Ontario seeks bigger bang for charities

TheStar.com – Ontario – Review to eye ways of improving agencies
Published On Thu Apr 22 2010.   Robert Benzie Queen’s Park Bureau Chief

Queen’s Park is launching a major push to revamp the Ontario non-profit sector to boost charities, foundations, and volunteer organizations, the Star has learned.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Eric Hoskins will announce a $100,000 white paper to examine how best to improve the province’s 45,000 not-for-profit agencies and groups.

“We want to build, develop, and enhance the not-for-profit sector by reviewing the structure and legislative framework,” a senior government official said Wednesday.

That does not necessarily mean more tax breaks or increased funding, but insiders say Premier Dalton McGuinty wants to better coordinate the efforts between government and the various organizations.

“There is so much untapped potential in this sector,” an insider said.

The hope is that the move, which is being announced as part of National Volunteer Week, would give a leg up to entities ranging from large charities like the United Way to tiny community groups.

Sources say McGuinty would like to replicate Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams’ successful strategy, which has seen volunteerism rise in that province.

Williams created a special secretariat and put Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dave Denine in charge of it. He gave the initiative even more clout by tapping his campaign manager, Ross Reid, an influential former federal minister, as deputy minister for the voluntary and non-profit sector.

That sent a message that the promotion of non-governmental organizations was on the front-burner in the province.

Insiders at Queen’s Park say that same spirit can be harnessed in Ontario.

In the March 8 speech from the throne, which unveiled Open Ontario, the Liberals’ agenda for governing through to the October 2011 election, McGuinty placed a special emphasis on volunteerism.

“Open Ontario will develop new ways to strengthen the not-for-profit sector – recognizing that in a time of more limited resources, we all need to work together to move our province forward,” the throne speech said.

Nearly five million Ontarians volunteer their time and services in the province and 373,000 people work full-time in the area. In all, the sector contributes $47 billion to economy.

McGuinty believes Hoskins, a co-founder of the charity War Child Canada, which helps children in war zones, is uniquely qualified to shepherd the new policy, with the white paper expected to be completed by December.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation, a provincial agency that oversees the distribution of money to charities and other non-profits, will play a big role in the review.

In a February speech to the Ontario Hospital Association’s conference for not-for-profit and charitable organizations, Trillium chair Helen Burstyn noted “it’s almost impossible … to overstate the sheer economic significance of the not-for-profit sector in Canada.”

“As a percentage of (gross domestic product), Canada’s not-for-profit sector is the second largest in the world, behind only the Netherlands,” she said.

< http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/798826–ontario-seeks-bigger-bang-for-charities >

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