Fighting Harper with a dose of his own medicine

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Fighting Harper with a dose of his own medicine



There is a great piece, by Amy Nugent, on rabble’s front page.


Tom Flanagan, one of Stephen Harper’s closest advisors and three-time national campaign manager, is currently doing publicity for his new “insider’s” book on Harper’s government and rise to power.

If equality-seeking groups are paying any attention to Flanagan, it is unlikely they are doing so for political advice. Yet recently Flanagan, on CBC Radio’s The House, provided such groups, including progressive women’s organizations, with some of the most useful insights on how to advance an equality agenda and a women’s agenda under the Harper government.

Flanagan calls funding cuts to Status of Women Canada and the elimination of the Court Challenges Program a “nice step,” asserting without equivocation that Conservatives will “defund” all equality-seeking groups – with feminists at the top of the list. He goes further, clarifying that Conservatives also plan to choke-off these groups’ supposedly privileged access to government by, for example, denying “meetings with ministers.” But for strategic reasons, Flanagan notes, this will all happen incrementally. To avoid the perception of mean-spirited retribution, he says, “incrementalism is the way to go.”


[url='s a link to the article[/url] so we can find it after today.

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

I've never understood those people who view Harper's government as moderated by their time in power, that somehow dealing with the realities of governing has made them less ideological. To my mind it has always been clear that they have been aggressively pushing their ideology forward, though they have been restrained by their minority position.

I shudder to think what they would do with a majority.

Pride for Red D...

I liked this article so much I can't think really what to say- but I agree, fight fire with fire.


I would like to know why progressive groups think is reasonable to expect funding from a government they are trying to oppose? That doesn't make sense. If the head sociopath in Ottawa wants to close off the pipeline then that is probably the best thing that could happen to Canadian feminism or any other movement.

Maysie Maysie's picture

Werner, your point is well taken. There's a long history of grassroots movements and their struggles to remain effective and energized on a long-term basis without any paid staff to do the work on a more full time basis. Most groups of this sort close down after a few years because of this. Others have found funding, and 30+ years ago, the women's movement found government support (after lobbying and pointing to dastardly statistics about women's representation in areas like higher education, etc). We attained government funding, and in that we began a slow journey away from being grassroots and political. Funding has not only created a dependency on their money, but slowly over the years having to tailor our programs to match their "funding guidelines". This co-optation has taken a while, and it's not the same in all sectors, but lobbying, which is what the Status of Women did best, and more radical ant-oppression, anti-globalization work was of course the first to go. A government with integrity would allow, and yes fund, opposing voices.

What has happened is the movement has changed, based on the institutions that were a part of the movement 30 years ago and are now more focussed on pleasing funders than doing the more radical work. VAW agencies are dealing with this right now.

The good news is, many new groups are starting, young women are leading them, and they have the past 30 years to learn from and to try alternatives.

I've been reading the book "The Revolution Will Not Be Funded" and it's blowing my mind, and I highly recommend it.

At the same time I would argue that a government that is truly representative of people would be more open to hearing about areas that require attention, for the betterment of society and all (violence against women being my main example). And would act to make positive changes.

There are programs all over the place, in hospitals, crisis lines, health clinics, because of the work women have done in the field of VAW for decades. There are specially trained sexual assault police squads, which, while we can argue their efficacy, nonetheless are there because of women's advocating. Resources and funds are prioritized (not enough of course) because of such lobbying.

If cronies and big business can get government handouts and bailouts that are largely unaccounted for, there is no reason to fund, more openly and with fewer restrictions, more grassroots organizations. I won't hold my breath, though.


I was with an organization which was proud not to take ANY government money. It certainly seemed to us that all the groups who appealed for state funds had the same characteristics: lethargy, timidity, conservatism of membership and a focus on perpetual grant writing and fundraising. There offices were generally bereft of people, and volunteers were pretty much unheard of. Also virtually unheard of were actions, demonstrations or campaigns. The conservatism of these group, created, IMHO, by their state funding dependency, extended to their contempt for true grassroots organizations.

If we're talking about funding a battered women's shelter, or a breakfast program for kids or daycare spaces or more funding for cervical cancer research, who cares whether the money comes from the state, Halliburton or Vlad the Impaler. But if you're going to lobby and criticize government policy, I would say that accepting government funding is analogous to being a junkie with the very structure you are trying to reform as your pusher. And all that pusher wants to do is get you hooked, get you dependant, get you weakened, get you tamed, and then cut off your supply and watch you die, which is what Harper's doing now.

[ 18 October 2007: Message edited by: minkepants ]

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Let's get serious here. Organizations like the National Association of Women and the Law work in the common public good. The equality of women [b]is[/b] a public good, period. It finds its reflection in the highest law in this country - the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They (NAWL) [i]should[/i] get funding for acting in the public good. It's special interests like government subsidies to [b]private[/b] interests and corporations that should get chopped off at the knees, or the neck.

[ 18 October 2007: Message edited by: N.Beltov ]


uhhh, yeah, obviously. Doen't mean its gonna happen.