Free Societies

Atlas Network partners successfully hold back authoritarian responses to pandemic in Canada, US, Mexico, Spain, and Burundi

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Thanks to your generous support, Atlas Network is able to provide grant funding to groups around the world that are making a difference in the cause of individual liberty and economic agency. Below are just a few highlights of the work our partners have done in recent months.

Canadian Constitution Foundation

In 2018, the Canadian Parliament revived the outdated Canada Elections Act. Within the refreshed law was Section 91, which sought to halt the spread of misinformation during federal elections. The section gave unelected officials the power to fine or even imprison Canadians for posting or sharing information on social media which the government deemed false. Under this law, it was irrelevant whether the poster believed the information to be true or not. This statute was in clear violation of both the fundamental right to free expression and the Canadian Constitution.

Atlas Network partner Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) recognized the law as a threat to liberty and challenged Section 91 in court. Alongside their litigation, CCF initiated a media campaign to draw public attention to the issue. Despite the difficulty in generating publicity over the all-consuming COVID-19 media cycle—and the fact that at that time federal elections were expected to be two years away—they earned more than 30 media pieces on radio, TV, and in print. They also saw success in a social media campaign, reaching more than 40,000 people. CCF’s email list doubled in size during 2020, due both to the organization’s challenge to Section 91 and their opposition to bad COVID-19 policies.

Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice took up the case in September 2020, and in February 2021 the court declared that Section 91 was in violation of the Canadian Constitution and was “of no force and effect.” Before the statue could even be put into effect during an election, the Canadian Constitution Foundation succeeded in having it struck down. This was an important victory for all Canadians and their right to freedom of speech.

Atlas Network supported this project with a grant.

México Evalúa

Atlas Network partner México Evalúa is a stalwart defender of competition and free enterprise in Mexico, particularly when it comes to the energy sector. In June 2020, a legislator put forward a proposal to merge several regulatory agencies into a single bureau responsible for overseeing telecommunications, economic competition, and energy. México Evalúa recognized this idea as a threat to both accountability and transparency for the government.

México Evalúa launched a campaign to stop the proposal before it could advance. They published a statement in both English and Spanish, placed several opinion pieces, and utilized social media and local and national outlets to get the word out. To build momentum, they also sought partnerships with other groups that understood the potentially disastrous effects of the proposal. Just a few weeks after its proposal, the sponsoring senator withdrew the initiative, and there has been no other movement to revive it. This preemptive victory will help keep the Mexican government honest and protect Mexican taxpayers and energy consumers.

Atlas Network supported this initiative with a grant.

Fundación para el Avance de la Libertad

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a bumper crop of bad government policies. In Spain, this included the spread of rent-control regulations. As cities began to explore and adopt rent caps and the national housing bureaucracy moved to push that agenda further, Atlas Network partner Fundación para el Avance de la Libertad—or Fundalib for short—decided to push back.

Around 97% of rental properties in Spain are owned by middle-income earners, meaning price caps on rent can have a devastating effect both on everyday families and the housing stock. Intended to reduce poverty, this policy would only have the opposite effect. Fundalib acted quickly to produce research on the harm rent caps would do and distribute it to the leadership of cities across the country. They also pursued a media campaign to draw attention to the issue, and they were remarkably successful, despite attempts by mainstream media to shut down their counter-narrative.

As a result of Fundalib’s efforts, two important regions—Madrid and Basque Country—decided not to pursue a rent cap policy, and the national housing ministry issued a statement that they would not push the policy further. Fundalib’s success protects the rights and livelihoods of both renters and rental property owners in Spain.

Atlas Network supported this campaign with a grant.

Centre for Development and Enterprises Great Lakes

On top of an already impressive set of wins, Centre for Development and Enterprises Great Lakes’ Fungua Njia—or “Open Road” project—can add another policy success to its list. In an effort to allow small and medium enterprises to get off the ground, Atlas Network’s partner laid out the case for a tax code revision.

Starting a business is difficult enough without the added burden of high taxes. As entrepreneurs and small businesses are essential for a healthy economy, Centre for Development and Enterprises Great Lakes (CDE) saw that lowering taxes on these endeavors was a powerful tool for reducing poverty. CDE made their case, and lawmakers were convinced. They reduced taxes—especially the Value Added Tax—on small and medium enterprises, making it easier for them to get off the ground during the difficult early stages of operation. This is another impressive win for Atlas Network’s Burundian partner CDE, and a critical step toward eliminating poverty in Africa. CDE has been named a finalist for the 2021 Templeton Freedom Award for their Fungua Njia project.

Atlas Network supported this project with a grant.

Commonwealth Foundation

A U.S.-based partner—the Commonwealth Foundation—achieved a victory for the rule of law and constitutionalism in their home state of Pennsylvania. Many governors around the country have taken extreme measures to combat COVID-19, often cutting legislatures out of the process. Pennsylvania’s governor used emergency declarations to wield substantial unilateral power, flaunting the rule of law, and concerning the Commonwealth Foundation.

As part of a broader response to COVID-19 policies, they initiated a massive media campaign to convince legislators and voters to amend the state constitution to ensure legislative involvement in emergency declarations. Legislators were convinced by Commonwealth Foundation’s arguments and passed the amendment the required two times before sending it to voters. Pennsylvania voters approved the amendment in May of this year. In recognition of their excellent work, State Policy Network chose Commonwealth Foundation as the recipient of the 2021 Communications Excellence Award.

Atlas Network supported this COVID-19 response with a grant.