Charities get antsy as Liberal government remains silent on reform plans – Politics

The federal Liberals campaigned on a promise to end the “political harassment” of charities — but more than two years after the 2015 election, charities initially targeted by the Harper government say they’re 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.

Tim Gray of Toronto-based Environmental Defence says the group has spent $500,000 to defend itself against a Harper-era CRA political-activity audit. The group wants the Liberal government to act on promised reforms. (

National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier last May suspended — but did not end — the 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 didn’t 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…

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