Political activism should not get charity status

MP Colin Mayes discusses charitable tax exemptions.

Have you ever wondered how people can afford to take time off work to protest, especially environmental activists?

Well, some demonstrators are paid to protest by various societies, foundations and unions. Investigations have uncovered several environmental groups being funded by charities.

Charities are registered in Canada by the Canada Revenue Agency, allowing charities to issue tax receipts to donors. Most Canadians think of charities as groups that work and volunteer for the common good of humanity.

The Government of Canada, to encourage financial donations to charities, supports donors by allowing them to deduct, on their income tax return, a portion of their contributions.

Charities have guidelines and only 10 percent of their funds can be for political purposes such as political advocacy, political pamphlets and posters. Our 2012-13 budget has provisions to ensure the 10-percent guidelines are followed.

What the government has discovered is a number of very active environmental groups being funded by foundations outside of Canada by American interests.

The Alaska Fishery, for example, has funded environmental groups protesting fish farming on the B.C. coast.

Why?  Because farmed fish have captured over 40 per cent of the U.S. fish market at the expense of the Alaska Wild Salmon fishery.  Anti-fish farm activists are motivated by environmental concerns whereas those that are funding them are mostly concerned with market shares.

Some protest groups against the Gateway Pipeline and Oil Sands development are funded through charities that receive money from U.S. foundations with interests in offshore oil.  Are these groups funded solely because of environmental concerns, or are there other reasons?

Freedom to demonstrate is a freedom that I and our government will defend, but demonstrate on your own money, not the taxpayer’s dollar. Remember, if you are given a tax deduction from a charity it allows you to claim a tax exemption.

The Canada Revenue Agency supports tax exemptions on the premise that the money used will provide service to the common good of citizens and our communities.

Political activism does not fall under this umbrella, in fact, some would say, it undermines the democracy of elected representation.

The other question that I pose is: “Should foreign foundations be allowed to fund political activism in a sovereign country such as Canada?”

To some extent this does happen in many countries. Now that we have uncovered this in our own backyard, should we continue to allow this to happen?


-Colin Mayes is Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Shuswap.

Salmon Arm Observer

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