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Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre faces financial reporting requirement

Council tasked staff to start discussion after society running centre lost charitable status
Sidney’s council has asked staff to start discussion with the Mary Winspear Centre around a financial reporting requirement. The facility received $365,000 in 2022 from the municipality. (Black Press Media file photo)

The executive director of the Mary Winspear Centre welcomes a recent council decision by Sidney to start discussing an agreement that would include financial requirements for the centre.

Sidney council Monday unanimously tasked staff to initiate discussions with the executive director of the Mary Winspear Centre (MVC) regarding the establishment of an agreement (to include reporting requirements) for provision of the municipality’s annual funding contribution.

“(It is) entirely appropriate for us to work with staff to develop a funding agreement that incorporates reporting objectives,” said Denny Warner. “I fully expect the same to occur at District of North Saanich. Having this in place will provide peace of mind to staff at the Town, councilors, taxpayers and to our staff and board members,” she added.

Sidney’s contribution toward the facility totaled just over $365,000 in 2022 — or three per cent of the municipality’s total property tax revenue.

It has been at three per cent since 2017 (then just over $300,000) after rising from 2.5 per cent in 2016 and 2015, and two per cent in 2014 and 2013. The increases in 2017 compensates the society for a lease of their land to accommodate Sidney’s employee parking lot.

Coun. Chad Rintoul — who serves as liaison of Sidney council on the board of the Saanich Peninsula Memorial Park Society operating the facility — described the move as a “vehicle” to further cement the relationship between Sidney and the centre, which he praised as an economic catalyst and cultural hub.

“This is by no means an attempt to delay funding to the Mary Winspear Centre,” he said.

Council’s move comes after Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had revoked the charitable status of Saanich Peninsula Memorial Park Society on Nov. 6, 2021 and the Mary Winspear Foundation on May 7, 2022.

Both organizations lost their charitable status for failing to file T3010 Information Returns. While the Income Tax Act exempts charities from filing income taxes, charities must submit T3010s annually, no later than six months after the end of the fiscal year, to document activities and assets among other information.

Charities that fail to file lose their registered status and the ability to issue donation slips. According to the CRA website, the last filings for both organizations cover the reporting period ending Dec. 31, 2018.

Warner had discovered the failure in late summer 2022 after replacing the former executive director.

News of the lost charitable status has prompted several questions about council’s role in overseeing the facility, with likely no one more forceful in raising them than Sidney’s John Treleaven. They include a taxpayers’ advocacy group.

In an October letter to the previous council, he asked how council exercised its fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers over funds for the Mary Winspear Centre.

“What is the role of a (council) liaison in this circumstance? Does the MWC not have to certify that it is in compliance with relevant federal, provincial and indeed municipal laws and regulations to receive the annual transfer of funds from the Town of Sidney?”

RELATED: Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre loses charitable status

Chief Administrative Officer Randy Humble said at the time both organizations do no report to council as “distinct” entities, adding that council liaisons are not official (board) members and did not receive information about the issue.

He added municipality provides annual funding to many community groups, including the centre. “These organizations periodically report back to (council) on their programs and accomplishments, however, they are not required to share annual financial reports with the (municipality),” he said.

That appears to be changing.

Rintoul told his colleagues steps remain under way to recover the charitable status of both organizations by submitting the missing audits for the years of 2019, 2020 and 2021. “So I was certainly reassured that those audits were well underway and that the board is pursuing their fiduciary responsibilities in those areas.”

Rintoul also used the occasion to praise Warner, who assumed the position under what Rintoul called challenging circumstances. “(Warner) is well-known in the community as someone, who is quite dedicated to her role and helping to resolve this.”

Warner confirmed four out of six audits are complete. “It has been a challenge because the auditor who stepped in has had to fit these into her already very busy schedule but she has worked as fast and diligently as possible,” said Warner. “The missing T3010 reports have been filed for the foundation. The auditor is working on the T3010 for the 2019 society audit and that will be filed as soon as it’s complete.”

Warner also said she and the board are fully prepared to appear before Sidney and North Saanich council to update them about the centre’s status and its reapplications as soon as audits are complete.

“Ideally we would like to be able to do that soon so they can have some confidence about our progress and direction ahead of their budget decisions but we are not sure that timeline is feasible,” she said. She added the board has committed themselves to full transparency and planned to provide updates to the public when they have something to report.

“We appreciate the excellent working relationship we have with municipal staff and our liaisons and will continue to work to preserve and enhance those relationships and to rebuild trust, as necessary, with other stakeholders,” she added later.

Staff, meanwhile, discouraged the idea that Sidney’s council liaison become full board members rather than just an intermediary because it would run afoul of conflict-of-interest rules.

Ironically, the public heard from Rintoul that the society’s bylaws consider the municipal liaisons as board directors. McNeil-Smith later pointed out that they never practically served in that capacity.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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