The Toronto Star
The optics are awful.
Whatever the reason for the Canada Revenue Agency’s sudden interest in some of the country’s best-known environmental groups, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s energy-friendly Conservative government can’t escape the suspicion that it is harassing them to get them to tone down their criticism of the Alberta oilsands, pipelines and other projects that fuel climate change.
As the Star’s environment writer Raveena Aulakh reports, the CRA is auditing some of Canada’s most high-profile and highly respected organizations. They include the David Suzuki Foundation, Tides Canada, Environmental Defence, the Pembina Foundation, Equiterre and the Ecology Action Centre.
“There are enough out there for us to be concerned about this focus,” Marcel Lauzière told the Star. He’s president of Imagine Canada, an umbrella organization for charities. “There’s a big chill out there with what charities can and cannot do,” he told CBC News.
Given the concern this sweep is generating, National Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay owes Parliament and the public an explanation for the seeming crackdown. Yet when New Democrat revenue critic Murray Rankin demanded on Monday to know why the government is “trying to intimidate” groups who don’t agree with its policies, she brushed off the question by saying the tax agency “is doing its job,” at arms-length and free from political interference. Far from looking like routine “random selection” audits, these look targeted. The opposition should press for more convincing answers.