Taxpayers will be forced to subsidize activism that many find offensive

Taxpayers will be forced to subsidize activism that many find offensive

The following article is so important to share with our readers that we are invoking the “Fair Use” policy available to us for education and not for profit purposes. We give 100% Credit to the Financial Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. and if the article is still available read it there. Taxpayers will be forced to subsidize activism that many find offensive We are posting it here due to its important relevance to the primary issues we are sharing from our website.

Taxpayers will be forced to subsidize activism that many find offensive.

Notwithstanding public sentiment and historical precedent, a report just prepared by a government-appointed panel recommended a change to allow charities “to fully engage, without limitation, in non-partisan public policy dialogue and development.” That would include the ability to “advocate to keep or change law or policy, either in Canada (any level of government) or outside of Canada.” Interestingly, the panel does not like the words “political activities,” which it puts in quotation marks. But if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

Meanwhile, Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier instructed the CRA to suspend 12 ongoing audits of charities that had engaged in political activity, including seven charities that were facing a revocation of their charitable status.

Will the proposed change put a chill on eleemosynary giving? Quite likely. Granted, some charities attract donors who support such political activism. The question is whether those donations should enjoy a tax break. A non-profit organization may be granted an exemption from income tax, but it cannot issue tax-deductible receipts for donations. I will leave it to the tax lawyers to determine when a charity becomes a non-profit, but as a matter of public policy, the answer need not be that complicated. If an organization’s activities are basically political, we are not dealing with a charity.

So by opening the floodgates, the government could jeopardize how the public views charities. After all, why should taxpayers be forced to subsidize political activism that many will inevitably find offensive or are hostile to their beliefs? Yes, we give tax credits for donations to political parties, but the purpose of those donated funds is transparent and the amounts are strictly limited. A political organization posing as a charity is a pretence and misrepresentation of its goals and functions. It also a flagrant refutation of hundreds of years of custom and common law that define what charities are.

The Income Tax Act prohibits direct or indirect partisan activity. However, it is disingenuous to pretend that an organization is not engaged in partisan politics when its lobbying campaign is aimed at persuading people to vote strategically, promoting, say, a Liberal or NDP candidate most likely to defeat a Conservative. That is precisely what happened during the 2015 election.

You have to hand it to the Liberals. They are totally immune to embarrassment. They can present the most transparently self-serving scheme as selfless policy that serves the greater good. Their failed attempt to manipulate the way we elect our MPs by introducing a ranked-ballot system, for example, would have almost certainly guaranteed Liberal majorities for decades, all done under the guise of democratic reform.

And this charity gambit is another blatant ruse to bolster their election prospects — to financially advantage a grateful coterie of progressive lobbyists, their environmental propaganda machines well oiled with subsidized donations. They have been freed to pursue their agenda of blocking economic development, killing jobs, harming the middle class, and undermining funding we could spend on social services. I, for one, do not want to support that agenda. And if that sounds like your kind of politics, how would you feel if your tax dollars were instead subsidizing lobbying efforts to pursue resource development, propagate free enterprise and shrink the government?

By all means, let political debate flourish in our vibrant democracy, but not under the guise of “charity.”

Joe Oliver is the former minister of finance.

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