Make Your Voice Heard: The Select Standing Committee Consultations

It’s been a little over a year since the BC NDP formed its minority government with the support of the BC Green Party. Over that time, our new government has begun to address some of our province’s long-standing issues and has made good on some of its key promises. But there are also significant issues and service areas that need more attention and more funding. (And there are also some that have yet to be addressed at all.)

Starting next month, we will have the chance to draw attention to these issues and to help inform the next provincial budget. The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services will begin the consultation process for the 2019 Provincial Budget on September 17th.

Consultation Dates and Submission Information

Online registration to present at the public hearings opens on September 7th. (The dates and locations of the public hearings are listed below and on the consultation website.) The process to submit a written, audio and video submission, as well as complete the online survey, opens on September 17th.

We encourage all of our members to present or make a submission. Your voices need to be heard. The committee needs to hear what you’re experiencing and what you’re struggling with. They also need to hear what must change in order to ensure that all British Columbians have the supports they need where and when they need them.

Sustainability and Supports

The Federation will be focusing our presentation on the sustainability of the sector (i.e., Employer Health Tax, wage compression, recruitment and retention) and on the urgent need for investments to support children in care (i.e., foster parent compensation, residential care). We will share our full presentation with Federation members in September.

This is one of the best opportunities we have to explain the importance of what we do, share the positive impact of our work, and provide valuable insight into how to support the social care sector so we can do even more!

And while some members of the committee—former MCFD Minister Stephanie Cadieux and MLA Mitzi Dean—will be very familiar with the issues we are facing, other members will not. So this is a rare chance to help even more politicians better understand the value of social care and the profound and important role our sector plays in British Columbia.

Make your voice heard!

The current list of dates and locations are listed below. You can learn more about the consultation process and how to participate here. You can learn more about the Select Standing Committee and its members here. The consultation period closes on October 15th.

One way or another, I encourage you to make sure your voice is heard. It needs to be. If you or your organization need assistance preparing, please contact Rebecca at The Federation office. We’re here to help!​

Select Standing Committee Public Hearing Locations

– Dawson Creek (September 17)
– Prince George (September 18)
– Smithers (September 18)
– Masset (September 19)
– Campbell River (September 20)
– Vancouver (September 24)
– Cranbrook (September 25)
– Trail (September 25)
– Nelson (September 26)
– Kamloops (September 26)
– Kelowna (September 27)
– Esquimalt (October 9)
– Mission (October 10)
– Surrey (October 11)

Rick FitzZaland
Federation Executive Director

Expanding Our Reach: Staff Sign-Up Contest

As The Federation strives to meet the needs of our members (and to respond to the complexity inherent in the social care sector), the content, services, and supports we are creating and sharing with members are increasingly valuable and relevant to staff other than just an organization’s Executive Director.

Our recent outreach regarding the Employer Health Tax saw us talking with Finance Directors and Human Resources Directors. Articles from our Research to Practice Network and our monthly Research Bulletins are developed with an even more diverse audience in mind—as are our Leadership 2020 newsletters and the News Clippings.

And as we began working on some of the actions that came out of our 2018 Social Policy Forum, we realized that The Federation needs an even wider reach in order for these activities to be as successful as we want them to be. This is why we are asking all of our member organizations to encourage their staff to subscribe to our communication channels! As an extra incentive, we are offering some of the books from the Reconciliation Book Club’s reading list as a prize for the first member organization to sign up 10 new subscribers!

To be clear, The Federation remains very focused on supporting the leadership needs of the sector, but we also want to be intentional about supporting leadership, engagement, and learning regardless of staff position.

So forward this note to your staff and colleagues and encourage them to sign up. If you have any questions about these efforts or The Federation’s different communication channels, don’t hesitate to contact us. (And you can see the list of books up for grabs on the Reconciliation Book Club webpage.)

Rick FitzZaland
Federation Executive Director

 

CRA Ruling and Charities: An Update

Earlier this month, we shared details of an important ruling made by the Ontario Superior Court that struck down restrictions related to charities and political activities. (You can read that update to members here.)

