Freedom of Expression Rules the Day for Canadian Charities

by Alexa Briggs, CCVO Manager, Policy & Research There was some big news for charities across Canada this week. An Ontario judge ruled that the section of the federal Income Tax Act limiting the political activity of charities has “no force or effect” as of Monday, July 16. The judge ruled that this section of the Income Tax Act is an infringement on freedom of expression for charities. Partisan activities are still prohibited – a restriction that CCVO fully supports. This is a major development in an ongoing effort by many organizations that have argued this rule limits charitable organizations’ ability to fully participate in public debate on policy. All nonprofits, including charities, are uniquely positioned to provide insights, expertise, and commentary on policies that directly affect civil society. (See these articles for insights from Dr. Roger Gibbins, a Senior Fellow at the Max Bell Foundation, about the importance of policy advocacy.) The federal government has the option to accept the ruling, or appeal it. CCVO previously participated in the calls for the federal government to amend this limitation and we encourage the federal government to accept the decision of the judge. Further, we encourage the federal government to accept and implement the recommendations from the Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities, made in March 2017. We have written to Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, and encourage other nonprofits to do the same, requesting that the federal government accept the ruling and commit to accepting and implementing the panel’s recommendations. This issue may be particularly relevant for nonprofits in Alberta as we head into an...

What does the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Legislation mean for Alberta Nonprofits?

by Alexa Briggs, CCVO Manager, Policy & Research The Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) legislation was passed by the provincial government in June 2018 to enable municipalities to establish a program that assists property owners to make energy efficiency upgrades. It is a voluntary program that provides financing, which is repaid through property taxes. Municipalities must pass a PACE bylaw in order for residents to participate. My nonprofit is exempt from property tax, am I eligible? In short, yes. There is a mechanism for nonprofits to secure the financing for eligible energy efficient upgrades. If you want details, contact Energy Efficiency Alberta to find out more. My nonprofit rents or leases our space, how can we take advantage of the program? Nonprofits may wish to see property owners take advantage of energy efficient upgrades with the goal of reducing their operational costs. The provincial government intends to: work with nonprofits to develop resources that will assist in negotiations with landlords; do outreach to property management companies; and work with organizations like the Alberta Real Estate Association to encourage property owners to take advantage of this opportunity. What’s next? Whether or not a PACE program becomes available in Calgary depends upon The City of Calgary’s approval of a PACE bylaw. As PACE unfolds in Calgary, CCVO will: continue to work towards ensuring that operational savings earned by property owners are passed on to nonprofit organizations; encourage minimal administrative burden on nonprofits; share updates to keep the sector informed about developments. What can my nonprofit do right now? Your nonprofit can contact Calgary City Council and The Mayor to find out...

A Whole New World: 4 Things to Watch for and Consider in the New OH&S Act

by Christopher Spasoff, guest blogger Founder & OH&S Lawyer, F2 Legal Counsel It’s now been just over a month since Alberta’s new Occupational Health and Safety Act took effect. The Act introduced not only a number of new obligations and stakeholders, but an entirely new concept of workplace health and safety that extends beyond the worksite itself, and includes things like domestic violence, psychological health, and social well being. To put it mildly, the changes are aplenty, and are taking workplace health and safety in Alberta to a place it’s never been. Industry and academics have spent the past several months opining on what the changes mean for employers and workers alike, in both a legal and practical/operational sense. Similarly, much has already been said and written on everything from whether the changes are a good thing or a bad thing, to whether they’ll even prove effective. That, of course, remains to be seen in the coming months and years, as employers implement, officers enforce, and courts ultimately interpret them. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot more to come. For the time being though, the changes are neither good nor bad. They simply are. And as you wade through the mounds of information – and unfortunately some misinformation – there are a few things in particular to consider: Signing up for the Alberta Government’s Health and Safety eNews. Each month, the Alberta Government publishes it’s Health and Safety eNews, an electronic newsletter covering hot topics and current issues in occupational health and safety. The June 2018 version, for example, included clickable links to a number of additional resources...

Budget 2018: Signs of thinking differently, but still committed to status-quo

The Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (CCVO) was pleased to see Budget 2018 highlight the value of Alberta’s nonprofit sector. The provincial budget, released on March 22, includes the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s key strategies that place a priority on assisting nonprofits in building their human and financial capacity. Additionally, the need for and value of collaboration with partners outside of Government were highlighted in the 2018-19 provincial budget. “This as an important signal and step towards supporting healthy communities, as many organizations within the nonprofit sector are well-positioned to work with Government on shared goals,” says David Mitchell, President and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations. “CCVO is encouraged to see collaboration and partnership highlighted as a priority.” This budget also broadly considers the impact of spending to better support gender equality and Indigenous peoples. Taking this whole-of-government approach is a progressive step, and one of the first for a Canadian government. In CCVO’s pre-budget submission, which was informed by nonprofit sector input, we asked the Government to think and spend differently; Budget 2018 focus in these areas demonstrates the beginning of integrative thinking about public spending. There continues, however, to be more opportunity for future budgets to move beyond the status quo and think differently about public finances to more sustainably serve Alberta’s communities. Potential support for organizations affected by changes to labour legislation Over the past several months, CCVO listened to concerns from nonprofits about the impact of the updated Employment Standards Code on their operations, including increased costs of overtime, general holiday pay,  and the capacity required to update human resources policies...

