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Parties and Charities: The Tale of Two Tax Credits

“..lowering the charitable credit recognizes that people give for other reasons than tax rebates.” – Department of Finance Spokesperson, Metro News

It’s probably quite true that most donate to charity without expecting anything in return. The more sharp tongued of individuals might publicly ask if the same can be said of larger political contributions. Regardless, with Budget 2015, the tax credit for donations to political parties remains unchanged while that for charitable contributions over $200 drops to one of the lowest rates among provinces and territories. Falling from 21% to 12.5%, only Ontario (11.16% and Nunavut (11.50%) will have a lower rate.

My close-up charitable experience comes from volunteering with a food bank. To collect and distribute food across a city requires putting trucks on the road. So you can also factor in the rising gas tax as an increased price of doing business, and a driver of food bank demand as transportation costs raise the price of food. As I’ve mentioned before, food bank use is rising, in bad times and good.

How will the cut to the charitable tax credit impact food banks, and everyone who provides the services and supports that are used more and more as the economy sputters?

But D.D. Coutts, manager of communications for the Calgary Food Bank, said she believes many organizations, particularly those in the human services field, will be hurt by the move.

“We’re not concerned about people’s generosity because people were donating before there was any tax credit and are very generous to donate,” Coutts said. – Calgary Herald, Calgary charities worried about drop in donations after province cuts tax credits

The Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations, Calgary Chamber and Volunteer Alberta would agree, having launched their “Now is Not the Time” campaign:

Budget 2015 asks Albertans to pay more in taxes and fees at a time when many will have reduced earnings. Less disposable income means less money available to donate to charity.

When the economy slows, all forms of revenue for charities are reduced. Alberta charities are already seeing reductions in corporate donations and government funding continues to stagnate. At the same time, many charities are called upon to respond to increased community needs.

The tax credit reduction follows on the heels of the elimination of the Community Spirit Donation Matching program, which was also designed to incent charitable giving.

http://www.nowisnotthetime.ca/

A petition has also been launched at http://www.albertans4giving.ca.

This leaves Alberta’s charities and non-profits to do what they’ve always done. Maintain minimal admin costs, provide services and supports that the government does not, and do more with less as demand for services increases.

Lend them a  hand by continuing to be generous with your donations, and throw a letter to your MLA in with that as well.

Booming business for Alberta’s food banks

Canada food bank usage

(Food bank use in Canada – 2014 Hunger Count)

An economy perpetually tied to the price of oil is stumbling, the government knows of at least 4,544 layoff notices being handed out, and business at Alberta’s food banks is booming.

One of the barometers for poverty and the health of our society is food bank usage. In Alberta, since 2008, demand for assistance from food banks has increase by 48%.

In September, the Edmonton Food Bank distributed 14,000 hampers to those in need. This January, demand rose to 16,000. Picture a capacity crowd in Rexall Place calling on the Food Bank for help each month.

As winter began, the Calgary Food Bank reported a 10% increase in demand from 2013. Within 2014, Calgary was distributing 200 more hampers per month in the fall, than they were at the beginning of summer.

Food Bank demand spikes as oil prices fall and Alberta’s economy stumbles. But in good times or bad, it still increases.

If Alberta’s soon to be past and future MLAs are looking for a volunteer opportunity in the next little while, donating some time to answer calls from, or packing food hampers for individuals and families who need help, might not be a bad idea.

It would certainly put them in the room with those who would like to ask the question; what’s next for social policy in Alberta? A topic that wasn’t the recipient of much discussion or debate  during the race for the Premiership, or during the byelection campaigns.

What of a soon to be upon us general election? Alberta’s Social Policy Framework, “the future direction social policy in Alberta”, seems to have stalled. Or perhaps exited the political scene with the departure of former Human Services Minister Dave Hancock. Working in the non-profit community sector, we seem to be a world away from the Premier’s office. Alberta’s child poverty rate is pretty much unchanged since 1989. 18% of children in Edmonton live in poverty according to the latest numbers from the Edmonton Social Planning Council. And food banks in Alberta are being flooded with demand.

In recent weeks we’ve talked about $800 dollar chairs and condominium priced tables in Government meeting rooms. The funding that the Auditor General and Child and Youth Advocate need to fulfill their extensive mandates, and the speed at which government-dominated committees give and take from their budgets. But the other issues out there..

To quote  from the Edmonton Journal’s Graham Thomson:

Kill 500 ducks in an Alberta tailings pond and you hear outrage from around the world.

Yet, turn away 27,000 women and children from Alberta emergency shelters and you hear barely a whisper. Close six group homes for troubled children and there isn’t a peep. Shut down 12 foster homes and there’s only silence.

Non-profit agencies across Alberta are facing a crisis and odds are you had no idea — not unless you were an abused woman, a troubled teen or a neglected child.

Crisis is easy. It’s easily manufactured through apathy by voters and government. The latter enabled by the former. The next four years are too important to treat this election like a spectator sport, to keep your vote at home or to let it be decided by narrow and vague campaign messaging. People are hurting, people are in crisis and it’s happening regardless of the price of oil and where we are on the energy-dependance roller coaster.

Where does the candidate at your door stand on Alberta’s social issues? Do you know, do they know? Take the time to find out, to know the person who wants to represent you on the floor of the legislature. A lot of people in need are counting on you.

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Fort McMurray food bank sees dramatic increase in demand

Edmonton Food Bank experiencing record calls in time of need

Food bank use soars in Alberta as cost of living increases

Calgary Food Bank demand on the rise

A Shout-out to Yeg’s Fastest Runners

1:00am in the river valley at the Tuxedos & Gowns run for @yegfoodbank #yeg

A video posted by Jamie Post (@jamiepost) on

It’s cold, snowing, the roads suck and I’ve seen one email stating that life as we know it is over for the year. In reality, the ice and day-time sub-zero have arrived a week later this year, than they have the past couple.

For the past several years, Edmonton runners and willing participants have defied poor weather and icy river valley trails and sidewalks to take part in the Running Room’s “Tuxedos, Gowns and Hotdogs” fun run in support of the Edmonton Food Bank.

Starting at 1:59am during the fall time change, runners provided donations and raised money for the Food Bank, heading into the high-demand Christmas Season. Despite the early arrival of winter these past few years, they still made the effort and even with the icy conditions, many finished before the clocks reached 1:59, again.

2014 will have been the final year for this event., with perhaps the best weather. As a Food Bank volunteer who looked forward to heading down to the Kinsmen Centre every year to help out, I’ll miss our fun and quirky fundraiser. Thank you to the runners and volunteers who donated and took part. As well as to the Running Room, and Judy from the Food Bank who made organizing it look easy.