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Mary Winspear Centre moving toward regaining charitable status

Most of the missing financial reports have been filed with CRA, status decision expected by fall
Work to restore the charitable status of a pair of organizations which run and support the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney is progressing well, according to the centre’s executive director, and the hope is the status will be restored before the fall. (Black Press Media file photo)

Work is well underway at the Mary Winspear Centre to restore the charitable status of the two non-profit organizations which operate and fundraise for the centre, and if all goes well, that status should be back before the fall.

Executive director Denny Warner and her team at the centre have been working to restore the status of the Saanich Peninsula Memorial Park Society, which runs the centre, and the Mary Winspear Foundation, which fundraises for the centre but has not been active much in recent years, after the Canada Revenue Agency revoked their charitable status in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Both organizations lost their status as they had failed to file T3010 Information Returns for the 2019, 2020, and 2021 tax years.

With the loss of charitable status, the centre lost the ability to issue tax slips to donors, but its operations were otherwise unaffected, said Warner.

“We were fortunate we were able to find an auditor who was available to do the audits and file the reports,” said Warner, noting most auditors are not available on such short notice. “We started with the foundation because it was the easiest to get through with the lack of activity. All of those audits are done and reports are filed, so we are just working on the reapplication for the foundation.

“The auditor has also completed the 2019, 2020 audits for the society and sent the reports off to the CRA, and the 2021 audit has just been received by our board to approve, then the final report will be submitted to the CRA and we will get started on the reapplication for the society.”

READ MORE: Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre loses charitable status

Once the final audits – which are not a requirement from the CRA but something the centre is doing to ensure the accuracy of the mandatory reports – and charitable status applications are filed with the tax authority, Warner said they have been told to expect as long as a six-month wait for the application to be processed, and charitable status reinstated.

With work focused on regaining charitable status for the foundation and society, Warner – who took on her position with the centre in August 2022 and discovered the failure to file as she settled into the job – has not yet been able to determine with certainty why three years of returns were not filed by either the society or the foundation.

“To the best of my understanding, I think there was just a perfect storm of things which started with COVID,” said Warner. “I think a lot of work was just postponed until people felt comfortable meeting together.”

The centre is now in the process of seeking funding for the upcoming year from the Town of Sidney and District of North Saanich, which together have in the past provided 30 per cent of the centre’s annual operating budget, and Warner said that funding is likely to come with new formalized funding agreements with the municipalities, currently being developed. Those funding agreements are likely to include requirements for the centre to provide financial reports to the municipalities.

Those conversations have already started with Sidney, and now that Warner presented a primer on the centre to North Saanich council on Feb. 6, she said she expects discussions with that municipality to start soon as they enter the municipal budgeting period.

The centre, foundation, and society may also face changes. Warner said she and her team will explore potential moves to ease administration tasks, which could involve merging the foundation and society into a single entity, though any such discussions are yet to begin.

READ MORE: Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre faces financial reporting requirement


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