Budget 2017 Holds the Line on Spending

Budget 2017-18 holds the line on spending as Alberta enters the third year of economic downturn. The budget maintains spending on front-line public services, which is consistent with what the government had signaled leading up to yesterday’s release.

Lobbyists Act – Call to Action

In December 2016, the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, who oversees the Lobbyists Registry, recommended significant changes to the Lobbyists Act. The recommendations call for removal of the exemption for public-benefit nonprofits. The removal of the current exemption would layer an additional administrative burden on Alberta’s public benefit nonprofits, including charities.

Carbon Levy Update

Alberta’s new Climate Leadership Implementation Act passes into law measures that were announced through the 2016-17 provincial budget, including Alberta’s new carbon levy. As it is presently structured, the Carbon Levy program places a disproportionate burden on Alberta’s nonprofits and charities that have little means at their disposal to recoup these costs. Read more about what CCVO, and our colleague organizations, are doing on this issue.

Human Services Procurement Q & A

Over the past few months we have encountered some perceptions, and concerns, from service providers around procurement initiatives underway and planned in Human Services. These concerns have arisen for a variety of reasons, and are also linked to the very natural uncertainly that comes from working with a new government. In an effort to ensure people’s concerns are based on facts, rather than misunderstanding or speculation, CCVO reached out to the Ministry of Human Services with some direct questions around the goals, impetus and process of the procurement initiative.

2015-16 Provincial Budget Analysis

The provincial budget released on October 27 is not transformational; rather, it is transitional. It maintains service levels in a lagging economy, and includes a number of targeted investments and initiatives that are consistent with campaign promises. It signals shifting priorities and suggests a larger transformation may be reflected in the spring budget.

Provincial Budget: Stability For the Nonprofit Sector In a Time of Uncertainty

Today’s provincial budget reflects priorities outlined in the NDP election platform and demonstrates the government’s commitment to preserving public programs and services. Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (CCVO) President and CEO Katherine van Kooy notes that “the priorities laid out in this budget reflect an understanding of the importance of maintaining community services during times of economic hardship and strengthening programs for Alberta’s most vulnerable.”

Alberta Minimum Wage Increase – What We’ve Heard

On May 29th the Government of Alberta announced that they are moving ahead with the plan to raise the minimum wage in Alberta to $15/hour by 2018. With a phase-in to start October 1st, 2015 the Government has been undertaking consultations throughout the month of June and the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations was invited to attend. The consultations focused on how to phase in the increases, phase out the differential in minimum wage for food and beverage workers who serve alcohol and other issues the Government needs to consider. Prior to attending, CCVO consulted with nonprofit stakeholders and reached out to our members with a short survey to capture information on how the proposed increase would affect their organizations. CCVO used the feedback to inform our input during the consultation. Thank you to those who responded to our survey.  What follows is a summary of what we’ve heard. Current Wages Given the breadth and diversity of the nonprofit sector, the impact of increasing minimum wage will vary significantly. Many of the larger, professionalized  nonprofits do not have positions that pay less than $15 per hour. But there are many others that have positions that earn less than $15 per hour, such as day camp counsellors, night relief staff, or custodial workers. Potential Impact The primary concerns raised by those who responded to our survey are as follows: Financing Wage Increases While some organizations are able to adjust prices to account for increased payroll costs, many cannot. Therefore, some anticipate they will have to reduce staff hours and/or positions. The Ripple Effect Organizations have expressed concerns about how the...

NDP Platform Highlights

The following is a compilation of statements taken from the Alberta NDP 2015 Election Platform that are particularly relevant to Alberta’s non-profit and charitable sector. Statements are taken verbatim. CCVO has reordered some of the statements and in some cases, added different headings. We have also removed reference to the Progressive Conservative Party and former Premier Prentice in these statements. Children & Families | Communities & Municipalities | Economic Diversification | Education | Employment | Environment & Climate | Fiscal Framework | First Nations & Indigenous People | Gender Equality | Health | Social Services | Budget Summary Children and Families We will invest in child care, creating new spaces and improving affordability, quality and access. We will move toward $25-a-day care in quality child care centres as Alberta’s finances permit. We will immediately implement enhancements to the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit and the Alberta Working Family Supplement so low income families do not have to wait more than a year to benefit. We will also adjust the Supplement to ensure all low income families can access it. We will review employment standards to support family-friendly work standards, including improving compassionate care leaves and providing time off for family responsibilities. Communities and Municipalities We’ll provide stable, predictable funding to both large and smaller municipalities and ensure they have resources they need to fulfill infrastructure priorities, such as transit. We will maintain the Municipal Sustainability Initiative. We’ll ensure rural communities have access to needed health care, education and infrastructure services. As part of this commitment, we will sit down with local government stakeholders to review the question of linear assessment....

