"Why polar bears and not elephants?" and more from Canada's hyperbolic Tory senators
A debate continuing this week in the Senate over foreign funding of environmental charities has so far brought out some shocking—and creative—rhetoric from both sides of the floor. Over the past couple of months, Conservative Senators have drawn heavy criticism and scrutiny upon some of the most respected environmental groups and charitable foundations in the country, including Tides Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Dogwood Initiative.
Though not all Conservatives are in agreement on the inquiry and its motivations, some Senators have come out with aggressive arguments that demonstrate the restrictive political environment these charities are now working within. To help illustrate the battle being fought in Ottawa, here are some key points selected from previous Senate transcripts.
Senate Debate – February 28, 2012
Hon. Nicole Eaton (Conservative): Honourable senators, I rise today to open an inquiry that will reveal astounding information. It surprised me and I hope it will surprise you. It will make your blood boil and, hopefully, it will prompt us all to action.
There is political manipulation. 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. They dole out money to other charities without disclosing what the money is for. This inquiry is about how billionaire foreign foundations have quietly moved into Canada and, under the guise of charitable deeds, are trying to define our domestic policies.
Senate Debate – March 6, 2012
Hon. Doug Finley (Conservative): There is nothing wrong with groups advocating for environmental conservation. However, there is a problem when their unstated intent is to undermine Canadian industries and do irreparable damage to Canada's economy. The environmental movement has been benignly trusted in Canada for far too long without being called into question. It is high time they were held to some account….
…"Charity" is a word that, like many others in the English language, has become distorted, contaminated and debased over the centuries. It has migrated from being largely a religious-based concept…to the extent that it has now become part of the murky lexicon of financial, political and other institutions. Charities were originally established to assist in the relief of poverty, the advancement of education and religion, and for the benefit of the broader community. Of course, the charity concept has broadened, and rightly so, to include invaluable efforts to promote medical research and the like.
I fail to recognize where foreign-funded, radical, economically motivated environmentalists fall into any of these categories. Rather, these campaigns claim environmental concern, masquerade as "grassroots" movements, and undermine the credibility of Canadian industries.
Hon. Grant Mitchell (Liberal): In many ways, environmental groups are saving the economy and opening up possibilities for new economic endeavours. Do you know what? Dealing with climate change and greenhouse gas emissions will not hurt this economy one iota. It will promote this economy in many different ways, make us competitive and creative, reinvigorate us, create jobs that we have not imagined, and sustain international markets for our oil and gas and natural resources industries.
…No one is arguing against disclosure; let us have disclosure. Let us get the Fraser Institute in there to tell us who, exactly, is funding them.
What is really the issue here is a government that is intimidating the democratic process. They are taking, I believe, surreptitious, aggressive, intimidating and bullying tactics to put the chill on people who want to disagree with them.
Senate Debate – March 13, 2012
Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Conservative): Canadians are rightfully concerned that an oil spill similar to the Exxon Valdez oil disaster could devastate the BC coast for years to come. They are every bit as Canadian as you or I, but their billionaire funders are not. U.S. billionaires and their billion-dollar charitable foundations are fighting the oil companies on Canadian soil.
As Ethical Oil spokesperson Kathryn Marshall stated:
“Letting foreign money buy its way into our regulatory processes is wrong. It opens doors to foreign interests that have no concern for our jobs and our economy. When a foreign-funded, anti-pipeline activist admits, as Eric Swanson of the Dogwood Initiative did on CTV, that "if I got duffel bags of money delivered from Martians from outer space, I would still take that money," Canadians should take him at his word.”
Let me ask you this, honourable senators: If environmentalists are willing to accept money from Martians, where would they draw the line on where they receive money from? Would they take money from al Qaeda, the Hamas or the Taliban? Who is really making the decisions in Canada if we allow foreign money to lobby against what should be Canadian-made decisions?
Hon. Percy Mockler (Conservative): It is important to draw Canadians' attention to the mean-spiritedness of some charitable organizations, organizations that are beyond the reach of the Canada Revenue Agency Act. Honourable senators, such practices should not be tolerated. Revenue Canada should immediately reassure Canadians about these practices, which I would call Machiavellian. These practices must be brought out into the open.
…We have in North America some foundations that have had an impact on the quality of life of Canadians. Some foundations that have done so I will label as "good foundations." We can look at these foundations and see they have actually helped move the vision of North America, let alone globally.
One of these great foundations is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I want to share with you that their mission is about health, from HIV/AIDS to malaria, nutrition, polio and vaccine-preventable disease. Thumbs up for that foundation….
… However, I want to bring to your attention some of the qualified bad, not to mention ugly, foundations, namely the David Suzuki Foundation, the Packard Foundation, the Mott Foundation, the Sierra Club Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the Ecojustice Canada Bullitt Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Tides Canada. Yes, honourable senators, there is also the Greenpeace International foundation….
…Many groups in Canada receive funds from American foundations to oppose economic development in our own country. That is not acceptable.
An Hon. Senator: They want our people unemployed.
Senator Mockler: Let us be reminded of the Keystone XL pipeline as another prime example. Even the David Suzuki Foundation, in collaboration with Greenpeace, did its best to confuse and oppose energy projects from coast to coast to coast. We saw them in New Brunswick, we saw them in Nova Scotia, we saw them in Quebec, we saw them in Ontario, and we also saw them in Western Canada.
An Hon. Senator: They want to keep us poor.
Senate Debate – March 29, 2012
Hon. Nancy Ruth (Conservative): I will begin by saying that I support the pipelines.
