Below, you will find more information on the public policy issues that Imagine Canada is currently involved with.
CPA Canada, the national accounting standard-setting body, is in the process of reviewing and, ultimately, revising the framework for accounting for nonprofit organizations. In due course, this will lead to new and possibly quite different accounting standards that will apply to all nonprofits’ financial reporting.
Imagine Canada and numerous sector partners assessed CPA Canada’s Statement of Principles and worked to raise the profile of the issue among sector organizations. As a result, CPA received close to 300 submissions from the sector, noting the concerns about the proposed direction for reform. As CPA Canada considers the comments it received and eventually moves forward with definitive proposals, Imagine Canada will continue to monitor, raise awareness, and comment on them on behalf of the sector.
New federal regulations place limits on how organizations can send “commercial electronic messages,” including e-mails, texts, and instant messages. Registered charities have an exemption for fundraising purposes, and various other limited exemptions apply to any organization. But the potential penalties for going offside are severe, so organizations need to be familiar with the new rules.
- Issue Alert : CRTC releases anti-spam guidance for charities
- Issue Alert : CRTC to provide anti-spam clarification for charities Friday, July 4
- Issue Alert : Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL): Imagine Canada seeks clarification from CRTC about anti-spam and charities
- Issue Alert: Update and clarifications on Canada’s Anti-Spam Law
- CASL FAQs relevant to all registered charities and nonprofits
- CASL FAQs specific to registered charities
- Canada’s anti-spam regulations
- Canada’s anti-spam law
Compensation of employees in the charitable sector is under increasing scrutiny – from donors, the media and charity watchdogs. Occasionally, the issue of compensation in the charitable sector can find its way into federal policy debates. When it does, like in 2010 with Bill C-470, Imagine Canada takes steps to ensure that charities’ perspectives are heard. We strongly believe in, and champion the need for, transparency and accountability but we also believe that employees in the charitable sector should be appropriately compensated for their work.
Bill C-470 was the private member’s bill proposed in 2010 which would have effectively capped compensation in the sector (by allowing the Canada Revenue Agency to deregister any charity paying any employee more than $250,000 in total compensation). It would also have mandated salary disclosure for a charity’s five most highly-paid employees.
Imagine Canada played a lead role in raising awareness of the bill within the sector. We formed a broad coalition to develop common messages and a common position. We also worked to raise awareness amongst Parliamentarians and party leaders as to the impacts the bill would have. Our efforts were successful in that the Committee amended the bill to remove the compensation cap altogether, and to restrict salary disclosure to a minimum of $100,000. The bill died on the Order Paper when the 2011 election was called, and no MP has moved to reinstate it.
Update: On November 4, 2014, Visa and MasterCard announced voluntary action to reduce their credit card interchange fees to an average effective rate of 1.50% for the next five years. This represents an overall 10% reduction to merchants. However, Imagine Canada has learned that charities will see a much greater reduction in fees, responding to public pressure we have brought to bear. Read more.
Charities are increasingly reliant on credit card transactions, whether to receive donations or to sell goods and services. The merchant fees they pay to credit card companies represent a significant expense, at a time when many Canadians are concerned about charities’ administrative costs. The fees also represent a loss of donor dollars — many donors do not realize that the charity does not receive the full amount of a donation made with a credit card.
Imagine Canada has identified this as an issue that could help reduce administrative costs, free up more dollars for charities’ activities, and contribute — in a small but important way — to financial sustainability. If you would like to be involved in the analysis of this issue, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Further Reading
The federal government has numerous initiatives to assist private entrepreneurs with the development of their businesses. Charities and nonprofits who engage in the sale of goods and services can also benefit from these programs. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, many of these programs remain closed to charities and nonprofits.
Over the last several years, Imagine Canada has been working to improve charities’ access to these programs. Recently, Imagine Canada helped to ensure that the content of a new webpage created by the Canada Business Network meets the specific needs of charities and nonprofits engaging in earned income and social enterprise. In Budget 2014, the federal government expanded eligibility to Mitacs programs to not-for-profit organizations with an economic orientation. This was our main pre-budget recommendation for the 2014 budget. Through their suite of programs, Mitacs matches highly-skilled graduate and post-graduate students with organizations that have specific research needs. Access to Mitacs is a significant win for the sector as it sets a precedent for the federal government to expand access for the sector to other business support programs.
Work to identify relevant programs that could be opened to charities and nonprofits is still ongoing. We would encourage you to email us at email@example.com if you have information to share.
Hybrid structures are new legal forms with both profit-making and non-profit goals and are intended to facilitate the growth of social enterprises and impact investing. Charities have a vested interest in the creation of a distinct hybrid entity to the extent that the new entity both complements and supports the good work that charities do. A new hybrid structure has the potential to affect individual charities, which could be owners of and investors in these new structures, as well as the charitable sector as a whole.
Hybrid structures have already been created in both British Columbia and Nova Scotia, while other provinces, such as Ontario, are only just beginning to consider new legislation. At the federal level, Industry Canada is currently consulting on the utility of hybrid enterprises within the Canadian context. Imagine Canada’s response highlights the positive and negative impacts that hybrid structures may have on charities.
Charities play a vital role in public policy issues, speaking up for communities and people that otherwise might not be heard. A great deal of this work — meeting with politicians or officials, submitting written briefs, or making presentations to public tribunals — counts as charitable activity and is not restricted. Some of it, particularly when a charity makes a public appeal or encourages grassroots action, is classified as political activity — meaning there are limits to how much of it a charity can do.
- Narrative Issue Sheet on Advocacy
- Q&A Document on Advocacy, Political Activity, and Foreign Funding
- Issue Alert: Charities Engagement in Public Policy (May 28, 2012)
- Open letter to Minister Kent (May 3, 2012)
- Charity Tax Tools: Political Activity
- Canada Revenue Agency’s Guidance on Political Activities by Charities
- Canada Revenue Agency Video Series on Political Activities
On December 11, 2013 Canada Post unveiled a Five-point Action Plan, which resulted in increases in first-class postage rates, the elimination of door-to-door mail delivery, the expansion of franchise postal outlets, and changes to its operations and labour force. Since then, Imagine Canada has been working with charities across Canada to assess the implications of the postage rate increases on the sector and has been active to ensure that the concerns of Canadian charities are represented.
In response to our efforts and those of many charities across Canada, Canada Post announced a suite of relief measures that will be particularly beneficial for smaller charities. The new measures demonstrate that our collective interventions have had an impact, and we are encouraged that Canada Post has acted to partially address our concerns.
Since 2009, Imagine Canada has been advocating for a new and uniquely Canadian donation tax credit called the Stretch Tax Credit for Charitable Giving. The credit is intended to encourage more Canadians to give and to support those who already give to give more. It would increase the federal charitable tax credit for individuals by 10% on all NEW giving that exceeds previous donations.
Get involved! Learn more about the Stretch Campaign.