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On Jan. 23, women are looking for a government that will advance social programs and economic equality.

Women work more but earn less. Women with the same qualifications and professional experience are still paid less than their male counterparts, leaving too many women to retire in poverty. Women’s Canada Pension Plan (CPP) retiring benefits are less than two-thirds of men’s.

The privatization agenda of Paul Martin’s Liberals has eliminated many decent-paying jobs held by women. The drive to privatize has shunted equality to the backburner while private corporations make money off women’s labour and essential public services.

Stephen Harper and the Conservatives would make things worse. Harper has long opposed national social programs that benefit women and poorer Canadians. Harper and the Conservatives are primed to dismantle what little progress we have made on social programs and the strides we have made for human rights.

The impact of this election on women will be profound. Hard-won equality rights could be rolled back even though there is still a long way to go for women’s equality.

Overall, life is more dangerous for women. The United Nations Human Rights Committee recently blasted Canada for failing to protect Aboriginal women from violence, which the latest figures show to be three times higher than other women. Lower-income women and their children are more vulnerable to domestic violence because they can’t make ends meet on their own.

In Toronto, more than 90 per cent of immigrant women within the Somali, Ghanaian and Ethiopian communities are facing poverty. Women are stretched to the breaking point, juggling several jobs while putting in more hours looking after family members, including elderly parents.

Women want a federal government that will expand social programs and public services critical to ending poverty for women and families. We need a federal government committed to developing public, non-profit, universal, accessible and quality child care through legislation, not through fragmented tax schemes that fail to create child care spaces. Women need public health care delivery and public health insurance they can rely on, not the privatized, two-tier medicine that the Conservatives will allow.

Any federal government committed to addressing women’s issues must take concrete steps towards women’s social and economic equality. This is why we need a strong NDP caucus in the next Parliament.

The NDP platform addresses the important social issues for women and other CUPE members. It’s little surprise that the NDP is also the party with the most women candidates running.

Let’s vote positive to protect our social programs and advance women’s equality.