Evidence of meeting #57 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was charities.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Mark Blumberg  Lawyer and Partner, Blumberg Segal LLP, CanadianCharityLaw.ca
  • Michael Cloutier  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Diabetes Association
  • Kate Bahen  Managing Director, Charity Intelligence Canada
  • Shawn Pegg  Director, Policy and Research, Food Banks Canada
  • Mary Dodd  Vice-President, Finance and Operations, Women's College Hospital Foundation
  • Allyson Hewitt  Director, Social Entrepreneurship, Social Innovation Generation

4:40 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Diabetes Association

Michael Cloutier

We have a number of rich partnerships with a number of communities across Canada, and certainly in the north. We spend a lot of time trying to understand the needs of our stakeholders, the constituents in those areas. We try to ensure that our programs, our services, and our information are tailored directly to those communities, recognizing that there are sometimes subtle and not-so-subtle nuances to the way health care is delivered and to the needs of individual communities. Those communities are very important to us, and we do direct attention to them.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

That's something that I've seen on the ground, and also from people from the Diabetes Association who have raised it with me as their member of Parliament.

Recognizing the reality and engaging with people who obviously see some real shortcomings in their communities, shortcomings that have a direct correlation with government action and inaction, it seems to me that the work that your representatives do, and certainly what the Diabetes Association does, is highlight the need to support healthy living in aboriginal communities.

Is that something you feel is important?

4:45 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Diabetes Association

Michael Cloutier

It's an extremely important part of our mission in two ways. One is that we are very active with non-partisan advocacy in terms of developing reports that clearly point to both the social health impact and the economic impact of diabetes in all communities, particularly in aboriginal communities and communities at risk.

Secondly, our programming, again to the earlier point, is specifically tailored to the needs of those communities, and we do that in a variety of different ways with special interest and high-risk needs groups.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

You made a very critical point there in speaking about non-partisan advocacy. It seems to me—I've certainly seen this in Parliament—that even when we do talk about the reality that aboriginal people face, it is often seen as very controversial, depending on how you present it.

Would you say that it's important to ensure non-partisan advocacy, whether it's in terms of aboriginal people and healthy living, whether it's in terms of women, people, others who live on the margins in many of our communities—that kind of non-partisan advocacy and the role that charities ought to play should be something that should be protected rather than discouraged?

4:45 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Diabetes Association

Michael Cloutier

The rules that exist currently, in terms of advocacy, non-partisan advocacy, certainly meet the needs of our organization and the nine million Canadians with pre-diabetes or diabetes we're currently serving and working in partnership with. We believe there is ongoing opportunity. We continue to work with government at every level to ensure that people understand the needs within their communities, that are shared amongst all Canadian communities, as well as those that are unique to their communities.

We also work with the ADI, the Aboriginal diabetes initiative, to ensure that we're looking at the needs in a partnering opportunity with them as well.

So yes, I believe we need to have the opportunity to continue to do the work we do. The way things are currently structured, for us to be able to provide that value is meeting our needs and the needs of those individuals, and we continue to monitor it to make sure it remains so.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you.

We'll go to Ms. McLeod, please.

May 8th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I really appreciate the discussion we've had today. It has really taken some different looks at this issue.

Mr. Blumberg, I appreciate your comments that we've made significant strides—CRA—in terms of where we're going. That number, $1.3 billion to $300 million, and I think you're accurate...$300 million is too much, but that's a huge difference in the last few years.

I also have to reiterate that the rules are not changing in terms of the ability for political advocacy, and I think that's getting confused in this discussion. What we're really doing is giving CRA some additional tools of transparency and ensuring that those rules are followed. It doesn't matter what the organization is focused on. CRA treats everyone the same, in terms of charities and in terms of what they do and where they go.

The one thing I am concerned about.... I absolutely agree with more transparency and having more things on forms. As someone who used to be responsible for some health facilities, like Ms. Dodd, we had...but we didn't have a foundation; the foundation was separate, but the administrator of the facilities had to do both roles.

Is there any way that we can target things, in terms of abuse, without making every single charity do massive amounts of more paperwork? Are there ways that we can target high-risk groups?

