By Raveena Aulakh
Don’t talk about Alberta’s oilsands and how their development may aggravate climate change.
That’s the clear message from Ottawa to environmental charities being extensively audited by the Canada Revenue Agency to determine if they have crossed the line between public and political advocacy.
As many as 10 green charities are being audited by the CRA, while three say they are likely being investigated on complaints by Ethical Oil, a pro-Alberta oilsands, non-profit, non-governmental organization.
“Their (Ethical Oil) feeling is that by raising concern about climate change and the role of tarsands expansion . . . it is political activity,” said Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, one of the three green groups that acknowledged it is being audited on the basis of complaints made by Ethical Oil.
The David Suzuki Foundation and Tides Canada are the other two.
If the revenue agency says these groups have stepped out of line, they could lose their charitable status. By law, charitable groups are allowed to spend 10 per cent of their resources on non-partisan political activities related to their charity.
Ethical Oil calls itself an online community that “empowers people to become grassroots activists on the frontlines of the campaign for ethical oil” from Canada’s oilsands. It was started as a blog by Alykhan Velshi, who is currently the director of issues management in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office.