Jack Knox: Charities caught in crossfire on path to pipelines
May 05 2012
The headlines this week:
? Octopus drowns gull at Ogden Point breakwater
No truth to the rumour the octopus was hired by the Downtown Victoria Business Association
? Sewage spill closes TransCanada after honey wagon flips
Imagine the 300 km/h motorcycle hitting that patch of pavement
? "Supermoon" over Victoria tonight
Give Jeff Bell three beer-
? Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent accuses Canadian charities of laundering foreign money
Peter Kent is to the environment portfolio what Tiger Woods is to marriage counselling
Just to save the Non-Profit Police some time, I'd like to volunteer that I spent a couple of hours flogging burgers at McHappy Day this week.
Also, I spent one evening sloshing wine and eating appies at a Canadian Cancer Society benefit (Jack Knox lives to give) and another playing poker at a B.C. Children's Hospital fundraising tournament hosted by Baby Molly's dad. I'd like to join the Hike For Hospice on Sunday morning, too.
Book me, Peter, I'm obviously guilty as hell.
The Conservatives appear to be on a witch hunt against Canada's charities this spring. First, they set aside $8 million to enforce tougher reporting rules and root out those non-profits that engage in too much political activity. Then, this week, Kent suddenly began channelling Joe McCarthy, accusing unnamed organizations of "laundering" foreign funds.
OK, the health-related causes aren't the target. The crackdown isn't really about abuse of charitable status, it's about stifling opposition to the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines and similar projects.
So far, it has had the desired effect, forcing David Suzuki to resign from the foundation that bears his name and prompting the likes of ForestEthics Canada to split into political and non-political arms.
Alas, in hunting down the eco-hippies who oppose the agenda of the CPC (Conser-vative Party of Canada/ Communist Party of China/ Calgary Petroleum Club, take your pick) the jihadists are also threatening to catch the entire non-profit sector in a crossfire.
Kent's comments were sufficiently alarming that Imagine Canada, a decidedly non-partisan umbrella group for Canada's 85,000 charities, issued a letter Friday demanding the minister retract his statement. He might not have been using the term "laundering" in the criminal sense, but that's what the use of such florid language implies.
"Anything that undermines the trust of Canadians or donors in the sector is of concern to us," said Imagine Canada vice-president Michelle Gauthier, on the phone from Ottawa.
Even before Kent's comments, Imagine was worried that the new reporting requirements, while promoting transparency, would create extra work for small non-profits with limited resources. "It does place a burden on all charities across the country," Gauthier said.
Promised tighter limits on political activity have also created a chill as charities fear crossing a yettobe-defined line; Gauthier says it would be a shame if some are too cowed to engage in public policy discussions where they rightfully belong. Smoking bans, drunk-driving penalties, that sort of thing.
Now, the Conservatives obviously weren't going after the do-gooders - it's estimated that less than one per cent of non-profits engage in political activity - when they introduced the new measures, but that might not prevent the bystanders from becoming collateral damage in a holy war that began in January with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver's rant again "environmental and other radical groups."
Since then, the federal government has done its damnedest to clear a path for the pipelines:
? It is implementing a speedier, less onerous environmental review process.
? It is weakening one of the strongest environmentalprotection tools in Canada, Fisheries Act rules that have protected fish habitat since 1976.
? It has killed a business and environment panel that since 1988 has helped shape federal policy through evidence-based, non-partisan research. Seems it ticked off the Conservatives by warning about climate change or some other West Coast voodoo crap.
Apparently all that is not enough. Opponents must be silenced and vilified, too. And if that means scooping up innocent charities in the dragnet, oh well, that's politics.