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Imagine Canada

Strong Charities. Strong Communities.

The Issues

Below, you will find more information on the public policy issues that Imagine Canada is currently involved with.

Accounting Standards

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.

Further Reading

Anti-Spam Regulations (CASL)

 Since 2014, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) has laid down strict rules about how and to whom “commercial electronic messages” – which include emails and text messages – can be sent.

The law applies to charities and nonprofits. While registered charities have a limited exemption for soliciting donations, or for commercial messages aimed at raising funds for the organization, they still need to follow certain rules. Nonprofits, even those providing a public benefit, don’t benefit from any exemptions. CASL has a built-in review process, which is currently taking place.

Imagine Canada has argued for a clearer and broader exemption for registered charities. We have also argued that it’s time to define “public benefit” nonprofits for the purpose of CASL, and provide them with an exemption as well.

Further Reading

Federal Business Development Services

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 publicpolicy@imaginecanada.ca if you have information to share.

Further Reading

Political Activities

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.

Further Reading

Imagine Canada pleased with Fall Economic Statement commitments

Imagine Canada, the national umbrella for the charitable and nonprofit sector, is encouraged by a number of commitments made by the federal government in the 2018 Fall Economic Statement.

The Minister of Finance has announced the creation of a permanent Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector. The Advisory Committee will include stakeholders from the sector and provide advice to the government on important issues facing the sector, including administrative and legislative reforms.

“The Advisory Committee can be a significant step forward on recommendations that have been made by Imagine Canada, the Consultation Panel on charities’ political activities, the Social Innovation and Social Finance Steering Group, and others,” said Bruce MacDonald, Imagine Canada President & CEO. “We have been calling for a ‘home in government,’ that is, a place where we can discuss and identify solutions to issues facing the sector as a whole. We have also been calling for a process to discuss much-needed legal and regulatory modernization for the sector. We look forward to working with the federal government to demonstrate that the Advisory Committee can be a first step towards achieving broader goals.”

The Fall Economic Statement also included a commitment of up to $755 million over the next ten years to establish a Social Finance Fund, and $50 million over the next two years for an Investment and Readiness stream aimed at building capacity in organizations wanting to explore social finance opportunities. The Economic Statement specifically cited the role of charities and nonprofits in social innovation, and the intent for them to benefit from the Social Finance Fund. These measures respond to recommendations made by the SISF Steering Group.

“We face a significant social deficit over the next decade– that is, the difference between the anticipated demand for charities’ and nonprofits’ services and the resources available to them through traditional funding mechanisms,” said MacDonald. “To the extent the Social Finance Fund helps organizations to avail themselves of new sources of revenue, it represents part of the solution. We hope to work closely with the government and with experts in the social finance realm as the details of the Fund are developed in the coming months.”

The Economic Statement also committed the federal government to exploring action on other recommendations made by the Steering Group. Among these recommendations are legal and regulatory reform to remove barriers that charities and nonprofits face in diversifying their income-generating activities, comprehensive economic data about the social purpose sector, and reform to how federal grant and contribution programs are administered.

The Fall Economic Statement also proposes a new Qualified Donee status for certain nonprofit media organizations. Details on how this will work are to follow in 2019.

“We’ll be closely following developments related to the government’s proposals on nonprofit media organizations,” added MacDonald. “We understand there is no intent to change the definition of charity, and that eligible media organizations won’t be regulated in the same way as registered charities. We look forward to working with the federal government to ensure that there are no unintended consequences, particularly for charities that might want to work with or support nonprofit media organizations in their communities.”


About Imagine Canada

Imagine Canada is a national charitable organization whose cause is Canada’s charities and nonprofits. Our three broad goals are to strengthen the sector’s collective voice, create opportunities to connect and learn from each other and build the sector’s capacity to succeed.

imaginecanada.ca | Twitter: @ImagineCanada | Facebook: ImagineCanada

For further information:

Kira Balson
Coordinator, Public Policy
Imagine Canada
416-597-2293, ext. 331

Our National Partners

  • great west life
  • Lawson Foundation
  • Muttart Foundation
  • RBC Foundation
  • Suncor
  • TD Bank
  • investors group

Learn more about our National Partners and other supporters.

Charitable Registration Number: 119218790 RR0001