Business to Harper: support equal marriage

 

 

 

 

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Advocacy News - Business to Harper: support equal marriage

March 22, 2006

Business to Harper: support equal marriage
Canadian executives promote respect for diversity
By Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell

A survey released this week by the Gandalf Group reveals that Canadian business leaders are a driving force in advancing equality and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender employees. This is no surprise to us or other employees of Canadian companies who have long enjoyed equal benefits and protection from discrimination in the workplace.

Corporations are uniquely positioned as change agents within Canada. They put policies in place across the country that establish expectations around governance and human resource management in corporate life, just as our elected legislators establish laws that govern our existence in private or public life. Corporate policy can go a long way towards changing behaviour, not only around the company water cooler, but in life outside the corporate walls as well.

Canadian companies, with international interests, can also contribute to the advancement of rights and tolerance outside of Canada, through the introduction of policies in support of equality in their foreign offices.

The leaders of big business have embraced diversity not only because it is the just and right thing to do: it makes good business sense. Companies know that happy, empowered employees are more likely to foster satisfied and loyal customers, which in turn delivers sustainable profits and shareholder value.

When we found ourselves at the centre of the same-sex marriage debate, our employer, a Canadian bank, provided excellent support to us. With gratitude, we have talked to Canadian and American employees about our experience with diversity in the workplace, and we have marched with bank employees in Pride parades in Toronto and Halifax.

Canadian business leaders support equal marriage

The Gandalf Group report reveals that managing human resources is the biggest challenge facing medium sized companies, the 2nd biggest challenge (after growth/sales) for large companies, and the 3rd most important challenge (after growth/sales and costs) for small companies.

The importance of effectively managing human resources probably explains why a majority of Canadian executives think that Stephen Harper and the governing Conservatives should abandon their promise to introduce legislation in a desperate attempt to ban same-sex marriages (a move that Canada’s courts have already deemed to be unconstitutional).

Of all Conservative party platform proposals, an attempt to ban gay marriage elicits the strongest negative response from business leaders. A whopping 90% said that an attempt to reintroduce a ban against gay marriage should not be done at all, or the issue should be a low priority:

  • 53% said the Conservative party should not even try to ban same-sex couples from marriage,
  • 37% of business leaders said that legislation to ban gay marriage is a low priority, and
  • 4% said a same-sex marriage ban is a medium priority
  • Only 5 % said that legistlation to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying is a high priority.

The most unpopular Conservative Party proposal

Stephen Harper’s attack on gay rights led the list of Conservative party platform issues that business is most set against (i.e., ranked as an issue that should be “not done at all” or set as a “low priority):

  • 90% said prohibiting same-sex marriages was a low priority or should be not done at all,
  • 80% said cancelling the personal tax cuts of the previous Liberal government was a low priority or should be not do at all,
  • 66% said removing Canada from the Kyoto Accord should be a low or no priority item for the Conservatives, and
  • 58% said cancelling the existing child-care programs with the provinces should be a low or no priority item.

The message is clear to Canada’s minority-governing Conservative party: dump discrimination, embrace equality and support equal marriage for same-sex couples. Our business leaders understand: diversity is good for business and good for Canada.


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