Recap | Election 2019 and advocacy

publication date: Sep 25, 2019
author/source: Convened by ONN (Ontario Nonprofit Network)

Our organizations are an important bridge connecting governments to the people affected by government policy. Public policy impacts your organization and your communities. This election is especially important. There are major public policy issues that political parties and candidates are talking about that the nonprofit sector is working on, from affordable child care, affordable housing and anti-poverty initiatives, climate change, to diversity and inclusion and Truth and Reconciliation. Public policy impacts you: How your nonprofit goes about its work, what you can do, how you do it and why your work is needed. Advocacy is required to change public policy, and creating better public policy can make systemic changes. Advocacy empowers communities. Advocating helps you meet your mission.

Terrance Carter, Managing Partner, Carters explained who regulates these kinds of matters. Specifically, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regulates charities through the Income Tax Act (ITA). He notes that The ITA was amended in December 2018 to remove the “substantially all” test that had restricted registered charities from devoting no more than 10% of their resources on permitted political activities. However, charities may not give “direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political party or candidate for public office”. Carter made a point that in addition to the Income Tax Act and the Canada Elections Act, charities and nonprofits should be mindful of other legislation, such as federal and provincial lobbying legislation.

Kyle M. Morrow, Associate at Fasken gave an overview on complying with Third-Party Election Laws

He outlined that regulated activities in this area include:

  • Advertising
  • Partisan Activities
  • Surveys

It is worth noting that the rules in this area are very specific and nonprofits and charities would be wise to get advice on a particular idea or action before proceeding to make sure they are well within the rules.

Bill Schaper, Director of Public Policy at Imagine Canada, next spoke on why the 2019 election is an important time to advocate. He noted that the things you can do during election season include:

  • Provide information about party platforms. But don’t endorse any of them if you want to be nonpartisan.
  • Give information about how MPs have voted on a particular piece of legislation (or elected officials at other levels of government). But don’t single out MPs if you want to be nonpartisan.
  • Publish op-eds on issues related to your mission.
  • Use your social media platforms, website, and email lists to share election information.
  • Invite candidates to visit your facility or program (candidates must pay their own costs). You should invite all candidates to be nonpartisan.
  • Host an all-candidates debate.

Finally, Kate Cornell Co-Chair, Canadian Arts Coalition and Executive Director, Canadian Dance Assembly provided a case study on why and how her organizations advocate. She first talked about the 2018 Arts Day on the Hill which included:

  • 94 meetings
  • 75 MPs
  • 104 delegates from 77 organizations across Canada

Springboarding from that experience, the Canadian Arts Coalition developed a list of election asks for all parties. These include:

  • Follow through on the planned increment of $35M to the Canada Council for the Arts’ budget in 2020- 21 and maintain the Canada Council’s new base funding level of $362M in 2020-21 through 2024-25 to address important demographic changes.
  • Optimize base funding levels for the Canadian Arts Presentation Fund (CAPF) and the Building Canada through the Arts and Heritage Fund (BCTAH) in 2020 (in concert with a renewed export strategy).
  • Grow the Strategic Initiatives component of Culture Days by $2M per year within the Canada Cultural Investment Fund.
  • Pursue meaningful relations with First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples built on respect and self-determination, and to support Indigenous languages, and dedicate funding to arts and cultural development, as well as cultural infrastructure and dissemination, both on and off reserve.

This panel was moderated by ONN (Ontario Nonprofit Network), partnering with the experts cited above, to help charities learn more about how to be effective this election. Further resources are below.

Elections Canada Political Entities Support Network: 1-800-486-6563

Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time)

Imagine Canada Election Hub:

Imagine Canada and ONN Election Rules tool

Carters Professional Corporation, Lobbying and Elections Legislation in Canada

Canadian Arts Coalition Election Platform

The presenters were:

Terrance Carter, Managing Partner, Carters

Kyle M. Morrow, Associate at Fasken

Bill Schaper, Director of Public Policy, Imagine Canada

Kate Cornell, Co-Chair, Canadian Arts Coalition and Executive Director, Canadian Dance Assembly

Convened by ONN

This synopsis is by Hilborn Editor, Ann Rosenfield who was also eating lunch at the same time as she was typing. Any mistakes are a result of that unfortunate tomato on the keyboard incident and not reflective of the excellent presenters or convenor. To listen to the full webinar (which she highly recommends) please visit:

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