Public policy advocacy activities of charities

On August 15, 2018, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, and the Honourable Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance, issued a joint statement on the Government of Canada’s commitment to clarify the rules governing the political activities of charities by amending the Income Tax Act to implement changes consistent with recommendation no. 3 of the Report of the Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities.

To move forward with its commitment, the Government released draft legislative proposals on September 14, 2018, which would remove the existing quantitative limits on charities’ political activities, while still requiring that charities be operated for exclusively charitable purposes. The proposals would allow charities to pursue their charitable purposes by engaging in non-partisan political activities or “public policy advocacy activities*” that are incidental to those purposes. However, charities will still be required to have exclusively charitable purposes, and will still be prohibited from undertaking partisan activities and from having political purposes.

* Consistent with Recommendation no. 3 of the Report of the Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities, the draft legislative proposals delete the term “political activity” from the Income Tax Act. As a result, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is revisiting the use of the term “political activity”. In its place, the CRA is proposing to use the term “public policy advocacy activities” to refer to any activity that seeks to influence a law, policy, or decision of a government, in Canada or any foreign country.


Notice to the reader 

On October 2, 2018, the CRA issued the draft guidance document Charities and public policy advocacy for consultation. This document provides general information, including examples, on how the CRA would implement the draft legislative proposals and administer the rules governing the public policy advocacy activities of charities.

The Department of Finance is accepting comments until October 13, 2018 on the draft legislative proposals. The CRA accepts suggestions to guidance documents on an ongoing basis. As the legislation progresses further, suggested changes will continue to be accepted by the CRA until new legislation is tabled by the Department of Finance.  

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