Jamie Ellerton, Executive Director of Ethical Oil speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, May 15, 2012.
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA - Already being audited by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Tides Canada faces possible new scrutiny by the taxman.
EthicalOil.org has written to the CRA to ask that it revoke Tides Canada's charitable status, alleging the multi-million dollar clearinghouse for environmental and social projects is really a political organization.
"They fund organizations that otherwise would have no access to charitable dollars because they are not registered charities and they do not engage in charitable work," said Ethical Oil executive director Jamie Ellerton, a former Tory staffer.
He lists organizations like Forest Ethics and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as non-charitable organizations that have received support from Tides Canada, which issues tax receipts for donations.
Forest Ethics has promoted a boycott of Alberta oil, and opposes the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal to connect Alberta's oilsands to a tanker terminal in northern BC.
"There's nothing wrong with an organization in a free country engaging in political activity, but that's not charity," said Ellerton.
In April, Forest Ethics split itself into a political arm and a still-charitable arm - a move it said was "in direct response to the Harper government's crackdown on environmental groups."
Tides Canada has always maintained it's non-political.
Still, CEO Ross McMillan acknowledged in an April online posting his organization changed its relationship with Forest Ethics' because the feds were "increasing scrutiny of charitable environmental organizations."
In his 143-page complaint to the CRA, Ellerton also accuses Tides Canada of trying to influence provincial and territorial premiers' discussion of energy issues in Halifax last month.
Tides Canada even released an opinion poll in July, trying to show that Canadians wanted the premiers to skim off "a portion of oil wealth to help prepare for a clean and renewable energy future."
The CRA is already dealing with Ethical Oil's complaints to revoke the charitable status of Environmental Defence and the David Suzuki Foundation too.
Tides Canada's 2011 annual report lists more than $17 million in grants with donations totalling $24 million.
The organization admitted in March that $6 million of its 2011 revenue came from billionaire American foundations.
Tides Canada didn't make anyone available for comment on this story.