Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Corrupting Civil Society


The government has always had the power to revoke an organization's charitable status. But it didn't happen very often; and, Carol Goar writes, the rules were clear:

They siphoned donations into their founders’ own pockets, they provided a front for shadowy groups or they used most of their funds for administration. 

But things changed with the advent of Stephen Harper:

The Conservative government, angered that environmentalists were tying up pipeline projects in the West, tightened the regulation of charities. It required them to provide a detailed account of their political activities, imposed tough penalties on those that spent more than 10 per cent of their funds on advocacy and gave CRA $8 million to conduct a special audit.

The announcement sent a ripple of unease through the non-profit sector, but there was no wholesale panic. Most charities assumed the government would target a handful of prominent environmental organizations and leave the rest alone. That was a reasonable interpretation of the signals Stephen Harper and his colleagues were sending at the time. Joe Oliver, then natural resources minister, had lashed out at “radical environmental groups” for undermining the economy. Former environment minister Peter Kent had accused of them of “laundering offshore funds for inappropriate use.”
But over time the scope of the blitz widened. CRA is now auditing churches, human rights organizations, animal welfare groups and anti-poverty coalitions. There are fears the two-year crackdown will be extended, putting non-profit organizations under an indefinite regime of increased surveillance.

The reason was simple. Charities almost invariably are opposed to Harper's agenda. And, like the man he more and more resembles -- Richard Nixon -- Harper has turned to government agencies to harass and dispose of his enemies.

The effect on charities has been devastating. Gareth Kirkby writes in a recent paper:

I find that an advocacy chill is affecting charitable organizations that advocate on public policy issues though it varies in intensity and extent from organization to organization. I find that there is evidence in the data that the government is attempting, with some successes, to narrow society’s important policy conversations. Finally I find the data suggest that the current federal government is corrupting Canada’s democratic processes by treating as political enemies these civil-society organizations whose contributions to public policy conversations differ from government priorities.”

That's what Harper is all about: corrupting civil society.



Anonymous said...

All dictators through the ages were paranoid control freaks. They were also very vindictive sociopaths and cruel. Harper is also an extremely underhanded monster. That is the way I view Harper.

Just when you think Harper couldn't possibly get any lower? He does. However, no-one is doing anything about Harper's evil. All we do is B&B and, we will likely lose our country, in our inaction.

Rural said...

“the current federal government is corrupting Canada’s democratic processes by treating as political enemies these civil-society organizations”
It all seems vaguely reminiscent of another dictator from the 40s with a similar last name......

Anonymous said...

Those are the very same churches and other community resources that Conservatives insisted were responsible for picking up the slack created when they conned us and we were slashed to bits for a lean, mean, Conservative society. And a strong, stable Conservative majority. Astounding.

And, since I cannot write MacKay's title out without gagging,
did you see the grilling of him by Casey LIB-MP? It was very good to see and well done.
The programmes that he suggests will be available to sex-trade workers wanting to 'ascend from their circumstances'; would they be akin to the same programmes for incarcerated youth and adults that THEY have literally scorched?
Life Line, for one example. Prison farming and education and skills training. Talk about kickin' the chair out from under someone. Oh, I think so. You keep talkin' Pete. Simpleton.

Owen Gray said...

To return to an earlier theme, Loving It, it's all about punitive moral absolutism.

How comforting it must be to know that God is on your side.

Owen Gray said...

And like that dictator, Rural, he was elected.

Owen Gray said...

We get the government we deserve, Anon. And, if we are apathetic, we get Harper.

Gareth Kirkby said...

I'm Gareth Kirkby, whose thesis is referred to in your blog posting. Thanks for posting my blog and it's interesting to read the comments. Could you make one small tweak: my last name is spelled with an extra "k": Kirkby? Thanks for your interest in the topic of corrupting civil society.

Scotian said...

You know, having been Cassandra on this point for a decade now really pisses me off. I told everyone so, this was why I said a corrupt thieving Martin Lib government was still far less damaging to Canadian democracy than a Harper government would be. To say I told you so may accomplish nothing except a bitter sense of relief/venting...

I told you all so!!!

This is not so much aimed at the owner of this blog or the regulars here, it is just all I have to offer on this since I really was warning of this danger with Harper since before he managed to assassinate the PCPC with the aid of his knife, traitor MacKay. I didn't just declare this either, I went into great, some would say exhaustive detail to support why I said this kind of corruption would come with a Harper government.

We also had the living example of how Straussians redefine government powers and corrupt them to suit their own needs from watching how Dick Cheney transformed the vice Presidency of the USA from a near ceremonial position into its own branch of government, and since Harper is also a Straussian we had plenty of warning about what that meant for us.