Last week, the picture changed somewhat. A joint statement by the Minister of National Revenue and the Minister of Finance established the federal government’s position on the ruling and on this increasingly contentious issue. Their statement affirmed Ottawa’s “commitment to clarify the rules governing the political activities of charities” and reiterated that the government is “taking the necessary steps to move forward on that commitment.”

However, the Ministers’ statement also made clear the fact that the federal government will be appealing the decision made by the Ontario court (Canada Without Poverty v the Attorney General of Canada, rendered on July 16, 2018) in order to “address the uncertainty created by it” and to “seek clarification on important issues of constitutional and charity law.”

What this all means

While the decision to appeal does not necessarily change the policy direction the government intends to take regarding the limits on political activities, Canada Without Poverty (CWP), among others, has called the move “troubling” and “wrongheaded.” While the Ontario court’s ruling constitutionally protected the right of charities “to freedom of non-partisan expression” under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, Ottawa’s plan is to appeal and address this issue by instead amending legislation.

In other words, the government has promised to remove the offending provisions of the Income Tax Act, but only as a matter of public policy rather than a matter of human rights and free speech. Thus, while the end result (removal of restrictions regarding political activities for charities) could remain the same, a legislative approach will be taken rather than a judicial one—leaving that end result in a far more precarious position.

“Ultimately, [the government’s] position is that what happened to CWP under the previous government does not violate the Charter. If they win on appeal, any future government would be free to re-introduce the same legislative provisions and the same thing could happen to the charitable sector all over again.” – Canada Without Poverty

Ottawa plans to present the new legislation in the fall. Rest assured, the Federation is monitoring this issue very closely and will report any new developments to our members. In the meantime, you can review a number of related resources below. Please contact our Research and Policy Analyst if you have any specific questions or concerns.

– The Ontario court’s initial ruling
– The Federation’s update to members on the initial ruling
– Statement by the Minister of National Revenue and the Minister of Finance
– Canada Without Poverty’s response to the joint statement
– Imagine Canada’s response to the joint statement
– Responses by other charities

Rick FitzZaland
Federation Executive Director

 

Project Management Basics

While many project management approaches vary, the components are essentially the same. A project generally has four phases: Initiation, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation. Within each of these, there are specific areas to attend to and document. But they all contribute to the biggest benefit of using a project management approach—the overall increase in clarity when it comes to communication, organization, reporting, and teamwork.

There are a wealth of resources and courses available online but they are not all consistent. The field of project management continues to grow and develop and is used heavily in the construction and IT worlds, as well as throughout government. When I was with the BC Public Service Agency, I was responsible for the BC government’s project management training program, which followed the Project Management Institute’s approach—this is what we will explore below. 

Definition

In our Leadership 2020 residencies, we use the terms “project” and “pursuit” interchangeably. But in the world of project management, the term project is very specific. This definition, from Stephen
Vanden Broucke is straightforward:

“A systematic, goal-oriented, temporary and one-time endeavour to create a unique product or service within clearly specified time, cost and quality constraints.”

Our Camino for Alzheimer’s Awareness meets these criteria. Our goals are to first raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and raise funds for the BC Alzheimers Society. The project (including daily blog posts) will last a period of two months and we are definitely only planning to do this once! The product is also unique (others have done similar things, but no one incorporated a blog and, as far as we can tell, no one has included a person with Alzheimer’s in their walk). We have a clearly specified time—beginning on September 21 and ending when my husband reaches Santiago approximately two months later—and we have budgeted for the walk based on our prior Camino experiences. (We are covering our expenses for the walk—all funds raised are to go to the Alzheimer Society—and we are doing this under the “Anything for Alzheimer’s” umbrella which identifies quality expectations.)

Initiation

Part of the initiation phase is to probe—something we discuss a lot in our residencies. At this point, we analyze the value of the proposition and identify key stakeholders and considerations necessary to ensure the success of the project. The process of probing helps to determine whether to proceed or to save the idea for another time. (That said, while obtaining feedback is important in the initiation phase, it is equally important throughout the project and should be sought at every opportunity.)

