PMO accused of threatening environmental group

A man dismissed from his job recently by an environmental organization is claiming that the charitable group that funds it was threatened by the Prime Minister's Office.

Allegations denied by government spokesman

A man dismissed from his job recently by an environmental organization is claiming that the charitable group that funds it was threatened by the Prime Minister's Office.

In an affidavit, Andrew Frank claims that in early January his then-boss told him and others that the PMO had told Tides Canada CEO Ross McMillan that it  considered ForestEthics to be an "enemy of the state."

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office denied Frank's claims.

"The PMO denies making any of the statements referenced in the reports," Andrew MacDougall said.

Tides Canada supports a wide variety of projects in the social and environmental fields. One of the groups it provides support to is ForestEthics, which is among those opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline project from Alberta to B.C.

ForestEthics has been working to get people to address a National Energy board review of the Northern Gateway project. Some 4,000 people are due to appear before the hearings.

The Northern Gateway pipeline has become a flashpoint in recent weeks. Earlier this month, just before public hearings on the proposed pipeline began, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver took aim at foreign funding going to environment groups. He said there are "environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade."

In his affidavit, which is dated Jan. 23, Frank said that during the meeting his now-former supervisor, Pierre Iachetti, "related that Ross McMillan was given a set period by the Prime Minister's Office by which to 'cut loose' ForestEthics, or the government would 'take down' all of Tides' charitable projects."

Andrew Frank's allegations are contained in an affidavit. (CBC)

Frank said Iachetti told him and the others in the meeting that ForestEthics "was attempting to find ways to survive financially as an organization with the realization that we were likely about to lose our charitable funding."

"The assumption was that Mr. McMillan had already decided to dissolve ForestEthics' public work in criticizing the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway oil tanker and pipeline plan, in order to save the rest of Tides' charitable projects."

Frank also claims he heard corroboration of the statement made by the Prime Minister's Office from other officials at Tides and ForestEthics. 

Frank was dismissed Monday from his post as senior communications manager at ForestEthics over his plans to go public with his allegations of government threats.

In a written statement, Tides Canada CEO Ross McMillan said pipeline projects are major public policy issues.

"All voices should be heard," he said. "Open, informed and honest debate is what makes Canada a great, prosperous and democratic country. On that point, we agree with Mr. Frank."

However, McMillan said his group does not talk about its conversations with government, partners, the private sector or other parties, "just as we don't make public internal discussion with projects and grantees."

"But I will say that Mr. Frank did not take part in any conversations we've had with government and his account of our conversations with government is inaccurate," he said.

Tzeporah Berman, a co-founder of ForestEthics, said the group couldn't discuss the specific conversations Frank referred to in his affidavit, adding that the organization doesn't have direct confirmation from the government on the statements.

 Berman also said ForestEthics and Tides "will continue to be in conversation about our relationship."