Panel Recommends Charities Be Free to Engage in Public Policy Dialogue

Recently, the Minister of National Revenue (“MNR”), Diane Lebouthillier, released the Report of the Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities. The report was prepared by the Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities appointed by the Minister in 2016. As you recall, on September 27, 2016 the MNR launched a series of public consultations to clarify and modernize the rules regarding the involvement of charities in political activities. As part of this engagement process, the CRA received approximately 20,000 responses on various questions, including:

  • Does CRA policy help or hinder charities in advocating for their causes or for the people they serve?
  • Is the CRA’s policy guidance on political activities clear, useful, and complete?
  • Should changes be made to the rules governing political activities and, if so, what should those changes be?

Currently, registered charities are allowed to engage in non-partisan political activities within certain limits. They are not allowed to engage in partisan political activities. CRA’s current position on charities engaged in political activities is contained in Policy CPS-022, and resources for charities about political activities can be accessed here.

The report calls for changes to the current administrative and legislative framework governing what is currently termed “political activities” of charities. Specifically, the report suggests that a regulatory environment that respects and encourages charities’ participation in public policy dialogue and development is needed and is not currently the case. The consultation panel makes four recommendations relating to administrative and legislative changes to charity regulation:

  1. Revise the CRA’s administrative position and policy to enable charities to fully engage in public policy dialogue and development.

  2. Implement changes to the CRA’s administration of the ITA in the following areas: compliance and appeals, audits, and communication and collaboration to enhance clarity and consistency.

  3. Amend the ITA by deleting any reference to non-partisan “political activities” to explicitly allow charities to fully engage, without limitation, in non-partisan public policy dialogue and development, provided that it is subordinate to and furthers their charitable purposes.

  4. Modernize the legislative framework governing the charitable sector (ITA) to ensure a focus on charitable purposes rather than activities and adopt an inclusive list of acceptable charitable purposes to reflect current social and environmental issues and approaches.

The full report, which can be accessed here, provides more detailed and specific recommendations relating to the foregoing recommendations.

Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.