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Provenzano sounds alarm about 'she-cession'

'We can all play a meaningful role in pressing for gender balance,' Provenzano tells a City Council dominated eight-to-three by males
2020 City Council
Photo supplied

In proclaiming Monday as the 110th International Women's Day, Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano warned the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting women.

"Existing systemic inequalities have been further exasperated by recent shut-down measures, resulting in what some economists are call a 'she-cession' as more women have lost their jobs and fewer women than men are re-gaining employment," the mayor said at the beginning of Monday night's City Council meeting.

"The pandemic experience has been especially challenging for already vulnerable groups including racialized, Indigenous and low-income women, single mothers, newcomers and women with disabilities."

"With women’s labour force participation at a record low, decades of progress towards gender equality are at stake."

"We need to take a hard look at the challenges facing women and plan for recovery with women at the table with a gender and diversity lens on strategies, program and policies."

"A challenged world is an alert world – one that supports women’s safety, economic empowerment and prosperity is extremely important to our organization, community, province and country," Provenzano said.

The mayor recognized the three women on Sault Ste. Marie's eleven-member City Council – Ward 1's Sandra Hollingsworth, Ward 2's Lisa Vezeau-Allen and Ward 3's Donna Hilsinger – as well as city clerk Rachel Tyczinski and deputy clerk Madison Zuppa.

He also talked about the strong women who outnumber him four-to-one in his own household: Kyleigh, Chloe, Alice and Isla.

A report released Monday by the Labour Market Information Council found that employment among women had dropped 5.3 per cent since the COVID-19 pandemic started in February 2020, compared to a 3.7 per cent drop among men.

Women in low-earning occupations have been especially hard-hit, with their employment levels down 14 per cent.

"Whether through a global conference, community gathering, classroom lesson or dinner table conversation, we can all play a meaningful role in pressing for gender balance," the mayor said in his proclamation.

Coronavirus vaccines

Mayor Provenzano also talked about COVID-19 vaccinations.

"I just want to ask the community to exercise caution over the next couple of months as we roll out the vaccination program."

"You can see a significant spike in cases in northern Ontario. You can see a lot of activity in Sudbury, a lot of activity in Thunder Bay."

"Really, the only way we can make sure we don't have the same level of activity here is to keep following public health advice."

A three-day vaccination clinic at GFL Memorial Gardens started on Friday.

"I'm sure we will do a good job as a community at that, but our ability to get vaccines into arms quickly will obviously be directly correlated to our ability to get vaccines," the mayor said.

"Those have to be procured for the entire country. They have to be distributed across our province."

"So it's going to take some time before we have enough, until we vaccinate everybody that wants a vaccine."

Sault Transit

Councillors approved a $505,000 technology upgrade for Sault Transit that, among other things, will allow riders to view exact locations of buses on their cell phones and also a digital display at the downtown terminal.

Brent Lamming, the city's director of community services, is hoping the cell-phone app features will be rolled out some time in July.  

Sault-based UCAB (1972699 Ontario Inc.) was awarded a contract to provide wheelchair-accessible and ambulatory service vehicles for a three-year period starting this month, with a possible extension for up to two more years if both parties agree.

Councillors also approved a city application for $1.5 million in provincial funding to cover COVID-related pressures on Sault Transit under Phase 2 of the Safe Restart Agreement.

Record time?

Tonight's City Council meeting lasted just 34 minutes.

"I don't know if in six years, we've finished an open session in 35 minutes," the mayor said.

"But if we haven't, we've done it now, leaving David Helwig with very little to do tonight but write stories. That may be interesting. We'll see how that turns out later," Provanzano trepidated as he adjourned the meeting.