The New Brunswick government is finally doing analysis of the potential impact of its decisions on gender equality. Now there’s good news. Each option under study for a new program, or changes or cuts to programs, will be analyzed for its impact on gender (as well as potential fiscal and economic impacts).
Some applause has come from women’s groups, though it was muted: they want to “see the documents”.
But overall, that’s good news, right? How hard can it be? How can anything go wrong?
Well, let me count the ways.
What we know:
The government says its employees did a gender-based analysis.
The government is only going ahead with policies that have a positive or neutral impact on equality, that pass the “gender” test.
Their gender-based analysis includes all genders, all women, all men, and the relative situation of all New Brunswickers in all their diversity.
What we fear:
“Mr. Minister, here’s the impact analysis for gender on that proposed policy. We found that it would set back equality between women and men. We recommend against that policy. In fact the committee says “Under no circumstances should …””
“Excuse me. You did a gender-based analysis? I can say that?
“Mr. Minister, I’m happy to inform you that we did a gender-based analysis on your platform policies. However, we did not have any statistics by race, income group, location, and, actually, sex was a problem too. But we have a feeling this will play well.”
“Good job once again, thank you.”
There is no reason to mistrust this government over any other. But giving any party-cum-government the power to self-police is never a good idea. Think of what recent NB governments have done to pay equity analysis*.
Finally, remember Sheila Fraser, Canada’s super Auditor General? She “found out” the federal government on this issue in 2009. A House of Commons Standing Committee requested that her office examine how well the federal government was implementing gender-based analysis. Fraser asked Treasury Board and other departments to provide their gender-analysis documents. “We-l-ll, actually there are no records, but…”, came the response. “But…”
No documentation, no analysis, she concluded.