A year ago, we announced our decision to resign as co-chairs of Ontario’s Violence Against Women Roundtable due to the provincial government’s lack of response to our repeated inquiries about its commitment to address the issue of violence against women. Our concern that this government would make cuts that would harm women has been confirmed over the past year.

We are writing again now because Canadians go to the polls in just a few days and the silence of most parties on women’s equality and gender-based violence issues has been notable. This is especially distressing when this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

Ontario’s 2018 election should have sounded a warning bell across the country about what can happen when so-called “women’s issues” are not part of the election discourse: governments that don’t care about them get elected.

The provincial and federal Conservatives are cousins. While Doug Ford is hiding during this election, the impacts of his cuts still reverberate. Women cannot afford leaders, whatever their party affiliation, who are personally socially conservative.

Violence against women should never be a partisan issue but, unfortunately, in Canada it has been. Under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, violence against women services were decimated. With the current Liberal government great strides have been made but we need more, not to go backwards. We need leaders who want to address the gender wage gap, missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people, support reproductive, sexual and gender rights and end gender-based violence.

In Ontario, the provincial government decisions ranging from ending the basic guaranteed income pilot project, not implementing anticipated and much needed increases to social assistance, cutting the Legal Aid budget by 30 per cent, shutting down the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and reducing provincial funding for new child care spaces from 100 per cent to 80 per cent have created unsafe situations for women living in this province.

Instead of introducing or maintaining policies and programs that would prevent gender-based violence, this government has undertaken a general review of all victim services, no doubt with an eye to how it can save money. Saving money does not lead to increased safety for vulnerable populations; it leads to increased violence and the increased costs associated with that. Any cost savings are short-term.

Meanwhile, gender-based violence continues apace in this province, with most shelters and sexual assault centres supporting more survivors than ever before, despite a lack of commitment to increases in funding. All the while, the government continues to slash funding for community programming, dissolving any chance of a social safety net for women facing violence.

This flies in the face of promises made and monies set aside in the final budget of the previous government; the government that established and relied on the VAW Roundtable to inform its decisions.

Adequate and stable funding for community-based services is imperative if we are to respond appropriately to survivors of gender-based violence and work to eradicate such violence from our communities.

With no strong political advocate for women in the provincial government, we continue to be deeply concerned about the impact of the government’s political direction on women and girls in Ontario.

Women in Ontario are seeing firsthand what happens when politicians don’t include gender-based violence and women’s equality on their list of platform priorities. We hope others across the country consider our experience when casting their ballots on Monday. All of us deserve a government that is committed to ending violence not creating the conditions for it to thrive.

Pamela Cross is a lawyer, educator and advocate who has worked for more than 30 years in the violence against women movement.  Farrah Khan is a counsellor, educator and advocate who has working for more than 20 years in the violence against women movement.