Ontario modernizes not-for-profit groups

TheStar.com – Ontario
Published On Wed May 12 2010.  Rob Ferguson Queen’s Park Bureau

A new law proposed Wednesday is aimed at making sure that charities, volunteer organizations and other not-for-profit groups are run more professionally.

“It is catching up and cleaning up the rules,” Consumer Services Minister Sophia Aggelonitis said after introducing the Not-For-Profit Corporations Act, which would update regulations left virtually untouched since 1953.

The sector—which includes charities, social service organizations, some day care centres, environmental groups, arts and health organizations—is big business, with $50 billion in annual revenues. The sector employs 16 per cent of Ontario workers.

Some groups don’t have bylaws that govern how they’re run, and don’t hold regular meetings or have set terms and elections for board members, said Aggelonitis, who wants the sector to play an even bigger role in improving life in the province as the government struggles with a $19.7 billion deficit.

“We have to make sure there’s some accountability and transparency,” she added, by setting up a more stringent legal framework groups must follow, such as better access to financial records, setting out responsibilities for boards of directors and giving group members more remedies to go after boards not seen as acting in a group’s best interests.

“We want to give them the tools they need,” said Aggelonitis, noting better controls could help groups improve their management and avoid “tarnished reputations.”

The bill would also make it easier for not-for-profit groups to incorporate, better protect directors and executives from personal liability and allow groups to engage in commercial activities, providing the revenues are reinvested in their not-for-profit activities.

“There could be a group with a small café, for example, at their place…all the funds that are made are put back into that organization,” said Aggelonitis.

New Democrat MPP Paul Miller (Hamilton East-Stoney Creek) said he hopes the law will leave not-for-profit groups “better equipped to carry out the work they do” but his party needs time to study the details.

< http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/808600–ontario-modernizes-not-for-profit-groups >

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