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Trudeau Funnels $840,000 to Guilbeault’s Old Organization

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The Trudeau government finds itself embroiled in controversy yet again over allegations of misusing taxpayer funds to benefit allied interests. The latest case centers on a series of questionable grants to the environmental group Equiterre, an organization with close ties to Liberal cabinet minister Steven Guilbeault. 

This incident is part of a pattern of accusations that public money has improperly flowed to third-party groups whose agendas align with and amplify Liberal policies. The cozy arrangements allow the government to effectively outsource promotion of its agenda by funding sympathetic organizations like Equiterre. 

However, it raises serious ethical concerns about partisan bias influencing the allocation of taxpayer resources. As details emerge about Equiterre lobbying against Canadian industries while accepting government largesse, it provides further evidence that politics rather than merit drives funding decisions under the Liberals’ watch. 

With questions swirling, the Trudeau government faces mounting pressure to open the books and prove grants are awarded fairly, not just to friendly allies. The Equiterre grants may represent another black mark on the Liberals’ commitment to ethical government.

Yet again, the Trudeau government stands accused of funneling taxpayer money to groups that advance their political agenda. The latest case involves substantial grants to the environmental group Equiterre, which has extensive ties to current Liberal Minister Steven Guilbeault.

Public records show that Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada or the ISED, formerly the Department of Industry, gave Equiterre at least 4 separate grants totaling $840,000 since January 2019. All while Steven Guilbeault was on his way to becoming a Liberal Member of Parliament.

The timeline of events raises troubling questions about political favoritism and misuse of public funds.

Steven Guilbeault was a founder and longtime head of Equiterre until he resigned in October 2018. His departure was widely seen as preparation for a run for office with the federal Liberals. Guilbeault had been considered the presumptive Liberal candidate for months leading up to his official nomination in June 2019.

Yet as soon as Guilbeault positioned himself within the Liberal party, taxpayer money began flowing to the group he had led until just recently.

In May 2019, with Guilbeault now the Liberal candidate for Laurier-Sainte Marie, ISED provided Equiterre with a $250,000 grant for consumer advocacy work.

This was just the first of at least 4 payments from ISED to Equiterre over the next 3 years, ultimately totaling $840,000. All while Steven Guilbeault sat as a Liberal MP, and eventually a cabinet minister whose portfolio includes oversight of ISED.

The grants were uncovered by Conservative MP Arpan Khanna, who requested data on all government funding to advocacy groups since 2019. Equiterre’s name predictably emerged near the top.

Beyond the obvious conflict with Guilbeault’s connections, Equiterre engages in activism and lobbying directly at odds with Canada’s economic interests. They campaign aggressively against fossil fuel usage and major industries like plastics manufacturing. Policies which are perfectly aligned with the Trudeau government agenda.

Equiterre is currently running letter-writing campaigns to remove natural gas from homes. They lobby municipal governments to halt gas infrastructure and new hookups. This despite natural gas heating remaining the most affordable option for many low-income Canadians.

They also pressure aggressively for bans on gas-powered vehicles, seeking to force Canadians into costly electric options. Equiterre further lobbies against plastics, a $14 billion industry.

The group hardly seems a worthy recipient for hundreds of thousands in taxpayer funding. But their environmental activism aligns perfectly with the Liberals’ green agenda.

In essence, the Trudeau government is paying lobbyists to further policies they were already keen to implement. Canadians are funding their own activist opposition.

It gets worse. While Steven Guilbeault was still leading Equiterre, the group participated in an anti-Canadian industry lobbying tour in Europe. As part of a March 2017 delegation with the Council of Canadians, Equiterre traveled to Europe to lobby against Canadian oil and gas.

Why is the Canadian government now bankrolling a group that went abroad to undermine Canadian industry? The hypocrisy is jarring.

Handing nearly a million dollars to your former organization is already questionable on ethical grounds. Doing so when they lobby against the country’s interests is indefensible.

But for the Trudeau Liberals, it seems politics trumps principle. Funneling taxpayer money to aligned eco-activists helps further their agenda, regardless of the rationale.

The Equiterre grants also showcase the worrying trend of governments bankrolling third-party groups to effectively outsource policy promotion. By funding activists aligned with their ideology, the Liberals get others to do their political dirty work.

The Equiterre situation echoes similar concerns over Liberal political use of the CBC. The public broadcaster has received increasingly lavish funding from the Trudeau government, which it has used to amplify aligned perspectives.

