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Women’s Health: The Next Step

By Josepha Esemogie

Every woman in Ontario deserves quality healthcare. Women in Ontario continue to experience health disparities that could be readily reduced. From research to treatment options to access to services and programs, many women are overlooked and underserved because healthcare has traditionally not considered the impact of sex and gender differences.

Our health system has not always understood the factors influencing women’s health status, with only 1.2 percent of Canada’s research chairs in women’s health. Will it ever be understood?

Health Gap

Ontario has a health gap problem, as shown in the healthcare system. Research shows that women’s needs, including physiological differences, cultural challenges, and life circumstances, are often not taken into consideration. Addressing health gaps in women’s health in Canada requires a comprehensive understanding of the numerous factors that contribute to disparities. Socioeconomic, cultural, and structural factors can influence these disparities, and for women in marginalized and disadvantaged communities, this gap is even wider. Some key areas where health gaps may exist for women in Ontario are.

  • Research: Historically, women have been underrepresented in clinical trials, leading to a lack of understanding of how specific treatments may affect them differently than men. Women are often overlooked in health research studies, yet they have different risk factors for certain diseases and may also respond differently to various treatments and medications. Until the 1990s, women were not included in most healthcare and medical research studies.
  • Mental Health: Women are more likely than men to experience mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and trauma. The stigma surrounding mental health may prevent some women from seeking help. This also includes the trauma from domestic violence, sexual assault, and harassment, which can have profound and lasting effects on women’s physical and mental health.

We can see the prevailing gap in many aspects, including chronic diseases, access to healthcare without geographical or financial barriers, and cultural sensitivity, and we, as Canadians, need to realize that we are failing Ontario women.

Addressing the Health Gap

Canadians are among the healthiest people in the world. Nonetheless, our health system has not always understood the factors which influence the health status of women, trans women, girls, and gender-diverse communities, nor has it addressed their issues concerning research, education, leadership, and health interventions.

Addressing health gaps in women’s health is essential to public health efforts in any country, including Canada. While Canada has made noteworthy progress in promoting gender equality and improving women’s health outcomes, more must be done.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health has done some research and made initiatives to address these gaps like the POWER study (Project for an Ontario Women’s Health Evidence-Based Report), a multi-year project funded by Echo: Improving Women’s Health in Ontario, an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care which produces a comprehensive report on women’s health. But is it enough?

These health gaps require a comprehensive and collaborative approach involving healthcare providers, policymakers, researchers, and communities. Initiatives focusing on education, awareness, and policy changes can contribute to narrowing the health gap in women’s health in Canada.

The Next Step

With all the initiatives and research the government has done, more is needed for the people of Ontario. To reach a certain point where the health gap is reduced, and the disparities are barely visible, the government would have to introduce new policies to make the gap less visible. Some of the changes could include:

  1. Address the Economic Disparities: Reduce health inequities resulting from women’s social roles and status; this includes promoting equal pay for equal work, affordable childcare, and family-friendly workplace policies.
  2. Access to Healthcare Services: Service planning must consider the unique needs of diverse groups of women. Offer or subsidize childcare services for women with children so they can attend health and support services.
  3. Gender Responsive Policies: This includes policies on chronic conditions, reproductive health, maternal care, mental health, and violence prevention.

The inequities and disparities in the healthcare sector will only disappear once the government acts on new policies to help bridge this gap and create a new healthcare system that Canadians would be proud of.

Communities, countries, and the world are only as strong as their women’s health.

Alberta Ditching the CPP: Rooted in Western Alienation

By Stephanie Levett

Alberta’s ongoing negotiations with the Canadian federal government to leave the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) to create a provincial plan (APP) will have negative effects on hardworking Canadians contributing to the national program.

Recent calls for separation were initiated on the basis of the province’s higher rates of contribution. With supporters claiming it is an “obligation” for Alberta to opt out for higher benefits.

The current perceived benefits proposed by Premier Smith are unrealistic and brings to question the deficits this amendment would make, if approved.

But regardless of the debatable benefits or drawbacks, there is a looming issue that needs to be addressed first.

Vague Guidelines for Withdraw

The CPP Act does allow provinces to apply to withdraw from the national program if two requirements are met. The provincial government must provide 3 years’ written notice and arrangement for comparable benefits in lieu.

However, it is not that simple.

Given Alberta’s nearly 60 years of ‘marriage’ to the program, there are many considerations including the province’s entitlement of assets and the consequential deficits.

Consultation with Albertans and other Canadian provinces currently contributing to the program should not be overlooked. With the recent polls displaying a highly divided public opinion, it is clear that not everyone is enthusiastic about the APP.

Premier Smith’s Multi-Billion Dollar Promise

In a recent report, the Alberta government claims they are entitled to an astonishing $334 billion of the program’s net assets by January of 2027. This translates to over 50% of the fund’s total assets.

Alberta’s Premier Danielle Smith, a highly motivated, long-standing supporter of the separation, has proudly shared this estimated entitlement. In an effort to further convince Albertans of the perceived benefits, she has gone on to say that the APP would save Albertans $1400/year (5.91%), while other Canadians would see their annual contributions increase by $175/year (10.6%).

