Transparency and accountability are words that we hear constantly from politicians and advocacy groups. Despite the prolific nature of the words in politics, the principles they represent are often not practiced by those who claim to want to see more of this. The term for that is hypocrisy and brazen hypocrisy detracts terribly from the credibility of any group.
When it comes to advocacy groups, full and clear transparency will naturally lead to accountability. With this in mind, when we launched the site for the new non-profit society (CivicCamp) we ensured that all of our expenditures, income and the principle people within the group were all openly listed on the “about” page. We also registered the society with the Alberta registrar after having had a NUANS search to ensure that the name of the society was not in use. Being registered as a society provides a degree of oversight that protects the members of the society and the public in that a degree of transparency and governance is required under the Societies Act. We wanted to be clear that we are hiding nothing about ourselves.
Our launch as a society has sent a loose collection of advocates into hysterics as they feel that they were somehow entitled to the name of our society though there is no legal record indicating that they ever went through the simple process required to secure a name as a society within Alberta. The reason this collection of folks did not register as a society of course is that they did not want to undergo the mandatory transparency and accountability that would come with such registration. These individuals were quite content to keep raising money, expending money and directly lobbying our municipal government with utterly no accountability of their own (despite demanding such from electoral candidates).
Some folks are annoyed that the founding of our society has perhaps undercut this collection of folks and are saying that we have attacked a volunteer group of some sort. Well again, no such group has ever been registered. Being “volunteer” based does not absolve a group of any accountability or ensure that all of the volunteer efforts are based on altruism. How do we know this group was all volunteer? They apparently have somehow gotten a grant and some union funding. With no mechanism of controls, visible people in charge or real transparency we have only their word to rely on that that these solicited funds did not go into the pockets of any members of this group.
This group has been claiming to be unbiased and acting only in the interest of civic engagement too. That is simply and utterly untrue and is very easy to disprove. This group of people has a very distinct political agenda and it is reflected quite clearly in the document below that was presented to and which was accepted by Calgary’s city council during budget deliberations. Budget presentation letter
As can be seen in this letter, this group of folks brazenly asked for no less than a 75% property tax increase as well as wanting to dip deeply into the ideological world of socialism in having city council somehow implement a “progressive” form of utility billing. They referenced the ever kooky ImagineCalgary document in their letter as well.
Let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with a group of people presenting their views to people on all levels of government. It is called advocacy and it is an integral part of our democracy. The problem comes when a group of people has such a strong ideological and partisan slant and then tries to present itself innocently as a as an unbiased volunteer organization facilitating election forums at election time. When this sort of disingenuous activity comes from a group of people, folks like me are forced to call bullshit.
Refusing to register as any formal sort of group allows a group to mask the accountability that comes with having the principle members listed and open to public scrutiny. When one looks at the names that pop up in association with this apparent volunteer group that I aggrieved I can understand why they would not advertise it. People like Grant Neufeld who compares people who travel by air to murderers and slave owners or Chelsea Pratchett who was deeply involved with the Occupy Calgary squatting in a city park come up in association with this group and yes hardly add credibility to them or any sense of a lack of bias to them. I can understand why some would want to mask the involvement of these kind of people in their informal group but alas, it costs accountability and credibility when a group refuses such transparency. The names associated with this collection of people read like a who’s who of Calgary’s extreme left activists. There is nothing wrong with that but this should not be hidden.
As the saying goes: you can’t both suck and blow. Is this loose collection of people an unbiased volunteer group that just wants to facilitate electoral participation or is it a highly ideological advocacy group that wants to press for specific policies in city hall? This bunch of people has tried to be both and have tried to hide their intent through a total lack of transparency.
CivicCamp is now registered as a non-profit society with full transparency and is not pretending to be unbiased.
I have not taken away the right of a motley collection of activists to either advocate for their policies or to volunteer for election activities. They may do either. I only have taken away the mask that they had been using to try to play both sides. If these folks want to keep advocating or volunteering I say good on them! If they try to mask themselves again though I will expose them yet again.
What’s so hard about transparency? It took five of us a couple hours, a meeting, a form to fill out and $100 to register a non-profit society. I suggest that other groups aspiring to have advocacy organizations do the same. It lends credibility, adds transparency and perhaps most important of all, protects the name of your organization.