CRA Winding Down Political Activities Audit Program For Charities
“The results of the political activities audit program have shown that the charities audited have been substantially compliant with the rules regarding their involvement in political activities. In light of these outcomes, the program will be concluded.”
– The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Revenue
The federal minister responsible for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has announced that the program established to audit Canadian charities for political activities is being wound down.
ONN applauds the Government of Canada for this decision. The “advocacy chill” felt by nonprofits and charities in the wake of these CRA audits has had a tangible impact on the participation of our sector in the public policy process.
For the last few years, there has been wave after wave of public outcry over the charity audit program. Concerns were raised about the selection of targets and the amount of energy that some charities have had to spend defending their practices from these intrusive and time-consuming audits. Calls for a more transparent approach to charity selection eventually grew into a call for a moratorium on audits of charities’ political activities, signed by over 400 academic researchers. It is a relief for our sector that charities no longer have to fear these audits when they speak out on an issue.
It is ONN’s position that nonprofits and charities play a critical role in sustaining democracy because these organizations act as bridges between governments and communities in the public policy process. To play this role, nonprofits and charities must be free to speak out on the issues that they live and breathe–whether their mission relates to health and social welfare issues, arts, the environment, human rights, or any other area.
It will be important to remember, as we celebrate, that it will take time for the “advocacy chill” to thaw and that there remain multiple legislative and regulatory barriers that constrain nonprofits and charities in their ability to achieve their missions and to participate fully in public life.
At the federal level, our sector continues to seek an enabling environment for nonprofit social enterprise, a commitment to community benefits as part of infrastructure investments, and more regulatory flexibility to support shared platforms. We look forward to further progress from the federal government and other levels of government in terms of creating a legal and regulatory environment that will help the nonprofit and charitable sector to thrive in the service of our communities.
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