Feds to allow charities to engage in political, but not partisan, activity

The plan is to allow charities to pursue political activities

The federal government is appealing an Ontario court ruling striking down limits on the political activities of charities while saying it will introduce legislation this fall to eliminate those limits.

Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier says there were significant errors of law in the July 16 ruling that require an appeal despite the legislative plans. Lebouthillier says the decision created uncertainty and the government wants clarification.

Nonetheless, this fall the government will change the Income Tax Act to lift a restriction that prevents a registered charity from spending more than 10 per cent of its resources on political activities. The plan is to allow charities to pursue political activities, such as lobbying a government in favour of a particular policy, while continuing to bar partisan activities, such as campaigning for a specific party or donating money to them.

The Liberals campaigned on a promise to modernize rules for charities and not-for-profits following an audit program launched by the former Conservative government that critics said was politically motivated to go after charities working at odds with government policies. As many as 60 charities had their books audited to look for violations of the 10 per cent rule, and several were warned their ability to issue tax receipts for donations was in jeopardy.

RELATED: New York sues Trump over use of charitable foundation

Canada Without Poverty took the government to court after being told in 2016 it was going to lose registered status. The decision from the Superior Court of Ontario found the 10-per-cent limit was a violation of the right to free expression and that charities like Canada Without Poverty need to engage in political activity such as meeting with cabinet ministers.

A spokesman for Lebouthillier said Thursday some parts of the decision could have implications beyond charities’ political work, and that’s why the case is being appealed despite plans to amend the law.

Those concerns could include whether the case would mean the government must provide charitable status to any group that requests it without limits, and whether there is a constitutional right to charitable status.

RELATED: NHL all-stars replace West Kelowna boy’s stolen jersey

The federal appeal of the decision is troubling, said Leilani Farha, executive director of Canada Without Poverty.

Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, applauded the federal move to change the law, adding he thinks the court decision propelled the legislative action. Last spring Gray came away from a meeting with Finance Minister Bill Morneau fearing the government was in no rush to modify the law.

“I think the court case made a big impact,” said Gray, whose organization spent about $200,000 on legal fees to deal with a federal audit and a warning it would lose charitable status.

The Liberals launched a review of the charities audit program, and a 2017 report recommended deleting any reference to political activities for charities. The government suspended the audits during the review and Gray says he was told the legislation would be retroactive, meaning any audits that found charities did exceed the 10 per cent limit would become moot.

The charity audits had a chilling effect on donors who were attaching strict limits to the uses of their funds, and added to the work of charities to account for how they spent individual donations, Gray said.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Nathan Cullen named Parliamentarian of the Year

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP won the top-title Nov. 5

On the Wing: Arriving without fanfare in the high tide

By Margo Hearne As November rolls along we remember the birds of… Continue reading

Oversoaked crab traps shows need for shared authority: Kitasoo Guardians

Any longer and the crab are likely to die and go to waste.

New Coast Guard radar boosts marine traffic monitoring off B.C. coast

Six radar installations set up for Georgia Strait to Queen Charlotte Strait to Prince Rupert

Port post office delivers a thank-you to first responders

Commemerative stamps honour firefighters, police, SAR teams, paramedics, and armed forces

Saving salmon: B.C. business man believes hatcheries can help bring back the fish

Tony Allard worked with a central coast First Nation to enhance salmon stocks

High-end B.C. house prices dropping, but no relief at lower levels

But experts say home ownership remains out of reach for many for middle- and lower-income families

Worker killed in collision at B.C. coal mine

Vehicle collision occurred at approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Canadian dead more than a week after plane crash in Guyana: Global Affairs

Global Affairs said it couldn’t provide further details on the identity of the Canadian citizen

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

Most Read