If you have followed the WE Charity scandal one of the major concerns is the lack of transparency with Canadian registered charities.   That is not to say that a charity cannot be transparent, but the legally required transparency for registered charities is lacking in Canada.   WE Charity is a Federal Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act (“CNCA”) corporation that is a registered charity under the Income Tax Act.

I have heard from so many people that we need more transparency in the charitable sector – but unfortunately, a certain group is pushing hard at reducing transparency and they are being quite successful.   As noted recently, the CRA has just removed any requirement for a Canadian charity to report on non-partisan political activities, what are now called PPDDAs.  The CRA had already reduced the requirement on the T3010 filing answering whether your charity conducts PPDDAs and then asking for a one paragraph description of those activities.  Now CRA has eliminated even that from the T3010.   This means that a charity can spend as much as they want on PPDDAs and they don’t even have to tick a box or fill in one paragraph description each year.

What was dark, and dark money in some cases, is now even darker.   This will not save charities a lot of time – only about 500 – 600 charities were putting down that they did political activities or now PPDDAs – but the removal of the question and paragraph will mean that the public will have far less visibility as to what certain charities are doing.  BTW the vast majority of these descriptions if you read them are anything but controversial and there is a lot to say about the importance of charities conducting some political activities but now that the flood gates are open and charities can spend unlimited resources on political activities it is unfortunate that at that very time CRA decided to remove all transparency on PPDDAs.

Whether we have less or more transparency is a choice.  If charities want to be viewed as an important sector of society, which I really think they are, there should not be a reluctance to be transparent.   But most importantly if charities want to have public trust transparency is vital.  When Canadians have been surveyed on the importance of transparency of charities they say it is important and more is needed.

We are going straight into the “giving season” 2020 and you would think that the sector and the main charity regulator would want to be assuring the public of the importance of transparency AND that the filings show that information – instead we have the T3010 reduced to 9 pages – with most charities only having to fill in about 4 pages.    We are so out of whack with the extensive requirements that other countries have.  We are also out of whack with providing far more extensive tax benefits for donations to charities than others, such as the US.

Donald Trump will hopefully be leaving office in January.   Donald Trump, and his agenda, benefited tremendously from dark money and a small number of very wealthy philanthropists.  Now we know, actually we knew many years ago, that dark money and charities can really come close to destroying a country.

We are taking a huge risk in Canada if we think that the $260 billion charity sector is unimportant, can only be a force for good and we don’t need transparency on the 86,000 Canadian registered charities.