On Oct. 23, 2018, Community Foundations of Canada participated in the third annual Day on the Hill for the social purpose sector organized by the team at Imagine Canada. Over 40 leaders and representatives from charities, non-profits and social enterprises met with MPs, senators and senior government officials from across parties and departments to discuss some of the issues and opportunities facing the sector. The goals for the day included raising awareness of the sector’s prominence and its work, as well as advocating for opportunities that would ensure that the sector can continue to be innovative, responsive, and supportive of Canadian communities.

From the community philanthropy movement, we were delighted to take part, alongside our colleagues from Vancouver Foundation. In speaking with MPs, senators, and senior government officials, representatives from a number of organizations working in the sector highlighted the strengths of the sectors and a series of central ‘asks’.

  1. Modernization of the legislative framework governing the social purpose sector, and governing charities in particular — Charities are governed by centuries-old laws and regulations — a framework that has not been updated in decades and does not reflect the needs of modern Canada. Participants in Day on the Hill asked parliamentarians to support a thorough modernization of these laws and regulations to ensure that charities can continue to be effective, relevant, and responsive. The federal government took an important step towards these recommendations in late October 2018, tabling proposed amendments to the Income Tax Act that clarify charities’ abilities to engage in non-partisan political activities that further their charitable purposes (proposed amendments here, an overview from Imagine Canada here).
  2. Support for the recommendations made by the Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy Co-creation Steering Group: In 2017, the Government of Canada appointed 16 leaders to a Steering Group to guide the development of a Canadian Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy. Following a year-long engagement process with Canadians, the group released a final report featuring 12 recommendations that would create a more enabling environment for social innovation and social finance. Day on the Hill participants asked that government and opposition officials support the recommendations as a key step to unlocking innovation and leadership in the social purpose sector. On Hill Day,  participants, including CFC staff, were invited back to Parliament to join a meeting hosted by Senator Ratna Omidvar and Stephen Huddart of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation around the establishment of a Social Finance Fund in Canada. This Fund would accelerate the development of social finance ecosystems across Canada and improve access to capital for social purpose organizations, emphasizing regional and local levels.
  3. Collection and dissemination of data about the social purpose sector Comprehensive data is fundamental to informed public policy decision-making, and yet it has been over a decade since the last study on charities and non-profits in Canada. Hill Day participants asked that Statistics Canada be given the mandate and resources necessary to collect, analyze and disseminate up-to-date data about the social purpose sector to inform future dialogue and decision-making. See the current data available from Imagine Canada.
  4. A new relationship between the social purpose sector and the federal government With a federal election on the horizon next year, there is an opportunity for a new relationship between social purpose organizations and the federal government. Such a vision might include a new operating environment for charities and government, a ‘home’ in government charged with supporting the sector as a whole and nurturing the economic and social contributions it can make while also enabling policies that remove counterproductive constraints on the sector’s ability to do its job. Each elected official was encouraged to include a vision for the social purpose sector be included in their party’s platform and policy commitments in the run up to the 2019 federal election.

Make Your Own Voice Heard

Activities like Hill Day build awareness about the importance of the social purpose sector and highlight opportunities to strengthen the impact of the sector for all Canadians.

As the 2019 federal election rapidly approaches, all candidates need to be aware of the impact that the social purpose has on Canadians, and the opportunities that would be unlocked through the recommendations discussed above.

To help continue this conversation, community foundations are encouraged to:

  • Meet with your MP, and share the important work done by you and your community partners.
  • Convey the asks outlined above, and pass on the one-pagers that Imagine Canada has prepared.
  • Connect with all candidates from all parties (keeping it non-partisan!), and encourage them to include a vision for the social purpose sector in their platform and policy commitments.

We continue to explore tools that will support community foundation leadership in this space. Stay tuned for next steps as we deepen our collective leadership! We would also like to extend our thanks and recognition to Imagine Canada for organizing the day and to our colleagues from so many organizations across the country for taking part with enthusiasm. For more information on Day on the Hill or on public policy engagement more generally, contact Laurel Carlton at lcarlton@communityfoundations.ca and 613-915-1637.