Where the parties stand on charities’ political activities

By The Toronto Star, 14 September 2015

The Conservatives have no plan to change their tune on the issue of modernizing the tax rules governing how much registered charities can take part in debates on public policy, according to a new report on the issue.

However, both the NDP and the Greens have committed to updating the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rules, while the Liberals have promised to clarify them, the report said. (...)

The Conservative government has been scrutinizing the charitable sector to see how many registered charities devoting more of their time and resources to political activities — not to be confused with partisan activity, which is banned — than the 10 per cent allowed under existing tax regulations.

The CRA launched a series of audits into charitable organizations engaged in political activities in 2012, and many of the charities that have been critical of Conservative government policy see an ideological motivation behind whose books are chosen for a second look.

The CRA has denied this accusation repeatedly.

The group of organizations, which are calling for calling on the federal government to modernize the Canada Revenue Agency rules, asked each of the five major political parties to outline their positions on updating the rules determining political activity, arguing that an apparent recent change in interpretation is having a chilling effect on the work of the charitable sector. (...)

The NDP and the Green Party both committed to updating the laws to allow registered charities to continue participating in public policy debates.

The Liberals have committed to clarifying the rules, rather than changing them, but said the clarification should affirm and support that role.

The Bloc Québécois did not respond.

Neither did the Conservatives, but the report cited a statement a spokesman for National Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay had emailed The Canadian Press for a story on the topic in May.

“The department, and the department alone, is responsible for interpreting the rules laid out in the Income Tax Act as they pertain to charities,” said the statement from Carter Mann.

The Conservative campaign said Monday it stands by that statement. (...)

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Image: RICK MADONIK / TORONTO STAR

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