Opposition parties say the Conservative government has recently cut federal funding to more than a dozen women's groups because the organizations don't share Prime Minister Stephen Harper's ideology and dare to criticize his policies.
The Liberals circulated a list on Wednesday of groups that promote human rights, equality rights and anti-homelessness initiatives that have lost federal funding within the past two weeks. But the Conservatives say the groups were "inefficient" and the government is just making sure taxpayers get their money's worth.
During Wednesday's question period in the House of Commons, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Harper's government has shown a pattern of attacking its critics in the wallet. He said the latest decision raises a bigger issue, which is whether the Conservatives respect democracy.
"These women have raised their voices and been punished for it and I think that's absolutely no way to have a relationship," Ignatieff told the House. "Can the prime minister commit to putting an end to this intimidation campaign and restore the funding of these groups?"
Replying for the government, Transport Minister John Baird said the Conservatives have given a "record amount" of funding to support women's groups and want "less talk and more action" to support and improve the lives of Canadian girls and women.
He also retorted that Ignatieff was himself hindering the democratic process by ordering MPs in his party to vote against a Conservative backbencher's bill to abolish the federal long-gun registry.
Earlier this week, Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth bluntly advised women's groups to "shut the f--- up" about abortion and the government's G8 maternal health initiative, saying public criticism was not the right strategy if they really wanted progress on the issue.
Last week, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda announced the federal government would consider funding family planning measures such as contraception in its G8 initiative, but not abortion under any circumstances.
Speaking in the House on Wednesday, Oda said Canadians who work hard want to make sure their tax dollars are "getting results" and ensure that "mothers and babies stay alive and have a better life."
"This isn't about entitlement to taxpayer dollars," Oda said. "It's about accountable use."