Alberta Politics
Troy Lanigan, former president and CEO of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, at the 2013 Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Donner Canadian Foundation, prominent funder of right-wing groups, helps bankroll new ‘think tank’ closely connected to CTF

Posted on January 07, 2019, 12:59 am
9 mins

A new “think tank” with close connections to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation received $50,000 last year from the Donner Canadian Foundation, a prominent funder of right-wing ideological organizations in Canada.

SecondStreet.org describes itself on its website as “a new think tank that will be launching in early 2019.” The organization’s mission, the single-page website now says, will be “to tell stories of everyday Canadians – from coast to coast – and show how they’re impacted by government policies.”

Colin Craig (Photo: Twitter).

Needless to say, it’s unlikely the stories the group tells will show government or public services in a particularly good light, although that remains to be confirmed.

SecondStreet.org’s stories are likely to be a lot like the stories told by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, since the links between the new organization and the self-described “tax watchdog” are numerous and tight enough it’s hard for an outsider to see where the CTF ends and SecondStreet.org begins.

Just the same, it must be acknowledged that despite their many points of connection, they appear to be separate organizations. So while it can be shown where SecondStreet.org gets some of its funding, who bankrolls the secretive CTF, which is traditionally tight-lipped about its sources of financial support, must remain a mystery.

SecondStreet.org’s contact person, its website says, is Colin Craig, a former spokesperson at various times for both the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Calgary-based Manning Centre, former Reform Party leader Preston Manning’s eponymous training organization for right-wing politicians and causes. Recently, Mr. Craig acted as the CTF’s interim Alberta director – that is, its spokesperson and sole staffer in the province.

An email to the CTF seeking more information soon revealed, however, that the founder of SecondStreet.org is none other than Troy Lanigan, who stepped aside as CTF president late last year after nearly a decade at the helm.

Adam Daifallah (Photo: Canadian Taxpayers Federation).

The $50,000 contribution to SecondStreet.org is shown in the Donner Canadian Foundation’s list of 2018 grants. Other entries on the list show funds given to the Fraser Institute, the well-known right-wing think tank in Vancouver; the Canadian Constitution Foundation, which litigates on behalf of social conservative and market fundamentalist causes, including a legal challenge now under way to the principles on which Canadian public health care is based; and several market-fundamentalist think tanks including the Montreal-based Institute of Liberal Studies.

The Canada Revenue Agency lists SecondStreet.org as an educational charity that operates in support of schools and education. It shows SecondStreet.org’s address as 265 – 438 Victoria Avenue E, Regina, Sask.

The headquarters offices of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation are located at 265 – 438 Victoria Avenue E, Regina, Sask.

In a follow-up email, Mr. Lanigan said, “SecondStreet.org will be contracting some CTF staff as contributors to get started. The same address for example is because we are contracting the CTF’s controller to help with financial reporting et. al.”

He described this as “a temporary and part-time arrangement” that he expects to be severed eventually, but added that “most people involved with SecondStreet.org will have had involvement with the CTF at one time or another.”

It would seem this is already the case. A listing of federal corporate information on the Government of Canada website shows Adam Daifallah, Ken Azzopardi and Walter Robinson to be members of SecondStreet.org’s five-member board.

Ken Azzopardi (Photo: Canadian Taxpayers Federation).

Messrs. Daifallah and Azzopardi are also members of the CTF’s six-member board, which as readers of this blog will recall constitutes that organization’s only legal members. Mr. Daifallah is the current chair. Mr. Robinson is a former federal director of the CTF.

Another SecondStreet.org director is Adam Allouba, currently listed on the website of the Atlas Network as “a director of Atlas Network partner Institute for Liberal Studies.” The Washington D.C.-based Atlas Network is a central player in the extensive international ecosystem of market-fundamentalist think tanks and Astro-Turf groups. It is reported to have “partnership” links to about a third of close to 500 market-fundamentalist think tanks in the world and has in turn received financing from the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of New York. It lists the CTF on its website as one of its 12 Canadian partners.

While Mr. Lanigan is no longer president and CEO of the CTF, he remains chair of the World Taxpayers Associations, a group whose 2014 international conference in Vancouver was organized by the CTF. He also continues to be listed in his previous job in the “Our People” section of the Atlas Network’s website as someone who has “experimented with – but never inhaled – partisan politics on both sides of the border.”