Alberta’s Fiscal Future: An important message from CCVO

On December 15, the Alberta Government issued a press release outlining steps that will be taken to control spending through the remainder of this fiscal year through cost containment measures.

The release states that lowered resource revenues and expanding populations pose “unique challenges” for Alberta.

There is nothing unique about the current provincial economic circumstances.

An open letter to Premier Prentice

Dear Premier Prentice:

On behalf of the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (CCVO), I am writing you regarding the provincial fiscal situation and messaging from the Province about cost containment measures in the current fiscal year and in budget 2015-16.

We are very concerned about the potential for monetary decisions to compromise the nonprofit sector’s ability to sustain services it provides to communities. CCVO urges the Province to consider the impact of its budgetary decision-making on Alberta’s nonprofit sector. Additionally, we cannot stress strongly enough how important it is that Government facilitate a meaningful conversation with Albertans about the best way to stabilize provincial finances.

CCVO supports secondary suites

Dear Mayor Nenshi and Members of City Council;

Re: Support for Increase in Secondary Suites

The Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (CCVO), strongly urges you to legalize and increase access to secondary suites.

CCVO exists to support and strengthen the nonprofit sector. We have a membership of over 300 Calgary based nonprofits that reflect the breadth and diversity of the sector.

Alberta Budget 2014/15: Implications for the Nonprofit Sector

The Government of Alberta’s 2014-15 Budget, released on March 6th, projects $43 billion in revenues and an operational surplus of $2.6 billion. When flood assistance and debt servicing are removed from the equation, Budget 2014 amounts to a 3.9% increase over forecasted expenditures for 2013-14. This is in keeping with the recent throne speech commitment to keeping spending below growth and inflation until 2015. As the government is forecasting growth and inflation for the coming fiscal year to be 5%; in effect, this budget represents a slight decrease in operational expenditures. In order to support comparison of this year’s budgeted expenditures with previous years, the summary tables on pages 9-11 show ministry totals with flood related costs, as well as with these extraordinary costs removed....

Federal Budget 2014

Federal Budget 2014   “The Government of Canada recognizes that the charitable sector plays an essential and irreplaceable role in our society by providing valuable services to Canadians, including to those most in need.” – Budget 2014 Phew, you can sit back in your chairs now, as the 2014 Federal Budget didn’t deliver any earth-shattering news. There are, however, a number of changes that will impact the nonprofit and charitable sector. The changes can be categorized into action areas: • Encouraging Donations – Expanded carry-forward period for donations of eco-sensitive land & increased flexibility in the tax treatment of charitable donations from estates. • Reducing Administrative Burdens – Introduction of electronic filing for annual information returns, electronic registration for charities, and charities will be able to use computers to conduct lotteries. • Capacity Building – Opportunities for nonprofits to benefit from partnerships with highly-skilled graduate students and researchers. • Skill Development and Employment – Introduction of a number of programs aimed at reducing the gap between skills and available jobs, plus an announcement that the controversial Canada Jobs Grant will come into effect on April 1st. • Review and Consultations – Review of whether the income tax exemption for NPOs is properly targeted, including public consultation on the income tax framework. • Preventing Abuse of Charitable Status – New authority to revoke or refuse registration of charities accepting donations from foreign states listed as a supporter of terrorism. Resources The following resources do a particularly good job explaining, in more detail, some of the changes affecting the nonprofit and charitable sector. Imagine Canada’s – Items of Interest to Charities...

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

See our Anti-Spam Resource Page for recent updates and information. Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation On December 4, Federal Minister of Industry James Moore announced that Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) will come into force on July 1, 2014.  The legislation is intended to deter spam and other damaging and deceptive electronic threats. CASL applies to commercial electronic messages (CEMs), which are defined as messages in which: the content; hyperlinks to other content; or contact information in the message can reasonably be interpreted as having as its purpose (or one of its purposes), “to encourage participation in a commercial activity”. What it means for charities and nonprofits The implications are not yet fully known. What we do know is that an exemption for messages sent by registered charities that have raising funds for the charity as their primary purpose was recently added to the regulations supporting the law. According to the government release, “Canadian charities, which operate based on the generosity of Canadians, will be able to continue fundraising as before.” Charities will still need to distinguish between commercial messages used to raise funds and those that include the promotion of commercial activities that are not considered to be fundraising activities. All commercial electronic messages sent by nonprofits that are not registered as charities (including those intended to raise funds) will still fall under CASL. For those messages not exempted from the regulations, organizations will need to: Obtain consent from recipients before sending commercial electronic messages. a)   Consent will be “implied” in the case of members, donors or volunteers that have been active in the two years immediately prior to the date the...

