The Globe and Mail (Toronto)                              May 7, 2012


Ottawa should halt its smear campaign against pipeline detractors

Environment Minister Peter Kent’s unsupported accusations of “money
laundering” involving foreign and Canadian environmental charities
are part of an apparent campaign of the Conservative government to
smear and intimidate groups opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Mr. Kent’s accusation in Parliament and media interviews, and the
pattern they are a part of, suggest the government is improperly
taking sides between the environment and business – trying to
discredit those who raise environmental concerns in a public-hearing
process mandated under federal law.

This pipeline may well prove a financial boon to Canada, but there
are legitimate environmental concerns that need to be heard,
including the danger of oil spills in environmentally sensitive
waters. The pipeline will take bitumen from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C.,
before it is loaded on ships bound for Asia. Business and the
environment do not exist on two separate planes, where one matters
and the other doesn’t.

The Environment Minister has accused unnamed environmental charities
of criminal activity, and yet provides no specifics, except to point
to the work of Conservative Senator Nicole Eaton. “There is political
manipulation,” she said. “There is influence peddling. There are
millions of dollars crossing borders masquerading as charitable
foundations into bank accounts of sometimes phantom charities that do
nothing more than act as a fiscal clearing house.” There is paranoia,
there is partisanship, there are wild allegations. But evidence? No.

The Conservative smear campaign started when Natural Resources
Minister Joe Oliver, on the eve of environmental hearings into
Gateway, wrote a public letter flaying “environmental and other
radical groups” who “use funding from foreign special interest groups
to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.” Later, the
Conservatives found $8-million for Revenue Canada to do extra audits
and other compliance work with the charitable sector, focused on
political activity and foreign sources of funds. And now Mr. Kent
says foreign environmental charities are “laundering” money through
Canadian charities.

Charities give money outside of national boundaries – so what? Canada
even offers tax credits to Canadians who donate money to certain
overseas charities. Religious, cultural, relief and, yes,
environmental charities, all operate over borders. An environmental
disaster on Canada’s West Coast would concern people outside of
Canada, especially Americans. If there is anything nefarious here, it
is hard to see what it is. The only nefarious thing in sight at the
moment is a government bent on quashing a legitimate debate.