- Editorial / Éditorial
This volume of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law / Revue Femmes et Droit brings together new and emerging scholarship on women and fiscal equality. Feminists can take credit for having opened up virtually every aspect of social, legal, economic, and political existence to critical scrutiny in the search for genuine equality—including the tax, spending, and budget issues that are the focus of this volume. The effects of economic and political inequalities on women have been addressed rigorously in decades of feminist scholarship, legal analysis, litigation, teaching, community work, and judging. Yet there is a persistent sense that true and durable equality continues to elude even women in privileged societies such as Canada—a sense that has intensified as political leaders cling to neo-liberal and neo-conservative policies in the face of protracted global economic and social/military insecurities.
As a result of these concerns, feminists in Feminist Legal Studies Queen's held an interdisciplinary workshop in 2009 to interrogate the impact of taxation, government expenditure programs, and budget processes on the political, legal, and economic status of women in the twenty-first century. The workshop was supported by the Law Foundation of Ontario and the Faculty of Law at Queen's University and brought together economists, lawyers, civil society leaders, legal academics, government policy analysts, and students in law, politics, and graduate programs from across Canada. The papers presented at the workshop included feminist critiques of traditional economic analysis to cutting-edge work on how couple-based tax and social benefits discriminate against women, reports on how gender impact has, or has not, been considered in the many pension reform inquiries triggered by the 2008 economic crisis, and information on provincial, national, and parliamentary "gender budget" projects that have been established in Canada in recent years.
This volume presents seven of the papers presented at this workshop, legislative comments provided by two students who attended the workshop and then went on to address the gender impact of new federal tax proposals, and a new study of how income tax rate cuts affect women. The prevailing approach taken in this collection can be described as feminist institutionalist and materialist critique, grounded in feminist political economy, using fiscal studies to identify how gendered formations embed discrimination in governance structures and regulate access to resources. This collection draws heavily on the growing body of international treaty obligations that treat sex equality as a fundamental human and civil right.
The first two articles set the stage for this discussion. Rosella Melanson asks a simple but compelling question that has largely been obscured by political and legal resistance to pay equity: What would be the overall fiscal effect of implementing pay equity? Drawing on a study carried out in the context of New Brunswick, she demonstrates that tax revenues would rise significantly, increasing governmental [End Page i] capacities to fund health care, education, and care resources—program areas that have faced financial constraints as a result of long-standing deficit reduction politics and recent "emergency responses" to the 2008 recession. Louise Langevin examines Canada's obligations to women under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Convention on Women) and concludes that, despite having acted as a world leader in implementing this treaty, Canada has not followed up on the many promises it made when doing so. Langevin makes the case for enacting the federal equality legislation recommended by the Status of Women Expert Panel on Gender Equality of which she was a member and underscores the urgency of this legislation. Her position was recently reinforced by Canada's Auditor General who concluded in 2009 that the federal government has, in recent years, largely ignored these obligations.
The remainder of the articles in this volume engage the methodological challenges of identifying and measuring the gender impact of fiscal laws and documents that are relentlessly gender-neutral in language and almost always gender-indifferent in perspective. Each article offers both methodological insights and concrete examples of how gender-aware fiscal analysis can be carried out in the many contexts found in modern states, attending to both the continuing effects of...