Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from or is supported by grassroots participants.
Doesn’t that sound like it was written for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF)?
For those hiding under a rock, The Canadian Taxpayers Federation was created in 1990 and bills itself as a “not-for-profit citizen’s group dedicated to lower taxes, less waste and accountable government.”. They claim to have as many as 140,000+ supporters across Canada and receive a large amount of attention from Canadian journalists.
Given Canadian media’s reliance on canned quotes and feigned outrage by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, there are some basic questions that I have about this supposed taxpayer federation that claims to represent Canadians.
You have to ask yourself this question, would these federations and advocacy groups exist without big business or conservative think tanks? One only has to look at the connection of the Fraser Institute to the tobacco industry in the United States to find this answer. This is no less true of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and its connection to the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco, a group widely perceived by anti-tobacco activists as a tobacco industry front. How is this grassroots political participation?
How can a group that has only six members claim to speak for the Canadian taxpayer? If you sign up as a supporter – many people who sign up with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation are operating under the assumption that they are members of the group. But try asking the federation for a copy of their audited financial statements. As a member, you should have a right to see those statements, but you will be told that the only ‘members’ are the members of the board of directors themselves.
How can a taxpayer federation demand accountability and transparency from Canadian politicians, when their financial statements and disclosures can be written on a cocktail napkin? How can you trust an advocate for transparency in government who refuses to be transparent about its own financial affairs?
I would love to shake the financial tree of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and see who falls out. I am certain the who’s who of extreme right wing ideological organizations would be included in their donors.
Why do journalists continue to legitimize this group by using them as a source without asking the very basic questions of conservative bias, foreign funding, transparency, and membership as it pertains to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. This is yet another example of convenience outweighing the public’s right to know, and is yet another failure on behalf of mainstream journalism in Canada.
I think it is time for a deep dive journalistic investigation to expose the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and take a lawnmower to the astroturf.