We initiated our project last November. We approached the Alzheimer Society with our idea and they referred us to their provincial funding coordinator. They also gave us some helpful information about how to approach the fundraising element, clarity on their role and responsibilities, and some important timelines. We could have proceeded on our own without their support, but it would have been a much more complex process. We then began talking with those closest to us to explore their reaction. Key for us, of course, was my sister-in-law, Kathy, on whose behalf we are doing this. If she wasn’t keen, the project would have ended. Our daughter asked how our going away for two months would actually help Kathy, and suggested we invite her to join us for a portion of the walk. After considering other feedback and questions, we decided to act on her suggestion and made plans for Kathy to join us for a segment of the walk (which very much affected the response we get when we tell people about our project).

Project Charter

I learned the value of a project charter when I was working with the BC Public Service Agency. At one point during a project I was working on, one of my stakeholders was about to back out of a commitment they had previously agreed to in the project charter. Because the item was documented and had been signed off on by both parties, all my boss had to do was point this out to them and we were quickly back on track.

This is a great example of why a project charter could be considered as a precursor to any project (even before planning or making the business case). A charter can be shorter than a fully developed plan and essentially serves to gain agreement in principle from those whose approval is essential to the project moving forward. It sets a clear, positive precedent early on about how things will be documented and agreed upon. (You can find links to project charter templates here and here.)

For our (more informal) project, a project charter wasn’t appropriate. But while we didn’t have a written document like a charter, we did discuss our rationale and all of the elements of a project charter with the provincial funding coordinator at the Alzheimer Society. In many ways, the information we posted on our blog and on our fundraising page was, in fact, our project charter. During this process, it became clear that our project has two key goals: a) walking a Camino that will be about 50 km for Kathy, 900 for me, and 1500 for Geoff, and b) building awareness and raising funds.

Planning

Within the Project Management world, the Project Plan is the definitive document. For some, putting a project plan together can be a painful process. But it is through this process that potential problems are identified (and avoided). Completing a project plan (much larger and more detailed than a charter) requires that the project manager think through all of the details of the project and obtain input and approval for all aspects. 

You from examples like this and this that project plans also serve as monitoring and control documents. The project plan is something that will be reviewed by the decision makers throughout the life of the project and will help to ensure the timelines and budgets are on target and that potential risks are mitigated. 

My husband and I are both planners and we like to be organized. After we had written up our key pages on our blog and on the Alzheimer’s site, we sat down and made an extensive list of the things we would need to do and the timeframes for accomplishing them. We identified areas where things could go wrong (e.g., the risk of injury or illness) and developed a plan for addressing such things. We also put together a calendar to serve as a timeline with key dates identified. Since then, we’ve been reviewing both the lists and the calendar regularly to help keep ourselves on track. 

Scope

Identifying the scope of a project can be an art. When people are excited about a project, they may want to expand the scope; when not so excited they may often want to reduce the scope. In this way, having a scope statement can help manage expectations and serve as an early warning sign about buy-in and commitment levels.

A scope statement lists the project goals, tasks, costs, deliverables, roles and responsibilities, and deadlines. In each of these areas, it is important to try to be as clear as possible. (Scope creep can pose a significant risk, but under-estimating the scope of a project can be just as dangerous.) This scope statement template is quite extensive but still gives a good idea of the full range of areas that could (or should) be addressed. And make sure that any changes to the project scope get approval and sign-off from all decision-makers.

Along the way, we have had several “helpful suggestions” about how we could improve our project—hosting pre-walk fundraising events, doing public presentations, inviting others to join us for our walk. But all of those were outside of our scope. We had already significantly increased our scope during the initiation phase, by inviting Kathy and her husband Bob to join us for a portion of the walk. This scope change made sense in relation to our vision and goals. And while the above suggestions could have also improved our outcome, the return on investment in relation to our time and energy was not justified and, thus, outside of scope. Thinking about scope early on made that decision easier than it may have otherwise been.

