CRA

Canada’s Charitable Law Urgently Needs Reforming: New UVic Report

Calvin Sandborn

A report released today by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre calls for sweeping reform of Canadian charitable law in line with other jurisdictions such as the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and England.

Current rules around “political activity” — defined by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) as any activity that seeks to change, oppose or retain laws or policies — are confusing and create an “intolerable state of uncertainty,” the report says.

This has created a confused and anxious charitable sector and detracts from them carrying out their important work,” Calvin Sandborn, legal director of the Environmental Law Centre, said.

The report — prepared for DeSmog Canada — comes as 52 charities are being targeted in a $13.4 million audit program launched by the federal government in 2012 to determine whether any are violating a rule that limits spending on political activities to 10 per cent of resources. Those charities include Environmental Defence, the David Suzuki Foundation, Canada Without Poverty, Ecology Action Centre and Equiterre.

Canadian Government: This Reporter's Question About ALEC 'Undeserving of Response'

ALEC light brigading

This article is re-published with permission from mikedesouza.com

As some of you may know, I’ll be starting a new role in January 2015 as an investigative resources correspondent for Reuters.

Getting access to records about government decisions and policies has long played a key role in the work of many journalists around the world. It will also be a key element for me in the weeks, months and years to come.

So to end off 2014, here are a few examples of some of my recent experiences with government efforts to either release or hide information.

Canada’s information watchdog has noted that the Supreme Court of Canada recognizes access to information as a quasi-constitutional right of all Canadians.

Obtaining access to information is an extension of freedom of expression since it allows the population to be informed and speak about government policies and decisions on how these governments spend public money.

Vivian Krause and Richard Berman’s Oil Industry Playbook

vivian krause, richard berman

He had no idea he was being taped.

So when influential Washington, DC, political consultant Richard Berman talked about strategy and tactics to the oil and gas industry’s Western Energy Alliance in Colorado Springs this past June, he didn’t mince words.  

This is an endless war,” Berman said.

The secret tape was published in the New York Times a few weeks ago, released by a displeased oil industry executive, on condition of anonymity.

As he urged industry reps to employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities, Berman also made one emphatic point:

People always ask me one question all the time, ‘How do I know that I won't be found out as a supporter of what you're doing?’ We run all of this stuff through non-profit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don't know who supports us. We've been doing this for 20-something years in this regard.”

The Western Energy Alliance, at whose June meeting Berman laid out his cold-blooded strategy, describes membership as “an investment in the future of the independent oil and gas community in the West.” Its members throughout the U.S. and Canada “share and support our commitment to improve business conditions, expand opportunities and move the industry forward.” 

Industry-Funded Vivian Krause Uses Classic Dirty PR Tactics to Distract from Canada's Real Energy Debate

Vivian Krause

Vivian Krause has spent years scrutinizing how Canadian environmental groups are funded, claiming she's just asking “fair questions.”

But as the blogger-turned-newspaper-columnist has run rampant with her conspiracy theory that American charitable foundations' support of Canadian environmental groups is nefarious, she has continually avoided seeking a fair answer.

If Krause were seeking a fair answer, she'd quickly learn that both investment dollars and philanthropic dollars cross borders all the time. There isn’t anything special or surprising about environmental groups receiving funding from U.S. foundations that share their goals — especially when the increasingly global nature of environmental challenges, particularly climate change, is taken into consideration.

Despite this common-sense answer, Krause’s strategy has effectively diverted attention away from genuine debate of environmental issues, while simultaneously undermining the important role environmental groups play in Canadian society.

How Trans Mountain Pipeline Delivers Max Profits to U.S. Investors By Avoiding Paying Canadian Taxes

Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain rally on Burnaby Mountain

Kinder Morgan, the Texas-based multinational that owns and operates the Trans Mountain Pipeline System, claims Trans Mountain is a significant contributor to federal and provincial income tax revenues. The company is relying on this as proof it deserves public licence to triple its pipeline capacity in Western Canada.