In 2017, according the Donner Canadian Foundation’s report for that year, it gave $32,956 to en entity called the Cartwright Centre, which an online corporate data listing showed to be based at an address in Victoria, B.C. An online public telephone directory, in turn, showed that address to be Mr. Lanigan’s.

In 2018, according to Government of Canada corporate history information, the Cartwright Centre changed its name to SecondStreet.org. The same database shows the Cartwright Centre was established in 2016.

Mr. Lanigan confirmed that they are effectively the same organization, and that he is the founder of both. He described the activities of both as those of an “educational think tank carrying out charitable activities.”

Mr. Lanigan said the Cartwright Centre was named for Richard J. Cartwright, a supporter of unrestricted free trade with the United States who was appointed minister of finance in the Liberal cabinet of Alexander Mackenzie in 1874.

In addition to right-wing causes, the Donner Canadian Foundation uncontroversially supports a variety of activities by universities, conservation organizations, arts companies, international development NGOs and similar groups not known to have particular ideological leanings.

The Wikipedia entry on American philanthropist William Donner notes that after its establishment in 1950 the Donner Canadian Foundation’s activities were uncontroversial for 43 years. “In 1993, the conservative American Donner heirs who control the foundation changed its primary focus to that of supporting conservative research,” the article said. Since then, the Wikipedia added, the foundation’s emphasis has shifted back toward its traditional activities, although “it is still one of the most generous benefactors to the right in Canada.”

Mr. Lanigan said he expects SecondStreet.org to commence public operations by the beginning of March. Mainstream journalists who now treat the pronouncements of the CTF as reputable and unbiased are likely to cover commentary from SecondStreet.org in the same fashion.

11 Comments to: Donner Canadian Foundation, prominent funder of right-wing groups, helps bankroll new ‘think tank’ closely connected to CTF

  1. J.E. Molnar

    January 7th, 2019

    Excellent investigative reporting Mr. Climenhaga!!

    For years, the wealthy right-wing networks have used philanthropy to financially support the various Astro-Turf organizations, thereby erasing donor fingerprints. In turn, the highly suspect non-profit, non-partisan Astro-Turfers manufacture consent for the big business agenda and federal and provincial right-wing political parties, while at the same time merchandising doubt for progressive economic ideas designed to favour the middle class.

    The fact that mainstream journalists and editors (who rarely fact check these Astro-Turfer organizations) are complicit in this chicanery is a real threat to democracy and journalistic integrity/transparency. Again, thanks for the heads up and exposing this soon-to-be likely loathsome new Astro-Turf warrior.

    Reply
  2. pogo

    January 7th, 2019

    I’d wax poetic in my own “crippled literacy” way, about how relieved I was to read this! Not so much for the content, but for the confirmation that you’ve not been overcome. But my post is really only about how I (and many others in my cohort) need to trust that some elders know what’s happening!

    Reply
  3. ronmac

    January 7th, 2019

    Telling stories of everyday Canadians? How they’re being impacted by government policies? Wonder when Bernard the roughneck is going to put in an appearance?

    Reply
  4. John B.

    January 7th, 2019

    Why does it take so any of these libertarian knitting circles to get the job done? Maybe some of the staff and board members should try inhaling the atmosphere in a productive workplace for a change and let somebody from the Etch Test take a stab at the educational and charitable efforts.

    Reply
  5. Jerrymacgp

    January 8th, 2019

    So, while the OTRM* & the right-wing MSM go on in high dudgeon about foreign (read US-based) foundations contributing to environmental and other progressive organizations in Canada, these neo-Liberal machinations seem to go on unnoticed and unreported. So much for the media’s alleged “leftist bias”. You’d have to be so right-wing you’re practically a fascist to think Canadian mainstream media are progressive.

