic good sense to doing a gender-based analysis of budgets, because basically what you’re doing is targeting your policies more effectively,” she said.

“So, you’re asking who is using these services and how are we meeting the needs of the most marginalized?”

There are many different models around the world, but one example of what might be included would be a look at how a tax measure — be it a cut, a hike or a credit — could impact men and women differently based on the fact that a higher percentage of women do not earn taxable income.

It could also involve viewing infrastructure spending through a gendered lens, both in terms of how men are more likely to benefit from the creation of construction jobs and how women are more likely to be the ones to use the infrastructure once it is built.

And then there is the matter of including things specifically aimed at reducing gender inequality, be they relatively inexpensive initiatives aimed at reducing gender-based violence or massive programs aimed at increasing participation in the workforce, such as child care.

An ambitious, overdue goal

Armine Yalnizyan, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said a federal budget that is truly gender-responsive needs to take this holistic approach to reducing gender inequality.

“They have to watch what kind of narrative they develop around growth, or else it is going to sound tone-deaf,” she said.

“‘We need you to work because we need more money.’ I’m sorry, that’s not gender-responsive. That’s gender-exploitive.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has proudly declared himself to be a feminist, is said to have pushed for more rigorous gender-based analysis around the cabinet table — helped along, several senior sources have said, by Labour Minister Patty Hajdu, who was until last month the minister responsible for status of women.

They have a lot of catching up to do. Ottawa committed to using gender-based analysis in 1995, as part of ratifying the UN Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, but the auditor general revealed last year that relatively few departments and agencies were using it to its full potential — or at all.

The commitment to incorporate gender-based analysis into the federal budget could be seen as the next natural step in that process. But no Canadian finance minister has ever agreed to do it before and experts describe it as an ambitious — even if long overdue — goal.

Source: Feminists watching closely for gender-based analysis in Budget 2017 – Politics – CBC News

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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