Liberals' gender-based budget moving on equality in sports

Tuesday’s federal budget will include practical measures to close the policy gap between men and women and act on the results of an unprecedented department-by-department gender-based analysis of budget spending.

The government sees gender equity as good for the economy - and for its own political prospects

Kelsey Serwa took gold in the women's skicross at the Pyeongchang Winter Games. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard - DEVEE2N0W4EF7 (Eric Gaillard/Reuters )

Tuesday's federal budget will include practical measures to close the policy gap between men and women and act on the results of an unprecedented department-by-department gender-based analysis of budget spending.

And CBC News has learned of one specific measure coming out of that analysis: a plan to achieve gender equality in sports at every level by 2035.

Tuesday's budget — the Liberal government's third — is the outcome of the first federal budget process to require all departments to conduct gender-based analyses of their spending in order to get their funding requests approved.

Sources tell CBC News Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made that requirement clear to their colleagues when budget demands were being made.

Most Canadian women aren't involved in sports

While the government recognizes there have been significant gains by women in high-performance sports — particularly at the Olympics — the Liberals continue to be concerned about other levels of sport and the need to get women involved in the senior ranks of coaching and management.

A 2016 study by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport found 41 per cent of girls aged three to 17 do not participate in sport — and 84 per cent of adult women don't either.

But that's just one example of how the government is applying to the budget what it calls "gender-based analysis plus" — a filter that examines budget proposals through a policy lens of gender, age, ethnicity and sexual orientation to help the government correct any imbalances.

Double podium for Canada in women's ski cross

5 years ago
Duration 4:04
Kelsey Serwa races to gold while teammate Brittany Phelan wins silver in women's ski cross. The medallists had to wait several minutes for the official results to be posted as judges reviewed the race. Switzerland's Fanny Smith captured bronze.

Last year's budget included two measures intended by the Liberals to reach out to women: the consolidation of caregiver tax credits and the extension of parental leave to 18 months (without an increase in benefits).

The idea behind gender analysis is to encourage economic growth by boosting the participation of women in the workforce. The more people there are working, the better it is for the economy.

A memo obtained by The Canadian Press outlined the five policy pillars on which the government is concentrating to create more opportunity: education and skills; economic equality; leadership; physical and emotional security; health and well-being.

One Royal Bank study the government likes to cite shows that narrowing and eliminating the gap between female and male participation rates in the labour market over the next 20 years could increase Canada's gross domestic product by four per cent.

Another study done by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards suggests closing the labour force participation rate gap for Indigenous peoples would see them contributing more than one-fifth of all growth in the country through 2036.

Liberals need to retain support of women voters

So the case for using "gender analysis plus" to get more people working seems to be well-founded, at least in economic terms.

It also makes a lot of sense politically for the Liberal government.

The Trudeau government — a gender-balanced cabinet presided over by a self-declared feminist prime minister — knows that it owes its majority in large part to its success among women voters.

To win again, the Liberals have to secure and grow that female vote. They're hoping some of the measures in Tuesday's budget will make that argument for them.

Sources confirm the government will set clear targets for achieving these lofty equality goals in certain policy areas. In other areas, it will point to a need for more detailed data before making investments.

But the trickiest part of gender-based budget analysis is making sure that it's more than just a catchphrase rolled out by a government trying to signal its good intentions — that Canadians are convinced it helps women in particular, and the Canadian economy in general.

Follow CBC's budget coverage

The CBC's Hannah Thibedeau takes your questions ahead of Tuesday's federal budget at 1 p.m. ET at Facebook.com/CBCPolitics live from Parliament Hill. Live coverage continues at 3 p.m. ET on CBC News Network and cbcnews.ca with a pre-budget special hosted by Rosemary Barton, and our budget specials on CBC Television, cbcnews.ca, Twitter and CBC Radio One at 4 p.m. ET. Find more programming details here.


Rosemary Barton is CBC's Chief Political Correspondent, based in Ottawa.


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