Dissent, audited

It’s been known for the past few years that the Harper Government would utilize the tools of the Canadian Revenue Agency in order to harass the bearers of bad news [as it relates to Conservative party policies].

The labour movement is one. But most notably, the environmental movement.

Bruce Campbell writes on this today in Behind the Numbers blog over at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The tactics employed, how CRA’s rules are [likely] being retroactively changed to fit with the Tories predetermined outcome. A sample:

While this government is focused on reducing so called red-tape for for-profit businesses, it has imposed an onerous and seemingly interminable administrative burdens on the charitable organizations it chooses to audit.

These audits are highly intrusive—requesting information that has no discernible relevance to an organization’s charitable activities. They demand the most miniscule of financial details. They force charities to devote considerable resources to compiling successive rounds of information, diverting from their policy and other charitable work, and incur substantial, sometimes prohibitive, legal costs.

In some cases they have demanded charities turn over all e-mail correspondence, a measure which has major privacy implications.

But towards the end comes this newsflash:

While the targeting of environmental NGOs has received prominent media attention, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), whose work covers a broad range of public policy issues, is also being audited.

The CCPA is a registered charity. Like charities have for many decades it produces original research on and speaks to public policy – mostly on economics but on a variety of subjects.

Much like the Fraser Institute.

Which is not, to public knowledge, being audited. And all things being equal, they bloody well should be. But as we all know, some animals are more equal than others.

The Conservatives, and conservatives, may find it politically convenient to utilize the tools of the State to make life difficult for those that disagree with them and have the facts to back them.

But this is short-term, short-sighted expediency. In the long game they are playing with fire. For one, they might not be in power in a few years time. Precedents have been set, rules have been changed. If I was the Fraser Institute I might be tempted to lay low for the next couple years. But what I would really do would be to stand in solidarity with the CCPA. For despite differences they are the same sort of organization, serving the same purpose. For the day may come when CRA auditors go through their accounts with a fine-toothed comb (and maybe finally we’ll find out who their donors are).

The Fraser Institute cannot condemn the CCPA without condemning themselves.

Second, the Tories, by redefining the rules so that the outlets for disagreement and dissent are increasingly narrow and toothless, are pushing a lot of people towards radicalism. Ordinary people.

It’s not healthy for our democracy.