Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Charity Needs a Better Definition

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Charity Needs a Better Definition

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Charity needs a better definition


An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published Sept. 8:

Political bias is frequently benign -- you're for one thing and against another -- unless the opinions are held by a registered charity. In that case, a point of view that is too one-sided or overtly partisan can result in a group losing its tax-exempt status and the ability to issue receipts to donors as tax deductions.

The problem for charities, however, is the rules are not clear and open to subjective -- even biased -- interpretations.

The right-wing Fraser Institute, for example, says on its website "Canada's labour relations laws restrict worker choice and discourage investment and job growth." The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a left-wing think-tank, describes itself as "a leading voice on the gap between the rich and the rest of us in Canada."

They are both registered charities with the goal of educating Canadians and influencing public policy for the public good.

For tax purposes, however, it appears only the left-wing group may be biased and one-sided, and therefore subject to a political-activities audit by the Canada Revenue Agency, which could revoke its charitable status.

There could be a good explanation why CCPA and other left-wing organizations, such as the Suzuki Foundation and some environmental and overseas development groups, have come in for extra tax scrutiny under the Harper government, while right-wing organizations appear to be flying under the radar.

The CCPA, however, fears it may be a victim of political interference by the Harper government, even though it was audited twice before under Liberal regimes.

The difficulty in defining acceptable opinions and political activity was best highlighted 10 years ago when the Liberal government of Paul Martin threatened to revoke the charitable tax status of the Roman Catholic Church after the bishop of Calgary was accused of being too aggressive in opposing same-sex marriage. …

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