This is in today’s TO Star, and it is important enough that I chose to include the full text here.

Women’s groups face funding cuts
Tory moves deliberate, opposition says
Spending review to be released soon
Sep. 21, 2006. 01:00 AM
BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH AND LES WHITTINGTON
OTTAWA BUREAU

OTTAWA—The Conservative government is poised to unveil more than $1 billion in spending cuts but some women’s groups say they’re already feeling the knife as their funding runs dry.

NDP and Liberal MPs have accused the Conservatives of using a spending review — expected to be released next week — as a guise to gut Status of Women Canada and the nationwide organizations it funds that seek to give women a greater voice and greater equality.

“Women’s organizations are being forced to shut their doors,” said New Democratic Party MP Irene Mathyssen, the party’s critic for status of women issues.

“The Conservatives are quite frankly using stall tactics by not responding to these funding applications and they’re allowing important programs to shut down one by one,” said Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe). “There’s obvious disdain for the aspirations of women of this country by this government.”

The agency disburses about $10 million a year in funding to support women’s organizations with the goal of promoting gender equality.

Already, the Ottawa-based National Association of Women and the Law has closed its doors after its request for annual funding went unanswered by Bev Oda, federal minister for heritage and the status of women, Mathyssen said yesterday.

The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action says programs are in jeopardy after it hit a “wall of silence” in its request for $350,000 in renewed project funding.

“It’s unusual and disturbing that we’re getting no response,” said Shelagh Day, of the alliance, which is a coalition of 50 groups that work to improve women’s equality in society. “For women in this country, these programs … have been extraordinarily important,” said Day.

Liberal MP Maria Minna (Beaches-East York) said the government can’t publicly announce that it is axing Status of Women Canada because it would provoke a public “backlash.” So instead, the Tories are doing the cuts through “stealth,” she charged yesterday.

“The expense review can be sort of the cover for undermining the program, the cutbacks and funding of the organizations,” Minna told reporters.

Early next week, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Treasury Board President John Baird will announce the results of a full-scale review of federal government operations to weed out programs and operations that are considered a waste of money, are outmoded or are inconsistent with the Conservatives’ view of Ottawa’s priorities.

In keeping with election campaign promises to reduce the growth in federal spending, the government said in its May 2 budget that it would identify savings of $1 billion this year and another $1 billion for next year.

Yesterday, Flaherty refused to say what programs will be axed. “I’m not going to speculate, but overall, in terms of the fiscal plan, we are committed to controlling spending and we intend to keep our commitment to Canadians,” he told reporters, after a meeting of his party’s MPs. “We were very clear that we’re a party of fiscal responsibility and that includes spending control.”

Government officials say Baird, who has led the review, has succeeded in meeting the target of $1 billion in savings for this year and next.

“I’ll have more news shortly, but I’m comfortable with what I’m seeing,” Flaherty added.

In last spring’s budget, Flaherty said that federal spending on programs, which now totals $188 billion a year, has been rising too quickly under previous Liberal governments.

“This growth is neither sustainable nor desirable,” the budget stated.

The Conservatives said their spending management would be based on the principles that government programs should focus on “results and value for money,” and should be consistent with federal responsibilities. The Conservatives have often complained that, under the Liberals, Ottawa persistently used its spending powers to intrude in areas of provincial jurisdiction. The Conservatives also said they would eliminate programs that no longer served the purpose for which they were created.

Some women’s groups and opposition MPs have expressed concerns that funding may be channelled to women’s organizations that oppose abortion and gay marriage.

“They should be rejected because they’re anti-choice and they’re also anti-equal rights. They don’t support equality,” said Liberal MP Belinda Stronach (Newmarket- Aurora).

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