03/03/2012 12:02 EST | Updated 05/03/2012 05:12 EDT

For the Senator: Charities vs. Corporations Explained

First she came for our beavers, and now she's coming for our charities.

Conservative Senator Nicole Eaton is swinging into action again -- not that action is generally associated with the Senate, other when there are democratically-enacted climate laws to kill.

Now she's holding hearings into foreign funding of charities engaged in environmental issues, saying that they should disclose their foreign revenue sources, and that they should disclose their political activities.

Uh, the thing is, they already do. (Hint: see CRA form T3010).

But, this actually isn't about those pesky "facts," it's about a witch hunt started by the shadowy Conservative "ethical oil" club, and taken up by various Ministers of the Crown, debasing the integrity of their offices as part and parcel of the broader Conservative scorched earth approach to anyone who doesn't share their ideology (and in this case, unconditional love of the tar sands).

So, an example of the kind of question you won't see Senator Eaton asking is this: Why is it ok for Enbridge to raise a $100 million war fund to lobby for its Gateway tar sands pipeline, getting $10 million donations from foreign companies like Sinopec, and fail to disclose the source of the money or the activities it pays for?

In fact, that leads us to compare how charities are treated in Canada vs. how corporations are treated. Neither has limits on sourcing revenues overseas, but charities, unlike corporations, disclose the sources of foreign revenue, are limited (to 10 per cent) in how much they can spend on policy advocacy, disclose their advocacy activities as a matter of their charter, and are banned from engaging in partisan activity.

See the table summarizing this below. Seem fair to you? Little wonder that Ottawa is such an environmental laggard.