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Abortion In Canada, Are Charter Rights being Infringed Upon?

By: Emalee Patrick

History has made it clear that women are willing to risk their lives and freedom to exercise au-tonomy over their own bodies. Before the implementation of the Charter of Rights and Free-doms, Authors De Hart and Kerber, in Women’s America Refocusing the Past, cited that in the 1970s approximately 200 000 women had illegal abortions every year. Of those women, it was approximated that 200 died every year due to unsanitary conditions and unlicensed “doctors” performing procedures.

In 1982, the Liberal government implemented the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A fundamental goal of the Charter is to recognize everyones right to life, liberty, and security and not to be deprived of this right. It is also the Charter’s responsibility to uphold equal protec-tion and benefits under the law without discrimination of race, ethnic origin, sex, gender, age, ability. In 1988, relying on these provisions in the Charter, the Supreme Court ruled it unconsti-tutional to ban abortion. Later, it was ruled that men could not veto a woman’s right to an abor-tion.

The three sides associated with abortion:

Though abortions have been legal in Canada for thirty years, the debate continues with three sides most prominently represented.

Pro-life- The opponents of abortion have historically responded to abortion developments through protest, raids of illegal clinics, and (three) shootings of physicians that continued to per-form abortions. Currently, pro-life proponents are focusing on electing pro-life leaders across the country to pass anti-abortion laws. This may be unrealistic as recent Conservative Prime Minis-ter Stephen Harper, had avoided the topic of abortion, and dissolved bills made by pro-life mem-bers of his own party to separate rights of murdered pregnant women and their fetus’.

In the 2019 Federal debate, Pro-Life Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, stated that if elected, he would not reverse any of the progress made relating to abortion. This reaction may be viewed as evidence that Canadians have accepted abortion as a fundamental right rather than a privilege.

Pro-choice (Status Quo)- Those supporting the status quo recognize that no one has the right to veto another’s choice of abortion. This option continues allowing provinces to regulate abor-tion, which has resulted in disparities in the allocation of funding (what the province is willing to cover for its citizens), resources (clinics and medical professionals), and gestation periods in which women are granted access to the service.

Therefore, some women must travel within Canada and even to the United States to access abortion. This is problematic in that only a portion of women would have access to the re-sources required to obtain alternative methods. Overall, inconsistencies in access to abortion services in Canada results in provinces of privilege and continues to violate women’s reproduc-tive rights throughout Canada.

Pro-choice (Do More)- Those who are in support of doing more and advocate for a Federal abortion law to provide universal standards for all women in Canada. Abortion access is an is-

sue of equality and social justice, as women should not be excluded due to socio-economic sta-tus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested increasing medical abortions as this approach is less invasive and the medication has been labelled safe as it passed the longest drug approval process in Canadian history.

The WHO suggests granting prescription privileges of medical abortions to doctors, nurses, and midwives to spread out this service. Medical abortions are only available up to nine weeks ges-tation; therefore, improvements in surgical abortions must also be made. More doctors must be trained to continue standards of abortion care.

Overall, Canadian women are not willing to surrender control over their reproductive rights. Criminalizing abortion is recognized as denying women of their fundamental rights. Yet, without improvements in current abortion practices, unnecessary barriers are being created or are al-ready in place for many women. Canada’s best course of action is to implement a Federal Abor-tion Law that provides equal services to all Canadian women. It is time Canadians had clear standards in affordability and abortion access. A woman’s right over her own body should not be contingent on socio-economic status; therefore, it is up to Canada to close these gaps.

Rent Control: The Hidden Truth

By: Onomo Ogbe

The Ontario government earlier this year removed rent control for new units while maintaining rent control for current tenants as part of a new housing supply action plan. In the past few years, many countries and jurisdictions (e.g. the United Kingdom, Germany, and four states in the United States of America) have enacted stringent policies on land use and building regulations. Policies like this make it harder to build additional housing units in many places, including Canada. The demand for housing is rising and so is the price because of the low supply of homes. Limiting the ability of landlords to charge market rent, leads to a withdraw of units from the market and conversions to higher valued units, like condominiums, which are not subject to rent controls.

Evidence from San Francisco The American Economic Review, led by Rebecca Diamond, wrote a report showing how rent control impacts tenants, landlords and the economy. Introducing rent controls caused:

· Reduced renter mobility by 20 percent while affected landlords reduced their rental housing supply by 15% and

· Landlords to shift resources to other real estate exempt from rent control.

Instead of addressing problems for tenants, rent controls combined with rising demand made the rental situation worse.

Payback of Ford’s new policy on rent control

Rent controls are motivated by the desire to assist the less privileged in what is believed to be a defective competitive market. However, they often make the situation worse. By eradicating rent control on new units, the Progressive Conservative government hopes to increase unit supply by incentivizing investors and encouraging developers to build.

