NGOS should reveal funding sources
Despite cries of an impending witch hunt, last week’s move by the federal government to push for more transparency in the funding of not-for-profit environmental organizations is a move in the right direction.
The budget outlined that not-for-profits will have to provide more information in the context of their political involvement as well as disclose how much of their dollars come from foreign sources. It’s about time. The painstaking work done by Vancouver-based blogger and activist Vivian Krause has connected the dots between foreign monies flowing into Canadian NGOS for use in opposing oilsands development as well as the associated infrastructure. According to her analysis, the dollars involved totalled $300 million at last count.
Canada cannot, and should not, sit idly by and allow funds from organizations such as the PEW, Moore, Hewlett or Packard foundations to find their way into Canadian NGOS whose actions have the potential to stymie this country’s economic growth through misguided opposition to resource development.
Just imagine what would happen if the opposite were true — if Canadian foundations were sending funds into the United States to stop the development of natural resources, or stunt the growth of any other aspect of that country’s economy.
Suffice to say it would not go unchallenged.
The reality remains, to the chagrin of newly elected NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, Ontario Premier Dalton Mcguinty and the NGO community, that Canada’s economic well-being is tied, for now, to the development of its natural resources.
And it’s not about to And it’s not about to change any time soon because of the burgeoning growth in emerging Asia. Yes, Canada’s resource weighting is partly responsible for the strong dollar that is challenging the manufacturing industry, but more importantly, it is also one of the key reasons for creating employment across the country and putting Canada in a very healthy position relative to others in the developed world.
As Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said, the job creation machine of the resource sector extends across the entire spectrum of the economy — from trades, to clerical, legal, financial, professional and manufacturing. This, of course, benefits the government from the perspective of decreasing dependence on social programs while boosting government coffers through stronger tax revenue.
Having a segment of an economy whose market depends on a low currency is not sustainable, nor is it desirable.
As GE chief executive Jeff Immelt recently said in a speech delivered in Toronto, the real key for Canada’s long-term economic success — especially in the context of having a highly valued currency — lies in boosting productivity through research and innovation.
But the NGOS are not just decrying the new rules on charitable funding as tabled in the budget, they are also exorcised on the issue of the federal government stating it is going to streamline and expedite the approval process for natural resource development, which will extend to the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.
Streamline, for these groups, is erroneously equated with irresponsible. And nothing could be further from the truth.
Rather, what Ottawa is recog- nizing by putting these changes forward are two key concepts: that of political risk and the time value of money.
Although some might scoff at the notion Canada carries any sort of political risk — the ill-defined timeframe pertaining to the approval of mega projects such as Northern Gateway is in fact a perfect illustration.
The fact there is no certainty on how long the process may take is not just risky, but it could impact future investment decisions. There is less than no interest in having a repeat of Mackenzie Valley pipeline process.
Coincidentally, within a few days of the budget being tabled, the Alaska government announced it had reached a settlement with Exxonmobil, BP and Conocophillips to commercialize the North Slope natural gas and eventually facilitate the export of liquefied natural gas to Asia. And let’s just say this proposed project will likely get the regulatory nod much faster than Mackenzie Valley did.
When natural gas prices are struggling to stay above $2 per thousand cubic feet in both Canada and the United States, there is plenty of economic incentive to capture the $12 to $14 difference in price being fetched in Asia. But with Australia a step ahead of North America on this, there isn’t time to waste. This market waits for no one and it certainly won’t wait for Canada to get its act together.
The concept of efficiency in environmental approval and regulation can and must exist in Canada; opposing it outright is not the right approach.
Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney said this week that Canada must be looking more actively to capture a greater share of the emerging Asian markets. Obviously this includes exporting our natural resources, which means the infrastructure needs to be put in place.
Truth is, the U.S. is producing more of its own oil and using less; market diversification is of utmost importance.
Thus, what the federal government did last week is prudent and sound.
This country needs to grow its economy to support the coming demographic shift. Ensuring our natural resources can be developed responsibly and efficiently will play a key role for decades to come.
The NGOS — and those who fund them — need to come to terms with this reality and instead look at ways of being constructive, not obstructive.