Good for the Goose, Not Apparently for the Gander

Good For The Goose, But Not Apparently For The Gander
By C. Yvonne Chenier, Q.C

For the last few years all registered Canadian charities have had to list compensation information on Schedule 3 of their T3010 registered charity information return. Not only is the total compensation amount for all employees shown, charities have had to list specific compensation information for the top ten positions in their organization. Using this information, and a bit of simple math, it is easy to see what the executives at Canadian charities are being paid. What is good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander, if you follow what has recently led to the resignation of an MP from the conservative caucus over this issue.

In the past few weeks there has been much discussion in the media after a member of parliament from Alberta resigned because his view of transparency was not translated into government legislation. Alberta MP Brent Rathgeber proposed a private members bill to expose the salaries of senior federal civil servants and certain other Crown corporations. The government did not support his quest for quite so much transparency to disclose salaries above $188,000 and the legislation as it now stands has raised the potential threshold of disclosure to more than $400,000. If the experience in Ontario is any indicator, there would be thousands of them paid above the initially proposed level. One is hard-pressed to find many charities where individual compensation disclosed is more than $188,000 let alone $400,000. But there are some. If registered Canadian charities, regulated by the Canadian Government, and running on tax credited dollars have to disclose salaries (like many others do in today’s transparent world) shouldn’t the Government of Canada itself be as transparent in their dealings with the Canadian public with salaries they pay to executives out of tax dollars?

Just to refresh, what is required to be disclosed on a charity’s T3010 is as follows. Schedule 3, includes all forms of salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, fees, honoraria, etc., plus the value of taxable and non-taxable benefits. It includes all amounts that form part of an employee’s gross income from employment plus the charity’s contributions to the employee’s pension, medical or insurance plan, employer CPP and EI contributions, and workers’ compensation premiums. Information is disclosed for the ten highest compensated positions during the fiscal year as well as the number of positions falling within each salary range, regardless of the type of work they perform. Anyone with a calculator can easily figure out how much executives are paid in charities. Their names and positions are often publicly available by doing a bit of research.

In most areas of life there is a cry for greater transparency especially where public dollars are concerned. Transparency seems to be the issue of the year for certain senators’ expenses so why should civil servants who are paid out of the same Canadian tax dollar base be protected? Is it because, as in Ontario where publicly funded salaries over $100,000 are exposed, the shock of seeing something similar at the federal level would be too much for Canadians to bear? Canadian charities should be encouraged to use this angle in their quest for funds. Canadians need to be reminded by charities that in many provinces, a donation of $100,000 which would be the equivalent of a great salary in any charity would transfer almost $50,000 away from the various levels of government in the form of tax credits to the donor. Donors need to do more voting with their money. Whose salaries do they want to pay?

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