Like 22.3 million other Canadians, I recently completed my taxes. It is always a painful experience, less fun than the dental work I had done earlier in the month and actually more expensive. But for social conservatives and other people of common sense, forking over hard-earned dough to the government is made even more pernicious when one considers where the money goes.
Mark Milke, a former director with the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation, outlines some of the projects Ottawa (and the provinces) spend taxpayers’ dollars on in his Tax Me, I’m Canadian: Your Money and How Politicians Spend It. (Thomas & Black, $23.95)
In his chapter on direct government-funding of advocacy groups, a government activity that Milke (and myself) strongly oppose regardless of who receives such grants and subsidies, Milke notes that socially liberal groups are often the beneficiaries of such largesse while socially conservative groups receive little or no funding.
For instance, in 2001 Environment Canada gave $6.7 million to organizations that lobbied in favour of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. Canadians should be shocked that the government funded groups that lobby the government for specific changes. Why not save the money, not go through the charade of “public consultations” and pass the legislation? It would be honest and cheaper. Such is the way the government works.
Which is, by the way, not in our favour. On life and family issues, groups that advocate radical departures from traditional morality and mores are given subsidies to advocate for such change while pro-life and pro-family groups depend solely or largely on the financial generosity of supporters.
Most upsetting to social conservatives is than the money the feds dole out to the Status of Women Secretariat through Sheila Copps’ department, Canadian Heritage. Her ministry gives the Secretariat $23 million a year, of which $10.8 million is divvied up among feminist organizations.
As Milke is careful to make clear, the SOW Secretariat is a branch of Canadian Heritage and is a distinct entity from the advocacy group the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. Yet, he adds “over the years, there is indeed little difference between the lobby group and the Secretariat in terms of positions.” This might have something to do with the fact that the government and the advocacy group have “a symbiotic relationship,” as women’s groups that espouse the “department’s (feminist) bias receive the vast amount of funds.”
NAC has received more than 40 times what the conservative women’s group REAL Women received and in 1999 REAL Women lost all government funding. NAC, on the other hand, had their funding merely reduced. As REAL Women’s Gwen Landolt told The Interim at the time, NAC would cease to exist without government funding because it has few individual donors, and most individual donors are unions and other advocacy groups.
Milke lists the other feminist groups receiving federal funding through the Secretariat: the Canadian Feminist Alliance Action ($194,988), the National Association of Women and the Law ($262,250), Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy ($110,712), the 52% Coalition ($18,000) and the Ad Hoc Group Raising Awareness of Lesbian Lives ($20,000).
Milke wonders why the majority of the Secretariat’s money goes to fund radical feminist groups “that promote one view of abortion, gender and racial quotas, and other issues on which Canadians are genuinely and sincerely divided” while there are, for instance, women’s shelters in need of cash (such shelters receive a much smaller share of the Secretariat’s funds).
But it is not only advocacy groups that get funding. Organizations that take to the courts to effect change also benefit from government handouts. The Court Challenges Program hands out more than $4 million a year to groups that seek intervenor status in important cases. Needless to say, most of the money goes to socially liberal organizations such as the feminist outfit LEAF (the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund) and the homosexualist activists at EGALE (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere).
A system in which the government plays favourites among groups claiming to represent various segments of the population and to speak in the public interest undermines, distorts and even mocks the democratic process. Such one-sided funding forces all Canadians to subsidize a single view in major policy debates.