If you were watching the CBC or reading most newspapers, you would figure it was the end of the world. But relax, it was something much less harrowing. The apoplexy of activists and pundits is an over-reaction to a change in the way the federal government funds special-interest groups.

Last spring, the government changed the way it doles out taxpayer money to favoured lobbyists. No longer would money go to “core-funding” (operational grants) of interest groups. Instead it would cover their specific projects like conferences or research.

Early last month, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC), Canada’s leading pro-abortion feminist lobby group, began laying off staff. In 1997, they received $200,000 in core-funding, but were rejected twice for grants in 1998, apparently because they refused to cooperate with the new funding application rules.

NAC was receiving as much as $800,000 at one time, but that has been cut 75 per cent in recent years. The $200,000 grant they received in 1997 represented 25 to 30 per cent of NAC’s budget.

Sherona Hall, vice-president-at-large of NAC, told The Interim that the federal government’s funding formula “is a strategy to silence women.” She said that because the money NAC raises through other sources will now be used to pay for staff and office expenses, they will no longer be able to develop policy papers and make presentations before parliamentary committees.

Gwen Landolt, vice-president of the pro-family organization REAL Women of Canada, told The Interim that NAC has been less visible in recent years. She says NAC is making fewer appearances before parliamentary committees and submitting fewer briefs on pending legislation.

NAC officials would not say how many members they have or how large their mailing list is. The group has claimed to represent two million Canadian women, but that is through its 600 “member affiliates,” mostly unions and crisis shelters. With the elimination of core funding, Hall admits, “we will have to go to the public to ask for funds to make up for the shortfall.”

Landolt says the whole situation is pathetic. “When their (NAC’s) funding was lost they could not pay their staff. If an organization is around for 25 years and they cannot sustain themselves, it is really quite sad.”

REAL Women has 55,000 dues-paying members, operates without a debt, and does not receive federal core-funding. REAL Women receives $6,000 a year for their annual conference. She says the federal government probably gives money to REAL Women to blunt criticism that Ottawa only funds left-wing women’s groups.

One example of a far-left NAC project is the Lesbian Issues Committee (LIC). The Toronto homosexual newspaper Xtra! says LIC was expected to “expand its membership, set up a network, found a caucus in Toronto, and start a newsletter,” this year. Due to the cuts, NAC said LIC’s activities have been suspended.

Hall admits that many Canadian women don’t see NAC as representing their interests. “White, middle-class women,” she says, “see unionized women, women of colour, (and) lesbian women taking over the movement, and (they) think it no longer represents them.” She claims that white, middle-class women are where they are now because of NAC, and for that reason they should not abandon it.

Landolt says NAC’s current desperation, including its dramatic pre-Christmas layoffs, shows that the organization is neither mainstream nor grassroots.”NAC lacks widespread support for their radical left-wing agenda,” she commented.