Shuffling the Deck

In the wake of a cabinet shuffle, there tend to be more questions than answers, and the one Premier Redford announced Friday is no different – particularly as it relates to Alberta’s social services sector, where employment and skills training has been removed from the Human Services Portfolio.

Alberta Budget 2014 Submission

CCVO’s submission on Alberta Budget 2014 makes recommendations related to the ongoing sustainability of the nonprofit sector and its workforce, as well as the need for transformational change efforts to be supported with timely consultation and predictable funding. Read/Download...

A Promising Example of Successful Government & Sector Dialogue: The Workforce Alliance Experience

For many years nonprofit sector leaders have maintained that more meaningful and timely consultation between the government and the sector would improve public policy and help identify potential unforeseen consequences of policy or budget decisions before they have an effect on the sector and the clients they serve. It has generally been a hard sell to get governments to put this into practice, but the experience of Alberta’s Human Services Workforce Alliance may signal a change in attitude.

Serving Up Change

By Geoff Braun, Director of Policy and Research, CCVO

The Menu

A number of unique items appeared on the menu during Premier Redford’s leadership bid and in the 2012 general election. There was stable and predictable funding for the nonprofit sector, wage parity with comparable positions in the public service, and meaningful involvement in the public policy process.

CCVO Analysis: Alberta Budget 2013

On March 7, the Government of Alberta released a budget that holds overall operational spending at $36.4 billion, the same level as last year. It forecasts an operational deficit of $451 million before an additional $5.2 billion in capital spending. While some of the implications of this year’s budget for Alberta’s nonprofit sector are immediately apparent, others will come into clearer focus in the months ahead.

CCVO Op-Ed: Can we cut our way to a preferred future?

Over the past several months, we have seen the emergence of a difficult and long overdue conversation about how we finance the services that Albertans need and expect. Debate about tax options, expenditure controls and the level of services required to meet the needs of a growing population and a strong economy is healthy in a democratic society, but following the government’s release of the 2012-13 third-quarter fiscal report, now projecting a deficit between 3.5 and 4 billion dollars, the public discussion has been dominated by voices such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Fraser Institute and others who see expenditure reduction as the only solution.

2012 Provincial Election Resources

CCVO believes that civil society and democratic engagement are fundamental to the wellbeing of our communities. The following information, resources and links are intended to support nonprofits with their provincial election engagement strategies.

CRA's Rules for Advocacy by Charities

Across Canada, charities have a wealth of in-depth knowledge about their community and the populations they serve. Organizations working on the ground can identify new or emerging issues and opportunities, and be a source of insight and expertise. Sharing this knowledge with all levels of government can lead to the development of and implementation of effective policies that build a healthy and vibrant community.

Under rules set out by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), charities must devote substantially all of their resources to their charitable purposes and activities. They can only use 10% of their resources for allowable political activities (non-partisan) that further their charitable purpose. These restrictions, known as the “10% rule,” are set in CRA’s Policy Statement on Political Activities (CPS-022), an interpretation of the Income Tax Act.

2012 Budget Analysis

On February 9, the Government of Alberta released what has been widely interpreted as a stay-the course, pre-election budget. Budget 2012 does signal some new directions, however, these will not be implemented prior to the election.

Bill C-470: An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (Disclosure of Compensation For Registered Charities)

Update April 20, 2011
With the dissolution of Parliament on March 26, all bills that had not received Royal Assent, including Bill C-470 on compensation disclosure for registered charities, have been terminated. Bills cannot be reinstated; however, a new bill with the same or similar intent to that of Bill C-470 could be reintroduced in the next Parliament. MP Albina Guarnieri, who originally sponsored the Bill C-470, is not seeking re-election, so another member of parliament would have to introduce the bill.

Federal Budget 2011

In anticipation of the release of the 2011 Federal Budget, the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations submitted a pre-budget brief to the Standing Committee on Finance that proposed the following three recommendations:

Budget 2009: Measures to Assist Albertans and their Communities

This Pre-Budget submission by CCVO, ECVO, Volunteer Alberta and The Muttart Foundation called for the Provincial government to maintain funding levels for community based organizations, earmark infrastructure spending for community projects, continue to support programs and policies that stimulate charitable giving and continue to support the Alberta Voluntary/Nonprofit Sector Initiative (ANVSI)

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