I think the reporting requirements right now for a hospital charity or for the Diabetes Association or the food bank are quite adequate. That's my concern.

How do we square that circle? We don't want to drive everyone crazy with paperwork, but we do want to increase transparency.

Mr. Blumberg, I'd like you to answer first, and then anyone else who would like to comment.

4:45 p.m.

Lawyer and Partner, Blumberg Segal LLP, CanadianCharityLaw.ca

Mark Blumberg

I would just say that CRA revised the T3010, the main form, so that for the average charity they're probably only filling in four pages. If they do other things, like foreign activities or they have employees or revenue over $100,000, then they'll fill in additional schedules.

But I would point out that if you look at the U.S. form 990, just to take an example, World Vision would file, say, 20 pages in Canada and 350 pages in the U.S. So in the U.S. they're asking for a lot more information, and also in the U.K.

The point is, when you are involved with having this important ability to issue tax receipts that is very valuable and you want there to be a level playing field, with the public being able to, at least, if they're interested, access the information, one needs to think about it. Even to add questions, even on a voluntary basis to add another page of questions, just a few questions, could add tremendously to what the T3010 has.

I agree, we don't want to impose a huge burden, but, for example, the T3010 doesn't ask if you have volunteers, it doesn't ask how many volunteers, how much value that provides to your charity. I think it's too dominated by financial information, which for some charities is important, but for some charities there's very little money involved; it's people doing good work in their communities, and I think the T3010 could ask more about that.

Not to mention if we're talking about governance, there are some really good questions one can ask about governance if one is worried about some of the charity governance issues, and they do in the U.S. and the U.K.

4:50 p.m.

Managing Director, Charity Intelligence Canada

Kate Bahen

I feel passionately about this. Can I just jump in?

I think that having a sliding scale is really critical. If you are a small church congregation with revenues of $35,000 a year, you should not be held to the same standards of transparency and accountability as a World Vision bringing in $120 million. I believe there should be a sliding scale.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you.

You have one minute.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

I have a quick question, perhaps to Ms. Hewitt.

You talked about three things that would have relevance, and then you did a quick line in terms of Canada Revenue Agency. Can you give a brief description and clarify a little more in terms of what you were thinking on that topic?

4:50 p.m.

Director, Social Entrepreneurship, Social Innovation Generation

Allyson Hewitt

Thank you.

I was referring to the recommendations put out by the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance, and I believe we've brought those recommendations forward to this committee in a different form in previous years.

Really, what we're saying is if we are going to look at tax incentives, and I'm taking you a little bit to where I'm seeing the trends happening—we think about donations out of one pocket, about investments out of another pocket—what we're seeing in global trends is people trying to bring both those pockets together, when you're actually able to invest for some kind of a return and get both social and financial benefits.

In that regard, we think there are some really interesting things happening that we'd like to see Canada take advantage of, and we're recommending that we put together a working group of people from a variety of sectors to really dig deep into what that could look like.

I think the other issue was around social enterprise.

Sorry, were you cutting me off?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Unfortunately, Ms. McLeod's time is up. Yes, I'm sorry. I have to be fair to all the members here.

Thank you, Ms. McLeod.

Mr. Jean, please.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

And thank you to the witnesses.

I also worked in the non-profit sector back in the eighties in Fort McMurray, in northern Alberta, and I discovered quickly that non-profit means that you're working for non-profit for yourself as well. I went back to law school and did much better after that.

I did, however, spend some time as the chair of the Children's Health Foundation of Northern Alberta during the nineties, and I have to tell you it was very moving indeed. I got involved with many charities. In fact, I am involved with Health Partners International as well now.

I want to talk a little about something that's happened in the budget recently, and that is, of course, transparency and accountability, and generally transparency relating to non-profit organizations and charities in Canada. Would any of the witnesses here disagree with the statement that foreign foundations, foreign groups with particular directions, are in Canada utilizing foreign money to directly interfere with Canadian policy? Would anybody disagree with that?

4:50 p.m.

Lawyer and Partner, Blumberg Segal LLP, CanadianCharityLaw.ca

Mark Blumberg

I wouldn't characterize it as interference. I would say—