Data on NGO Advocacy in Canada

Three sources of federal government data provide insights on the advocacy activities of Canadian international development civil society organizations:

  1. Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) data collected from registered charitable organizations through the T-3010 Registered Charity Information Return form. This data tracks the self-reported spending by charitable organizations on CRA-defined “political activities,” which include calls to public action for the purpose of changing a law or policy at any level of government in Canada or abroad. For a full definition of “political activities” see the CRA’s (2003) Policy Statement CPS-022 .
  2. Data from the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada on the lobbying activities of Canadian non-profit organizations.
  3. Elections Canada data on 3rd party spending on pre-election and election advertising (2004-2019). This data tracks the self-reported spending by organizations that registered with Elections Canada and reported spending on ‘election advertising’ in every federal election since 2004.

The spreadsheets on this site track these three data sources for international development civil society organizations that belong to the Canadian Council of International Cooperation.

Both sets of data should be interpreted with caution – please see the methodological notes below.

Methodological Notes on CRA on CCIC Member Organizations

  • The CRA data analysed here was provided directly by the CRA.
  • The data on CCIC member charities is based on the 2017 CCIC membership, which included a total of 59 charities out of a total CCIC membership of 84 organizations. The data set thus does not include some organizations that belonged to the CCIC prior to 2017 but did not continue their membership.
  • The data on all charities in Canada does not include all of the charities that were registered in Canada in each year, only those for which the CRA provided data,  typically about 75% of organizations for each year.
  • The CRA data is based on the information provided by charities on the annual T-3010 form. This data is all publicly accessible through the CRA Charity Listings Website or through a request to the CRA.
  • The CRA data from the T-3010 form should be interpreted with significant caution. The data is based on the information entered on the form by each charitable organization. The data is not independently verified by the CRA.
  • There are various gaps in the data provided by the CRA and changes in the CRA’s data collection methods between 1990 and 2016 that should be noted:
    • The data provided by the CRA on all charities in Canada for the period 1990 through 1996 is inconsistent and incomplete, with significant gaps in the data on expenditures by charities and reports of extremely high levels of spending on political activities, with spending on political activities close to or exceeding total expenditures in some years. For this reason, we have removed the data on all Canadian charities from 1990-1996 from our analysis.
    • The version of the T-3010 Form in use in 2017 was introduced in 2003. Between 2003 and 2016, all of the line numbers in the T-3010 Form refer to the same information. Between 1990 and 2004, a different version of the T-3010 Form was used with different line numbers. So, the data collected from specific lines on the T-3010 Form between 2005-2016 was matched with the corresponding data from the pre-2005 version of the form. Moreover, for some years the CRA provided the data requested with references to different line numbers (e.g. data on total expenditures was reported from both lines 117 and 128 of the pre-2003 T-3010 Form). Our research team confirmed the consistency of the data over time with the CRA data request office by telephone and email.
    • The most important changes in line numbers in the T-3010 form for this research are:Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 11.11.03 PM
  • A review of the data provided in the T-3010 Form also suggests that reporting to the CRA on expenditures on Political Activities by CCIC member organizations with charitable status only became systematic in the 2000s. For example, most of the organizations that consistently reported expenditures on Political Activities from 2010 onwards did not report any spending on Political Activities prior to 2000.
  • For further analysis of the limitations of the data from the T-3010 Form, see Mark Blumberg’s annual ‘Snapshot of the Canadian Charity Sector.
  • The dollar figures entered on the T-3010 Form are not adjusted for inflation over time.

Methodological Notes on Data from the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada

  • The Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada has collected data on the lobbying activities of private and non-profit organizations in Canada since 2008. The data is available to the public on the Office’s website.
  • Our research team collected the annual compilation of data produced by the Office for each year from 2008 through 2016.
  • The data for 2008 appear to be incomplete as the numbers of communications reported are much lower than for the following years.
  • The data from the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada provides only a very partial picture of the efforts of Canadian non-profit organizations to influence federal government decision-making. The Federal Lobbying Act  does not require that all organizations that engage in lobbying activities register with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying. The Act allows that “Corporations and not-for-profit organizations may conduct some lobbying activities and not be required to file a registration if the cumulative lobbying activities of all employees do not constitute 20% or more of one person’s duties over a period of a month.” Given the number of communication reports submitted by CCIC member organizations, it is unlikely that any of them would be legally required to report their lobbying activities. However, registration with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada is generally understood to be a good practice by organizations that communicate regularly with the federal government – and so provides some indication of the organizations that view public policy engagement as an important and regular part of their activities.