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FLARE Questionnaire: Conservative Leader Stephen Harper

On the eve of #elxn42, we asked the party leaders for their takes on the issues that matter to you—including access to abortion, sexual violence, the wage gap and more. Read on to find out where Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands before you hit the polls on October 19

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Canadian women get paid 75 cents to every dollar men make. What would your government do to close that gap and ensure equal pay for equal work?
We firmly believe that all Canadians should receive equal pay for equal work. In 2009, we introduced the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act to ensure equal pay in the public service.  We will continue to work with employers to eliminate wage discrimination in Canada. And we will continue our focus on creating well-paying jobs, cutting taxes for Canadian workers, parents and small businesses, all while maintaining a balanced budget. Higher taxes—including payroll taxes and EI premium hikes—proposed by the Liberals will reduce take-home pay for Canadian women and hurt families.

Millennials are now the biggest generation in the Canadian workforce, but they face an increasingly precarious job market. What will you do to address that instability?
The economy is our number-one priority.  We have a positive plan to protect our economy over the next four years and create another 1.3 million new, well-paying jobs, including for young Canadians entering the job market.  Our plan includes job creating policies like the Home Renovation Tax Credit, reducing taxes on small businesses, and the Canada Job Grant—just to name a few.  Further, the new Trans Pacific Partnership agreement will create new jobs and opportunities for Canadians across our country.  That’s why the decision on October 19 on which government will manage our economy is so important: The wrong decisions on spending or taxes will damage our economy, and cause downsizing and job losses across the country.

What will you do to increase political engagement amongst millennial women? How do we get more women into Parliament?
We are proud that women now make up 40 percent of our Conservative Cabinet—the most women in federal Cabinet in the history of our country—and fill nearly 50 percent of senior leadership positions in the public service.  Our government has been supporting projects specifically aimed at increasing women’s participation in politics. As one example, we supported the Together Towards Parity project that aimed to increase the number of women candidates for municipal office in Quebec. It’s imperative that we get as many women as possible engaged in politics and running for office.

Surgical abortions are not available in Prince Edward Island; instead women must travel at their own expense to Moncton or Halifax. What would you do to improve access?
This is a provincial issue. We have been clear that we will not re-open this debate.

Sexual assault and harassment—especially in the workplace—has been one of the biggest issues to emerge in Canada in 2015. What policies would you implement to curb this?
Any allegation of harassment against women in the workplace is unacceptable and must be taken very seriously. We are investing in programs that eliminate and prevent cyber violence against young women and girls as well as helping to prevent and respond to sexual violence against women and girls through access to community services.

With respect to victimization of women, we have imposed tougher penalties on those who commit serious crimes, including sexual assault, kidnapping and murder, and by providing enhanced support for victims, and significant new financial resources to combat family violence and child abuse. While the Liberals and NDP have opposed our more than 30 criminal justice and public safety initiatives to improve the safety of women, children and families in this country, we will continue to hold violent criminals to account, and stand-up for victims of crime.

We encourage anyone who has been a victim of sexual harassment, or harassment of any kind, to report it to the appropriate authorities.

Similarly, consent was a major conversation across college and university campuses in 2015. Do you believe that consent education should be mandatory at post-secondary institutions?
Sexual violence against women is completely unacceptable. We have put forward measures to better protect and support victims, bring offenders to justice and hold them accountable for their offences, and implement effective preventions. Last year our government provided financial support to 21 university campuses across Canada to prevent violence against female students, including sexual assault and harassment.

There is a shockingly high number of murdered and missing Indigenous women cases in this country. Will you call for a national inquiry? If not, why not and what will you do instead?
These are terrible crimes against innocent people. The RCMP has said itself in its own study that the vast majority of these cases are addressed and are solved through police investigations. Another study on top of the many studies that have already been done will not be helpful. We need police to catch those responsible and ensure they’re punished. Now isn’t the time for more talk, now is the time for action. And that’s why in 2014 we launched our Action Plan to Address Family Violence and Violent Crimes Against Aboriginal Women and Girls. The five-year Action Plan outlines concrete actions to prevent violence, support aboriginal victims and protect aboriginal women and girls from violence. Together with other federal support for shelters, family violence prevention and increasing economic and leadership opportunities for aboriginal women, it will result in an investment by our government of nearly $200 million over five years.

If elected, what’s the first thing you’d do to combat climate change?
We are the first government in Canadian history to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also growing our economy. Our government is focused on a responsible sector-by-sector regulatory approach that’s working: It’s achieving real results and reducing emissions in coordination with industry. We’re also working with the United States and Mexico on an integrated basis, since we have a continental economy in many sectors. We’ve set ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals for 2030, in advance of this year’s UN Summit on Climate Change, and outlined a plan to reach them. But we will not take unilateral actions that put Canadians jobs and our economy at risk, nor will we impose carbon taxes that raise costs for consumers and families.

Many young women have no idea how crazy expensive daycare is—and how hard it is to obtain a spot in the first place. How would your government make childcare more accessible and affordable? 

We believe parents, not bureaucrats, should decide how to spend their child-care dollars. That’s why our Conservative government created and recently expanded and enhanced the Universal Child Care Benefit to help all families with the cost of child care. Nearly four million families are receiving these enhanced benefits, including nearly $2,000 annually for every child under six, and $720 annually for every child between six and 17.

Regrettably, the Liberals oppose the Universal Child Care Benefit and would take it away from parents.

In addition, I recently announced that a re-elected Conservative government will provide up to 18 months of job protection for new parents and the option to stretch Employment Insurance benefits over 18 months. I also announced that women receiving maternity benefits and parents receiving parental benefits would be able to earn additional employment and self-employment income while receiving EI benefits. Our Conservative party wants to support new moms and dads by cutting taxes for families and providing additional career flexibility and opportunities to earn during the transition to parenthood.

More on #elxn42: 
#elxn42: The Party Leaders Take Our FLARE Questionnaire
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s FLARE Questionnaire
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s FLARE Questionnaire
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May’s FLARE Questionnaire