"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.

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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

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