letter to the editor347

Retrograde women Open letter to members of Yukon legislative assembly,  The “historic” women’s caucus has clearly been…

Retrograde women

Open letter to members of Yukon legislative assembly, 

The “historic” women’s caucus has clearly been listening to and learning from the Harper government: Invoke in sanctimonious tones the “family values” issue, and throw in the token nod to “work-life balance” for those New Age types not particularly enamoured with the idea of going back to the future of the 1950s, and hapless constituents won’t ask too many questions.

But there are several issues that should make the first self-serving motion of the women’s caucus to adjourn the legislative assembly another half hour earlier so MLAs can enjoy supper sooner with their families completely unpalatable to MLAs and their constituents:

Not too long ago, the hours of the sessions were changed so that the members no longer sat two evenings of the week, for exactly the same reason, as I recall — the sacred family hours. (The other two evenings of the week the House did adjourn at 5:30 p.m.)

Back then MLAs weren’t feeling so entitled that it was out of the question to delay supper for half an hour, and they at least had the grace to not lessen the hours they spent in the legislature, which meant starting a little earlier and adjourning a little later.

But the fact is the hours have already been changed to give the family lives of MLAs precedence over another motherhood issue — the public being able to observe the workings of the legislature.

When the hours were changed, I thought it was a shame the opportunities for the general public to observe MLAs at work were being eroded.

The rationale at the time was that no one was coming in to watch anyway. It occurred to me that instead of using that as an excuse to take the evenings off, there should be outreach to encourage the public to attend and so increase their involvement in the political process.

But what do I know?

And this additional half-hour proposal creeps further into a zone of entitlement that MLAs, male and female, should be careful to avoid.

The legislative assembly seems to be in session fewer days of the year, every year.

It’s my naïve assumption that anyone who runs for public office knows there are sacrifices involved, and one’s personal life must to some extent be arranged around the commitment to constituents that is made once elected.

The “sacrifice” of the suddenly all-important half hour is really a joke compared to the sacrifices that federal politicians are making, so anyone who was encouraged to run based on this half hour would be pretty deluded.

In recent years, the Yukon public, as represented by our MLAs, has been incrementally removed from the democratic process, most notably in the Yukon government’s propensity to issue special warrants instead of allowing discussion of the budget, a trend that all three parties have followed when in power.

This motion to stay out of the legislature for another half hour further trivializes the objective of the assembly to make the democratic process transparent and accessible to the public.

There is a subliminal message here that, for me, takes the motion beyond the petty, and it’s the same one the Harper government is sending. That message is that the nuclear family’s needs are paramount, and government policy should be arranged around that model.

These soccer moms are implicitly suggesting that they should also subordinate their work as MLAs to the paradigm, down to the last half hour, even though they sought the positions in the first place. (The motion was even presented as being necessary because of all the sports that their families are involved in. That’s just spooky.)

Well, they’re feeling entitled to their entitlements, I guess, but the democratic process is on shaky ground when MLAs pick and choose for themselves what part of their work is important, especially when so often of late it’s been the public part of the job that’s on the losing end.

What’s next? Their one vote should be counted as two?

Oh wait. I think that actually might have happened in the last federal election.

I strongly urge the men’s caucus of the legislature to not be cowed by the politically correct spectre of the gender issue with which this narcissistic motion has been presented, and see it for what it is: Further chipping away at the hours that MLAs sit in the legislature (where the work of government is not only done, but seen to be done) disguised as a Baby on Board bumper sticker.

It’s probably too much to hope that somebody will actually say the unsayable, “Suck it up, ladies. That’s the job.”

But that’s something that should have been said to all the MLAs back when the evening hours were removed.

I also encourage the women’s caucus to be more cautious, especially when a conservative government is pushing them toward navel-gazing exercises, as seems to be the case here, since they were asked to form a caucus to be part of a “women’s delegation” at a conference of Commonwealth parliamentarians — chilling in itself, given the political context.

And here we are, discussing fewer hours of debate in session. Coincidence?

Marianne Darragh