Thursday, May 10, 2012

CRA's impartiality raised

This exchange from Hansard yesterday on the impartiality of the Canada Revenue Agency is well worth paying attention to and keeping in mind:
Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, recently the Minister of the Environment referred to the “money laundering” activities of several registered charities in the country. Given the fact that the Canada Revenue Agency is supposed to be politically neutral, is not supposed to be a political arm of the Conservative Party of Canada or of the Government of Canada and is supposed to be objective and confidential, does the Prime Minister not realize that the kinds of comments made by his minister in fact point to a political campaign against a number of registered charities which the government simply does not like? Does he not understand the dangers—
The Speaker: The right hon. Prime Minister.
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Canada Revenue Agency is independent of the government and is tasked with enforcing the law. The laws with respect to registered charities are clear. In fact, we are taking steps to ensure they are crystal clear. However, they are clear that there are limits to political activities for donations that people give on a tax receivable basis for charitable causes.
Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister cannot deny that there is a problem. At the end of April, Canadians disclosed their financial information to the Canada Revenue Agency. They expect the agency to be impartial and they expect that the information will not be used for political purposes. Why is the Prime Minister allowing his minister to make personal and political attacks against charities that the minister singles out for the Canada Revenue Agency to attack?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, once again, the Canada Revenue Agency operates independently and is responsible for enforcing the tax laws. There are very clear rules for charities that engage in political activities. There are clear parameters, and the agency is responsible for enforcing the rules.
Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is ignoring this by not clearly indicating that the remarks made by the Minister of the Environment are simply unacceptable. He has a Conservative-dominated committee in the Senate that is going after particular environmental charities. It is not going after the Fraser Institute. It is not going after the Manning Institute. It is not mentioning the fact that the Fraser Institute got $0.5 million from the Koch brothers in the United States. It is not doing that. However, it is going after environmental charities which are attempting to protect the lifeblood of Canadians. That is what it is doing.
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party suggests that we should pick and choose certain charities. The reality—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Speaker: Order, please. The right hon. Prime Minister has the floor.
Right Hon. Stephen Harper: Mr. Speaker, in terms of our own giving and our own political preferences, it is our absolute right to do so. What is incumbent upon all charities is that they respect the laws regarding political activities. Those laws are clear. We will make them even clearer. The Canada Revenue Agency has an excellent record of the non-partisan enforcement of these rules.
We should be watching this very serious business carefully. Certain stripes of charities that are not in favour with the government of the day should not be selectively targeted for enforcement by the CRA.

Harper has vouched for the non-partisan enforcement of the rules by CRA, so that is what we will expect to see.