The stunning majority mandate achieved by the Liberal party in the October 19 election means that there will be a lot of attention paid to promises made by the party during the election. While we mentioned these at various times in the past few issues, a reminder is in order given that pressure can legitimately be brought to bear to try to ensure that the promises are fulfilled.
In the official campaign platform there was a section dealing with the CRA.
“We will introduce a significant overhaul of CRA operating practices to develop a client relationship rather than that of simply a taxpayer.
- proactively contacting Canadians when they are entitled to, but are not, receiving tax benefits;
- offering to create returns for clients, particularly lower income Canadians and those on fixed incomes whose situations are unchanged year to year;
- supporting more Canadians who want to file taxes with no paper forms;
- ensuring CRA correspondence is user-friendly;
- combating international tax evasion
- and ending the CRA political harassment of charities, as well as clarifying rules to affirm the important role that charities can and should play in developing and advocating for public policy in Canada.” (our emphasis.)”
In a speech at the time (mid-June) Trudeau said the Liberals would not end the audits per se, but would instead end what the party calls the “political harassment” of charities. Trudeau will promise new rules for charities while still maintaining they can “develop and advocate for public policy in Canada.
In our view, this was a prudent caveat because this requires administrative changes and politicians, even if they form the government, tend to be ultra careful when dealing with CRA audits lest (cure the irony) they be accused of political interference! But if the Charity bureaucrats are warned that they will have to justify ongoing audits not to mention any future ones which revolve around political activity, this should be a major first step.
There were of course other related promises dealing with issues of interest to the sector as a whole.
As we noted in our November issue, Trudeau promised significantly increase3d funding for the cultural sector.
During a campaign stop in downtown Montreal in late Sepotember, he told supporters and members of the Quebec arts community that culture and creative industries generate jobs and help to strengthen the economy.
Trudeau said that if the Grits form government following the Oct. 19 vote, they would:
- Invest $150 million in new annual funding for CBC/Radio-Canada.
- Double investment in the Canada Council for the Arts to $360 million per year.
- Restore the Promart and Trade Routes international cultural promotion programs that the Conservative government has cut.
- Increase funding for Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board.
- Increase funding for the Young Canada Works program to help young people prepare to work in the heritage sector as part of the Liberals’ investment in social infrastructure of nearly $6 billion over the next four years.
Theses promises presumably will have to wait until the first Liberal Budget at least.
And we would be remiss if we didn’t again mention a Conservative promise which would have been welcomed and which in our view the Liberals could easily afford to adopt.
On Labour Day, Prime Minister Harper announced that a re-elected Conservative government would introduce an endowment incentive fund with matching federal dollars to help support local museums. Based on the successful theatre arts-related Endowment Incentive, the government would match every dollar raised by a local museum from individual donors. The program will be capped at approximately $15 million per year along with other conditions consistent with the existing arts-related incentive fund.
This is a fine idea though we should say that we have a minor conflict in that Arthur Drache is Chair of the Museums Foundation of Canada and its “clients” would tend to benefit from the adoption of such a programme.
 We’d note that in many cases we’re aware of, the auditors suddenly focus on technical issues (agency agreements for example) and shy away (ate least in writing) from alleging political activity.
 See page84.