Charities get antsy as Liberal government remains silent on reform plans

Charities get antsy as Liberal government remains silent on reform plans
From CBC - January 14, 2018

The federal Liberals campaigned on a promise to end the "political harassment" of charitiesbut more than two years after the 2015 election, charities initially targeted by the Harper government say they are still waiting for relief.

The Trudeau government has yet to respond to a report it has been sitting on since March 30 last year, which called for major tax-law changes to allow charities to freely carry out political activities that further their causes.

The report, commissioned from five outside experts, was hailed at the time as ending an advocacy chill begun in 2012, when the Conservative government launched audits of dozens of charities to determine whether their political activities exceeded a 10 per cent threshold. Many were environmental groups that had criticized energy and pipeline policies.

National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier last May suspendedbut did not endthe remaining 12 audits in the program, pending the government's response to the experts' recommendations.

That response had been expected last summer, but there's been a long silence from Finance Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), together responsible for revising relevant sections of the Income Tax Act.

"We did not expect to be waiting this long," said Tim Gray of Environmental Defence, among the 12 groups under CRA threat of losing charitable status. "It just creates more uncertainty. Are we just back to where we were before?"


A spokesperson for Canada Without Poverty, another threatened charity, also questioned what she called "foot-dragging."

"Of course, the government should explore the fiscal implications of changes to the Income Tax Act and regulation of charities, but not cause undue delay," said Leilani Farha, "especially not at the expense of human rights and free expression."

Lebouthillier's office did not explain why the government response is taking so long, nor did it provide a timeline. "This is an important process, and the government will take the time required to make sure to get it right," said John Power.

Several of the panel members who wrote the March 30 report told CBC News they had not been further contacted by the government, and were not aware of the reasons for the delay.

'We have had indications from Finance (Canada) that there's a reluctance to proceed withthis.' - Tim Gray, Environmental Defence

Too vague


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