Political Activity by Charities: Report from the Consultation Panel

The panel which reviewed political activities by charities released its report at the end of March, offering  four recommendations to the Minister of National Revenue.  One of these recommendations calls for revising the CRA’s  administrative position and policy to enable charities to fully engage in public policy dialogue and development. The report says this will improve the quality of public policy dialogue and development in Canada, while still prohibiting charities  from engaging in partisan political activities.

In light of the report, Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier asked on May 4 for the CRA to suspend all  remaining audits and objections under the Political Activities Audit Program. The report found this program had resulted in a “chill” on charities’ public policy and advocacy activities.  The CUC welcomes this news.

“The panel listened to the thousands of recommendations from charities and individuals, and the conclusions of the report are very much in line with CUC recommendations”, said Executive Director Vyda Ng.

Imagine Canada, the national umbrella organization for the charitable and non-profit sector, also welcomes the report’s recommendations.

“Whether it was written submissions, or in-person consultations across Canada, the message from charities was overwhelming”, said President and CEO Bruce MacDonald  “The current rules are confusing and difficult to interpret, and broad reform is preferable to administrative tinkering”.

While the CUC supports the action the Minister has taken, we recognize this is just the first of many actions needed to ensure we and other charitable organizations are free to engage in the vital work of public policy dialogue and development. The report recommends changes to the Income Tax Act to remove any restrictions on non-partisan political activities and shift the focus from charities’ activities to their purposes. The government says it is reviewing the report before making an official.

We encourage you to write your MPs and tell them you support the government’s suspension of political audits, and that implementing the report’s recommendations will benefit Canada’s non-profit sector and Canadian public policy.

See information about the consultation process and the report from the Consultation Panel here.