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Monday, April 30, 2012

Audit Hijinks

The Feds announced today that they are cutting out internal auditors in four regional development agencies and giving that responsibility to another department already facing a shrinking budget.  According to PSAC, the union representing the auditors, this will make losing, rather than saving, taxpayer money more likely. Apparently, the government doesn't need to audit itself, what with it being so transparent and all. We shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about what they are doing. We shouldn't worry about Bev Oda living large in London or the F-35s. They've got it all under control. 

Generally, I wouldn't pay much attention to this particular news item, except that in the Federal Budget, the Cons promised to add $8M to the budget to do another kind of audit, a kind of audit that they feel is way more important than looking over their own shoulders. They're spending an extra $8M to audit - wait for it - charities. They want to make sure that Canadian charities don't exceed the 10% rule, that is, that they don't spend more than 10% of their budget on anything that smacks of politics or advocacy.

The 10% rule has always left charities in the unenviable position of being able to treat the symptoms of whatever ill they are designed to address but not the cause. So a charity can give coats to needy families in the winter or send their children to camp, but they can do little, if anything, about why they are living in poverty in the first place. According to a diplomatically phrased advisory on Charity Village, "While Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stressed there are no changes to the actual rules relating to charities, there will be serious adjustments surrounding enforcement. "Quite frankly, we've had a lot of complaints and concerns expressed by Canadians that when they give money to charities they expect the money to be used for the charity's purposes, not for political or other purposes," Flaherty said Thursday. Flaherty also alleges that there is foreign money floating around too that is worrisome. Maybe this is the same money Joe Oliver was so concerned about, the gajillions of dollars being used to undermine Canadian industry.

There has been plenty reported already about charities who feel this particular $8M is directed at them because, frankly, they've been too effective at highlighting things the Cons don't want brought to our attention. David Suzuki has stepped down from the board of his own foundation because of concerns that his personal advocacy work will be counted against the Foundation. This is yet another not so subtle way of squashing dissent in this country. There's nothing like an audit to waste the time of the very limited staff at your favourite charity, get them bogged down in endless paperwork and utterly subjective evaluations of what constitutes political action and what doesn't, instead of doing the good work they are established to do.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the Cons won't be auditing the Fraser Institute (yes, it's true - you get a charitable receipt when donating to the Fraser Institute) but will more likely be auditing the Suzuki Foundation and various progressive organizations across Canada. Let's all keep an eye on what happens to all the sexual health organizations. Any guesses?

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