USFA e-Letter: Help send a message to stop muzzling research

Many of you will have likely heard about an open letter to the Minister of National Revenue asking her to place a moratorium on political-activity audits of various think tanks that claim charitable status. The letter was drafted after a number of university professors learned that the Canada Revenue Agency is auditing the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) because the CCPA allegedly engages in politically partisan, biased research activity.

The letter states “The CCPA is not a political organization, nor does it engage in political or partisan activities. The fact that it has criticized government policy on a number of issues does not make it a partisan organization promoting a narrow agenda. Rather, it is engaging in serious, unbiased academic research.” It goes on to say: “We therefore strongly urge the CRA to put a moratorium on its audits of think tanks, until such time as a truly neutral criteria and auditing process are implemented to ensure neutrality and fairness, and to ensure that the audit process does not silence dissenting voices.”

The CCPA is known for criticizing the Conservative agenda and is among 52 charities currently targeted to determine whether any are violating rules that limit spending on political activities to 10 per cent of resources. Groups being audited include environmental groups criticizing energy and pipeline policies, poverty, international aid and human-rights groups who are also known to often be critical of policy.

The apparent approach to focus audits on the content of research conducted by the organization rather than on the financial management and integrity of the organization is wholly inappropriate. It is also highly inappropriate to muzzle and impede sound and legitimate research.

Anyone wishing to read the letter (with signatories to September 11, 2014) can find it on The Progressive Economics Forum website. Please Consider joining academics from across Canada and across disciplines in becoming a signatory by emailing Louis-Phillipe Rochon, Associate Professor of Economics, Laurentian University, at lprochon2003@yahoo.com with your name and institutional affiliation.