Monday, May 07, 2012

What the heck is happening north of the border? Government charges "money laundering" in apparent ploy to move tar sands pipeline

It has come to our attention that the new Canadian federal budget will drop the office of oversight of the country's spy agency -- while voting additional funds for investigating "money laundering" by Canadian environmental charities who receive funding from US foundations to work on environmental campaigns such as the tar sands and pipelines. What the heck is going on? The Toronto Globe and Mail calls this a “smear campaign” by a government trying to promote a pipeline to move tar sands oil for exports:

Environment Minister Peter Kent’s unsupported accusations of “money laundering” involving foreign and Canadian environmental charities are part of an apparent campaign of the Conservative government to smear and intimidate groups opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Mr. Kent’s accusation in Parliament and media interviews, and the pattern they are a part of, suggest the government is improperly taking sides between the environment and business – trying to discredit those who raise environmental concerns in a public-hearing process mandated under federal law.

…the Conservatives found $8-million for Revenue Canada to do extra audits and other compliance work with the charitable sector, focused on political activity and foreign sources of funds. And now Mr. Kent says foreign environmental charities are “laundering” money through Canadian charities.

And from a recent budget article:

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled a 421-page budget bill Thursday that provides new detail on a wide range of measures that were only hinted at in the Conservative government’s March 29 budget. Here are some of the highlights:

Budget bill also tackles CSIS oversight, EI and environment

Key official dropped from spy agency

The legislation will scrap a key official overseeing Canada’s spy agency. A spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says the surprise move to axe the inspector general of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service will save taxpayers almost $1-million a year.

Julie Carmichael said the unannounced decision to cut the office – known as the minister's eyes and ears on CSIS – will actually strengthen independent oversight of the agency. But other experts say pushing more duties onto the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which is currently without a chairman, won't improve oversight.

When Mr. Toews announced the reappointment of inspector general Eva Plunkett in 2010, he said her office helps ensure that CSIS operates within the law and follows current policies.

Ms. Plunkett's annual reports to the minister have been frank and often highly critical, including a warning last year that the spy agency was failing to follow new accountability standards set by the Supreme Court of Canada…

• Changes streamline assessments

Much of the budget legislation deals with the overhaul of environmental-assessment legislation, which the government says will streamline the system to speed up resource project reviews. But critics complain it will gut environmental protection.

The bill will set new timelines for agencies reviewing resource projects, including the joint panel currently assessing the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the B.C. coast. The exact impact is unclear, but it could shorten the review period by several months.
It would repeal the Kyoto Implementation Act, a private-member’s bill passed by the then opposition-dominated Parliament in 2007. That law forced the government to report annually on its progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposed legislation would allow officials from the National Energy Board and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to raid offices of companies they suspect of failing to comply with environmental conditions attached to permits. But environmentalists say that to be effective, the agency needs to be fully staffed.

The budget bill amends the Fisheries Act so the federal government will only oversee waters that support major fisheries of commercial, recreational or aboriginal value, with officials to decide whether tributary streams qualify.

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