At the same time, I have three concerns about the inquiry. First, if there is going to be an inquiry into foreign influence on Canada's domestic policy, why is the net being cast so narrowly? Why are charities the only entities being subjected to such scrutiny? Second, what concrete evidence substantiates the claim that foreign foundations have pushed Canadian groups into taking positions that they would not otherwise have taken? Third, why are the existing mechanisms for policing the activities of Canadian charities considered inadequate?
…Canadian NGOs comprise one set — but only one set — of actors involved in the pipeline debate. If the concern is about foreign influence, then why is the inquiry not considering the lobbying efforts of foreign corporations with huge interests in the development of the oil sands and the construction of the pipeline? Why is the inquiry not considering the lobbying efforts of Canadian corporations with foreign investors?
… My second concern is: Where is the evidence? What concrete evidence substantiates the claim that foreign foundations have pushed Canadian groups into taking positions that they would not otherwise have taken?
…Those calling for an inquiry have made allegations of interference, abuse, political manipulation, influence peddling, money laundering, support for terrorism and active engagement in elections. Such serious charges must be substantiated with concrete proof.
…More transparency suits me, as it would let me see who is funding Ethical Oil and who its puppets are. Kathryn Marshall on Power and Politics on January 11, 2012 refused to identify Ethical Oil's supporters. However, even if this information was public, it would not give evidence that foreign monies sway Canadian minds.
In closing, I want to reinforce the importance of holding fair, inclusive and transparent hearings on the Northern Gateway pipeline. Continuing to argue that the review process is radicalized, hijacked and stacked may be a pre-emptive strike, but it is worth reflecting on what is being damaged in the process.
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson (Conservative): I believe in informed, balanced public debate on environmental and resource development policy. … However, I do think that Canadians, through their elected governments and the indigenous residents of affected regions, should be the ones to decide on the balance we all seek between environmental protection, social development and resource development.
What is the problem? U.S. and foreign-funded interest groups are spending vast amounts of money helping, they would say, to provide information and increase awareness of environmental issues in Canada. How could we be critical of that? How could we not welcome many millions of dollars that are being channeled into Canada by foreign donors to help us take care of our environment?
The first problem, as honourable senators will see, is that in some cases these groups are presenting inaccuracies, misinformation and only telling part of the story.
Second, thanks very much, but we do not need help. We have a flourishing democracy. We have institutions which have been established to provide a balanced and transparent forum for considering environmental impacts and benefits.
We do not need interference and manipulation from outside, even from our good friends in the U.S.A., and even from the European homelands of many Canadian settlers.
If they want to set aside their own environmental challenges, U.S. citizens' obscene consumerism; their rapacious consumption of fossil fuels and water; their extensive coal-fired power plants; their obsession with cars; and if the Europeans want to overlook the destruction of their forests, natural environment and massive unpublicized and wasteful slaughter of what they consider animal pests, let them send their money to the developing world. We do not need foreign aid in Canada.
…I believe foreign funding is a concern because it is coming from foreign foundations with agendas that are not necessarily in the best interests of our country and because these groups have become immensely powerful. Aided by press, which oftentimes repeats misinformation without independent verification, they get the public worked up against the seal hunt, against the oil sands and against polar bear harvesting. They have sophisticated websites. They run ads….
…I believe there may be much more to the environmental movement in Canada than meets the eye. If we look behind the fuel quality directive initiative in the European Community, we might find American charitable foundation money, directly or indirectly, undermining economic growth in Canada. Is this to benefit U.S. business interests?
…Honourable senators might then ask: Why would U.S. interests want to strand Canadian oil in Canada, restricting Canadian oil exports overseas, forcing Canada to export only to the U.S. market for its abundant energy sources? The answer may lie in a study done by University of Calgary economist Michael Moore, who studied this question. Professor Moore noted that due to the lack of alternative markets for our oil, Canada pays a significant discount on oil sold to the U.S., a discount which is not small change. Over 15 years, Professor Moore estimates that this discount robs Canada of $130 billion in oil revenues. Is it conceivable that by working to shut down the oil sands and ban tanker traffic on the West Coast, American foundations are working to advance the interests of the solar and wind industries in the U.S.?
…This may sound sinister, honourable senators, but think about this for a minute: Why do many environmental activists seem to pick their causes in Canada and ignore others? Why polar bears and not elephants? Why Canadian seals and not muskrats in Europe? Why the oil sands and not coal-fired power plants? As has been verified by a recently published independent analysis, coal-fired power generators emit a lot more greenhouse gas than all the oil sands operations combined. They seem to have been given a pass by environmental activists, even though they are ubiquitous in the U.S., Ontario and Alberta.
…My other big concern about some of these unaccountable environmental organizations, with their camouflage budgets and convoluted financial structures, is that they are sometimes using bad science and misinformation and getting away with it, aided by lazy journalists. Examples abound.
…The public has been made to believe that people in Fort Chipewyan have high rates of cancer even though the respected Royal Society of Canada has clearly shown there is no credible evidence to the support the commonly repeated media accounts of excess cancer in Fort Chipewyan caused by contaminants from oil sands operations.
…All this hysteria generated by questionable science has one great benefit for fundraisers. It is very effective in generating gobs of money from well-intentioned but impressionable people who often live in polluted cities and have little or no understanding of Canada's natural resources and know nothing about the North. Resultant hysteria can be mobilized to pressure governments to change policies or reverse decisions.