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Charities' Election Hub 2019 - Everything Charities Need to Know During the 2019 Canadian Federal Election

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Charities' Election Hub 2019
Everything charities and nonprofits need to know

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In our first episode Imagine Canada CEO Bruce MacDonald sits down with Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May.

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Election Rules for Charities
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What the sector is doing

Arts & Culture

Canadian Actors' Equity Association has developed an election web page hub, featuring their election platform, tools to get involved, political parties’ positions on Arts & Culture and more election facts and useful information.

Civic Engagement

Council of Agencies Serving South Asians shares with us a civic engagement brochure.

Vibrant Communities Calgary will be hosting a vote pop-up and helping their stakeholders host a vote pop-up as well.

Samara Centre for Democracy will release What to Expect When You’re Electing to help you navigate the election by: busting common myths; answering frequently asked questions; and supporting healthy political conversations. Subscribe to their weekly election newsletter.

For those looking to get informed about Canada's democratic process leading up to the federal election, check out what our partners at Democratic Engagement Exchange have created. This guide has answers to the questions you might not even know you have.

Mennonite Central Committee developed a 2019 Federal Election Resource webpage to help you navigate key issues in this election season.

It can be tough to tell what’s true and what’s “fake news” just by looking at a headline. But it’s easy to do a quick check and get the real facts when something doesn’t look right online. Media Smarts want you to help Break the Fake by stopping the spread of false info and getting Canadians to check before sharing!

Here is the YMCA Canada’s  Up for Debate Toolkit, which provides information on how you can engage local candidates and your communities with practical guides and templates including:

  • Sample social media posts

  • Questions to ask your candidates

  • Information on setting up a local debate

  • Tips on engaging the media

You can also access an online tool to support people in taking action and calling on our Federal political party leaders to create a debate on women’s rights and gender equality.

*NEW* The team at Democratic Engagement Exchange have developed a series of mini how-to videos for running Vote PopUps. This is in addition to the existing guidebook and quick guides on their website. Ballot boxes and screens are available for pickup at Ryerson or on this website. They have also translated chapters on “Political Identity” and "Misinformation” into four languages. They are easy to print and great to bring to community-based events to hand out. Download them on their website and share online. 

Early Childhood

UNICEF Canada’s Election campaign #VoteForEveryChild is a multi-faceted advocacy program working to make Canada the top country in the world with regard to child and youth well-being. Read about the campaign and check out the social media toolkit.


National Literacy Network prepared 8 questions to ask federal election candidates. Join the movement today!

The Centre de documentation sur l'éducation des adultes et la condition féminine (CDÉACF) also regrouped election asks from various groups, an event calendar, resources and publications which they will update throughout the campaign. In FR only.

*NEW* Calgary Reads developed a document gathering responses from political parties regarding early literacy in Canada.


KAIROS is promoting September as Climate Action Month to explore the climate crisis and highlight the work of our members and networks. On each day in September, an event, blog post, environmental challenge – or some combination of all three! – will be posted and noted on a calendar on the KAIROS website.

*NEW* Environmental Defence has been involved in a number of activities this election season including the One Earth One Vote campaign. One Earth One Vote is a non-partisan campaign to encourage Canadians to prioritize the environment with their votes. Visit their campaign page to check out how you can get involved.

Food Security

Food Secure Canada is leading the #EatThinkVote campaigna series of all-candidate meetings where communities speak with their candidates about food insecurity and other food issues.

Food Banks Canada will be raising important policy issues to all federal candidates leading up to and during the election period in the hopes of sparking positive legislative changes to support those served by food banks. Here is a resource to help you join in.


Diabetes Canada encourages you to sign onto an ongoing petition calling on all political parties to support a diabetes strategy in their platforms.

Dying with Dignity Canada has launched a digital-advocacy email-a-candidate campaign and will also be creating a phone-a-candidate action. Visit here for more information.

ParticipACTION is encouraging parties to prioritize physical activity and tackle the inactivity crisis. Download their proposal for platform consideration [PDF] and their template letter here.

Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights has just launched their election-specific campaign materials. For this election, they are focusing in on 5 key themes: sex-ed, abortion access, sex worker rights, pharmacare and global sexual health and rights. Their campaign will include thematic weeks of action across the 5 themes, beginning next week. Beyond the individual actions planned for these weeks, they also have a compilation of questions people can ask their candidates and 1-pagers for each theme that include concrete recommendations for political parties.

MS Society of Canada has launched a campaign this federal election season: #MakeMSMatter. #MakeMSMatter is about raising awareness about multiple sclerosis and the realities of life with MS.

Join Parkinson Canada’s efforts to help raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease with candidates during the election by downloading their election resources.

The federal government has an important role to play in establishing and advancing public policy solutions that advance child & youth healthcare and health systems. #Elxn43 is an opportunity to #StandUpforKids and advance policy priorities which will directly impact health services delivery and health outcomes for Canada’s children and youth. Check out Children's Healthcare Canada's Election 2019 Toolkit today.

Human Rights

ABC Life Literacy Canada developed resources for literacy practitioners to use to talk about the federal election.

Results Canada has an Election Toolkit to help you speak to your electoral candidate easily and successfully! 

The YMCA’s #CanadaWeWant campaign includes candidate engagement elements and online public engagement elements. The candidate engagement efforts aim to raise awareness on their national priority areas and role in communities. Online, their public engagement efforts are focused on engaging Candians and encouraging us to vote.

United Way Centraide Canada published an op-ed calling on federal leaders to dig in to the roots of poverty through investments that accelerate progress on poverty reduction and housing strategies. Read and share it!

Indigenous Affairs

Indigenous issues are election issues! Join the Amnesty International Toronto BHR/Indigenous Issues team on Thursday, September 26th for a night of solidarity with Indigenous Peoples! Celebrate the anniversary of the adoption of UNDIP and sign their letter addressed those running in the Federal Election asking them to support implementation of the UN Declaration. (Event has now ended, contact to sign the letter)

International Development

Canadian Council for Refugees has an open letter to all leaders of federal parties about how refugees and migrants in Canada may be characterized during the upcoming federal election campaign.

Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers have a webpage full of resources including texts and images you can share on social media, a hashtag and an open letter. 

On September 25, RESULTS Canada will host a webinar titled “Tips to be a Social Media Advocacy Guru”.  The goal of the webinar is to equip volunteers and the general public with tools on how to engage with candidates and Members of Parliament.

Sector-wide Policy

Ontario Nonprofit Network has created a toolkit and tipsheet to help organizations and communities get advocating, during election seasons, and throughout the policy cycle.

CCVO developed a vote kit to help engage nonprofits in voting in the upcoming election. The Federal Election Nonprofit Advocacy Guide is a practical guide for those wishing to engage in advocacy during the 2019 federal election; it will help inform a range of nonprofit stakeholders, including executive directors, staff, board members and volunteers. The Guide contains valuable information about the context, rules, and strategies that can be used to support nonprofit contributions to public policy dialogue and development.

PFC has just posted a new guide for funders working on public policy. It makes the case for why funders should engage in public policy work, what it is, an explanation of the new federal rules (both CRA and Elections Act), stories of funders in action on public policy, and resources (PDF). 

In an open letter published September 23, Senator Terry Mercer and Senator Ratna Omidvar, Chair and Deputy Chair of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector, along with the representatives of charities and non-profits, argue that concrete steps ought to be taken by the federal government to support the sector’s work. They are now asking sector organizations to join in and sign the letter.

*NEW* The Pemsel Case Foundation is mandated to educate the sector and the public on Canadian charity law issues. It recently released video and audio versions of two webcasts as part of this work. The first focuses on policy advocacy by registered charities during the federal election.

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Our Policy Priorities

A "home" in the federal government


The Charities Directorate at the Canada Revenue Agency enforces the rules charities must follow in order to retain their status. It does not, however, have a policy role allowing it to proactively develop and promote the economic health of the sector.

