Stephen Harper's CRA: Selective audits, "political" activity, and right-leaning charities

By the Broadbent Institute, October 2014

Charities are a vital part of Canadian society. From poverty relief to environmental research, from the dangers of smoking to the relative merits of different salt levels in food, Canadian charities continue to make invaluable contributions to the health and welfare of the country. 

By law, Canadian charities must be non-partisan and are limited to spending 10% of their resources on political activity. They are obligated to document and report this activity to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in their yearly tax filings. 

Of late, derisive government remarks about the work of environmental charities, and audits of charities known to be critical of government policies, have raised the prospect of a creeping politicization of the CRA’s work. This has called into question the motivation behind its scrutiny of certain groups over others, given that many charities (environmental, human rights, anti-poverty) being audited have disagreed with policies of the Conservative government. 

This report provides evidence suggesting biased scrutiny of charities that are critical of the government by the CRA. Highlighting a pattern of claiming 0% political activity, it also raises questions about the accuracy of the filings of 10 right-leaning charities to the CRA with respect to their interpretation of the CRA’s definition of “political” activity. 

Given this mounting evidence suggesting that CRA audits are being used as a politicized tool to exert pressure on critics of the government, we are calling for an independent inquiry into its processes to ensure transparency and fairness in its decision-making criteria around political-activity audits, and to ensure such processes are not subject to political interference. (...)

To read the report in full, click the link below.