Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2019
Robert Lyman is an Ottawa energy policy consultant. He formerly worked as a public servant for 27 years and prior to that was a diplomat for 10 years.
I recently posted an article entitled, “Green Titanic – How Big Green Money’s Political Power was Unleashed” on the Friends of Science blog. The article explained how recent legislative changes and a court decision have essentially freed registered charities from previous constraints on their funding of political activity. The article began with a financial profile of the entire charities sector in Canada, and then focused on the activities of the environmental organizations that enjoy registered charity status, some of which actively oppose resource development in Canada as a way to affect global warming trends.
Some of the comments and questions from readers expressed uncertainty or doubts about the figures cited in the article. Specifically, the article noted that the total annual revenues received by registered charities in Canada was $250 billion. That is an enormous sum, equal to almost 80 per cent of the annual revenues of the federal government.
The source of the figure was a report published by Mark Blumberg, probably the foremost expert in charities law in Canada, which was intended as a “snapshot” of the Canadian charity sector in 2015. Blumberg, quoting Canada Revenue Agency figures, noted that in 2015:
- Canadian charities received $251 billion in total revenue and had total expenditures of $240 billion;
- Government contributions to charities totaled $168.5 billion;
- The government contributions came primarily from the provincial governments ($152.6 billion), followed by municipal and regional governments ($9.1 billion) and the federal government ($6.8 billion);
- $1.9 billion was received by charities from foreign donors; and
- 550 charities spent $28 million on political activities.
The figure for total charity revenues that I used in the article was $170 billion (i.e. I rounded up the $168.5 billion).
In other recent articles, I have referred to the revenues received by environmental organizations. Specifically, I indicated that, over the period 2000 to 2018, the 40 largest environmental organizations received $11.1 billion in revenues, and if one added in the revenues received by environmental law organizations the total over 18 years was $11.4 billion. Thus, while the revenues received by environmental organizations is very high (much higher than those received by political parties, for example), it is small when compared to the revenues received by all charities.
If one goes back to the Canada Revenue Agency source for data on revenues for all charities from 1997 to 2016, there are some very important trends to note. See the following table.
Charity Sector reported revenues source 1997-2017 (YTD).
|Yr||Filings||Total Revenue||Other Revenue||Foreign||Federal||Provincial||Municipal||Gov|
- In 2016, total revenues received by charities rose from $252 billion to $262 billion.
- From 2000 to 2016, total revenues increased from $99 billion to $262 billion, or 165 per cent.
- From 2000 to 2016, provincial government contributions to charities rose from $44 billion to $160 billion, or 264 per cent.
- From 2000 to 2016, municipal government contributions to charities rose from $4.2 billion to $10.2 billion, or 143 per cent.
- From 2000 to 2016, federal government contributions rose from $2.8 billion to $7.3 billion, or 161 per cent.
- Foreign funding, which was nil until 2009, rose from $700 million in 2009 to $2.1 billion in 2016, an increase of 300 per cent.
In his recent testimony before the Senate, Mark Blumberg estimated that, as a result of recent legal changes, political spending by charities could increase by seven times. If that were to occur, annual political spending by charities would be about $180 million. Over the last 18 years, the four main political parties in Canada have received $631 million in revenues, or an average of $35 million per year. The charities thus could come to spend over five times as much annually as all the federal political parties combined.
Robert Lyman talks with Danielle Smith on Newstalk 770 CHQR about his report “Green Titanic”