Monday, November 10, 2008

IS THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY LIKE A COP ON THE TAKE? How else can we explain the Sierra Club's special tax treatment?

Go figure. The Canada Revenue Agency revoked the charitable tax status of no less than 737 organizations in Canada in 2007-8 in 32 different categories but the Sierra Club of Canada wasn’t one of them. Why?

Sure, the Sierra Club does goody two shoes kind of work. “Educational work” (except educating people about the most important variable of environmental degradation in Canada---runaway population growth). But its most salient characteristic is its advocacy, telling people who not to vote for—namely the Harper Conservatives, neglecting to tell them of course that the opposition parties would not dismantle the tar sands development . And most conspicuously, failing to mention that the Greens, Liberals and NDP by desiring an immigration level 38% higher than the governing Conservatives, would therefore accelerate the emission of greenhouse emissions and the loss of farmland and endangered species that much more. Let’s give the Sierra Club an “F” on our report card for holistic ecological comprehension.

What kind of organizations are the 737 who had their charity status revoked? Typically they were groups like “The Calgary Fire Department Community Association”, “The Friends of the Northeast Food Bank”, “The Dementia-Support Group For Caregivers Association of Calgary”, “The Homeless Women’s Shelter Service of Saint John”, “The Afghanistan Relief International Aid”, “Bangledesh Relief Fund”, and the “Canadian Association For African Development”.

You get the picture. It doesn’t sound like they were out door-knocking for the Green Party or telling folks that Jack Layton should have gone for the carbon tax so don’t give him your vote. If the Canada Revenue Agency can axe 737 organizations like these, one can only ask why the Sierra Club can brazenly collect donation money simply because it sets up a dummy surrogate group called “The Sierra Club Foundation” earmarked supposedly just for educational purposes? Is there a CRA accountant sitting in every Sierra Club office to monitor expenditures?

The question I ask myself is the same question that folks in Chicago and New York in the thirties asked when they noticed that petty criminals were collared by cops on the beat without fanfare, but somehow known crime bosses went untouched. Could it be that corporate Canada is appreciative of an environmental organization that barks but doesn’t bite? That makes noise about the symptoms-- climate change and biodiversity loss--- but never about the underlying cause, growth, which they only talk about “ managing.”

Maybe the Canada Revenue Agency is the cop who looks the other way in the same way that the Sierra Club looks the other way while 450, 000 new consumers are injected into our high consumptive economy each year. If they are indeed looking the other way, then who is telling them to look the other way? My bet is that the ultimate instructions would come not from the PMO, but from Bay Street.

If Bay Street can buy the Green movement’s silence on immigration, they can suffer their whining about polar bears and the tar sands, because the project will barrel ahead and the cheap labour will continue to pour in without opposition. A great deal all around for everyone. Corporate Canada gets rich and the Green Crusaders get to feel self-righteous. The green dogs bark and the caravan moves on.

PS The nagging question remains. Why won’t the Sierra Club reveal who its major donors are and what its directors are being paid? Are not Canadians entitled to know that the Sierra Club of Canada is NOT like its American sister, a corrupt money-grubbing corporate lackey of someone like billionaire David Gelbaum? Funny how people like that were in the forefront of demands for disclosure laws for donations to political parties. When you follow the money trail, you learn more about an organization’s agenda than you do when you follow their rhetoric.

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