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Free speech doesn't include a free megaphone

Over at the Progressive Bloggers site, there is great sadness that funding has been drastically scaled back for Status Of Women Canada (SWC). They are especially dismayed that no longer will the government fund advocacy or lobbying activities by SWC. 'Skdadl' at POGGE sums up the indignation in a post entitled the CPC sniggers at liberty and democracy:

Just before I launch into my usual rant about democracy and the anti-democratic tendencies of our New Government of Canada, I will make one historical observation that may complicate things a bit. Certain especially elevated notables of our federal civil service, most famously the grey men/persons of the Finance Department and RevCan (or whatever the hell we call it these days), have been committed neo-lib slashers of social programs for generations. Their encroachments on our social consensus are what pamused is referring to when she mentions the difficulties that Canadian charitable organizations already have in obeying "the rules." Whoever the first movers were of the recent CPC government assault on funding for women's programs, aboriginals, museums, the Court Challenges program, and so on, their socially conservative ideology would have dovetailed very neatly with the ideological pathologies of the most powerful (often Liberal) members of the mandarinate in Ottawa, who have had many earlier successes in denying creative housing programs in Canada, eg, or in making sure that you never get a disability pension or even a disability tax deduction unless you are at death's door. Charming people. They probably feel bad about the museums, though.

Back to democracy. We all remember John Baird's rationale for cutting the Court Challenges program, the rationale that presumably also pretends to justify any refusal of federal funding to groups that "advocate" on behalf of women still facing legal structural disadvantage:

I just don't think it made sense for the government to subsidize lawyers to challenge the government's own laws in court.
Now, there is a man who has not grasped the difference between a particular elected representative government and the state -- ie, the people, all the people, all the time, their protective symbol in Canada being the Crown, but never doubt: the Crown are us, all of us -- and the responsibility that the one owes the other.

A democratic government always owes all the people free access to study, to criticize, to organize against, and to resist laws or institutional structures that can be shown to discriminate against citizens in ways that violate our constitution. It is a frightening state, certainly not a democracy, that would suddenly declare that no better law is possible than the ones it has conceived of. [bold in original]

Well. Excuse me if I just don't understand where the assault on democracy is here. How are people prevented from studying, criticizing, or organizing against laws? Who in government is saying that there are no laws better than the ones it has conceived of? Is she saying that no dissent is possible unless the government first cuts the dissenters a check? That doesn't say much about the dedication to the cause.

Politics is about organizing, fundraising, and spreading a message. If you want to change something, you have to work. You have to be dedicated. You have to make sacrifices. 'Skdadl' thinks it's all about money:

No one advocates through our courts or to our elected representatives without money. A tiny but powerful minority in our society have always had that money privately, but it has been our civil consensus until now that we will support other groups fighting for liberties that our laws do not yet protect effectively. It seems to me little short of an attempt at a coup that the current CPC government would declare an end to all advocacy and lobbying except by those who are rich.
Which is a bogus argument. The opponents of gay marriage have gotten their message out very effectively without being 'rich' or getting government handouts. I don't agree with them, but at least they're not taking my tax dollars to do their lobbying.

Politics is also about listening. If you want to get people to donate their money or time to your cause, you have to listen to them. And sometimes they're not going to agree with you. Being so long on the government teat, I think this is something that SWC has forgotten how to do.

UPDATE: Befogged Londoner Lisa has a few more choice words.


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