Risks

Risk management is a field of expertise unto itself—emerging largely out of sectors related to finance and law enforcement and first responders. Risk management is usually composed of a combination of the following five steps:

  1. Identify potential “threats” (i.e. factors or barriers that might impact success)
  2. Assess vulnerability
  3. Determine the risk (i.e. the expected likelihood and consequences of the threat)
  4. Identify ways to reduce those risks
  5. Prioritize risk reduction measures.

For us, there are many things that could go wrong—flight cancellations or delays, illness or injury, technological problems with our social media and fundraising pages. Having walked a number of Caminos in the past, we have been able to assess each risk as it has presented itself in order to determine whether it is real or imagined. We have also learned ways of reducing risk—giving ourselves extra time (in case we encounter flight problems), training (to reduce the risk of injury), developing practice websites (to get familiar with social media platforms). That said, part of managing risks is to expect the unexpected. We have learned this from experience. For example, since we will be travelling with someone who has Alzheimer’s, part of our risk mitigation strategy involves bringing our sense of humour with us on the trip.

Resources

When we think of project resources, we often focus on budgetary resources. Your project plan will identify the source(s) of funding and the project’s budget, but there are other resources to consider. Your project plan should also identify the technical resources (e.g. programs or platforms, technical expertise, training) and the human resources (e.g. team members, stakeholders, partners, customers) that will be necessary. The scope statement for the project will be key to gaining clarity in these areas. You should also consider (and note) whether resources are internal or external to the project team—if and when they are external, the project plan needs to clearly articulate the decision-making process for allocating and adjusting those resources. 

While we have complete control over our budget for this walk, but we do not have control over the budget for Kathy and Bob (even though we are responsible for their travel arrangements). Fortunately, this has not proved to be a problem. That have been fundraising expenses we had not anticipated, but there are external resources available through the Alzheimer Society. With regard to technical resources, we have the equipment we need, but we know that wifi access will be outside of our control while we’re travelling (and we don’t want to rely on our phone data). For us, the easy resources to manage are the human resources—we are able to be fully dedicated to this initiative and we have the flexibility to accommodate and unanticipated needs.

Timeline

Many project plans include a Gantt chart. A Gantt chart is a good visual tool for determining whether the project is on target and whether or not key milestones will be achieved on schedule. As with many other project management tools, there are many Gantt chart templates available online (and most are pretty similar). They list all the tasks and activities and have a timeline attached to each. Think of a Gantt chart as a living document that will be updated regularly as changes are required and as new information emerges.

We have created a calendar dedicated to our project and it has all of our key dates identified. By looking at this calendar, we have been able to tell that many of the activities are ones that can only be done close to our departure date. As a result, we have identified and completed all the tasks that could be done in advance (e.g. setting up our social media sites, acquiring the necessary clothing and equipment) in order to help us create the time and space for all those tasks that are coming later on.

Implementation

If your project plan is sound, implementation can look easy. That being said, most projects invariably require adjustments along the way. (Good thing we incorporated some risk management into our plan.) When it comes to implementations, the project plan should make clear what things are non-negotiable and where there is room for adjustment. As issues and or concerns arise, the project plan can be helpful in determining the next steps. Sometimes projects have to be “pushed back” early in the implementation phase, but if you have confidence in your project plan, staying the course during delays and adjustments (and other hiccups) will be much, much easier.

For us, implementation will begin when we start walking. (And I suspect there will be times when we will question the wisdom of this plan.) Our days will involve walking an average of 25 kilometres and writing a daily blog that shares our experiences and identifies parallels between this kind of walk and the experiences of people with Alzheimer’s. Knowing that we will be tired at the end of each day, we have prepared some blog content in advance. And based on past experiences, we know that our plan will need to be adjusted along the way. So we have identified alternatives (such as different routes and other accommodation options). But we also know the non-negotiables (such as arrival and departure dates). 

Evaluation

Since a project is (by definition) a unique event, why bother evaluating? Because even though each project may be unique, there is always transferable learning. In the past, each training program I developed was a project in and of itself. But even though each program was different, the lessons learned from developing one could often be applied to the next. You’ll also need to dedicate time to evaluation because your decision-makers or funders usually require some documentation related to outcomes and/or impact. How close did you come to meeting your goals? How do you measure success? How can the lessons learned apply to future projects? 