    *Online Tory Rage Machine: our host’s coinage for the right-wing trolls, bots, and occasionally even real people on social media that jump on every progressive idea as though it’s the end of freedom as we know it.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      January 8th, 2019

      I have often thought about this. The right is outraged at foreign environmentalists for donating money to Canadian environmental charities. The left is outraged at billionaires like the Koch Bros. donating money either directly or through cutouts to Canadian right-wing think tanks and politicians to achieve their goals. Everyone thinks their own side’s use of foreign cash is completely reasonable. It’s all basically legal and completely impossible to stop. What’s more, you can hardly blame environmentalists anywhere for trying to save the planet, or billionaires anywhere for looking after their class interests. It’s what they do. The United States is on the verge of a civil war at the thought the Russians manipulated their last presidential election (whether or not they actually did in any meaningful way), something that the U.S. Government has been doing for generations in every part of the world. Hey! Globalization is a fait accompli. No sense of irony or justice whatsoever. Maybe we’re just going to have to live with it, since there’s absolutely no way to stop it. Maybe the answer is to strengthen our democratic institutions, not weaken them. DJC

      Reply
  6. Farmer Brian

    January 9th, 2019

    On my favourite talk show the other day the CTF spokesman from B.C. was discussing the latest GHG output for the province quietly released by the government just before Christmas. This was for the year 2016, apparently it takes quite a long period of time to tabulate. It turns out that they increased 1.5% over 2015. In fact the emissions had increased 5 of the last 6 years. B.C. has always been held up as an example of a successful example of a carbon tax. Well thanks to the much hated CTF the fact that total emissions are not being reduced in B.C. by this much celebrated C02 tax is being brought to the publics attention. David I certainly appreciate you strong dislike of the CTF but I for one did appreciate their advocacy on this particular topic. And what you said at the end is certainly correct about each side being angry about where the funding comes from. Enjoy your day.

    Reply
    • George Lawrence

      January 11th, 2019

      I’ve read this blog for a while now, and I’d say that you and your “enjoy your day” should maybe take a good long look in the mirror. From where I sit (far afield) you should at the least, be considerate of some of the problems and the labels of others! Get a grip! You could easily end up promoting the travesty I and mine have to confront. Brexit. Welcome to being a nothing in the midst of a calamity!

      Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      January 12th, 2019

      Brian, over the years you have shown you have excellent ‘BS Detection’ skills, something I have learned the hard way. I do wish, however, you would use those skills and look critically at some of the ideas the right wing commentators are trying to spread. It would appear the CTF fellow on the radio was suggesting that the carbon tax caused the emissions to increase. This brings to mind some ludicrous scenarios like “Martha, the price of natural gas has gone up – lets turn up the heat!”

      Since that really isn’t likely to happen, it is probably more likely other factors pushed up the emissions, and the carbon tax only slowed the increase in emissions. In the BC case the increase in emissions is all but certainly a result of the increase in population.

      The link below shows the Government of BC’s reporting of their emissions in several contexts: total, per capita, and as a function of GDP. Overall, it shows a lot of good news on the reducing of greenhouse gas reductions in BC since they implemented the carbon tax in 2008, and the same website does report the 1.5% increase your CTF fellow mentioned. Taken overall, it appears the carbon tax has been quite successful, at reducing emissions; I would say your CTF fellow very judiciously cherry picked the data he wanted to make the case that the carbon tax does not reduce emissions.

      http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/soe/indicators/sustainability/ghg-emissions.html

      Sigh. I see the price of gasoline has really dropped. I guess my wife and I will have to cancel the driving trip we were planning.

      Reply
  7. Farmer Brian

    January 14th, 2019

    Bob always appreciate your comments. The interview I heard from the CTF said nothing about the carbon tax increasing emissions. The graph I looked at from Statscan show a good reduction in 2007 as well which was before the imposition of the carbon tax, the emissions were trending down before the tax. I appreciate as well your arguement that per capita emissions are decreasing but our commitments under the Paris accord are for total emissions not per capita emissions. Canada’s longest running C02 tax is in B.C. and in the last 5 years of reporting total emissions are on the rise, so that tells me that a carbon tax is really just a tax grab and not an effective way to lower emissions. B.C. has the highest gasoline prices in Canada and yet emissions are still climbing. You raise an interesting point about increased population. I have read commentary that Canada could easily support a population of 100 million by 2100. If you are correct that the emission increase is due to population increase how will Canada decrease its emissions while greatly increasing its population? Enjoy your day.

    Reply
    • St Albertan

      January 16th, 2019

      Have you wandered into a statistical trap? Have you not only failed to see the forest but you can’t conceive of a tree? I would say that exploding population will de-value per/cap metrics. I would also say that if there is or should be a panic button. Maybe worldwide, it should be birth control. Let’s make it free! Farmer Brian; are you in agreement that we should act, before our acts act on us? Is that a valid proposition in your quaint constituency? Do your lambs sleep well at night?

      Reply

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