Pouring tax revenues into Canada is not the story Kinder Morgan tells its U.S.-based shareholders. Promoting Trans Mountain south of the border, Kinder Morgan boasts of tax refunds — two in the past five years. From 2009 to 2013, Trans Mountain's combined federal and provincial Canadian corporate tax contribution averaged just $1.5 million per year.

How could this be? The answer lies in complexities of U.S. corporate tax regulation which I will do my best to explain here.

Right-Wing Charities Escaping CRA Audits: New Report from Broadbent Institute

Canada Revenue Agency

A new report from the Broadbent Institute raises fresh questions about whether Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) audits are being used as a politicized tool to pressure critics of the federal government. 

The report, Stephen Harper’s CRA: Selective audits, “political” activity, and right-leaning charities, says several right-leaning charities are reporting zero “political” activity while engaging in work that appears to meet the CRA’s definition.

We know charities that have been critical of policies of the Harper government are being audited by the Canada Revenue Agency. With mounting evidence suggesting bias in auditing decisions, we need to find out what’s going on here,” said Rick Smith, executive director of Broadbent Institute, a non-partisan organization founded by former NDP Leader Ed Broadbent.

Harper's Audit-the-Enemy Strategy Fulfills Nixon's Dream

Harper's Enemy List part of Nixon style strategy

Last week it was revealed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office created an “enemy list” to include in briefing books for newly appointed Cabinet members. 

Pundits were quick to point out that US President Richard Nixon also had such a list of enemies that his office maintained.

However, the enemy list was only a small part of a much larger strategy that Nixon dreamed up and, as history shows, he was never able to fully execute his plan. Unfortunately for the many Canadians on Harper's list, the Prime Minister and his office are now fulfilling Nixon's dream. 

Nixon's list was dubbed the “opponents list” by his political staffers and was part of a larger strategy they called the “Political Enemies Project.” This disturbing strategy came to light during the Senate Committee hearings looking into the Watergate scandal that eventually forced President Nixon to resign in disgrace in August, 1974.

Canadian Environmental Groups Black Out to Speak Out Against Government Threats to Nature & Democracy

"THE FUTURE OF OUR LAND, WATER, AND CLIMATE IS AT RISK. AND SO ARE THE VOICES OF

With full page ads in the Globe and Mail and La Presse national newspapers, a major coalition of Canadian environmental non-profits have come together to launch the Black Out Speak Out campaign (Silence, on parle! pour la Francophonie.)

CPAWS, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Equiterre, Environmental Defence, Greenpeace, Nature Canada, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, and WWF Canada – groups representing millions of Canadians – are appealing to all who care about nature and democracy to join them in blacking out their websites on June 4th in protest against the federal government's efforts to weaken many of the country's most important environmental protection measures and silence Canadians hard at work defending the public interest.

Canadian environmental non-profits point to changes in the most recent federal budget, which leaves Ottawa playing a much smaller role in protecting people from harmful projects, while at the same time granting politicians the power to overrule the National Energy Board’s experts if powerful industry interests don’t like its decision - irrespective of fish habitat destruction or threats to species at risk.

The coalition argues that the Federal government will now be able to rubber stamp big projects that powerful oil interests want behind closed doors and away from public scrutiny.

Their core contention is that the Federal government has circumvented the usual process of democratic debate by introducing sweeping change by shoehorning the gutting of environmental protections  into the massive budget without discussion.

US Chamber of Commerce Study Parrots Republican Talking Points on Carbon Cap

Carbon Emissions

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce describes themselves this way on their website:

As the voice of business, the Chamber’s core purpose is to fight for free enterprise before Congress, the White House, regulatory agencies, the courts, the court of public opinion, and governments around the world.

But when it comes to climate and energy legislation, it seems their core purpose is to fight Congress, the White House, regulatory agencies, the courts, the court of public opinion and governments around the world from getting anything done. With such obstructionism in mind, they commissioned a report from CRA, a global consulting firm, on the supposed impact on the economy of the climate provision in the Obama administration’s 2010 budget proposal.

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