We have used information from our previous walks to inform how we approach this one. At the end of each walk we have completed in the past, we took the time to review what worked, what didn’t, and how we might adjust accordingly for the next one. While we don’t anticipate doing another fundraising activity like this one, reflecting on the experience and our learning will likely inspire (or help) others who want to do something similar in the future. 

A Final Word

Project management may feel like a big job but it can also become an art. Most of us do it intuitively every day (even though we may not realize it or document and track our progress). Many tools to support good project management are readily available on the internet and there is a wide range of courses and apprenticeships available both in-person and online. 

Over the past few months, we have often said to ourselves how much we just wish we could just go and get started and not worry about all the preparation. (And some people do skip preparing and just jump right in!) But we have learned that our preparation is a benefit in and of itself. There is a substantial part of this undertaking that is completely new for us and planning with intention has already benefitted us. I’m confident and excited about the weeks ahead and encourage you to follow along as we continue this adventure.

You can check out more on Facebook or Instagram or you can read our blog

Annemarie Travers
Leadership 2020 Hosting Team

Research Bulletin August 2018: Seniors and Aging

This month’s research bulletin is sharing research, reviews, analyses, and evaluations on issues related to seniors and aging.

This is a broad area of interest so we cast a big net and have pulled together resources and reports on a range of topics relevant to those serving, supporting and caring for seniors: poverty, transportation, social isolation, dementia, and residential care facilities.

1. BC Seniors’ Poverty Report Card
2. Poverty and inequality Among British Columbia’s Seniors
3. Seniors Transportation: Affordable, Appropriate, and Available
4. Who’s at Risk and What Can Be Done About It? A Review of the Literature on the Social Isolation of Different Groups of Seniors
5. Dementia in Canada

As always, our goal is to share useful research in a useful way. If you have feedback about how we can make these research bulletins more useful and/or if you want to suggest issues or service areas for us to pay attention to, please contact our Research and Policy Analyst.

 

1. BC Seniors’ Poverty Report Card (2018)

By 2021, there are expected to be over one million seniors living in British Columbia. But for too many of those seniors, low incomes and related financial struggles are a painful daily reality.

The BC Seniors’ Poverty Report Card from the United Way of the Lower Mainland and SparcBC collects dozens of fact sheets and research figures in an effort to raise awareness about poverty among seniors. The second, equally important, goal of the report card is to inform evidence-based policy and program developments that will improve the quality of life for seniors living in BC.

 

2. Poverty and inequality Among British Columbia’s Seniors (2017)

This report from the BC Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives looks at intersecting markers of identity in order to facilitate more nuanced discussions about poverty and inequality that reflect the reality of seniors’ lived experiences.

In addition to age, the analysis incorporates factors such as gender, race and ethnicity, education and occupation, disability, sexual identity, and immigrant status in order to understand how to better support all seniors that are at risk of facing economic insecurity.

The researchers also consider the many overlapping challenges of aging—chronic disease, loss of mobility, declining health, loss of spousal and/or community support—and incorporate them into policy recommendations.

 

3. Seniors Transportation: Affordable, Appropriate, and Available (2018)

At The Federation’s June Conference, BC’s Seniors Advocate spoke to members about (among other things) the isolation of older people in BC and referred specifically to this report while discussing the connection between isolation and transportation options.

This report surveys and examines the transportation needs of BC’s seniors in order to: (a) understand what options are available to seniors who don’t drive; (b) find out what gaps exist when it comes to seniors’ transportation; and (c) recommend new services, supports, policies, and programs—including those that can leverage existing infrastructure.

 

4. “Who’s at Risk and What Can Be Done About It? A Review of the Literature on the Social Isolation of Different Groups of Seniors.” (2016)

This report builds on earlier work undertaken by Canada’s National Seniors Council on the issue of the social isolation. Specifically, this review looks at what existing literature says about how different groups of vulnerable seniors are affected by social isolation.

