Canadian charities are permitted to engage in political activities that further a charitable purpose. Known as public policy dialogue and development activities (“PPDDA” or “P2D2A”), these generally involve seeking to influence the laws, policies or decisions of a government, whether in Canada or a foreign country.
As long as a charity’s PPDDAs are carried on in furtherance of its stated charitable purpose(s), the Income Tax Act allows a charity to devote up to 100% of its total resources to PPDDAs. The categories of charitable purpose remain the same (i.e. relief of poverty, advancing education, advancing religion, other purposes beneficial to the community) and cannot themselves refer to influencing laws, policies or decisions of a government.
PPDDAs further a charitable purpose where they both relate to the stated charitable purpose and provide a benefit to the public. They can include providing information in order to inform or persuade the public in regards to public policy; research, including its distribution through the media; disseminating opinions; advocacy; mobilization; representations; providing forums and convening discussions; and social media communication.
Charities are still prohibited from supporting or opposing a particular candidate or political party, whether directly or indirectly.
Charities also need to be aware of other federal, provincial or municipal requirements that might apply to these types of activities such as lobbying. Lobbying activities (i.e., communications with public officeholders) may overlap with PPDDAs, but are not necessarily the same.
Lobbying is any communication with a public officeholder by a paid person (not a volunteer) with the intention to introduce, develop, amend, or defeat any legislation, bill, resolution, regulation, policy or program; or to award any grant, contribution, or financial benefit. Compliance with the federal Lobbying Act is required when a federal public office holder is lobbied.