What’s the role of charities in the development of public policy? It’s a question that’s been top of mind for many of us in the philanthropic and charitable sector over the past several years. Recently the Canada Revenue Agency launched what we believe is a much-needed review of the regulations governing political activity by Canadian charities, including a consultative process seeking input and feedback from the sector.
The Lawson Foundation believes that funders and grant-makers, charities and nonprofits and other social-mission driven organizations all have a role in driving change in our communities. We also believe that that role can and should include political activity.
That’s why we’ve written a letter to the Canada Revenue Agency (content below) outlining our support for this consultative process, and our endorsement of the recommendations outlined by Imagine Canada.
December 9, 2016
c/o Charities Directorate
Canada Revenue Agency
Re: Political Activities Consultation
Dear Agency officials,
The Lawson Foundation thanks the CRA for undertaking a very needed review of the regulations governing political activity by Canadian charities. This process underscores the importance that charities play in terms of public policy dialogue as well as the value of ensuring a regulatory environment that will encourage their participation. The Lawson Foundation sees this as a first step in the process of a more comprehensive review of the regulatory framework for charities as it pertains to political activity.
The Lawson Foundation is a private family foundation that is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. We are active across the country and our focus is on the healthy development of children and youth in particular early childhood development, healthy active living (including food security as well as children and diabetes) and youth and the environment. In the work that we support and in our programming, we consider public policy as an important lever to improve outcomes for children and youth in Canada.
I am writing on behalf of the Foundation to broadly support the recommendations in the submission that has been put forward by Imagine Canada, the national umbrella for charities and nonprofits. A copy of the Imagine Canada submission is enclosed.
However, in its submission, Imagine Canada has requested that the government consider changing the Income Tax Act to focus on charitable purposes over activities. While we believe that this an issue that is well worth exploring further to better understand the implications of such a change for charities, we cannot at this juncture recommend that this change be made. We do hope however, that this recommendation from Imagine Canada will be seriously examined in the context of this review.
If we look back the Canada’s history, we can find a multitude of examples where public policy has been improved through the work and contribution of charities working on the ground across the country, and on so many crucial social, economic, cultural and environmental issues. There is a need to ensure that charities continue to be encouraged, and indeed invited, to be involved in the development of public policy. The unique and complementary voice of charities that work on the ground in communities across the country will always help develop more robust and more effective public policy for Canada.
President & CEO
Président et Directeur général
The Lawson Foundation