MLA for Lesser Slave Lake
A little over a month ago, Premier Rachel Notley asked me if I would consider adding Status of Women to my portfolio.
I was honoured. And thrilled.
It made perfect sense. As the Minister of Children’s Services, much of the work I already do is for women. In most cases, the best way to improve the life of a child is to ensure parents have supports and opportunities. The bulk of parenting work still falls to women. And women are more likely to be victims of domestic and sexual violence.
As a single mother of three, Status of Women speaks deeply to my values. I decided to get into politics because I couldn’t accept the status quo. As a nurse, I’ve met many women struggling to make ends meet, yet with fewer opportunities to get ahead.
I wanted change for my community, for the people I worked with, for Indigenous women and new immigrants, for my children and their children. I joined Rachel Notley because she recognized that Alberta could do better than create a culture of entitlement for friends and backroom buddies, which largely ignored half the population.
The Alberta government should be in the business of making life better for families, she told me. The well-being of women was a key priority in making that happen.
Once we were elected, Rachel started with huge cultural changes to how politics is done in Alberta. She appointed Alberta’s first-ever cabinet that actually reflected the population. She overhauled Alberta’s agencies, boards and commissions, cancelling golf club memberships and other perks, ensuring Albertans of all walks of life were at the table.
And knowing that women in Alberta face lower wages and higher levels of violence, she established Alberta’s first standalone Status of Women ministry.
Over the past three years, we’ve built our biggest policies with families – and women – in mind. We stepped up to raise minimum wage, recognizing that women work these jobs to get by or to ensure their kids can play hockey.
We introduced affordable child care and the Alberta Child Benefit, recognizing that parenting is costly, leaving mothers with few options but to put their careers and training on hold.
We brought in long-overdue legislation to ensure victims of domestic abuse could break leases, recognizing that women shouldn’t be financially punished for escaping a violent situation. We changed labour laws so mothers couldn’t get fired for calling in sick, for taking care of a sick child, or for needing a couple of days to escape a domestic abuse situation. And in the wake of the #MeToo movement and higher reporting of sexual violence, we added counseling and legal supports for survivors who have come forward.
During the Calgary Stampede, I held my first ever event as Minister of Status of Women, talking to many of the organizations that work to support women. Some strive to ensure more women take on careers in science, business, and politics. Others work directly with women who have been through sexual violence or domestic abuse. Standing before this group of incredible leaders and innovators, I spoke about how we are entering into a pivotal time for women in Alberta.
My new ministry is not about striving to reach a particular marker. It’s not about picking winners and losers. It’s about making Alberta a better place for everyone.
With another provincial election coming next spring, the coming months will determine what this province looks like for our children. It’s also an incredible opportunity to do some amazing work, to show Albertans what we can achieve when we engage women in the process.
I, for one, don’t want to return to the past culture of entitlement, where friends and backroom buddies get golf club memberships. Instead, we can build stronger communities and make life better for women and for all Albertans.
That’s why when the Premier asked me if I wanted the job, I was thrilled. And honoured. There’s never been a better opportunity to make a difference for women.