In Canada, Saying Climate Change Is Real Could Get You in Trouble During the Election

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CC BY 1.0. Denier Maxime Bernier with Delayer Andrew Scheer in happier times/ Andrew Scheer on Wikipedia

Because a fringe candidate is a climate denier, it's now a political issue.

Sitting just north of the border, I am always so amazed watching American elections, where politicians can say anything, advertising is crazy, so-called charities can raise money for political campaigns, and basically anything goes.

In Canada, it is a very different story. Once the writ is dropped and the election has officially started, there are very tight controls set by Elections Canada on partisan advertising, particularly by third parties. Separately, there are very strict rules controlling charities, which can lose their charitable status if they get political; they are supposed to be strictly non-partisan.

Maxime Bernier is a fringe candidate for a fringe party that, under the Canadian parliamentary system, is unlikely to get many seats. He is not even deemed worth having on the candidates' debates. But before he set up the People’s Party of Canada he came a very close second in the race to be Conservative leader, only losing to Andrew Scheer because he offended Quebec's dairy farmers. He is a hard right wing climate arsonist or nihilist (denier is too kind) whose candidates are variously conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers.

But because Bernier is 1) a politician and 2) a climate arsonist, Elections Canada has decided that any talk about climate change is now... political. According to the CBC,

Because of that, Elections Canada is warning that any third party that advertises information about carbon dioxide as a pollutant or climate change as an emergency could be considered to be indirectly advocating against Bernier and his party. Advertising can be considered partisan by Elections Canada even if it doesn't mention a candidate or party by name, the agency's rules say.

It would also bring out the tax man, who, when the conservatives were last in power, spent a lot of time chasing environmental groups. When I was President of a charity fighting to save historic buildings, we were accused of being partisan and I had to spend my entire two-year term dealing with audits and paying accountants and lawyers. It occupied all my time and took a lot of our money. It's a big deal. According to the Globe and Mail:

Environment groups in Canada are still on edge after spending much of the last five years fighting against the Canada Revenue Agency accusations and worry that if Elections Canada accuses them of being partisan, it will attract another round of audits for partisan activity.

So here we are, one of the most important issues of our time, where there is a clear political divide, and nobody can talk about climate change without registering with Elections Canada and worrying about their charitable status. I like the idea that there is an Elections Canada trying to be impartial and keep the election clean, but this is ridiculous. Climate change is real, but as in the USA, it has become politicized. Up here, that could mean real trouble for charities and activists.

Meanwhile the Beaverton, Canada's answer to the Onion, had its own take on the story:

Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault explained that communicating proven science such as climate change, melting glaciers, or a baking soda and vinegar volcano science project could indirectly challenge the candidacy of Maxime Bernier.

“Confirming or denying what candidates say with scientific reasoning or peer-reviewed studies is considered advocacy,” explained Perrault to the press. “Some say the earth revolves around the sun. Others say magic. Advocacy groups must remain silent on that trouble-maker Galileo Galilei and his controversial discoveries.”