Each year, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance holds consultations on the federal budget. The Committee calls for written submissions, and holds hearings throughout the autumn, before presenting its recommendations to the government.
In past years, the Committee has allowed broad latitude in terms of the topics that organizations and individuals can raise, and the recommendations they make. However, over the last few budget cycles the Committee has adopted a practice of posing specific questions.
This year, the Committee asked only two, very specific, questions. One asked what the federal government could do to help individual Canadians become more productive and innovative. A question like this allows great scope for charities and nonprofits that work directly with individuals to share their experiences and recommendations as to what policies would have the greatest impact on the people they serve, but left no scope for an organization like Imagine Canada to discuss our collective needs as a sector.
The Committee’s other question was about federal policies that could make businesses more productive, innovative, and competitive. We confirmed with the Committee that their focus was on the private sector and that the needs of charities and nonprofits were not a priority for the Committee.
Charities and nonprofits make enormous social and economic contributions across Canada. As a whole, we employ more than two million people and generate more than 8 percent of Canada’s GDP. Our sector is far larger, and generates more economic and employment impact, than – for example – oil and gas, automobile manufacturing, or mining. Yet, governments still tend to see us as an economic cost rather than an economic asset.
Given this situation, Imagine Canada decided to write to the Committee to express our concern that by not considering the needs of our sector as a whole – whether intentionally or not – they are missing a real opportunity to generate more growth. If Parliamentarians and the government are interested in growth that is sustainable, environmentally responsible, and more equitable, charities and nonprofits need to be seen as a partner. These things are our business, after all.
One of Imagine Canada’s goals is for the federal government to start thinking differently about our sector. Taking a different approach to the pre-budget process is one step, we hope, in achieving that goal.