Up for Debate campaign asks federal leaders tough questions on gender equality | National Union of Public and General Employees

Up for Debate campaign asks federal leaders tough questions on gender equality

Women make up half the population, represent 47% of the Canadian labour force, and 52% of voters in the last federal election. Yet in the last federal leaders’ debates the word women was barely mentioned. It’s time for a national conversation about building a Canada that works for women.

Ottawa (04 Nov. 2014) — Critical issues for women like childcare, pay equity and affordable housing received scant attention in the 2011 leaders’ debates. A coalition of organizations is setting out to change that in advance of the next federal election. 

Up for Debate is a new campaign challenging federal party leaders to address major issues facing women, especially the core causes of growing inequality in Canada

An alliance of 100 organizations from across the country, including the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), has launched a campaign — Up for Debate — to create a national conversation on gender equality in the lead up to the 2015 federal election. The campaign includes women’s groups in every region of the country, Aboriginal associations, community groups, international development organizations, faith-based groups and labour — representing over 3.5 million Canadians. The alliance is calling for a federal election debate focused on women in 2015. 

“What works for women works for Canada,” said Paulette Senior, CEO of YWCA Canada. “The first and only federal leaders’ debate on women took place thirty years ago. It’s long past time for the second one. For many women Canada is a better country than in 1984, but we haven’t achieved equality, and certainly not for all women.”

Up for Debate is calling on all party leaders to commit to participating in a nationally broadcast leaders’ debate focused on policies and issues that impact women’s lives.

“Can we really say that the battle for women’s rights had been won when over 1100 Aboriginal women and girls have been murdered in Canada since 1980, and each day more than 8,000 women and children seek protection from a shelter to escape violence and abuse?” asked Claudette Dumont-Smith, Executive Director of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. “It’s time for a national conversation about building a Canada that works for all women.”

Federal government has a role to play in addressing income inequality in Canada

"Income inequality continues to increase in our country," says Brenda Hildahl, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Women's Issues at NUPGE. "And many of the contributing issues, such as child care, pay equity, violence against women and affordable housing can be addressed at the federal level."

The alliance notes that although today more women than ever before are graduating from university, entering new professions and running for public office, women still make up the majority of the poor, earn 20 per cent less than their male peers for the same work, and do twice as much unpaid work at home.

"Women are tired of the lip service politicians give our issues, because they aren't just women's issues. All of these issues have an impact on the economic stability of our communities and our country," said Hildahl. "We need the leaders to commit to talking directly to women about their concrete plans to resolve increasing inequality."

Help push for a leaders' debate 

There are many ways the public can help ensure these issues are discussed as part of the 2015 election. 

The most important task is to help get the message out! You can do this easily through social media:

  • Ask the leaders to commit to the debate and use the hashtag #upfordebate
  • Tweet or post to Facebook about the issues
  • Share information online with friends, family and co-workers.

There will be many resources for the public to use to help build support for the campaign online at Up for Debate

More information: 

Up for Debate

All Together Now! campaign on income inequality


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE