Steven Harper has warned agencies and organizations and especially environmental groups who publically dissent from “government policy” that if they are funded by the government they will be cut. His exact quote was: “If it’s the case that we are spending on organizations that are doing things that are contrary to government policy, I think that is an innappropriate use of taxpayers money and we’ll look to eliminate it.”

On Saturday CBC’s “The House” host Evan Solomon asked the all important question: Does the government have an obligation to fund organizations that don’t support its own policies?” Both Bob Mills a former conservative MP and a member of the Round Table and the former Clerk of the Privy Council Alex Himelfarb answered yes because democracy is the beneficiary. If the government does not hear dissenting opinions about major issues, policies or concerns, they will be incapable of doing the job they need to do. Not only is democracy served by such public discourse but the creation of better public policy is facilitated as well. It is too easy for government to be isolated and hear only the “cheerleaders” who are invariably government supporters. 

The National Round Table on the Environment and Economy is slated to be cut because it does not represent the government’s environmental approach. Minister Peter Kent speaking on behalf of the government has responded that the work of the Round Table no longer does a job that is needed because the internet and other groups provide information that duplicates their work. This view is not shared by other conservatives who have been actively concerned in environmental issues.

Mike de Souza a journalist for Postmedia News reported the comments of Mark Parent another member of the Round Table and a former Conservative Nova Scotia Minister of the Environment, Mr Parent said. “”Anyone who says they’re an economic genius when they take attitudes such as we’ve been seeing — with not just unfortunately the federal government, but I see it with provincial governments — are wrong, It’s for political short-term reasons; it’s not for long-term economic reasons. It’s not economically sensible.”

James Rajotte, Chair of the Finance Committee tried to spin Harper’s comments to be only related to environmental groups, Through close questioning by Evan Solomon Mr. Rajotte tried to distance the Prime Minister and the government from somre of the bullying comments made by certain ministers regarding their expressed dissent. Mr. Rajotte said, “it’s not the Prime Minister, it’s not the cabinet who determines who gets charitable status, it’s the Canada Revenue Agency. CRA does the monitoring for all the charities in Canada as well and decides whether to revoke or not. It’s not a political decision, that’s an independant decision by the CRA.”

Perhaps Mr. Rajotte should consult with his Harperite brother in the Conservative cause, Minister Peter Kent who said to Evan Solomon on the April 28th edition of “The House”, “Some groups with charitable status have been going well beyond the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) guidelines for what is acceptable practice as a charitable agency. ” If Mr. Rajotte is trying to say that there is no political link between the Harperites and the CRA, I am afraid he makes a very poor case. Mr. Kent has repeated these comments many times. He at least is very public about his views regarding any dissent aimed at government policy and what the CRA should do about such expressed dissent.

The Harperites have been busily cutting any programs that do not adhere to their ultra-right ideological agenda take a look at a partial list of the agencies and organizations that they have cut up until the last budget. See:

In this budget the Harperites have axed: The National Council on Welfare, Rights and Democracy, The Public Appointments Commission, The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, The Katimavik program, which allows young people to experience life in different communities; Human Assisted Reproduction Canada and a host of other environmental, legal and social agencies an organizations. According to government we have no need of such voices or opinions.

The aim of the Harperites is clear: No dissent, No protests, No rights