CRA Begins Public Consultation on Clarification of Political Activities

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As announced in the Federal Budget 2016, the CRA will collaborate with the Department of Finance to engage with charities to clarify the rules governing political activities. The CRA’s online consultations are now open, and the in person consultations – to be held in six cities across Canada – will follow at to be announced dates. The online consultations are the first step in a broader engagement process, and are open to all Canadians, including charities.

Visit the CRA’s website, view the consultation questions and backgrounders, and submit your feedback before **November 25, 2016** 

The CRA states that all feedback received will be fully considered in policy development efforts, including the development of updated guidance or educational resources for charities on the rules governing political activities.

More directly from the September 27th press release:

The Government of Canada recognizes that charitable organizations are valuable contributors to public debate and public policy, which is why the Government has made a commitment to clarify the rules that govern their participation in political activities. It is important that charities be allowed to bring their vast experience—whether in relieving poverty, fighting drug addiction, protecting the environment, or advancing education—to the formulation of public policy and the continuing well-being of Canada and Canadians.

Working directly with the charitable sector to clarify the rules that guide their daily activities, and providing more information to the public about how the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regulates charities, reflects the Government of Canada’s commitment to openness, transparency and service excellence.

Having announced in January the winding down of the political activities audit program, today marks the first step in a process to engage the charitable sector to clarify the rules governing political activities. Today the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, announced the start of public consultations on the rules regarding the involvement of registered charities in political activities.

During the announcement, Minister Lebouthillier committed to consulting with registered charities on this subject. Online consultations, open to all charities and the public, will begin today and will continue into the fall. In-person consultations with representatives from the charitable sector, moderated by an independent external facilitator, will then take place in Halifax, Montréal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver later this year.

Minister Lebouthillier has established a consultation panel consisting of five individuals with expertise in the regulatory issues facing charities. These panel members are:

Marlene Deboisbriand – Chair of the Panel

  • Current Vice-President of the Boys and Girls of Canada
  • Current member of the Board of Directors at Imagine Canada
  • Former Vice President of United Way of Canada-Centraide Canada

Peter Robinson

  • Current CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation
  • Current member of the Board of Directors at Imagine Canada
  • Former CEO of Mountain Equipment Co-op

Kevin McCort

  • Current President and CEO of the Vancouver Foundation
  • Current member of the Board of Directors of Community Foundations of Canada
  • Former President and CEO of CARE Canada

Susan Manwaring

  • Partner at Miller Thomson and National Lead of Miller Thomson’s Social Impact Group
  • Current Director at the Pemsel Case Foundation
  • Past Chair of the Charities and Not-for-Profit Section Executive of the Ontario Bar Association

Shari Austin

  • Actual Principal Consultant at Shari Austin & Company
  • Former Vice President of Corporate Citizenship at RBC and Executive Director of the RBC Foundation
  • Recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award of Excellence in Corporate Responsibility (2014) from Green Living

This panel will use feedback from the online and in-person consultations to make recommendations to the Minister that they will include in a report in early 2017.

Charities and members of the public who wish to participate in the online consultation can access the questions  directly from the CRA’s website.


“The government recognizes the critical role charities play in Canadian society. I am committed to working in collaboration with charities to maintain a fair system that respects and encourages their essential contribution.”

– The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue

“Canadians want a Government that delivers on its commitments and is honest, open, and sincere in its efforts to serve the public interest. That’s exactly what this consultation process is all about.”

– Mr. Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Quick facts

  • The CRA registers charities under the Income Tax Act to make sure they continue to comply with the requirements of the Act.
  • Charitable registration comes with privileges, such as issuing official donation receipts. It also comes with obligations, such as complying with the requirements of the Act related to charities’ involvement in political activities. The Act allows charities to carry out a limited amount of non-partisan political activities in support of their charitable purposes.
  • The rules regarding the political activities of charities have been in effect since 1985 and are outlined in Policy Statement CPS-022, Political Activities, published in 2003.
  • Of the approximately 86,000 charities in Canada, about 500 report carrying out political activities on their annual information return to the CRA.

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