If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, you can be forgiven for thinking that it just might be a duck.
Tuesday, Pen Canada revealed that it was yet another charitable group singled out for an audit by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). It’s been a peculiar year for charitable groups: more than 50 have been singled out for audits in the last two years.
For some unknown reason, environmental groups have been picked for audits, as have Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada Without Poverty and the David Suzuki Foundation.
The CRA won’t talk about the sudden spate of audits — or the fact that it’s had funding for such audits hiked by the Conservative government from $8 million to $13 million a year. The CRA is looking for excess political lobbying, despite not having found a single problem in any of its audits so far.
The CRA says no one should read anything into its sudden desire to review primarily groups that might be seen as a thorn in the federal government’s side.
“The process for identifying which charities will be audited, for any reason, is handled by the (charities) directorate itself and is not subject to political direction,” The Globe and Mail reported the director general of the directorate, Cathy Hawara, as telling a Canadian Bar Association group in May.
The Globe also quoted spokesman Philippe Brideau on Tuesday as saying that “the confidentiality provisions of the Income Tax Act prevent the CRA from commenting on specific cases.”
Convenient. Who could possibly imagine that the current federal government would use its considerable powers to settle scores?
Well, Canadians already do. This is from a story on a recent poll of Canadians on the new Tory election legislation, as reported in the Toronto Star: “62 per cent said the bill was being introduced because ‘the Conservative government is motivated politically and dislikes Elections Canada.’ Among those more well-acquainted with the legislation, that suspicion rises to 69 per cent.”
The CRA is making the audits a permanent feature of its work — which is all well and good, except that the audits drain charitable groups of funds and time. Supposedly, the audits centre around whether or not non-profits are putting more than 10 per cent of their spending into political action.
To be a little tongue-in-cheek, the left shoe has certainly dropped. What about the other shoe — the right one?
There are a series of right-of-centre think-tanks that regularly tell the government which directions we should go in setting financial and monetary policy. Take the charitable C.D. Howe Institute, for example, which says it spends absolutely nothing on political action, but includes this on its website: “The quality and pertinence of the institute’s research, and its capacity to pull together decision makers for off-the-record discussions, is unequalled. There is no lack of supporting testimony: ‘The institute has done remarkable work over the years promoting sound economic policies and fiscal prudence, and I always value the opportunity to canvass your policy ideas.’ — Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada.”
Is their audit also on the way?
Quack, quack, quack.