Two things right off the top betray their strategy to close the gender voting gap.
Take – please – Conservatives' cynical last-minute shelving of Bill C-484, the act supposedly "to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence)." The bill had already passed second reading, gone to committee, and been condemned by medical and legal associations because it could take away a woman's right to choose. Then, suddenly, late last month, the Conservatives killed it because they didn't want "to start a debate on abortion."
Too late. They did.
No wonder they tried to stuff the baby back into the bottle on the eve of calling a premature election.
It won't stay there if they win a majority, especially if the Republicans return to the White House.
Now we see Harper's folksy, firesidey, forced-smiley, fear-not-all-you-ladies ads which attempt to project warmth and concern.
But here's the reality check: Not only does his caucus boast the
fewest numbersmallest percentage of women, his female cabinet ministers have held the least powerful positions.
So it's not surprising that his paltry $1,200 per child annual child tax benefit ends up being about $950 — or much less, depending on family income — after taxes. That insulting sum is not going to provide anything close to safe and reliable child care for working mothers or single-parent families.
The Harper government also jerked around Status of Women Canada. First it slashed its budget by nearly 40 per cent and stripped "equality" from its mandate.
Later, when it restored funding, it had essentially robbed women of important legal mechanisms to fight for equal rights and equal pay.
Finally, while cuts to the GST might have reduced the strain on some household budgets — at least those with major purchasing power — they did little to aid families struggling to put baby food in their infants' mouths. (And by the way, a GST break on feminine hygiene products would be a big help.)
Indeed, just about the only good thing Harper did for cash-strapped moms is introduce a $500 tax credit for children under 16 enrolled in sports programs.
Nice, if you have the $500 to spend in the first place.
Make no mistake: Women are getting the cold shoulder.
There's no reason to believe that Harper's any more on our team this time.
As you can see from the comments on the column page, my pensées have generated some heat.
So far, the Conservatives aren't generating any aid for women, or any bonuses for babies. In fact, as we saw today, they're using them.
An Ottawa children's shop owner says she feels duped after she and several other moms expecting a major announcement on child care wound up as props in a Tory campaign photo.
Krista Thompson says she was contacted by an organizer in Conservative MP Royal Galipeau's office who was seeking a place where moms and tots congregate.
Thompson, a 37-year-old mother of three, co-owns Boomerang Kids which sells children's products and offers free exercise and social gatherings each weekday morning.
The Conservatives told her they were looking for a place where Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Rona Ambrose could reveal new daycare details, says Thompson.
In fact, Ambrose broke no such electoral ground. She instead went over the old Conservative child-care plan of $1,200 a year (before taxes) for each child under age six, along with $250 million a year to help provinces create daycare spaces.
The Tories have also cut taxes and offered other benefits to sweeten a policy that offers about $400 million less a year than the Liberal plan for national child care that the Conservatives scrapped in 2006.
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion has promised in this election to add $350 to the $1,200 yearly allowance — low-income families would also receive another $1,225 a year — and create more spaces.
Ambrose says the Conservatives have created 60,000 new child-care spaces when in fact the provinces have announced plans for those spots. It isn't clear how many have actually opened.
She made the comments after pushing a stroller during a brief walk with the assembled mothers as Tory supporters snapped pictures and waved Galipeau campaign signs.
So anyway, today I heard from reader "Brian Coops'' who pointed me to his nifty little YouTube video about Harper and women. He's behind the ''Friends of Family Coalition'' — website to come — which he says is a spoof of all those socially conservative advocacy groups that promote Kinder, Küche, Kirche for women.