Individual government departments are responsible for policy areas that may coincide with charities’ missions. In carrying out their mandates, these departments may work with and provide funding to individual organizations. But this is not done with an eye to sector organizations’ long-term sustainability or viability.

Other economic sectors have government departments charged with ensuring their long-term health and viability. Think Natural Resources Canada, Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, and Industry, Science and Economic Development.

Question to candidate:

Do you agree that the charity and nonprofit sector should have a dedicated entity within the government looking out for their interests? If so, how do you think that should look?

Giving and philanthropy


While Canadians are generous, giving trends are very concerning across the country. The proportion of Canadians claiming charitable donations on their income tax has been declining for more than a decade. Imagine Canada’s 30 Years of Giving report shows that giving is increasingly concentrated among elderly donors, while younger donors do not appear to be replacing the older ones. 

At the same time, Canada has what is considered to be among the most generous tax credit systems for encouraging charitable donations. 

Question to candidate:

What role do you see for the federal government in helping to promote charitable giving?

A federal policy "lens"


When federal government departments are proposing new policies, they are required to determine if there are specific impacts on small and medium enterprises, or differential impacts based on gender, Indigenous vs. non-Indigenous communities, rural vs. urban, official language communities, and other factors. These “lenses” ensure that policy-makers at the very least have to consider the consequences of their actions on various stakeholder groups and types of organization.

There is no requirement to consider the impact of federal policies on charities and nonprofits before those policies are adopted. For example, policy-makers did not consider the unique potential ramifications of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law on charities, and attempts to retrofit a solution have not been ideal.

Question to candidate:

Would you support changes to the federal policy process, requiring departments to explicitly consider the consequences for charities and nonprofits when new laws, policies, or regulations are developed?

Financial diversification


Charities and nonprofits face increasing demand for their services. The Chief Economist for the Charitable and Nonprofit Sector has projected that, without policy changes to promote financial diversification, charities and nonprofits will within a decade face a $26 billion annual shortfall between demand for their services and the resources available to provide those services. 

Charities and nonprofits already rely on self-generated income for a significant part of their revenue and this is likely the only way for them to assure their long-term sustainability. But charities and nonprofits face legal restrictions on the activities they can carry out to generate revenue, they have difficulty accessing investment capital, and they may lack the financial and business-planning skills they would need.

Question to candidate:

Would you support re-examining the rules that limit charities’ and nonprofits’ ability to generate revenue?

Would you support opening up existing federal business advisory and development services to charities and nonprofits?

Grants and Contributions


Many charities and nonprofits deliver services on behalf of the federal government, and are compensated for doing so through grant and contribution agreements.

Federal departments are inconsistent in how they administer these grants and contributions. In many cases, multi-year funding is not available, legitimate financial and administrative costs are excluded, and program evaluation is not covered (even though it may be required by the agreement). The net effect is that charities, nonprofits, and their donors are essentially subsidizing the federal government.

In 2006, an independent Blue Ribbon Panel was appointed by the federal government to recommend changes to grant and contribution administration. There has never been a formal, government-wide response to the Panel’s recommendations, nor have those recommendations been consistently adopted by federal departments.

Question to candidate:

What actions are you willing to take to ensure that federal grants and contributions are better administered, and that federal departments cover the full cost of the programs and services they’re asking charities and nonprofits to deliver?

Sector data


Statistics Canada has a mandate to provide a wide array of economic and social indicators in support of evidence-based policy-making. Detailed economic information is available, free of charge, about almost every sector and subsector of the Canadian economy.

StatsCan does not, however, have the mandate or resources to consistently collect, analyze, and disseminate economic data about the charitable and nonprofit sector. In 2019, we welcomed StatsCan’s one-time update to data that had last been collected and published in 2008. The 2019 data shows that charities and nonprofits account for 8.5% of GDP and employ 2.4 million Canadians.

Giving StatsCan the mandate to collect and publish data about the charitable and nonprofit sector – as it already does for every other sector of the economy – would cost less than $1 million per year.

Question to candidate:

Do you recognize the importance of having economic data about such a large sector, and would you support making a small investment in Statistics Canada to have this happen on a regular basis?