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Should the Fraser Institute be allowed to register as a charity with CRA?

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Image: Flickr/Obert Madondo​

Articles by the Fraser Institute are published by Troy Media and Post Media. The Fraser Institute puts governments, political parties, First Nations and progressive organizations under a microscope filtered through a Libertarian lens. Can the activities of the Fraser Institute stand up under close scrutiny?

In 2014, bird clubs across Canada were warned by the Canada Revenue Agency that they could face audits if they continued to conduct "partisan activities." And some audits were conducted, without any bird clubs losing their status.However it was a costly hardship for those clubs just the same. 

It is widely believed that the bird clubs were being threatened at the behest of a government determined to silence organizations which were public about their environmental concerns and to discourage the gathering of scientific evidence. (Most bird clubs in Canada conduct Boxing Day bird counts, thus contributing to scientific information in Canada on species numbers and worrying trends.)

I mention the bird clubs for this reason; the Fraser Institute, in spite of support for Keynesian economics, promotion of Libertarian political ideology, narrow one-sided papers posing as objective scholarly studies and ad hominem criticism of sitting politicians, (see "Rachel Notley is Bob Rae 2.0") the Fraser Institute has had charitable status since 1974. 

So how does Canada Revenue Agency determine political partisanship? Why is the Fraser Institute allowed to declare itself a charity while the Broadbent Institute, the Council of Canadians and the Pembina Institute may not? Even Democracy Watch is only allowed to register the educational portion of its organization as a charity.

Does CRA ask for a list of donors from registered charities? It is known that the infamous Koch Brothers donate to the Fraser Institute because American law requires transparency while Canadian law does not. When corporations, or individuals representing corporate interests, donate to registered charities, should there not be transparency?

There could be a case made that the Fraser Institute is a covert lobbying group for corporate interests since that is likely where all their money comes from.

The Pembina Institute posts its annual financial report and sources of income on its website even though it is not a registered charity. The Fraser Institute, which can offer tax credits to its donors and which demands accountability of governments and other organizations, does not openly account for its own finances.

Neither the Fraser Institute, nor any other organization supporting a partisan political ideology, should have charitable status. It is time to ask Revenue Canada to conduct an impartial audit of the Fraser Institute's activities. It is time to demand clear guidelines for registered charities. And is definitely time to define "political partisanship" so that bird clubs are protected from the machinations of unscrupulous political operatives.  Readers can do so by contacting the Minister of National Revenue, Diane Lebouthillier.

Linda Leon is not now, nor has she ever been a member of any federal political party.

Image: Flickr/Obert Madondo​

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