Making Our Vote Count (Interview with Sunera Thobani)
Brand, Johanna, Herizons
Making Our Vote Count.
Q: What is the single most important thing women should be looking at in this election, if you can isolate one thing?
SUNERA THOBANI: Well, there is not just one. There are a couple of major issues which we decided to focus on. One of them is child care. We want a national child care program and we want whatever government comes in to commit themselves to a national child care program. And then to see through their commitment, not like the last time around.
And women's employment, for us that's a very big issue. We want a government which is committed to job creation and to ensuring that these jobs will be available for women and minorities and that these jobs will pay women the same wages, equal pay for work of equal value. So job creation, but in an equitable manner.
Q: You said not like the last time. That brings up the question of how you guarantee that the party you vote for is going to do what they say they are going to do.
SUNERA THOBANI: That's the frustration right now. There is very little accountability in the system. And I think not only in NAC but generally in all the organizations, all the coalition partners. Even talking to people not inside these organizations, there is the real sense of frustration that there is no accountability. Once the party gets in and the politicians are in, there is very little you can do to actually make them do what they say they will do.
NAC is looking in the long term what kinds of changes can we see and can we ask for in terms of electoral reform which will make the system much more democratic and much more accountable to the people that they're representing. So part of NAC's long term electoral strategy is looking t how can we get out of this real dead end situation that we're in right now.
I think it's important to also point out that at the last AGM NAC's membership decided that NAC would remain non-partisan, that we would not endorse any party or any individual candidates. What we would do instead is to put out our position and get parties and individual candidates to support them and commit themselves to implementing these policies when they get in.
So NAC is going to remain non-partisan, but our members also felt very strongly that we are very opposed to this neo-conservative agenda which is polarizing the haves and have-nots. It's increasing poverty of women and children, policies like NAFTA, we see jobs being lost, erosion of social programs. So we are very much opposed to that agenda whichever party adopts it.
Our short term goal is to raise women's issues and make sure that they're right there, front and centre, in the upcoming elections and try and get parties to commit themselves to progressive positions.
In the long term we need to look at what kind of changes we can see in the system to make it accountable and representative which at the moment it's not. The level of frustration and alienation that people are feeling in this election is really very depressing.
Q: Given that, how do women choose a candidate? What would you advise them to do in a very practical way?
SUNERA THOBANI: Well in a practical way we're asking women to use the material we've put out, The Volter's Guide, and also all of the other election material that we're putting out including the Review on the Situation of Women and to just really be informed in terms of what's happening to women and what are the kinds of changes we want to see made which believe will improve the lives of women. They can bring up these questions to their candidates and get some kind of response and find out exactly where they stand. We're also trying to organize a national leaders' debate on women's issues and hopefully if that goes through then we'll get a chance to see where the leader of each party stands on issues of concern to women.
Q: Supposing that I canvas the candidates in my riding and the best candidate and party is one that I don't vote for, that I have never voted for. …