However, the feasibility of these estimations has become a subject of widespread skepticism.

Calculations conducted by outside organizations and individuals have resulted in lower estimations of entitlement. Trevor Tombe, an economist from the University of Calgary, concludes Alberta’s entitled is 20-25% of the CPP’s present assets. A dramatic difference to the suggested entitlements being shared by Smith’s government.

And there is danger in continuing to spread these conflicting estimations. With a tentatively referendum set for 2025, we cannot expect the public to make an informed vote on the issue without a clear numeric figure to vote on.

The Difference Between QPP and APP

Quebec’s pension plan (QPP) has been used as leverage to try and demonstrate that an agreement with the federal government is feasible and that the APP could be sustainable.

However, this comparison is far from realistic.

As Quebec opted out of the CPP at its point of introduction, in 1966. They have only ever contributed to their provincial plan, in comparison to Alberta who has been contributing to the CPP for nearly 60 years.

The idea behind the national program is that working Canadians contribute to the fund so when they retire, they have a financial safeguard. However, if Alberta ditches the CPP, taking their proposed entitlements, it will leave fellow Canadians with a deficit to fill.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room

Due to the vague requirements outlined in the CPP Act, Alberta’s case for leaving the national program must be considered by the federal government. However, underneath the debates of asset entitlement and the sustainability of the APP is a looming issue that cannot be overlooked.

The original initiative for the APP was introduced in “The Firewall Letter” by a group of Albertans in 2001 and was based on feelings of Western alienation. This is “the elephant in the room.”

This longstanding perception of Ottawa’s favouritism towards the Central provinces while punishing the West with “damaging federal policies” surfaces time and time again.

And now is the time to address it.

Given the unanimous distrust of Alberta’s claims of entitlement being “an impossible figure”, it is unlikely that the federal government will determine their entitlement to be anything close to the 53% which they proposed. Which will only further the frustrations between Alberta and Ottawa.

Therefore, the federal government must first address Alberta’s calls to renegotiate policies putting harmful restrictions on their economy and begin building better relations. Separation from the CPP will only create further divide and cause economy uncertainty for other Canadians.

Ontarians Should Complain Less and Vote More

by: Miheret Damcha

If you chose not to vote in the 2022 Ontario provincial election, I don’t want to hear you complain. I don’t want to hear about rent prices going up when you could have had a say on June 2, 2022. Low voter turnout is an issue that damages our sense of democracy, while delegitimizing the government that is voted in.

Why Voting Matters

In the past, Ontario has had low voter turnout, but this one was the lowest. The province was able to get a measly 43.5% of the eligible voters to the ballot. This is problematic for several reasons.  For one, the low voter turnout shows how disengaged people have gotten from their government. If people cared about government and the policies it implements, more voters should have showed up. For instance, the Ford government rolled back rent control policies for new buildings which meant unaffordable rent prices for many people.

Speaking of civic engagement, voting is one way to check the powers of government. Elections give you a say on who gets to be in power. How are we keeping politicians in check when no one shows up to vote? History shows that higher turnouts are bad for incumbents which shows that votes can speak to power. You can see this in the 2015 federal election, which had 68% going to the polls, to unseat the Conservatives.

Democracy Woes

Democracy advocates are saying that low voter turnouts harm our democracy. The non-profit Democracy Watch states that the low voter turnout is a sign of a crisis. The low voter turnout is an indicator that shows that the government is not truly representative of the province. If only half the province shows up to vote, the results will only reflect the needs of those voters. This leaves marginalized groups that are not able to vote, including the homeless population unable to have their say. If democracy is based on the majority, the low voter turnout is the antithesis of the concept.

Numbers Don’t Lie

Looking at those numbers, I can see why there are some people who have no problem with the low voter turnout. For example, Premier Ford boldly claimed that the province chose a clear winner. Despite losing the popular vote, the Progressive Conservatives did win a majority government. But the other parties did get 60% of the vote, which should make people wonder the validity of Ford’s statement.

The Other Side

More should be done to get voters to the polls. Fraser Institute argues that political parties should do more to mobilize more voters. The think tank claims that the problem lies with the parties, not the electoral system. While political parties should have better platforms to mobilize voters, you can’t ignore the numbers. It is understandable why people would feel disfranchised to vote when the winning party has less votes than the other three combined. Why should they vote when the results won’t match with who actually wins. Some type of electoral reform is needed to make sure all votes matter.

Simple Issues Require Simple Solutions

There should be more done to bring voters to the ballots. The Ontario government should create informational campaigns to educate the public on how to vote and who is eligible to do so. Many young adults don’t vote because they believe that they are not registered. Homeless individuals also are eligible to vote, but have no permanent address, so it’s harder for them to vote. Informational Campaigns could help educate the two groups about their eligibility, to improve voter turn outs.

2026 Hopes

Low voter turn outs hurts our democracy, delegitimizes the winning governing party, and impacts the greater public through the policies that is enacted. Ontarians are capable of stepping up. It is time we do just that and get our voices heard. In 2026, I hope to see everyone eligible take the chance to become a catalyst for change.