While the Canadian Taxpayers Federation claims to be a "tax watchdog" that opposes waste and advocates transparency in government, evidence suggests its principal purposes are to provide partisan support for the Harper Government, fulfill the corporate agenda and undermine the rights of working people.
The July 2 Alberta Diary post on the CTF's disgracefully misogynistic and personal attack on a group of promising young Canadian scholars for the crime of being awarded scholarships provides an example of the former.
Today let's take a look at the evidence of the CTF's strong anti-worker, anti-union bias, as well as the group's lack of transparency about its own supporters and objectives.
A recent report on the CTF by a group called Canadians For Responsible Advocacy, highlights connections between some members of the CTF board of directors and various anti-union groups in both Canada and the United States
As has been previously reported, the CTF's seven current board members are the group's only members, despite the media's repeated claims it has tens of thousands of members -- a reference to the group's "supporters," people who have clicked on a web button to find out more about the CTF.
Board member Karen Selick, the CFRA reports, is also a board member of a group called the "Workplace Democracy Institute of Canada," an organization that argues on its website "Canada's economy and the lives of a majority of Canadians are negatively affected by the impact of union leaders."
Selick, a lawyer, is also the litigation director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, a registered charity that takes legal action to undermine Canada's public health care system and gun registration laws, as well advocating on behalf of as other far-right causes.
Selick's 43-word biography on the CTF website does not disclose her connection the WDIC although it mentions her connection to the Canadian Constitution Foundation.
John Mortimer, another CTF board member, is president of the Canadian Labour Watch Association, a virulently anti-union group that provides employers with resources to assist with union-busting activities.
The CLWA is also actively touted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which like the CTF is another AstroTurf group that purports to represent the interests of small-business owners but in fact works against middle-class Canadians, whether they are employees or small-business operators.
Mortimer, the CFRA noted, is also a member of the board of directors of CUE, a U.S. group that works to keep its member companies union-free. CUE advocates keeping unions out by maintaining positive work environments, but also offers services and links related to more traditional union-busting activities.
CTF board chair Michael Binnion, by the way, is president of one multi-million-dollar energy sector company and has connections to others. Until last month, after it was put under pressure by the CFRA, the CTF did not disclose these connections by its president to the energy industry.
Erin Chutter, who appears to be a former CTF board member, is a former political staffer to Preston Manning, when he was leader of the Reform Party Opposition in Ottawa, the CFRA reports.
Since the CFRA report, the CTF has added two members to its board, Vancouver lawyer David Hunter and lawyer, public affairs adviser and commentator Adam Daifallah.
Daifallah was once a member of the National Post editorial board and researcher for former newspaper owner and author Conrad Black. He is the author of the 2005 tome Rescuing Canada's Right: Blueprint for a Conservative Revolution.
Daifallah's personal online biography -- although not his CTF bio -- states that he was active in party politics "at the local, provincial and national levels for several years." This included stints as president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association and policy director of the Progressive Conservative Youth Federation of Canada. He is a "fellow" of the Montreal Economics Institute, another far-right ideological "think tank" clone of the Fraser Institute.
Chutter and Daifallah are two more of the many examples of the role played by CTF operatives in partisan Reform-Alliance-Conservative Party activities. The group's most famous, success story, of course, was that of Employment Minister Jason Kenney -- who according to his Wikipedia biography was CEO of the CTF in the 1990s.
Lest you think the CFA's anti-worker leanings are restricted to encouraging union-busting, its Internet web page currently features an attack on unemployment insurance benefits in the Maritime provinces, claiming Ottawa's so-called Employment Insurance programs are a drain on the region's economy.
The real reason for this campaign, it is suggested here, is an objective by the CTF to weaken the Canadian middle class and make jobs and communities less secure -- and therefore more vulnerable to the corporate agenda the web of far-right groups that includes the CTF is financed to advocate -- as well as to support the Conservative Party in its long-term goal to cut unemployment supports and regional equalization programs.
Regardless, some paid CTF operatives are open in their anti-union advocacy.
Derek Fildebrant, the group's "Alberta Communications Director," and as such a familiar name to those who follow Alberta media, published a blog post on the CTF site on June 23 in which he called a rowdy crowd that heckled his presentation demanding public sector pensions be gutted at meeting of a legislative committee "union thugs" and "screaming unionistas."
Canada's still a free country, so Fildebrandt can term a little heckling union thuggery if he likes -- although he probably should have told his readers that he was blowing kisses at the crowd in an apparent effort to stir them up, bait to which they imprudently rose.
The Calgary Herald, which regularly serves as the happily wagging tail of the CTF's barking chain, repeated Fildebrant's claims in an editorial and used his inflammatory language, although it doesn't appear to have had a reporter at the meeting. If that is indeed the case -- I have not been able to confirm with this with the Herald, although a senior editor promised several days ago to get back to me about it but never did -- it was relying on Fildebrandt to do its reporting for it.
Since I wasn't at the meeting, I sent two emails to Fildebrandt seeking clarification about some of the allegations he made, which were repeated by the Herald, including the claim he was shoved by a "union boss."
Fildebrandt has not replied, so I'll have to continue to rely on the observations of the half-dozen witnesses, including an MLA on the committee, with whom I spoke.
While Fildebrandt's CTF biography does not mention it, he was reported by the Victoria Times Colonist to have worked for the Harper Conservatives on Parliament Hill and by the Edmonton Journal to have been a Conservative staffer as recently as 2008.
While a student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Fildebrandt was also the president of a group calling itself the Reagan-Goldwater Society. Ronald Reagan, of course, was the U.S. President whose 1981 tax cuts for the rich set the stage for today's huge income disparities and began the erosion of the U.S. middle class. Barry Goldwater was the Republican Party's nominee in the 1964 presidential election, a key inspiration to young Republicans opposed to the reforms of Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933-1936 New Deal and an advocate of dropping atomic bombs on North Vietnam.
As the CFRA report indicates, the CTF does not live up to its own standards of transparency, failing to report many evocative connections of its board on its website, refusing to provide audited financial statements, and neglecting to report the names of corporate or individual donors who have contributed more than $5,000 to the organization's annual budget of close to $4 million.
Whatever the CTF is, it is clearly not a "tax watchdog," and it is time for the media and government groups -- not to mention the rest of us -- to stop treating it as if it were, let alone relying on it to report the news.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.
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