Why You Gotta Be So Mean?

As Taylor Swift has been known to sing, “Why you gotta be so mean?”

While I’m typically much more interested in grassroots leadership, Alberta’s recent provincial budget temporarily shifted my attention to the grasstops. The new budget includes a mean-spirited cut to the sector that can afford it the least, reflecting once again, a major disconnect between the provincial grasstops and the grassroots of our communities.

Until the most recent budget,  Alberta provided a 21 per cent tax credit for individual charitable contributions.  Given the impact of declining oil revenues, the government made the decision to cut the charitable tax credit to 12.75 per cent. And, while it seems only fair that Alberta’s corporate sector should shoulder at least a portion of the tax pain, apparently they were exempt. The current corporate tax rate of 10 per cent, the lowest in Canada, went untouched.


According to the Edmonton Journal, the reduction in the charitable tax credit will generate approximately $90 million. On the other hand, a mere one-point hike in the corporate tax rate would have raised an estimated $300 million to $400 million in annual revenue.

This decision should have everyone worried. Why?

Because the nonprofit and charity sector teach us about health issues or illness and how to fight it, provide prenatal and palliative care and everything in between, enrich our lives with recreation and sport activities, run recycling and environmental programs, organize community festivals and celebrations, deliver services for children and seniors, guide our lives spiritually, keep us healthy by supporting research to find cures for disease, work internationally, and build strong, safe, and diversity-friendly neighbourhoods.  Surely that’s worth protecting?

Over the years, government has played a significant role in supporting the nonprofit and charity sector to provide services for children, youth, and families who are vulnerable, but also in reducing the gaps between rich and poor with support and services. However, in recent years it has become more and more apparent that they can’t count on government.

Anyone, anywhere in Canada who works or volunteers for a nonprofit organization would agree it is getting more and more challenging to sustain their work. Governments are getting tougher, more demanding, and less generous with their support. That’s why that tax credit is so important.  It serves as an incentive to motivate charitable donations that help offset declining government resources.

Things are made even more complicated because since many organizations rely on the government for grants or contracts, they are hesitant to speak out, question, or criticize the government, for fear of financial repercussions.

No one is suggesting the business sector isn’t important and critical to our communities, however there’s something on the other side of the ledger. It’s something called quality of life. That’s rather important too. And, it can’t be achieved without the non-profit and charitable organizations that anchor our communities. They are key partners in building the quality of life for which Canada is respected around the world - they deserve better. 

Posted on 04-15-15

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