New Advocacy Rules for Charities: Limits on (non-partisan) Political Activities Lifted

The Canadian federal government has proposed new rules for charitable policy advocacy. These rules would allow charities to engage in public policy dialogue and development activities without limitation as long as it furthers the organization’s charitable purposes. Policy advocacy groups will probably not be able to become charities, but the definition of charitable organizations would include groups where some or all of their activities are public policy dialogue and development activities for charitable purposes. This means non-partisan political activity restrictions will be lifted for charitable organizations. Here is a break down of the new rules and what they could mean for your charity.

Public Policy Dialogue and Development Activites will have to further an organization’s charitable purpose not a political one.

Public Policy Dialogue and Development Activities (PPDDAs) further a charitable purpose if:

  • The PPDDAs relate to the stated charitable purpose
  • The PPDDAs will benefit the public

What is a charitable purpose?

A charitable purpose must meet the following three criteria under the Canadian policy statement CG-027

  • The purpose appears in the charities governing documents
  • The purpose benefits the public
  • The purpose falls within one of these four categories
    • Relief of poverty
    • Advancement of education
    • Advancement of religion
    • Other benefits to the community: protect the environment, uphold human rights, promote health ect. (see Annex A for a more complete list)

Partisan activities are still prohibited, including supporting or opposing a political party or candidate.

Under the Income Tax Act a charity may agree or disagree with a decision but may not support or oppose any candidate or party for public office. A charities communication should focus on the policy issue and not refer to any candidate or political party

You can read more about the draft administrative guidance here. And provide feedback to the Canada Revenue Agency until April 23rd here.