An abuse of power

Is the federal government biased in choosing who gets audited by the Canada Revenue Agency?

In 2012 a special political-activity audit group was created to audit groups who hold charity status.

While the government claims it pays no attention to pro-government or anti-government political leanings when it chooses which charities to audit for their political activities, an analysis cited last month by the Canadian Press strongly suggests there is a bias in the selection of which charities get audited because the first wave of agency audits were largely opponents of the Harper government’s energy and pipeline policies.

The head of the CRA charities directorate, Cathy Hawara, admits the agency considers any formal complaints from citizens, lobby groups, MPs or even cabinet ministers. According to CP such external complaints were taken seriously enough to have generated some 30 “leads” for further investigation, though the CRA will not provide details.

“CRA’s initial focus on environmental groups closely follows inflammatory statements by Conservative cabinet ministers shortly before and after the 2012 federal budget, which announced the new audits,” said the CP article, which goes on to quote Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver saying, “Environmental groups had a “radical agenda,” and statements by Environment Minister Peter Kent that the groups were used to “launder offshore funds.”

EthicalOil.org, an energy-sector promoter founded by a Conservative political aide, also formally complained about three of the five environmental groups caught in the first wave of audits — suggesting their letters turned into CRA “leads.”

CRA is watching for any group that uses more than 10 per cent of its resources on political activities, or that engages in any kind of partisan activity, such as endorsing a candidate, which is forbidden.

But it seems to be watching one side of the political spectrum more than the other. If it is, it is an abuse of power.

 

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