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article imageOp-Ed: Elections Canada — Don't discuss climate change during election

By Karen Graham     Aug 19, 2019 in Politics
Some environment charities will remain silent during the upcoming election after Elections Canada warned them that discussing the dangers of climate change during the federal campaign could be deemed partisan activity.
Apparently, the warning is all because Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People's Party of Canada, has expressed doubts about climate change being real. The thing is - I have no problem with Bernier denying climate change is real - After all, I know lots of people who think the same way Bernier does.
Look at the president of the U.S. Trump has gone so far as to say climate change is a hoax, perpetrated by China. What got to me was the reason behind Elections Canada's warning earlier this summer.
During a training session, officials said that because Bernier had expressed his personal doubts about climate change, "any group that promotes it as real or an emergency could be considered partisan," said Tim Gray, executive director of the advocacy group Environmental Defence, according to CBC Canada.
Maxime Bernier with Andrew Scheer in Ottawa in May 2017  walking down the stairs at Parliament Hill.
Maxime Bernier with Andrew Scheer in Ottawa in May 2017, walking down the stairs at Parliament Hill.
Andrew Scheer (CC0 1.0)
This means that any "partisan activity," including advertising, surveys, or any kind of campaign costing at least $500, would necessitate the charity registering as a third party for the election. This would jeopardize a group's charitable tax status.
But to make a point, five of the six political parties expected to have any chance of winning a seat in the upcoming campaign agree that climate change is real and caused by humans, according to the Global News.
That leaves Bernier who says this climate emergency we are going through is just a natural event. “There is no climate change urgency in this country,” Bernier said in a speech in June. He doesn't think carbon dioxide is bad, either. “CO2 is not ‘pollution,'” he tweeted. “It’s what comes out of your mouth when you breathe and what nourishes plants.”
Who's playing politics?
Elections Canada has decided that based on poor old Bernier's stance on climate change that any charitable groups promoting information about carbon dioxide as a pollutant or climate change as an emergency could be considered to be indirectly advocating against Bernier and his party.
An Elections Canada spokesman confirmed, “such a recommendation would be something we would give.” However, Gray says the impact from the warning by Elections Canada is actually nothing more than a way to stifle the conversation about climate change at a critical time.
I don't know how other people feel about this partisan activity warning, but if this is the way Canadians are supposed to run their election campaigns, what in the devil would anyone talk about. Think about it for a minute...
In the U.S., politicians have generally been identified with a party. Many local elections in the U.S., such as a mayoral election are "nonpartisan." A candidate may have a party affiliation but it is not listed on the ballot. This basically follows voting behavior in the U.S. in that a "partisan" has come to refer to an individual with a psychological identification with one or the other of the major parties.
Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada, called the Elections Canada warning “shocking.” She adds, “Climate change is a scientific fact,” she said. “It’s not an opinion.” Abreu hits it on the nose when she points out that this rule will give fuel to pro-oil groups that want to silence their opponents.
The National Post says that in 2012, the former Conservative government unveiled a $13-million audit program to seek out charities the Conservatives alleged were abusing their tax status with partisan activities.
The Conservatives went after a slew of charitable groups, including environment, human rights, anti-poverty and religious groups — none of them considered partisan. The Conservatives also labeled environment groups as “radical” and a “threat” to Canada.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Elections canada, Climate change, Partisan, environmental charities
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