So far, the Conservative government’s fear-mongering has targeted anti-capitalism movements, environmentalists, Aboriginal groups, activists, foreign special interest groups, so-called “issue-based terrorists” and other imaginary “enemies of the state”. Now add registered Canadian charities to the hit list.
Charities registered in Canada are allowed to spend 10 per cent of their budgets and volunteer resources on political advocacy. Excluded: funding political parties and candidates.
The 2012 federal budget, announced by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (pictured) earlier today, introduces new measures that target how charities engage politically. It imposes restrictions on how political activities by charities are funded by charitable foundations. It imposes new reporting rules for charities which fund these activities through foreign donations.
For charities found on the wrong side of the new rules, increased penalties.
Some text from the budget: “Recently, concerns have been raised that some charities may not be respecting the rules regarding political activities.” And: “There have also been calls for greater public transparency related to the political activities of charities, including the extent to which they may be funded by foreign sources.”
The strange thing is: only about 2% of Canada’s 86,000 registered charities rely on foreign donations. And fewer engage “political activity”. So, why the draconian, dictatorship-style measures?
The stink raised by Conservative-leaning, corporate-funded Ethical Oil and its affiliated Our Decision campaign. The stink raised by former Ethical Oil spokesperson, Kathryn Marshall. She recently complained that charities “collect all the subsidies that registered charities enjoy, and yet do almost nothing but spend all day long hollering attacks against the oilsands.”
The new measures are an attack on environmental groups. An attack that follows recent sniping on some of these groups by high-ranking officials of the Harper government. Not long ago, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, bashed Vancouver-based charity Tides Canada, for its opposition to the proposed $6.6-billion Northern Gateway pipeline.
The Conservatives also accuse U.S. foundations of funding Canadian environmental groups opposed to the Alberta oilsands. And, recently, our taxpayer-funded, unelected, Conservative-dominated senate initiated an inquiry into international funding for Canadian charities that are standing up against the exploitation of our environment by corporations.
But the budget also turns the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) into a quasi-police arm of the Conservative government. The budget sets aside $8-million for the agency to “audit” charities and enforce 10-per-cent-rule.