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Two decades of donation data show Canadians are more Scrooge-like than ever


Twenty years worth of tax data shows that Canadians are becoming increasingly Scrooge-like when it comes to charitable giving.

In 2000, 26 percent of Canadians donated to charity, while only 19 percent opened their wallets in 2020, the most recent year with available data.

The amount of money being donated each year is also falling, with Canadians donating about 0.72 percent of their income in 2006, compared to 0.49 percent in 2020.

The numbers, compiled by the Fraser Institute, show that Manitoba is the most generous province and Quebec is the least generous, based on the percentage of income donated to charity in 2020.

The percentage of donors has been low for nearly two decades, even while Canadians continue to tell pollsters that charities are as important as ever, said Andreae Sennyah, the director of policy at Cardus.

“I think if you spoke to the average person, you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn’t support the work of charities writ large, in terms of what they say,” said Sennyah.

“I wonder if we have lost the sense of responsibility to support the charities that we say that we care so much about? I think the gap is there. It’s the sense of actual responsibility for our own communities and the role that charities play within them,” she said

At the same time as donations are plunging, Canadians are also increasingly worried that they will have to access charities in the near future.

According to Cardus, about 26 percent of Canadians anticipate that they will access, or are already accessing, the services of a charity this year. About the same number of Canadians say they will likely be donating less this year due to the state of the economy.

Sennyah recommends that Ontario boost its charitable tax credit, which is currently the lowest among Canadian provinces with a 5.05 percent tax credit for the first $200 in donations and an 11.16 percent tax credit for amounts over $200.

By nearly doubling both tax credits and raising awareness among Ontarians about the new benefit, Sennyah believes it has the potential to juice donations in the province at a time when charities are facing the dual challenge of declining donors and an increase in people requesting their services.

And if Ontario is looking for inspiration, or a case study on the impact of boosting these tax credits, it will soon have one. Although Alberta has one of the most generous charitable tax credits in Canada, it will soon be getting bigger.

United Conservative Party MLA Dan Williams saw his private member’s bill to boost his province’s charitable tax credit pass third reading last week.

Williams said he didn’t want to just “tinker” with the tax credit and instead proposed to increase it to 60 percent from 10 percent, in the hopes of significantly boosting charitable giving in Alberta.

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Based on data on donations in previous years, Williams expects that the increased tax credit will amount to about $50 million in foregone revenue for the provincial treasury. That number could be even higher if, as Williams expects, the legislation leads to an increase in charitable giving in the province.

Those revenue projections meant that Williams had to have some “long conversations” with Finance Minister Travis Toews about the implications of his bill. Toews, and both sides of the legislature, have been supportive, said Williams, as evidenced by how quickly the legislation was unanimously passed this month.

It’s not a coincidence that the new tax credit, when combined with the federal tax credit, matches the amount that Canadians receive when they make a donation to a political party.

“We as politicians have set our tax refundable receipt for the first $200 in Alberta at 75 percent. That’s exactly what it will be (for all charities) now that we have passed this bill, between the federal and provincial credit combined. And we’re clever, if not self-interested, as politicians, and we know it’s a great way to get people on board early on and get them into that habit of giving,” said Williams.

“But are charities not as important or more important?” he said.

If charitable giving continues to fall, but the services charities provide are still in demand, Sennyah said it’s likely the government will fill the gap, which would take something intangible out of society.

“There’s an unquantifiable element to what charities are able to do. You compare a cheque you get in the mail, compared to someone serving me soup at a soup kitchen. What you and I do at a soup kitchen is completely beyond the scope of what a government can do and what I arguably would say what they should do,” she said.

Content creators pin their hopes on Senate changes to controversial online streaming bill


For many of those concerned about Bill C-11, all eyes are back on the House of Commons after the Senate returned the bill with “surgical” amendments designed to clear up the proposed legislation’s most controversial language. 

Bill C-11 is intended to regulate online streaming services alongside traditional broadcast media like cable television, and compel streaming giants like YouTube and Netflix to promote “Canadian stories” by methods such as tweaking their algorithms.

While Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has said Bill C-11 would not apply to digital user-generated content, the Senate’s amendment changes Section 4.2 of the bill to specifically exclude “amateur content.” 

“That’s the whole idea of the amendment, to make sure that we’re not capturing things we weren’t supposed to capture,” says Paula Simons, one of two Senators who co-authored the amendment. 

Numerous independent digital content creators have expressed their opposition to the bill.

These creators worry their YouTube or TikTok channels will be negatively impacted by Bill C-11 forcing platforms to promote specific Canadian content, or “CanCon,” at the expense of independent user exposure and revenue. 

Simons says the amendment is intended to try and make the government do what it stated it would do, and that was to ensure entities like large corporate music platforms do not enjoy an unfair advantage. 

AIR Media-Tech, which offers services to boost digital user metrics, found that the number of YouTubers in Canada grows faster than in all of Western Europe, using both its own internal data and findings from Oxford Economics to support its claims. 

Furthermore, AIR Media-Tech said that if not changed, Bill C-11 could result in an outflow of talent from the Canadian market. At least one prominent Canadian YouTuber who runs the popular channel SomeOrdinaryGamers has said they may have to leave Canada if the bill passes without changes. 

In 2021, Oxford Economics found that YouTube alone contributed over $1.1 billion and the equivalent of 34,600 jobs to the Canadian economy. 

High-profile but independent digital content creators in Canada, such as J.J. McCullough or HZHTube Kids Fun, have more than 13 million YouTube subscribers combined. Simons says the amendment specifically assures them they are not included within the scope. 

“The idea was to find a way that would scope in the large music labels, but leave out the small digital-first creators,” says Simons. “The idea was to structure an amendment that would still allow songs and songwriters to be discoverable, but leave out people who are using YouTube, say, for stand-up comedy, or using TikTok for comedy or theatrical works.”

Earlier this year there was a tense verbal exchange between McCullough, who opposes the legislation, and several government MPs on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage regarding Bill C-11.

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Some digital content creators and advocates are praising the Senate for their work, and favourably compare the Senate’s treatment of witnesses with that of the House of Commons. 

“The amendment process in the House was a nightmare. Creators were bullied and dismissed after bringing our concerns forward,” said Scott Benzie over email. “The Senate has been much better, they have listened, heard our feedback, and made some changes.” 

Benzie is the CEO of the Buffer Festival, an annual digital video festival held in Toronto, and the managing digital director of Digital First Canada (DFC), an advocacy group for user content creators on platforms like YouTube. 

“The Senators should be recognized for their investment in listening, learning, and giving some real clinical thought to this bill,” says Morghan Fortier, the CEO of Skyship Entertainment, which produces children’s shows on YouTube. 

Skyship’s shows have garnered more than 49 million subscribers and 50 billion views combined.

Benzies believes that the politicians in charge of drafting C-11 did not understand all the possible downsides of the legislation. 

“There is a lot of ‘we will just figure it out’, but that is not good enough when creators’ businesses are on the line,” said Benzie. “The education process has been very important and it is why an organization like DFC is so important. All the drafters and Parliament ever hear from is traditional media.” 

Fortier says the amendments were a decent first step, but it remains to be seen if they go far enough to ensure digital content creators are not hurt by Bill C-11. 

“Heritage has made a lot of promises along this journey, and the Senators have done a good job of presenting amendments that would force Heritage to honour those promises,” says Fortier. “What Heritage accepts or doesn’t accept will be telling.” 

The next meeting of the heritage committee regarding Bill C-11 has not yet been scheduled.