Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2019
Robert Lyman is an Ottawa energy policy consultant who worked as a public servant for 27 years and as a diplomat for ten years prior to that service.
This is the third and final in a series of articles on the funding and activities of large environmental organizations in Canada, many of which play major political roles in opposing resource industry development and pipeline construction based on the thesis that this will address global warming.
LINK to report: Green Titanic FINAL RevA April 29 2019
This article describes how recent changes in the Income Tax Act and regulations governing charities and a recent court decision have freed activist environmental organizations with charity status from previous constraints on their ability to conduct and fund political activities.
Federal and provincial governments in Canada now provide $170 billion per year in grants and contributions to registered charities.
Charities then raise an additional $80 billion per year based on private contributions, some of which are stimulated by their registered charity status; the cost to the federal treasury alone of this is $5 billion per year; the cost to provincial government treasuries is unknown.
Until recently, the Income Tax Act barred registered charities from spending more than 10 per cent of their revenues on political activities, which were defined narrowly to include only partisan support for candidates or political parties seeking election. They allowed charities to spend more on other political activities such as lobbying of politicians, publishing information, launching public advertising campaigns to oppose energy developments, mobilizing supporters to oppose certain laws, or organizing public demonstrations and blockades. Today, only about 5,000 charities, or 5 per cent of those in Canada, report being involved in political activities.
The Trudeau government passed legislation as part of the Omnibus Budget bill in 2018 authorizing charities to carry on unlimited “public policy dialogue and development activities” to influence laws and policies. In July 2018 Justice Edward Morgan of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that the Income Tax Act’s 10 per cent limitation on partisan political activity was unconstitutional. The Trudeau government decided to not appeal the ruling.
As a result of this legislative change and court decision, registered charity status now gives an organization, including activist environmental organizations, the freedom to spend up to 100% of its revenues on political activities, so long as these are consistent with its “charity” objectives.
The Trudeau government has directed CRA to stop requiring charities to report on how they spend on political activities, so it is unclear how anyone will be able to judge in future whether the activities carried out are consistent with charity status.
These developments open the door wide to potential abuses of political spending by radical ENGOs and other organizations that want to get heavily into political funding and can afford to do so.
The impact on the alignment of forces supporting and opposing resource development in Canada could be profound. The environmental organizations opposing development have enormous and probably permanent funding advantages, far greater than any political party could match. The long-term economic effects of this funding advantage could be especially damaging for provinces and regions whose prosperity depends on resource-based development.
Dark Green Money
Big Green Money
Money Matters – The ENGO Political Advantage