Bill C-4 (the proposed Not-for-profit Corporations Act) increases administrative demand on thousands of federal non-profit organizations and charities across Canada without addressing the critical lack of stable and secure long-term funding.
Ottawa (18 March 2009) - Legislation being introduced by the Harper government to the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (NPCA) will impose even greater administrative problems for underfunded and overworked services across Canada.
Among the most effected will be the not-for-profit community-based social services such as Women's shelters and support centres, non-profit housing, homelessness outreach programs, voices for equity and advocates for youth.
Providing many important and necessary services in communities across Canada the sector has faced decades of under-funding and cutbacks. Now the federal government may be introducing even greater demands on an already overworked sector.
Sector major employer in Canada but has faced decades of inadequate and unstable funding
“Canada's non-profit and voluntary sector is the second largest in the world after the Netherlands. There are an estimated 161,000 non-profits and charities in Canada, and half of these are run entirely by volunteers,” says MP for Halifax, Megan Leslie.
“Two million people in Canada are employed by not-for-profits, making this sector one of the largest employers in Canada. The non-profit sector represents 7.8% of our GDP, which is larger than the auto and manufacturing sectors.”
Despite that most families in Canada have used, or will use, one of these services, they have still seen their funding shrink. According to a report prepared by the National Union of Public and General Employees, voluntary not-for-profits in Canada have seen a cumulative drop in funding of $38.5 billion since 1996.
"The chronic underfunding of the community-based social service sector is characterized by inadequate, unstable, short-term and patchwork funding practices by government," the National Union's report says.
One size-fits-all approach doesn't address the problem - creates new ones
It is generally accepted that there is a greater need for transparency and accountability among Boards of Directors in the sector. Unfortunately, Bill C-4 may instead create a tangle of requirements and responsibilities that will be increasingly hard to meet. And it does not address the major challenge facing the sector - lack of stable and adequate funding.
Critics say that the bill does not account for the diversity, in size and scope, of the organizations in question. While a one-size-fits-all approach might seem easier, it is unlikely to serve the diverse set of non-profit organizations serving our communities.
Funding short falls and financial insecurity already put severe limits on these organization to do advocacy work. When funding is unpredictable or regulations are too complicated they can put the work in jeopardy.
Although regulatory changes are needed for non-profits any discussion of changes must consider the lack of stable funding that faces these groups.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE