Given the amount of media attention that the Canadian Taxpayers Federation gets, you would think that their members would be legion. But no, there are only five.
While there are thousands of donors, they have no say in the running of the CTF. Sensitive to the charge that they are an Astroturf organization –a fake grassroots group– CTF spokesman Scott Hennig responded with Setting the record straight: how the CTF is governed.
“From time to time, some folks claim the CTF is not a grassroots organization because we have ‘five members,'” he wrote. “The truth is that we sometimes have four, sometimes six and currently we have five. According to our bylaws we can have as few as three and as many as 20.”
That’s a pretty weak defence. To quibble over the actual small number of members is to ignore the point. The problem is that the CTF doesn’t hold annual meetings in which members can discuss policy and elect board members. The CTF argues that democracy is too messy.
“Many reading this will have sat through the AGM of a broad member-based organization where two hours is spent arguing over some small change to the bylaws. Well intended to be sure, but largely a waste of time and at the end of the meeting half the attendees leave disappointed and disillusioned.”
Henning justifies the top-down approach by comparing the CTF with other not-for-profits and charities such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
This is a false correlation. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association advocates for the civil liberties of all. The CTF advocates for only some taxpayers.
They don’t represent this taxpayer. The assumption of the CTF is that taxes are a bad idea. I gladly pay taxes, not just because I receive good value in return in the form of health care, schools, roads and infrastructure, but because good countries are well-financed. It’s the price of civilization. The governor of Vermont expressed this idea a long time ago:
“Taxation is the price which we pay for civilization, for our social, civil and political institutions, for the security of life and property, and without which, we must resort to the law of force (1852).”
The CTF doesn’t represent others either: those who pay no taxes such as the working poor, stay-at-home parents, and children.
Blogger Dougald Lamont has a problem with the emphasis of taxpayers’ issues over other citizens:
“Defining taxpayers as the only people who matter has real and serious consequences for policy. It is not a politically neutral position: it is a fairly radical right-wing ideology that drives inequality by making the rich richer while neglecting the poor.”
The CTF is disingenuous when it claims to be non-political. You only have to look at past directors to realize their libertarian bent. They include former Conservative Jason Kenney, members of the Saskatchewan Party, Wildrose and Reform parties, the Fraser Institute and press secretary for Rob Ford.
The CTF is welcome to express its anti-government views. But this taxpayer wishes not to be lumped in with their ilk. Media should refer to them as “a right-wing lobby group.”