There’s been a lot of talk about the Canada Revenue Agency’s enforcement of charity regulations the past few weeks. The media chatter got started when the CRA decided to audit several (questionable) charities- the bovine excrement meter has been at red ever since.
Yesterday, right when it appeared that the bullshit couldn’t get any deeper, the CBC published a scare story that achieved new heights of poor journalism. The story, titled Revenue Canada targets birdwatchers for political activity, follows a similar pattern- starting by framing the charity as an innocent victim, then chastising the government for enforcing the rules.
The problem is, it’s all bullshit- and it only took five minutes of research to disprove…
Minutes 1-2: More Than Just Birdwatchers
I spent the first minute of my investigation into this story by looking up the website for the Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists and making my way to the About page. Once I arrived at the page it became immediately apparent this is more than just a group of “birdwatchers”- they’re a group that’s taken on the task of protecting and preserving wildlife.
Shortly into my second minute I read the last line of the group’s objectives:
“to support public interest in nature and its preservation by supporting the enactment of wise legislation and by other means that fall within the scope of the Corporation.”
The first problem is that supporting the “enactment of wise legislation” is a whole lot more than simple birdwatching. The next problem here is that “supporting legislation” is not a charitable activity- but there’s no problem with that- unless they’re spending more than 10% of their resources on that activity. We’ll have to leave that up to the CRA to decide- that said, if you search the KWFN on Google News, they certainly do spend a lot of time pushing this mandate.
Minutes 3-5: Blatant Partisan Activity In The Newsletter
The next step I took in my investigation was to search KWFN’s website for keywords that would indicate political activity. Words I searched included “Harper”, “election”, and “vote”. Searching “Harper” was a good choice- giving me a link to their newsletter that completely invalidated the group’s complaints about the CRA.
The President’s Ramblings column was the culprit, saying:
“Well, we are now hearing that Harper’s minions are at it again”
CRA regulations are explicitly clear about partisan political statements and activities- they are completely forbidden. It’s okay for a charity to spend up to 10% of their activities on political issues, but partisan statements are not allowed.
So, for example, this would be okay (within 10%):
“The government needs to introduce legislations to save the whales!”
But, this is completely forbidden:
“Harper’s minions are attacking the whales!”
If I had the time, I could go into a lot more depth about KFWN’s political activities, but it’s not necessary at this point. The moment the group’s president attacked “Harper’s minions” on their newsletter, he opened the group to the CRA’s scrutiny.
And, as for the CBC, it’s becoming more clear each day that the network is promoting a political agenda. I say this giving reporter Dean Beeby the benefit of doubt- it would be unfair to assume he’s so blatantly incompetent he couldn’t have spent five minutes researching his story.
That said, perhaps he’s just dumb as a box of rocks…