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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Women's issues and politics : getting the childcare issue onto a municipal political agenda Dunn, Elizabeth Margaret


This thesis examines women's issues and the political agenda. Several factors affect the likelihood of a women's issue getting onto the formal political agenda of government (municipal, provincial, and federal). The nature of the issue (the degree to which it challenges the status quo) affects the political outcome: those issues which have fit into current and historical legislative patterns (such as welfare state guidelines) have been more successful. A patriarchal family ideology places limitations on the proper role of women: women have held primary responsibility for the care of children and family. Women's labour force participation creates parameters for government involvement in issues such as childcare. The lobbying and organizational skills of the political actors involved are prerequisites for gaining access to government decision-makers. While the entry of women into the political arena has not insured the entry of women's issues onto the political agenda, female politicians have been especially important in bringing women's issues forward for debate and action. However, government bureaucracy has often been a barrier in the implementation of legislation concerning women's issues. I present a case study of a particular women's issue (childcare) at the municipal level of government. Five locations are examined in the Greater Vancouver area, using a combination of qualitative methods (personal interviews) and quantitative research techniques (government statistics, official documents, and reports from a variety of community organizations). In spite of the steadily increasing labour force participation of women in all locations, the response of local governments to the childcare issue has varied greatly — childcare is on Vancouver's political agenda but not that of the four district municipalities examined. Vancouver's involvement has been more comprehensive and longterm (more childcare spaces, an involved Social Planning Department, two task forces, a Children's Advocate, and buildings and sites for childcare purposes). The response of municipal councils continues to reflect patriarchal notions of the family (where childcare is a private, family responsibility). Alternatively, Vancouver council has recognized a permanent restructuring of the family and the ongoing involvement of the larger community in childcare. At the same time, the lobbying approach of Vancouver childcare advocates has followed long established patterns concerning childcare and governments -- the argument has been based on child welfare, not the rights or welfare of women.

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