An oilsands industry lobby group with links to the Harper government is urging the Canada Revenue Agency to consider whether Tides Canada, a Vancouver environmental and social justice organization, has violated Canada’s charity laws.
Ethical Oil, in a lengthy legal brief sent Wednesday to the CRA, has accused Tides of “laundering” money from contributors to groups engaged in “non-charitable” political activities.
The Toronto-based group said that this activity, and Tides Canada’s alleged political work, means the charity may have violated CRA rules governing Canada’s $190-billion charities sector, which involves an estimated 86,000 organizations.
Ethical Oil, which has accused environmental organizations of using foreign funds to improperly influence Canadian political debates, wants the CRA to consider denying Tides its charitable status.
A registered charity doesn’t have to pay income tax and can issue deductible tax receipts to donors. But it is prohibited from engaging in partisan politics and is limited to spending no more than 10 per cent of its money on so-called “political” initiatives aimed at influencing public policy decisions.
“Tides Canada engages in impermissible political activities,” according to the Ethical Oil brief submitted by the Alberta law firm McLennan Ross.
The paper cited extensive activities by Tides and the groups it funds to oppose the Harper government’s policies regarding the environment and especially the oilsands.
The letter also provocatively argued that Tides acts inappropriately as a “conduit” between donors who get tax breaks and organizations that receive the money even though they aren’t registered charities.
“Tides Canada issues charitable receipts on behalf of third-party organizations where such organizations are not able to issue charitable receipts in their own name,” the brief said.
“In this way, it is laundering tax-privileged funds to non-charitable organizations for non-charitable activities.”