Vancouver-based left wing web zine is swept up in national debate on charity abuse
Concerns raised by the Prime Minister, as well as Ministers of his Cabinet and conservative political commentators are shaking up groups and organizations across Canada. Those especially hit hard are organizations with a direct relationship with the Tides Canada Foundation. On Monday, Sun TV Network commentator Ezra Levant took aim at a Vancouver-based web news and commentary source known for its left wing politics and uninterrupted attacks on the BC Liberals, Conservative Party and Non-Partisan Association, The Tyee.
Three years ago, City Caucus wrote about the money behind The Tyee. Here's what we found then:
Most are familiar with the roster of writers, but who are the people behind thetyee.ca? The Tyee Online Magazine was formerly registered as a numbered company (0773044 B.C. Ltd.) and is now listed in company records as a property of Countercurrent Media Ltd. with a mailing address in downtown Vancouver. Its two directors David Levi and Eric Peterson are among other things well-known for their relationship with the New Democratic Party. Company directors are not to be confused with owners, whose names are not disclosed in the company registration.
Although it took a company search to track down (the information was never available on their website), it was probably no great surprise that the big bucks behind David Beers' pro-NDP website was from deep-pocketed New Democrats. David Levi is a well-known NDP moneyman who manages investment funds for unions. Eric Peterson is a former software company CEO who sold his company to a European conglomerate and retired to Quadra Island. Peterson's household donated $10,000 to the federal NDP in 2005. Levi is the former CEO of Vancity credit union, and was once rumoured to be a potential mayoral candidate for Vision Vancouver.
The Tyee's connection to Tides Canada evolved as the magazine established two funds, ostensibly for journalism that qualified under Canada's Charities Act. The rules are indeed strict when it comes to applying charitable dollars in support of journalism. Writers would qualify for funding, for example, if they were students and not veteran journalists.
Tax receipted donations
At one time The Tyee's donations page was pretty simple. There was a page with a link to an online form to donate. You could choose to contribute to one of two funds through an online payment:
will provide fellowship grants to journalists researching under-reported social, economic, and environmental issues in BC and beyond.
will provide grants to writers telling inspiring stories of unsung innovators and leaders successfully tackling tough issues.
Here's the entire text from their old donate page:
With the generous help of readers, The Tyee continues to manage two charitable funds to support independent journalists. Please help us grow the funds by making a tax deductible donation through the links below. Learn more about the funds here.
One-time or monthly donations by cheque or credit card — use this form (PDF).
Credit card donations by phone — contact Rachel Rocco at Tides Canada Foundation, 604-647-6611 ext 616.
Other forms of donation are possible, such as planned gifts, donation of publicly traded shares, and more. To discuss any of these options, contact Rachel Rocco at Tides Canada Foundation: 604-647-6611 ext 616.
Now the link to TheTyee's donate page, once prominently displayed at the top of each page (as the graphic above reveals) is hidden from view. The link to the online "gift tool" donation form is now gone, and the page now has a large disclaimer at the top:
*** PLEASE NOTE: The Tyee is in the process of launching a brand new, non-charitable monthly giving program that allows readers to directly support our core reporting capacity. In the next few months, we will be slowly phasing out charitable donations to the fellowship fund.
If you have given to The Tyee's fellowships before, or are a current monthly donor, expect to be contacted in February 2012 with more information. If you are a first-time donor, or would like more information about the switch, please get in touch with our community manager, Shannon Smart, at 604-689-7489 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ***
As Levant points out in his video commentary, it's odd that the site would "phase out" a donations program that is subject to scrutiny by federal authorities rather than just end it outright. Apparently it was just easier to hide the link to the donate page, rather than take it down altogether.
In his own defense a blog post quoting Beers refutes Levant's money laundering accusations:
"I'd rather not respond to demagoguery, but false statements need to be corrected so here goes," said Tyee editor David Beers.
The page's byline credits "Tyee Staff" for the interview with Beers.
- post by Mike