Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Give non-profits their due

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Experience has taught me that in order to maintain long-term economic well-being and stability we need to invest in the non-profit sector, which you might be surprised to learn employs two million Canadians.

I imagine that most of those Canadians were drawn to the sector for the same reason I was -- idealism and belief in our ability to create a better world.

Investing in people's well-being and supporting the non-profit sector which supports them creates that better world, but it also grows the economy. We are a large, diverse and vibrant sector of the economy, and that is too often overlooked.

Governments should be investing in non-profits as they do in private industry.

For example, columnist Mark Milke recently argued in the Free Press (Conservatives pour $6.4 billion into corporate welfare) that the recent federal budget contained many examples of corporate welfare.

He listed $1 billion over five years to the aerospace sector, $920 million to the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, a corporate-welfare slush fund, $92 million to the forestry sector, $325 million to the green technology sector and $3 billion to the agricultural sector. The list goes on and on.

Milke's point is that this is an inappropriate way to spend tax dollars.

I do not know the benefits of funding aerospace or forestry, but I do know the missed opportunity represented by not funding the non-profit sector.

Our government has a responsibility to sustain society and provide a quality of life for its people. To do that, it needs to invest in the front-line workers ensuring all Canadians have a suitable quality of life.

From a purely financial perspective, we provide employment and that means money spent in our communities. In 2003, the most recent figures available, Manitoba's 8,220 non-profit organizations had 95,221 paid staff members, representing $7.6 million pumped into the local economy, according to the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating.

Across Canada, meanwhile, non-profit and voluntary organizations employ the full-time equivalent of more than 1.5 million workers.

We are as significant an employer as the country's entire manufacturing industry.

Canada's non-profit and voluntary sector employs almost 21/2 times as many workers as the country's construction industry, roughly twice as many workers as its transportation industry, 14 times as many people as Canada's largest private sector employer and 15 times as many people as its utilities industry.

In fact, the country's non-profit and voluntary organizations engage nearly as many full-time equivalent workers (2.073 million) as all branches of manufacturing in the country (2.294 million).

Not only do workers in the non-profit sector work in the community, they also spend their money in the community and provide services and programs that help people live a productive life, a.k.a. hold down a job and pay taxes. We assist people throughout their whole lifespan, from babies to seniors.

I want to know where our financial support from the federal government is. Where is our share of the corporate welfare the federal government so willingly pays to other sectors of the economy?

Sharon Taylor has been the executive director of Wolseley Family Place for 15 of the 30 years that she has worked in the non-profit sector.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 4, 2013 J6

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