Manitoba most generous province in Canada but ranks way behind U.S. states

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Canadians may be 'nicer ' than Americans, we may have a more buoyant economy right now and we're definitely better at hockey.

But when it comes to charitable contributions, it looks like the Americans have us beat.

According to a Fraser Institute report released Thursday, Americans donate to registered charities at a much higher rate than we do here in Canada.

"Nationwide, a higher percentage of tax filers donated to charity in the United States (26.7 per cent) than in Canada (23.3 per cent) during the 2010 tax year. Similarly, Americans (at 1.38 per cent) gave a higher percentage of their aggregate income to charity than did Canadians (at 0.66 per cent)," notes the report sub-titled 'The 2012 Generosity Index.'

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"US jurisdictions top the overall Generosity Index rankings. Utah places first (scoring 8.9 out of 10.0), followed by Maryland (7.5 out of 10.0), and Connecticut (6.5 out of 10.0). Manitoba is the highest-scoring Canadian province (3.8 out of 10.0), but its performance ranks only 39th overall out of 64 North American jurisdictions."

According to Charles Lammam, co-author of the report, the variables behind charitable giving are still unclear and require further study. He does, however, say factors like income, the tax-treatment of donations and education can play a role.

Journalist Elizabeth Eves says it would be too simplistic to suggest that Americans have relatively bigger hearts.

"It would be nice to believe that as a group they are just more generous," she wrote for Forbes with regard to a 2008 international study that rated the U.S. as one of the world's most giving countries.

Eves cited religion as a key factor, noting that about one-third of all charitable donations in the United States go to houses of worship.

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She also suggested that a country's tax regime can impact how much its people contribute to charity.

"Among developed nations, those with higher taxes and bigger social safety nets tend to have lower rates of giving. In charitable giving as a percentage of GDP, nations with cradle-to-grave welfare systems rank far down the Johns Hopkins list: Sweden 18th, France 21st, Germany 32nd.

On the one hand, France, for instance, has less income disparity and less poverty than the U.S. So if people are motivated to give by seeing need around them, it may simply be that the French give less because they see less need.

On the other hand, it may be that when you free people up from high rates of [taxes], they're more motivated to be generous voluntarily."

Ranking the provinces by percentage of tax filers donating to charity:

1. Manitoba: 26.2 per cent

2. Saskatchewan: 25.2 per cent

2. Prince Edward Island: 25.2 per cent

4. Ontario: 24.5 per cent

5. Alberta: 24.2 per cent

6. Nova Scotia: 22.6 per cent

7. British Columbia: 22 per cent

8. Quebec: 21.9 per cent

9. New Brunswick: 21.3 per cent

10. Newfoundland & Labrador: 21.1 per cent

11. Yukon: 20.6 per cent

12. Northwest Territories: 16.8 per cent