Freshwater Future Canada Blog

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.

Press Release: Launch of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Collaborative Strategy

Panel of Experts to Investigate Protection of the
Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River

Stakeholder-Led Collaborative Strategy receives federal funding

Toronto, ON, Friday, October 26, 2018 – Today, an independent panel with experts from across the Canadian portion of the Great Lakes and along the St. Lawrence River held its first meeting, launching an 18-month process to develop recommendations for all governments to safeguard Canada’s greatest reserve of freshwater and the St. Lawrence River estuary.

The Expert Panel will be co-chaired by two former provincial environmental commissioners of Ontario and Quebec respectively, Mr. Gord Miller and M. Jean Cinq-Mars. The independent panel will be advised by Indigenous organisations, stakeholders representing a cross section of industrial, agricultural, maritime, municipal, recreational, fishery and environmental interests, and other academic and scientific experts.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is providing $400,000 to fund the initiative. The outcome of the process will be a Collaborative Strategy for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, proposing new and innovative approaches to protection efforts and better alignment of government science, programs and investments. The recommendations will be submitted to the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and shared with provincial counterparts, indigenous and municipal leaders, and the broader community in the Region.

The Collaborative Strategy, which has been championed and organized by the Council of the Great Lakes Region, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities InitiativeFreshwater Future CanadaStrategies Saint Laurent and Great Lakes Fishery Commission, will focus on four key challenges:

  1. Climate Change
  2. Toxics and other harmful pollutants
  3. Nutrients
  4. Beaches and bacteriological contaminants

The Strategy will proceed in two phases, beginning first with the Great Lakes and then concluding with the St. Lawrence River.

For more information on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Collaborative, including a full list of Expert Panel members and Issue Table co-chairs, please go to:


“Protecting our water, air and nature is a priority for our government. Millions of people depend on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence to sustain the economy, their livelihoods, their health and their wellbeing. This work is essential to protect the environment and grow the economy, and ensure a healthy and prosperous future for our kids and grandkids.”
The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“The Great Lakes, though grand in scale, are sensitive inland aquatic ecosystems. We will work with all those who depend on the lakes to find ways to better care for them.”
Gord Miller, Expert Panel Co-chair

“The St. Lawrence is part of the heritage and fabric of Quebec society. By finding solutions to the most pressing threats to this vital artery we will be better prepared for the future.”
Jean Cinq-Mars, Expert Panel Co-chair

“We hope many voices around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence regions will join this effort to identify restoration challenges and needs, increase investment, and strengthen protection of the inland waters on which so many of us, and so many species, depend.”
Bob Lambe, Executive Secretary of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission

“The Great Lakes Regional Collaborative and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the United States has shown what can be achieved when all levels of government work alongside industry, academia and the nonprofit sector to advance common environmental goals in the Great Lakes by leveraging programs and investments. It’s time Canadian governments and stakeholders come together like never before to find new ways of tackling a range of complex issues, especially the impacts of unabated climate change.”
Mark Fisher, CEO of the Council of the Great Lakes Region

“The Mayors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative are pleased to be part of this Collaboration. We look forward to discussing new innovative approaches to protect these vital freshwater treasures, now and in the future.”
John Dickert, President and CEO, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

“This initiative presents a unique opportunity to mobilize diverse expertise to protect and restore the health of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. It holds great potential for new partnerships among governments, environmental organizations and business and industry, and for increased investments to address the increasingly complex challenges we are facing across the region.”
Tony Maas, Manager of Strategy, Freshwater Future Canada

“The Collaborative will allow us to establish priorities to address transboundary challenges, to propose new initiatives that build on existing measures, as well as to identify additional financial resources to support essential programs like the Areas of Prime Concern (ZIP) Program along the St. Lawrence.”
Jacques Durocher, President, Stratégies Saint-Laurent

Media contact:

Nicola Crawhall, GLSL Collaborative Strategy Secretariat
Tel: 416-407-5880
Email: [email protected]com

International Tour Learns About US Water Governance

Delegates from 17 countries spent three weeks traveling around the United States last month, gaining an understanding of how the U.S. system of governance addresses  water resources management. The tour was part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program –  and our Manager of Strategy, Tony Maas, was invited to participate. Tony joined 17 delegates from around the world in visits to Washington DC, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Seattle and Jacksonville.

