Updated July 29, 2014: see postscript
Under the title of “the Granddaddy of Government Scandals,” FreeThePressCanada has made the effort to connect ARPA Canada to Canada’s Federal government. ARPA is cited a whopping 95 times in this report, all in an effort to uncover this “scandal” of Christians using their democratic freedom to communicate their views with their government officials. Unfortunately, the author didn’t take the time to fact-check, nor even give us the courtesy of a phone call to clear up her big questions and allegations. If she had, it might have made for a rather boring report. Here are just a few corrections to the many factual errors in the report:
- The report relies on “Zoominfo” to confirm that ARPA has an office right in Parliament! Zoominfo gathers information from the web the way that search engines do, and automatically creates a web presence for organizations whether the data was verified or not. The webpage has zero credibility. (To put this in perspective, a journalist who cites Zoominfo as a credible source is doing worse than a Ph.D. candidate citing Wikipedia in her thesis.) Had the author of this report actually gone to the address that we list publicly on our website she would have found the address for our 12’X12′ rented office in Ottawa. And had she talked to us, she would have learned that our Executive Director is not based in West Virginia. There happens to be a Smithers in Canada as well.
- The report argues “When 70 lobbyists were given special, extended and private access to MP’s and senators, at the very least it represented an unaccountable playing field.” She is referring to our most recent conference in Ottawa that we call God & Government. Close to 70 reps from local ARPA groups came to Parliament and met with MPs and Senators. They were volunteers – ordinary citizens – many of whom have never done anything like this. They worked for weeks, even months, to book their own meetings. In other words, they are a role-model to other Canadians when it comes to a healthy democracy. Instead of complaining about what was going on in Ottawa, they went to Ottawa to both encourage and share their concerns with government officials. How is this a problem? Indeed, many other organizations (the LGBTQ community, the environmentalism community, the small business community) do the exact same thing: grassroots lobby days are a regular occurrence on the Hill.
- The report notes that the vast majority of ARPA’s works is lobbying. The reality is that lobbying makes up a small part of what we do. Our primary mission is equipping the Reformed church community to be politically aware and engaged, to be a salt and light in the public square.
- The author points to a reference about a “Stephen Woodworth tour” as an example of inappropriate dealings with the federal government. Mr. Woodworth did a tour in Alberta to promote his private member’s motion about pre-born human life. He hosted town hall forums to discuss it and local ARPA groups helped organize a few of these. Again, this is what all Canadians should be doing – it is what makes democracy thrive. What exactly is the problem?
- The report notes that our lobbying does not mesh with regulations that govern the activities of non-profits. That is false. In fact, ARPA is publicly listed as a lobbyist on the Commissioner of Lobbyists website. We are open and transparent about that fact. Furthermore, ARPA is not a charitable organization (which are restricted in their political activities). We don’t get a penny of government support nor can we offer tax receipts. If we are not free to lobby or engage in politics, what does that say about the health of democracy?
The blogger may be fearful and suspicious about a Christian contribution to the Canadian public square. But she should not infer that such a contribution is a scandal or in any way illegal. All Canadians have the freedom to share their convictions with their elected officials. That’s what a pluralistic democracy is all about. It may be popular to dream up conspiracy theories about the influence of Christians in government, but it is sadly unfounded. Never in the history of our nation has a faith-based perspective been as unwelcome as it is today.
Postscript (July 29, 2014):
We apologize to the author of the original blog poster, Ms Amy MacPherson, for originally noting that the following comment had been sent to her blog as a comment. When we checked our email records between staff we realized that we had run it by each other but not actually submitted it to the blog. We are sorry for only posting it on our site and not on her blog, and tweeting that it was posted on her blog. We stand by everything that we have written, both in this response and in the posting below, and we also welcome Ms. MacPherson to have a tour of our Ottawa office with our Legal Counsel or call our Executive Director at the toll free number on our website.
Thank you Amy for looking at the role of faith-based organizations in public life. As the Executive Director of the organization that you referenced 95 times in this post, I respectfully point out that much of what you have written is factually incorrect or misleading and could have been remedied with a simple phone call. Yes, ARPA has an office in Ottawa, and yes it is close to Parliament (in the Regus suites). We also communicate with Parliamentarians. And we whole heartedly encourage all Canadians to do the same – this is a democracy after all. We would be happy to sit down with you and go over what you have written with a view to upholding the truth. Assuming you are based in Ottawa, you are invited to tour our Ottawa office and meet with our legal counsel André Schutten there for coffee. If you can’t come to our Ottawa office then just call me at the toll free number on our website.