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Right-wing think-tanks escape Harper government scrutiny. Why?

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"The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies in Halifax has not responded to questions."

That nugget was nested in the last line, last paragraph of a Globe and Mail story last week about the Harper government's efforts to "intimidate, muzzle and silence its critics."

Ottawa is spending $13.4 million so its tax auditors can descend, locust-like, on charitable groups not in lockstep with Harper's worldview, searching for real or imagined evidence they're devoting more than 10 per cent of their resources to political advocacy.

The story itself was about an open letter more than 400 academics signed, protesting an audit of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a left-leaning think-tank with a Nova Scotia office. (Full disclosure: I am a modest financial contributor.)

The CCPA is one of 52 charities -- economic, environmental, poverty, human rights and international aid groups -- under scrutiny. CCPA's sin? Allegedly including "biased" and "one-sided" information on its website contrary to tax rules.

The letter counters CCPA has an international reputation for "fair and unbiased" research, and concludes the government audit is "politically motivated."

Politically motivated? OK, so who isn't being audited? Well, the Globe confirmed some of the country's most prominent right-wing think-tanks -- C.D. Howe, Macdonald-Laurier -- are not among those being scrutinized. Two others refused to answer the question. AIMS, Atlantic Canada's own "registered charity," neo-con thought farm, "did not respond."

So I emailed Marco Navarro-Genie, AIMS' current president, to ask for its response. He replied he was "very surprised" because the writer hadn't contacted him for a comment. His actual comment: "We won't comment on this."

Perhaps unfairly -- correct me if I'm wrong, Marco -- I'll take that as a "no."

AIMS, which boasts a glowing endorsement from one Stephen Harper -- "Dollar for dollar the best think-tank in the country" -- and has yet to meet a government it did not want to privatize, downsize or outsource, is not being audited by Stephen's storm troopers.

No comment? If AIMS cared about freedom to research and "make a difference with ideas," as its website claims, it would be standing tall in the marketplace of ideas with those who oppose this government's partisan attacks on those who simply disagree with it.

Its silence speaks volumes.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: pmwebphotos/flickr

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