Removal of rent control policies in Toronto is already having an impact. The recent rise in purpose-built rental housing entering the Toronto market demonstrates the flaws in the previous government’s rent control policies. High rental costs and housing scarcities are best fixed by building more homes, not by creating policies that restrict supply.

Existing tenants do benefit from rent controls, through lowering housing costs, but at the expense of the Landlords, society as a whole, new tenants, and those who wish to move. Rent controls allow tenants to stay at their current home virtually indefinitely without facing market increases in the house rent. In theory, this prevents Landlords from setting rents too high.

Why rent control policy is not the solution

Yet, rent control increases the quantity demanded for rent, while also decreasing the quantity supplied. In other words, it creates a shortage. Landlords also lose any incentive to improve their rental properties. Low-income individuals who are “lucky” enough to have a rent-controlled apartment are in effect sentencing themselves to a life of deteriorating amenities. Developers, as a result, have more reason to favour condominium development, due to higher possible returns, thus making it more difficult for tenants to move from their deteriorating units, as the supply is not available.

What will benefit renters?

Relaxing of rent controls would benefit renters. However, the existence of rent controls has so distorted the market that more actions are also required. Tax incentives to developers to build new rental apartments will help to increase the supply of rental units and make renting more affordable.

Tightening rent control or adopting new control will not make things better except for people renting in the short term. According to Mayor John Tory, affordable housing initiatives should precede any rent control changes. He said, “The housing affordability issue in Toronto is too serious to consider relaxing rent controls before increasing supply”. Yet, if we truly wish to improve conditions for renters, government needs to ease the restrictions on housing supply, so more homes get built.

A Progressive Country with an Archaic Electoral System, Is There a Need for Reform?

By: Shane Calderwood

The 2019 Canadian election is over, and the electoral map suggests Canadians are more divided than ever before. Western Canada voted overwhelmingly for Conservatives taking the entire provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and Canadians also witnessed the resurrection of the Bloc Quebecois. Meanwhile, the Liberals won riding throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Arguments arising from the election results include the lack of voter representation in Ottawa, the misrepresentation of the popular vote, and the rise of strategic voting. While Western Canada is giving rise to the conversation of a “Wexit” and Quebec sovereignty is mainstream political Canadian discourse again. All these trends underscore that the time for electoral reform is now, and Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP) is the optimal choice for Canada. MMP solves the issues related to voter participation, voter representation, and strategic voting.

Political Issues and Why It Matters

Voter participation is always an issue in the federal election, and the 2019 voter participation results were only 66% which is a drop from 68% in 2015. Various theories give way to why people don’t vote such as lack of trust in government and so on, but one of the major reasons is the idea that “my vote doesn’t matter.” This goes to the debate that the current system discourages voter participation.

Secondly, there is an argument for considering the popular vote results as a true reflection of what voters want and using the popular vote as means to form government could encourage greater voter participation as it would mean, “all votes do matter.” The results of the popular vote include Conservatives at 34%, the Liberals at 33%, the Bloc at 8%, NDP at 16% and the Green Party at 7% which is reflective of the minority government as no party could capture 50% of the popular vote, but alternatively, the distribution of seats in the House of Commons unfairly represents these results and in turn, fails to reward voter participation.

Lastly, the idea and argument of strategic voting, some voters are more inclined to vote for a party they think will keep another party from winning versus voting for the party they support which enables a two-party system in Canada. I can remember walking into the voting centre as a strong supporter of climate change, but when I cast my vote for the Green Party, I was thinking I should throw this in the garbage versus the ballot box as I knew my preferred choice has zero chance of winning my riding let alone the election. Thus, my ballot was worth as much as the piece of paper I used to cast it. There is a position that single plurality has been a means of compromise in Canada’s electoral system, and what has worked for years should not be changed. I argue a country as progressive as Canada ought to have an electoral system that is reflective of its core values which include diversity and inclusion.

From First Past the Post to Mixed Membered Proportional Representation The First Past the Post electoral system has been the preferred option since the conception of Canada. MMP could be used as tool to unite the country as it ensures all parties gain fair representation in the House of Commons and it forces them to work together to pass legislation whereby mediating the rising nature of divisive political discourse during a time where populism divide and the tyranny of majority erodes democracies.

Call to Action

In 2015, the Liberal Government made a platform promise to address electoral reform but would later walk back this promise suggesting there was a lack of consensus on the direction or available options. However, according to recent numbers released by the Angus Reid Poll (2019) over 68% of Canadians favour electoral reform, and another poll suggests 77% favour proportional representation. These stats are very reflective of the percentage of voter participation in the election as well which goes to the argument that the current federal government of Canada has a clear mandate to implement MMP as the optimal electoral reform option.