I was told time and again about how I was making shit up, about how I was exaggerating things beyond possibility, about how this could never happen in Canada. That I was a hysteric, that I was clearly a paid political operative pushing a message no sane person could believe. I kept saying how I would love it to be proven wrong about all of this, and I meant it, but that this really was what I saw when I looked at Harper and how he had operated over his adult lifetime in politics.

I know I sound incredibly bitter about all this whenever I do this bit, but really, it is had not to given how hard I tried to get across what the reality of a Harper government in minority let alone majority would mean for all Canadians, not just one part of the spectrum. Harper understood how to play Canadian ignorance of our civic institutions against us and corrupt them (the courts being the sole real holdout and that thanks to the institutional protections it had against such from the executive/legislative branch) as tools to maintain his hold on power once he finally gained it.

This was why I said Harper was qualitatively different from anything we had ever seen before, that he and his political beliefs were alien to the Canadian context. Hopefully that has finally sunk in for enough Canadians that they swamp his attempts to rig the next vote and get him removed from power and the CPC turned into a third party even smaller than the Libs this time out.

Owen Gray said...

Absolutely, Gareth. Everyone deserves proper recognition. Your observations go straight to the point.

Owen Gray said...

You were not alone, Scotian. Your fellow Maritimer, Dalton Camp, delivered the same message when he was writing a column for the Toronto Star.

Like you, he understood what Harper would do to this country.

mogs moglio said...

Recipie for a dictatorship:

1st take control of the government by hook or crook.

2nd take control of the federal police.

3rd take control of the national army.

4th take control of the supreme court of the land sealing the fate of the national citizens.

5th shut down all disent against your dictatorship.

Harper is on all of this five point bulletin.


Owen Gray said...

Until the next election the real opposition to Harper is the Supreme Court, Mogs. But to get rid of him, we -- the people -- will have to take charge.

Anonymous said...

Do you remember the first two things Harper did away with- and fast? One was court challenges, I don't recall the other but it was evident to anyone looking what kind of place they would run.
If I hear one more person say "I'm not voting! They're all the same!"...well, I always take two minutes to tell them exactly how these, actually all, Conservatives really are 'different'. Then, most importantly, I tell them that my grandfather and all of our Canadian Forces did not give everything they had, over many long years and miles, for this country to have it's people become so thoughtless and callous about voting.
That's the least I can do for my country.

Owen Gray said...

Harper knows that his path to power is paved by apathy, Loving It. That's what the so called Fair Elections Act was all about.

The fewer people who vote, the more likely Harper will stay where he is.

Toby said...

Scotian said, "I was told time and again about how I was making shit up, about how I was exaggerating things beyond possibility, about how this could never happen in Canada."

I know the feeling. I am still being told by many that it could never happen in Canada. The failure by so many to accept that it is possible is stunning and depressing. They aren't going to believe it until they wind up in a gulag of some sort and even then they will just think it is a mistake. Are our schools teaching stupid?

The phenomenon is not new. Plato's allegory of the Cave nailed the common reaction to anything out of popular imagination.

Owen Gray said...

Evil thrives, Toby, when good men -- and women -- do nothing.

Scotian said...


If there is one thing history tends to show, it is that things are most likely to happen in places when people have the "it can't happen here" mentality. That creates a very dangerous blind spot in humans, and it is in part why I inherently distrust any absolutist POV, because I know I live in a world of probabilities, not certainties. It may not be as easy to live in that world, but it makes it far easier to guard against those who would use simplistic superficially good sounding ideas to gain/hold power and then create a society that I would abhor. One of my biggest issues with modern NA conservativism is the pride it has in being anti-intellectual to the point of celebrating ignorance and placing faith over reason.

Mind you the so called progressive left is not much better when it comes to its own blind spot(s) for me, one of the biggest being that Canada is not politically a mostly progressive country as so many of them seem to think, it is a mostly centrist country with some progressive leanings, especially social progressiveness, but not so much economic. Not to mention that their own conviction in their inherent rightness of their values can make them almost as bad as a hard right wing con to me in terms of their rigidity of thought and inability to see beyond the blinders of their own version of faith.

I also distrust any absolutism/fanaticism/zealotry wherever I find it, my one absolute conviction is that there are no absolutes where humans are concerned. One of the biggest lessons I take from human history is that absolutist thinking of any flavour invariably ends up badly for the society/group that embraces it. It is a thing that should be treated like radioactive materials, useful perhaps in small tightly controlled circumstances, and even needed/beneficial, but ever so inherently toxic when released from such restrictions. Worse, it can be "weaponized" into something that can end up being the destruction of our species, which is why I like using the comparison to radioactive materials, because the parallels are frighteningly similar when you get down to it.