Why the federal government picked a fight with charities

Jim Flaherty

By Michael Orsini, The Ottawa Citizen, 2 April 2012

The Harper government has empowered the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to monitor closely the activities of groups that claim charitable tax status, to ensure that they are not spending too much time being, well, political. […]

Any government with a keen sense of the ephemeral nature of its own political future should pay close attention to what groups have to say, even if they abhor those views. Sadly, this government has demonstrated, time and again, its utter contempt for the views of groups that disagree with them, even groups that can back up their advocacy with evidence. […]

In the mid-1990s political scientists Jane Jenson and Susan Phillips lamented what they saw as the erosion of a citizenship regime in which governments recognized the value of civil society organizations, even when those organizations clashed with the government of the day. The decision by the Harper government to step up its attack on advocacy, and punish groups seen as left-leaning or progressive, is a dangerous slide into a world in which advocacy only matters if it coincides with the political agenda of the government in power.

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Photo: The Huffington Post

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