David Suzuki is the head of the eponymous David Suzuki Foundation, a registered Canadian charity that advocates on environmental issues.
Among the issues that are central to the Suzuki Foundation’s main issue campaign of climate change awareness is the introduction of a carbon tax. The Suzuki Foundation website states:
Canadian businesses and individuals can dump as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as they want–free of charge. We used to think that was OK, but global warming unveiled the limited capacity of the earth’s atmosphere.
Putting a price on carbon, through a carbon tax or through a cap-and-trade system, has been widely accepted as the most effective instrument to reduce carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas.
Fair enough. The Foundation is advocating on a particular policy issue to effect political and social change.
Today, from CTV.ca’s summary of David Suzuki’s interview on that program,
Famed environmentalist David Suzuki has strongly backed Liberal leader Stephane Dion’s emerging carbon tax plan and slammed the NDP and Conservatives.
After hearing the NDP’s criticism of Dion’s plan, Suzuki said: “I’m really shocked with the NDP with this. I thought that they had a very progressive environmental outlook.”
“To oppose (the carbon tax plan), its just nonsense. It’s certainly the way we got to go,” he said Sunday on CTV’s Question Period.
QP’s host, Jane Taber asked Suzuki,
Taber: “So are you saying that the Harper government is failing us on the environment?”
Suzuki: “Absolutely, absolutely”
David Suzuki, as an individual, is entitled to his opinion.
A registered charity cannot be created for a political purpose and cannot be involved in partisan political activities. A political activity is considered partisan if it involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, a political party or candidate for public office.
CTV’s Question Period interviewed Suzuki for the purpose of commenting upon Dion’s carbon tax plan. While slamming the previous Liberal governments for inaction on climate change, Suzuki’s condemnation of the NDP and Conservatives and support for Dion’s position could be interpreted as partisan political activity.
The technical loophole here that keeps this legal is that David Suzuki and the David Suzuki Foundation are two entities whose activities are separate.
However, as the David Suzuki Foundation advocates for a carbon tax while David Suzuki supports one party’s position on carbon tax while condemning the policies of the other two parties, how nuanced is the difference?
ADDENDUM: I don’t fault Suzuki for walking a fine line. In fact, I believe that any level of political activity should be considered charitable. Political parties shouldn’t be the only organized political entities that should have the ability to issue tax receipts. Until that time, David Suzuki treads carefully.
UPDATE: Treading a fine line? He may have already crossed it here,
Environmentalist David Suzuki savaged Prime Minister Harper over global warming in front of a gymnasium full of elementary school students and their parents on Friday.
Later, he furiously lashed out at Albertans, calling rapid development of the oilsands “insanity” and a “disaster.”
Suzuki, who was invited to speak at Altadore elementary school and accept $835 collected by the students for his foundation, asked the kids what Harper’s main priority was after being elected last year.
He told the room some of his message was directed at the adults, because the youngsters don’t vote and Harper and other politicians don’t care about them.
“It’s up to your mom and dads to ensure your futures and livelihoods are part of the agenda,” he said to about 185 students ranging from kindergarten to Grade 6.
Collecting money for your charitable foundation while blasting the Prime Minister on policy and encouraging children to have their parents put an issue on the agenda could easily be deemed political activity and very inappropriateby the government. Again, according to Revenue Canada,
“A political activity is considered partisan if it involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, a political party or candidate for public office.“
Does David Suzuki’s Foundation still qualify for charitable status?