Much like Equiterre, the CBC provides a convenient avenue for Liberals to further their agenda without being the public face. By subsidizing the CBC’s operations, the government helps ensure coverage supportive of Liberal policies and talking points.

Another example of this is the Sustainable Development Technology Canada, or the SDTC agency. Its former chair Annette Verschuren admitted providing pandemic aid to SDTC portfolio companies she had ties to.

Like Equiterre, SDTC advocates for policies aligned with the Liberal agenda.

In each case, the worry is over fairness, transparency, and proper use of public funds. Money flows to groups whose activities prop up Liberal electoral interests, rather than based on merit.

Subsidizing allies allows the Liberals to benefit politically while keeping some distance from the actual lobbying. It provides a veneer of grassroots support for policies the government wanted anyway.

But engineering such pseudo-grassroots backing using taxpayer funds is unethical. Real movements arise organically, not through governments astroturfing a chorus of friendly voices.

In all these cases, the root concern is the same. Money flows not based on public benefit or fairness, but furthering the Liberal brand. It entrenches political favoritism in Canada’s institutions.

Looking deeper, the Liberal affinity for outsourcing advocacy may reveal even more troubling motives. Why has the government become so reliant on third parties promoting their agenda?

It likely speaks to the fact that the Trudeau Liberals’ own efforts at persuading Canadians are falling short. Their policies are so flawed and unconvincing on the merits that manufactured support becomes necessary.

Agencies like Equiterre help create the illusion of grassroots activism where none exists. The Liberals can cite supporters calling for the policies Canadians have already rejected. Their failure to persuade citizens is mitigated by paying allies to make the same arguments.

For the Liberals, funding friendly groups also allows punishing opponents without getting their own hands dirty. Equiterre’s anti-oil and gas activism helps throttle the industry, pleasing eco-extremists in the Liberal caucus. The government advances radical goals without having to take the heat directly.

Ultimately, the proliferation of groups bankrolled to echo government talking points corrodes democratic discourse. Canadians end up hearing amplified messages supporting one ideology, rather than organic debate. Astroturf activism squeezes out views that differ from the Liberals.

In the case of Equiterre, Canadians got lectured by Liberal-funded activists that cars and heating they rely on daily are now unacceptable. The same activists lobby against industries crucial to the economy because they hinder Liberal green dreams.

Rather than expend effort convincing Canadians, the Liberals use grants to circumvent public opinion. Their policies fail to win hearts and minds, so public money is deployed as mass persuasion.

Canadians end up funding the case against their own interests. The Liberals subcontract their lobbying through ideological allies.

The Equiterre scandal is just the latest case highlighting this corrosive approach. Until the practice ends, questions will keep swirling around Liberal funding of politically aligned groups. Public money should serve the public interest, not partisan advantage.

Steven Guilbeault’s web of relationships with Equiterre raises reasonable suspicion about political favoritism in granting taxpayer funds to lobby groups. The over $800,000 in grants to Equiterre, an organization Guilbeault had founded, from ISED, a department he now oversees, creates troubling conflicts of interest.

Equiterre’s anti-oil and gas activism also clashes with Canada’s economic interests. This group went abroad to undermine Canadian industry while Guilbeault was in charge. Now the same group cashes big checks from the government he helps lead. The whole arrangement reeks of cronyism.

Canadians are right to demand answers on why ISED chose to bankroll Equiterre’s lobbying efforts under Guilbeault’s watch. The grants undermine trust in fair and merit-based funding decisions.

Guilbeault and the Liberals owe Canadians an explanation on the questionable Equiterre funding. All dealings with the group under Guilbeault should face thorough scrutiny.

Full transparency and accountability measures are needed to root out any political favoritism in grant allocations. No organization should profit simply due to friendly ties with the party in power.

Until the Liberals can demonstrate arm’s length processes devoid of partisan bias, skepticism will linger around grants to vocal supporters. Stonewalling will only fuel suspicion of backroom deals and ethical shortcuts.

If the Liberals truly care about integrity in government, they will voluntarily open the books on Equiterre. A commitment to ethics begins with acknowledging and addressing conflicts of interest early, not concealing them for political gain.

Canadians expect better stewardship of their hard earned tax dollars than the carelessness and cronyism on display in this latest Liberal scandal.

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