The professional exchange program for current and emerging foreign leaders involved field trips, site tours, and meetings with experts working on water resources management.  The group visited the Elwha River near Port Angeles, WA, where two large dams have been removed, restoring  not only salmon habitat but also enhancing the values of local Indigenous peoples.  A tour of the rural Black River watershed  near Cleveland, OH highlighted smaller scale creek restoration projects in an agricultural landscape.  Engagement with various US experts from various levels of government and non-profit organizations provided  attendees a chance to learn first hand about the benefits of protecting and restoring freshwater ecosystems.

In between the scheduled itinerary stops and over meals and social outings, the 18 attendees shared stories and experiences from their home countries, learning from successes and challenges, and building lasting relationships and sparking collaborations that will  impact their work for years to come.

Maas’ key observation from the trip was  that so many projects and initiatives discussed on the tour connect back in some way to the U.S. Clean Water Act, and reflected on the lack of similar over-arching federal water legislation in Canada. “The Clean Water Act in the U.S. is an example of a law that had stood the test of time and drives real impact on the ground and in the water” said Maas. “It can serve as a model for Canada as we confront growing challenges related to climate change and pollution of rivers and lakes, and as we work toward building a restoration-based economy.”  

Nuclear Waste and the Great Lakes

It may be a surprise to learn that spent nuclear fuel rods can be found near the shores of the Great Lakes. Without the existence of a waste depository – a place to safely store spent rods – nuclear waste is stacking up in vulnerable locations.

What do we do with the waste? The only solution that has been considered is a central location for the waste to be buried, yet finding that location has been near impossible due to local and state or provincial opposition.

With widespread nuclear waste – the province of Ontario alone has 52,000 tons of nuclear waste – transporting all the existing waste to a central repository creates potential hazards from accidents and could take up to 50 years. If a central repository can’t be built and storing rods on the shores is not safe, it is imperative that the industry develop alternative and safe options.

On top of the transportation and location issues, the proposed locations for repository sites are not safe either. In Ontario both proposed sites are lakeshore communities.

Nuclear energy will never be a sustainable option if waste solutions don’t exist. Perhaps the glimmer of hope in this news is that there has never been a better time to invest and increase our commitment and use of renewable energy sources.

The Detroit Free Press released an extensive article, outlining this issue that goes into more detail. Read it here. 

Keeping Flint at the Forefront of our Consciousness

by Latia Leonard


Nearly three weeks ago, I like millions all over the world, watched as some of the world’s biggest stars paid tribute to Aretha Franklin during her televised funeral service. One dignitary after another gave their fondest memories of Aretha, some of which included their final conversations with her. One of those speakers included retired Michigan 36th District Judge and Detroit native Greg Mathis. During his speech, he recalled his final conversation with Franklin concerning the Flint water crisis. Mathis said at the time they spoke, the State of Michigan had just announced it was discontinuing its bottled water distribution to residents. He expressed Aretha’s anger at the decision, then told the crowd and the world watching through TV that she wanted him to go to Flint and “Sock it to em!” 

Mathis, a community activist in his own right, took the opportunity to remind the world that Flint still isn’t quite fixed. With a star studded audience, consisting of policy makers, former presidents, and decision makers who wield the power and influence to make a change, it only made complete sense to bring Flint to a national stage. Famed actress Whoopi Goldberg on the season opener on the ABC televised talk show ‘The View’ reiterated Mathis’s message, saying “We need more water for Flint, we got to find a way to get that back going”.

Wait there’s more. Just recently on the nationally televised ‘Miss America’ pageant, Miss Michigan’s very own Emily Sioma courageously highlighted the city’s ongoing water struggles during her opening speech. “From the state with 84 percent of the U.S. freshwater but none for its residents to drink, I am Miss Michigan Emily Sioma,”she said. Even more recently, film producer and Flint native Michael Moore premiered his highly anticipated documentary ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’. This documentary covers in part, the Flint Water Crisis and how he believes it happened, and those responsible.

In each of these instances, powerful faces from different corners of the entertainment industry have used their platforms to do one thing in common, lift Flint back into the front of everyone’s conscious. That’s right… if the progress everyone wants to see is really going to happen we need to use our collective platforms to ensure that Flint’s recovery is still a priority both internally and externally. Keeping Flint not only in the forefront of our conscious, but also our hearts, in leading this recovery with compassion. Celebrities aren’t the only ones who can use their voices to keep Flint moving forward – using hashtags such as #FlintWaterCrisis, #FlintRecovery or #FlintLivesMatter, and making sure you are registered for the upcoming election are actions you can take to  empower Flint’s progress. Let’s keep Flint moving forward together.