Harper using Canada’s tax agency to intimidate anti-tar sands groups


canada-flagCanada’s right-wing authoritarian Harper regime is using tax audits by the Canada Revenue Agency to threaten influential nonprofit public interest groups that have criticized the government’s anti-science, anti-environmental crusade, InsideClimate News reports. Not content with muzzling government researchers and shredding environmental science research, Harper appears to be intent on using the tax agency to undermine the ability of civil society groups to function effectively.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning online publication InsideClimate News reported today (Harper Govt Makes Moves to Silence Canada’s Leading Environmental Groups) on the Harper administration’s ominous moves to stifle critics of the administration’s hell-bent tar sands development policy. “In the most recent evidence, seven influential environmental organizations have become the subject of rigorous audits by the Canada Revenue Agency,” InsideClimate News reported. “The targeted groups have been instrumental in raising public awareness about the impacts of tar sands development on the environment and climate.”

InsideClimate News notes a connection between political pressure from an industry-funded group and the government’s selective initiation of tax audits as a corporatist tool:

Shortly after the pro-tar sands group Ethical Oil launched a public campaign in 2012 to “expose the radical foreign funded environmental groups’ activities attacking Canada’s ethical oil and industry,” Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced an $8 million effort to more deeply investigate nonprofits’ political activity.

Under Canadian law, nonprofits can devote only up to 10% of their budgets to political advocacy. Traditionally, as in the U.S., this has meant not endorsing candidates in elections. But issue-oriented support for or criticism of government policies has been fair game and practiced routinely, also as in the U.S. But now it appears that the Harper regime may be moving to prohibit as political advocacy much of what many nonprofit public interest groups do. Now, InsideClimate News reports, the Canadian Revenue Agency’s “investigations are so intense that many of the groups involved have been forced to sideline their anti-tar sands efforts both for lack of time and for fear of upsetting government auditors.”

Some earlier posts:

The assault on knowledge: more on anti-science policymaking in Canada (January 21, 2014)

“Scientists across the country are expressing growing alarm that federal cutbacks to research programs monitoring areas that range from climate change and ocean habitats to public health will deprive Canadians of crucial information,” reports CBC-TV’s fifth estate (video below). “What we have done in Canada is turn off the radar”, says the country’s only marine mammal toxicologist. How can this be happening? Where is Canadian civil society on this?

“Libricide”: Harper government closing and junking environmental libraries (December 27, 2013)

Canadian scientists say the closure of some of the world’s finest environmental libraries by the Harper government is destroying irreplaceable collections of intellectual capital, The Tyee reports. This action by the Harper government fits a larger pattern we have been calling attention to for several years. “Many scientists … compared the government’s concerted attacks on environmental science to the rise of fascism and the total alignment of state and corporate interests in 1930s Europe.”

“No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy” (June 1, 2013)

“To the extent that we tolerate the suppression of science in Canada, we can expect a correlative suppression of democracy,” writes Carol Linnitt in “Harper’s attack on science: No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy.” Climate scientist and IPCC lead author Andrew Weaver says “we have a crisis in Canada … in terms of the development of information and science to inform decision-making. What we have replaced that with is an ideological approach to decision-making.”

New report on Harper government interference with science communication in Canada (March 20, 2013)

The continuing saga of the Harper government’s suppression and manipulation of public communication by Canadian government scientists is documented in a new report from the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. The report concludes: “The policy changes that have been implemented by the federal government of Canada under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper have dramatically affected the way government information is disseminated in Canada. … Federal civil servants in Canada, and in particular scientists, are being muzzled by the federal government.”

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