The review looks at nine different sub-groups of seniors (e.g., Indigenous seniors, seniors who are caregivers, immigrant seniors, LGBT seniors) and identifies promising interventions that are tackling social isolation and reconnecting these groups of seniors to their communities.

The report concludes with four key findings to inform next steps and help advocates and stakeholders increase their understanding of this complex, multifaceted, issue.

 

5. Dementia in Canada (2018)

This digital report delivers the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s first comprehensive look at this complex illness and its effects on seniors, caregivers, and Canada’s health systems.

The easy-to-navigate online report explains the many ways dementia impacts Canadians and explains the different types of challenges seniors living with dementia face at home, in long-term care, and in hospitals. The report also shares insight into how family doctors feel about their preparedness to help seniors living with dementia, the issues facing caregivers, and emerging challenges around palliative and end-of-life care.

 

The Canada Revenue Agency, charities, and political activities

Earlier this month, the Ontario Superior Court passed a ground-breaking ruling that struck down restrictions related to charities and political activities. Prior to this ruling, organizations that publicly criticized or recommended changes to laws and policies risked losing their charitable status.

The court’s ruling has lifted the chilling threat that has been hanging over the work of social and environmental organizations since the CRA’s Political Activities Audit Program ramped up the restrictions in 2012. For those of us who believe in civic engagement, public education, and addressing the root causes of social, economic, environmental and cultural dilemmas, reading the decision of Justice E.M. Morgan is like a breath of fresh air.

Background

In 2016, Canada Without Poverty (a national anti-poverty and human rights organization) challenged the Canada Revenue Agency ’s restriction on “political activity” as well as the distinction between “charitable” and “political” activities.

At the time, they were one of many organizations audited by the CRA—under the former federal government—and their charitable status was at risk of revocation. The offending activities included: convening public policy discussions, providing public education, as well as conducting and supporting research.

The Ruling

The Ontario court ruled that the application of Section 149.1(6.2) of the Income Tax Act (1985) infringes on the constitutional right to free expression under Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that the 10% rule (the extent to which a charity can focus on political or policy-related advocacy) is unconstitutional.

The court also stated that a further order would follow allowing “charitable activities” to “[…] be read to include political activities” in the carrying out of charitable purposes. (Partisan political actions remain excluded from the acceptable activities, a point not contested in this claim.)

In addition to the ruling itself, the reasoning behind the judgement will also resonate with those committed to social change. Justice E. M. Morgan’s reasons acknowledged the complexity of modern life, discussed what “is” or “isn’t” political (citing, among other things, feminist philosophy), and reflected on the growing recognition of the important role charities play when it comes to informing policy and engaging with the public.

What this all means

The implications for the social care sector are monumental. This ruling, its reasons, and their scope all combine to make explicit the value of charitable organizations and the necessity of their proactive programming, community engagement, and policy development when it comes to addressing systemic social issues.

We don’t yet know exactly how this will change the advocacy practices charities can undertake, but—regardless of the details—this is very much a step in the right direction. The court’s recommendations included the following.

  1. Revise the Canada Revenue Agency’s administrative position and policy (including its policy guidance, CPS-022 Political Activities) to enable charities to fully engage in public policy dialogue and development.
  2. Implement changes to the CRA’s administration of the Income Tax Act in the following areas: compliance and appeals, audits, and communication and collaboration to enhance clarity and consistency.
  3. Amend the Income Tax Act by deleting any reference to non-partisan “political activities” to explicitly allow charities to fully engage, without limitation, in non-partisan public policy dialogue and development, provided that it is subordinate to and furthers their charitable purposes.
  4. Modernize the legislative framework governing the charitable sector to ensure a focus on charitable purposes rather than activities, and adopt an inclusive list of acceptable charitable purposes to reflect current social and environmental issues and approaches.

The federal government has yet to announce if it will appeal the decision and had not commented as of this week. The Federation will continue to watch this issue as it unfolds and will inform our members of the various implications. Until then, you can read some other analysis of the decision from Imagine Canada and the Ontario Nonprofit Network.

Rick FitzZaland
Federation Executive Director