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August 28, 2014

Opinion: Canadian Charity Politics Isn't the Problem—Tax Benefit Is

The solution to the controversy over the Canadian tax agency's audits of politicking by nonprofits is not to limit such activity but to get rid of charities' tax breaks, a columnist for Canada's daily National Post writes.

Canadian law limits charities to spending 10 percent of their resources on policy advocacy and bars them from outright partisan activity. The Conservative government has earmarked extra funds in recent years to beef up "political-activities audits," which critics claim have been used to chill advocacy by nonprofits that oppose government policies, particularly on environmental issues.

Columnist Andrew Coyne argues that such groups are inherently political and the government "isn't telling them they can't [be]. It's only saying they can’t do so and still claim charitable tax status." A blanket elimination of exemptions would take government out of the business of deciding what is appropriate for charities to do and force groups to "raise funds on the strength of their own cause, not the lure of a tax break," he says.