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not all is equal. what choice will you make?
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Budget 2012 good news for Canada’s ethical oil

Jordan Graham April 2, 2012

The OurDecision.ca campaign EthicalOil.org ran this past winter showed Canadians how foreign funded environmental lobby groups masquerading as charities are seeking to clog up the regulatory review process for the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings. In the 2012 federal budget announced this week, the Conservative government is promising to implement new policies that will address the two issues that were brought to light.

Environmental lobby groups regularly attack the oil sands industry and seek to keep Canadians reliant on importing Conflict Oil. After watching radical environmental groups game the regulatory system to sabotage important, job-creating resource development projects, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has responded to EthicalOil.org’s concerns in the budget.

New and improved approval process

The Finance Minister announced Thursday that the federal government will create a streamlined approval process for resource projects. This will ensure these projects are evaluated and either approved or rejected as efficiently as possible. Just as importantly, he said that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will be paying closer attention to lobby groups behaving as radical charities and they will be held to account for their political and partisan actions.

These policies don’t come with a huge price tag and they are likely to save taxpayers money: the more red tape that gets tangled around a proposed resource project, the more expensive that process becomes. But make no mistake: these permanent changes will create more jobs, develop more business, create more economic spin-offs, and bring more revenues for social programs, like schools and hospitals, than any short-term industrial policy could ever achieve.

Consider the proposal for the Northern Gateway project. As the Globe and Mailreported, “Federal officials say the current Gateway review has been under consideration for 50 months and isn’t scheduled to conclude until the fall of 2013.” Under new rules, Flaherty says, review hearings should take at most 24 months. If the project is deemed safe – as all evidence thus far suggests it is – then there’s no reason Canadians should have to wait two or three times that long to realize the benefits a project like Northern Gateway promises.

The main reason that these evaluations have become so drawn is because anti-business activist groups have deliberately made it so. The Dogwood Initiative actually had the brass to call its campaign to stymie the Gateway hearings “mob the mic” – as in, jamming up the hearings panel testimonies with hundreds upon hundreds of supporters till they slowed the thing down to a crawl. They’re even proud of the way they’ve been able to hijack public hearings and in the process scare off investment. They actually brag about it.

And then there are environmental lobby groups with charitable status out there working to foil Ottawa’s efforts to pursue resource development. The most radical also receive funding from foreign interests. These lobby groups masquerading as charities enjoy a significant taxpayer subsidy to engage in blatantly political battles.

Take the virulently anti-industry group “Environmental Defence.” It claims to be a charity, and gets taxpayer subsidies. It runs campaigns with names like “Exposing the Tar Sands” which it says are “TARnishing the maple leaf”; it lobbied in support of Ontario Liberal energy policies; and it ran a multi-pronged partisan campaign against Environment Minister Peter Kent that included putting its activists on the ground in his Thornhill riding, running ads against him, canvassing door-to-door, and making 50 000 phone calls to households (again all in his riding) to censure the Minister’s comments in support of Canada’s ethical oil.

Now some people may support “Environmental Defence,” and some people might not, but Canada Revenue Agency rules are clear that federal charitable tax breaks aren’t for groups which fight controversial political battles and which engage in partisan campaigns, as Environmental Defence clearly does. Meanwhile, Tides Canada, another registered charity (and one heavily backed by foreign interests) funds one group calling for boycotts against Canadian products to make a statement about, and to damage, our energy industry.

A clever racket

Real charities don’t fight to hurt Canadian jobs and businesses that employ hundreds of thousands of Canadians; radical political activist groups do. That’s what these groups are. But they’ve been abusing our government and public funds to fight their harmful, anti-jobs, anti-prosperity, foreign-backed battles. Last week EthicalOil.org wrote to the CRA, exposing “Environmental Defence’s” partisan and political activity, calling for their charitable status to be revoked. It’s a clever racket, and it’s worked brilliantly for them for an astonishingly long time. With one very important budget, though, Ottawa is finally putting a stop to the manipulative scheme.

In addition to the streamlining of the regulatory process, Budget 2012 announced the CRA will increase their compliance division so that groups violating charities law will be held to account for their political and partisan activity. The benefits of making sure that we can now, once again, develop the safe, economically gainful resource projects will be realized in Canada for many generations to come. Let’s hope the federal government moves quickly to implement these measures.

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