Interesting article by Press Progress on the True North Centre for Public Policy

October 18, 2019 | By: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Mark Blumberg
Topics: Political Activities and Canadian charities, Transparency

Press Progress has written an article entitled Right-Wing Media Outlet Accredited For Leaders’ Debate is Also Registered as a Charity for Immigrants.  It is worth reading.  It is nice to see more media outlets using the T3010 information and also www.CharityData.ca as well as putting up source documents on the internet. 

When Trudeau changed the ITA in late 2018 to allow charities to spend 100% of their resources on public policy dialogue and development activities (PPDDA) it means that charities, both "left", "right" and "centre" registered charities, can spend 100% of their resources on PPDDAs! Yes not 10%, 20% or 49% but 100%.  Yes that means that a registered charity does not actually have to do any charitable work - the Liberals have just redefined certain political activities as being charitable.  PPDDA is similar to non-partisan political activities under the old rules.   Charities are still not allowed to support or oppose a candidate or political party.  

So a registered charity cannot say it supports Maxime Bernier, because that would be a partisan activity, but a charity with the right legal objects might be able to say Canada would be a better country if we only had a more vigorous immigration application system that only allows in 200 immigrants per year!   Sounds like we might be going back to the 1940s when "none is too many".

Lots of charities are run by people who are 'right-wing' and those involved with them may oppose abortion, oppose immigration, oppose equality initiatives, oppose taxation and oppose any gun control.  So with Trudeau's recent changes to the Income Tax Act it is not clear why anyone would be surprised that a Canadian registered charity is dealing with political issues such as "debt, immigration, taxes, firearms and numerous other issues True North supporters care about."   If the charity does not have appropriate "stated charitable purposes" as CRA notes in their PPDDA guidance then some of the issues may not be appropriate for that particular charity to comment on unless of course such charity was to expand its charitable purposes to include certain other areas or issuesI   So if the charity has a purpose of resettling immigrants it can comment on related issues of immigration but perhaps not gun control. 

The Liberal Government with the help of a small number of charities have opened the flood gates for groups to do no real charitable activities and to focus exclusively on divisive political issues.  In the name of "free speech", which is really paid speech paid for by a few wealthy people, the charity sector has embarked on a path that may undercut public confidence in the sector and what it means to be a registered charity.    Let us see how this turns out. It may take about 10 years to see the full impact of this change.  It has not worked out so well in the states. 

Please don't ask CRA to fix this problem that the politicians have created.   If CRA were to investigate this charity wouldn't some 'charity' or pundit classify that as repression or harassment or bullying or a chill or targetting or interference or stifling dissent or a "drain on charitable resources" or persecution, etc.  After all some have commented on CRA's actions in the past in this way - even though not one of the groups audited by CRA and in the past slated for revocation has released the CRA letters explaining CRA's concerns.   Not great for transparency.   But I guess we are supposed to trust those "charities" that it was all repression and verification is not required!  

The article by Press Progress also raises the issue of one group taking over a charity and fundamentally changing their mode of operations, either with or without CRA approval.  There are thousands of charities in Canada that have either no activities or very limited activities.  In fact, there are 3350 charities in Canada had revenue under $2000 and about 3800 have spent less than $2000.  It is possible for a charity to be taken over by another group and its work to change but it is more complicated than many understand and I have often seen takeovers that were very inappropriately done.  If you are the directors of a charity and group wants to take you over be careful that it appears to be a legitimate group of people or your reputation could be in trouble.  

In our Blumbergs’ Snapshot of the Canadian Charity Sector 2017 we noted in relation to political activities:

​•        724 registered charities identified carrying on political activities

•        $28.5 million was spent by Canadian charities on political activities

•        the most common method of political activity is staff using the website or social media. (see the schedule 7 with information on political activities)

Over the next ten years I am not sure if there is going to be a huge increase in registered charities carrying out political activities but I am reasonably sure that the amounts that will be spent (even if only by 10 or 20 new charities) will be far greater than the amounts declared on the 2017 T3010s.    

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Mark Blumberg is a partner at the law firm of Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto and works almost exclusively in the areas of non-profit and charity law.

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