EDITORIAL: Transparency goes both ways

Victoria MP says there are too many allegations that audits are being used to silence opponents of the Conservative government.

Victoria MP Murray Rankin and his New Democrat colleagues are pressing for an unusual summer meeting of a parliamentary committee to clear the air over the auditing of charities for their political activities.

Rankin says there are too many allegations that the audits are being used to silence opponents of the Harper government.

Since the spring of 2012, the Canada Revenue Agency has launched 52 audits of charities for their political activities, after the government ordered the special probe and eventually provided some $13.4 million for the initiative.

The first wave of audits in 2012-2013 targeted environmental groups who have opposed the government’s energy and pipeline policies, but the initiative has since expanded to cover other groups who fight poverty, provide international aid and promote human rights.

Many of the groups say the audits have caused an “advocacy chill,” preventing them from speaking out for fear of aggravating the auditors and potentially losing their coveted charitable status.

Canada’s charities are permitted to devote up to 10 per cent of their resources to political activities

The Canada Revenue Agency refuses to provide the names of the groups being audited, citing confidentiality provisions of the Income Tax Act.

Of course, Rankin could very well be chasing this issue as part of the NDP’s political agenda.

But there is a bigger question here on government transparency.

Government likes to talk about transparency and opening the books, but in reality it remains a closed shop.

Rankin is at least trying to bring us better government by attempting to get questions answered. It will be interesting to see if the Conservatives are ready to answer.

 

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