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Frock the vote 

Lezlie Lowe marks her ballot with an XX.

Andrea D’Sylva has a plan for you this election. She wants you to vote strategically.

It’s not about ditching your NDP, Marxist-Leninist or Green Party principles and voting Liberal to make sure Stephen Harper doesn’t grab the keys to 24 Sussex. For D’Sylva, voting strategically is voting as a feminist. And voting as a feminist? That means voting for any party you fancy, so as long as you’ve put a little thought into the matter.

D’Sylva is a member of FemJEPP, a feminist organization with province-wide reach. The acronym stands for Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy, and that tells you the gist — the volunteer-based group supports a variety of initiatives working toward social and economic justice, for women and the communities in which they live.

D’Sylva and her FemJEPP compatriots want women talking in the lead-up to the January 23 election, about, for starters, the fact that in the House of Commons, only 21 per cent of the last parliament’s sitting members were women. In the current campaign, 23 per cent of candidates from all parties are women. “If we don’t have women in parliament,” D’Sylva says, “there’s no one speaking for women.”

D’Sylva wants women asking questions when candidates come to the door, too; questions that direct candidates to consider the women’s issues that aren’t part of the campaign lexis.

“We’re concerned with the situation of aboriginal women,” D’Sylva says. “The number of missing and dead aboriginal women in Canada is really deplorable,” and “Women still only earn 71 per cent of what men earn. We need federal pay equity legislation to change that,” and “Women are caregivers primarily for children and the elderly. We need a national, accessible public homecare and childcare program that’s universal right across the country. That’s something that’s going to change women’s lives.”

D’Sylva is zeroing in on the much bandied-about Conservative vs. Liberal childcare debate, but she’s adamant: FemJEPP doesn’t care which circle gets your X.

“We’re saying, whoever comes to the door, ask them what they’re going to do to change the situation for women in Canada. For us, it’s more about people voting and people being informed voters.”

Sometimes, D’Sylva admits, it’s a tough sell. “If you’re a single parent and you’re trying to make ends meet,” she says, “the election campaign is just not a priority.” FemJEPP’s response is simple: “Actually playing a role in the society you want to live in and you want to create is important and is how you do it.”

Eligible voters with scarce time aren’t the only challenge. There are still the ballot-spoilers, the ballot-eaters and the people who refuse to participate in a process they see as inherently flawed.

And then there are the people who think feminist voting is the same load of bullshit as the rest of the campaign rhetoric. For them, D’Sylva has a message. “In Canada,” she says, “we come across as an equal society. In 1981, Canada signed the UN declaration to end all forms of discrimination against women. In 2003, the UN found Canada was not complying in three key areas – aboriginal women, women in poverty and women don’t have access to civil legal aid. It’s not just FemJEPP. It’s a UN body who is saying Canada does not comply. I think it’s hard for somebody to come back and argue against that.”

Come back and argue:


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