(February 9, 2014) The CBC in an news item February 6, 2014, announced that the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) had launched an “audit” of some of Canada’s well known environmental charities and included on that list was Environmental Defence (ED).
Should the audit reveal certain excesses of the rules governing charities ED and perhaps some of the others on the list, may lose their charitable status.
To the Executive Director, Tim Gray and Gillian McEachern, Campaign Director of ED the audit was an “end of the world” event and those views were expressed to the media and on their website. Was it really as catastrophic as they made it out to be? It was painted as a “witch-hunt” on charities!
If one looks at the March 31, 2013 financial report that ED filed with the CRA you will discern that gross revenues generated for that year were $3,848,000 and $898,000 (23.3%) came from tax deductible donations. ED generated more revenue ($1,179,000) from “Other Charities” than from their fan club! Money received from “Other Charities” represented 30.6% of their gross revenue and donations from “Outside Canada” at $687,000 or 17.9% of gross revenues, almost exceeded tax deductible donations.
One of the more alarming parts of this “cry wolf” aspect though is that ED have been extremely “offensive” [Writer’s note: meant to define an aggressive tone] in their past efforts to support political parties whose views lock into theirs! That was particularly noticeable during the last Ontario Provincial election campaign when they used an 8 year old girl to get their message out and also teamed up with unions for the same purpose. That resulted in the writer issuing a complaint to Elections Ontario.
Looking at the lobbying efforts of ED you can also determine they are aggressive with eight (8) people named on the Ontario Lobbyist Registry. Tim Gray is also on the Federal Lobbyist Registry. On the former, ED officials (including McEachern) met twice with the Ontario Minister of Energy in late May 2013 and early June 2013 before Energy Minister Chiarelli launched his “engagement” to seek input on a revision to the Long-Term Energy Plan. In respect to the latter it is laughable that the Federal Registry notes that Tim Gray’s, first effort was focused on: “seeking funds from Consumers Affairs.”
Mr. Gray, whose bio on the ED website touts his accomplishments, indicates he came from the Ivey Foundation where he held the position of “program director” presumably reporting to President, Bruce Lourie. Interestingly enough Lourie was “Past President” of ED and in his position as President of Ivey Foundation wields a lot of power on the grants they dole out. ED in the past has benefited from Ivey grants as noted in an article that provided information on the various grants received by ED from private and public institutions. At that point ED had generated grants from private foundations of $2,804,000 and $3,338,000 from “Public” institutions such as the Trillium Foundation, Friends of the Greenbelt, etc. Ivey Foundation (June 2012) was the largest private granter to ED with $646,000 handed out.
Visiting ED’s website and their annual report you will see the names of those Canadian and foreign foundations, along with the Federal and Provincial taxpayer; Ministries and crown corporations that dole out funds to ED and others. You will also find familiar names as donors (presumably tax deductible) including Bruce Lourie and Summerhill Group which Lourie founded. Other names include Jack Gibbons (Chair, Ontario Clean Air Alliance), David Love Executive Director, Conservation Foundation of Greater Toronto, Olivia Chow (MPP), Tom Rand (MaRS Discovery District), etc. etc. all of whom are involved in the same cause with several running or with organizations that are not being audited by the CRA. On the other hand, Tides Canada, one of the seven names on the CRA’s audit file, is listed on ED’s report under “Foundation donors” with three different names and David Suzuki (the David Suzuki Foundation is on the CRA list) is listed as an “Honourary” member of the ED Board of Directors.
So just why are Mr. Gray and Ms. McEachern so upset? One would assume if they lose the “charitable” status they can simply put in a bigger effort to secure grants from the federal, provincial and municipal governments (tax dollars but not “tax deductible”), entice more money from private funds such as the Ivey Foundation or the Oak Foundation (Switzerland) or plead with those “other charities” for more funding. Also if their donors truly believe in ED and their cause, they may be happy to forgo the “tax deductible” benefit.
One of the recent articles dealing with the audit cited the following quote from Mr. Gray: “The ground is shifting and there has been no consultation on why or how the rules of governing charities should shift. There is a chill.”
To use Tim Gray’s analogy the chill is on job creation and the Canadian economy and results in energy poverty. There has been no change in “the rules of governing charities”; the CRA is simply applying the rules in the same way they apply them to all of the charities who do actual charitable work. This is what the CRA should be doing!
If Mr. Gray is so concerned perhaps it’s time for ED to drop the “charitable” aspect of fundraising and cease their dependence on the largess of taxpayers. At that point they can use their freedom of speech rights to push their cause without worrying about a CRA audit and without using tax dollars to promote their cause!
Parker Gallant is a retired bank executive and a former director of Energy Probe Research Foundation. As with all independent bloggers on this site, Parker’s views do not necessarily reflect those of Energy Probe.