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Political Activities & Lobbying

Canadian law does not recognize political purposes as charitable. Consequently, charities are not permitted to carry on political activities except to a very limited extent expressly provided for in the federal Income Tax Act (ITA). Without following the ITA provisions, a charity would jeopardize its charitable status by using its resources on political activities.

A charity may generally spend up to 10% of its resources on political activities that are ancillary and connected to its charitable purposes. The ITA does not define political activities, but Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) generally understands it to mean “any activity that explicitly communicates to the public that a law, policy, or decision of any level of government inside or outside of Canada should be retained, opposed, or changed.”

It is important to note that not all interactions with the government are political activities. However, it is clear that a Canadian charity may never be partisan by supporting or opposing a particular candidate or political party.

Note that lobbying activities (i.e., communications with public office holders) may overlap with political activities, but are not necessarily the same.

Lobbying is any communication with a public office holder 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. 

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