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Province retains reputation for generosity

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz brings the Winnipeg Cheer Board's Kai Madsen a basket of donations.

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Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz brings the Winnipeg Cheer Board's Kai Madsen a basket of donations. (MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Charitable donations are dipping in Canada, but Manitoba is the country's most giving province, according to a study by the Fraser Institute.

For the 15th year in a row, Manitoba was ranked the most generous province in Canada with 25.9 per cent of tax filers donating in 2011.

"This isn't anything that's new to us, that Winnipeggers and Manitobans are the most generous in the country," said Mayor Sam Katz before a tour of four local non-profits on Monday.

Manitoba donors gave an average of 0.89 per cent of their combined income to charity in 2011, well above the national average of 0.64 per cent.

"As mayor I see this on a daily basis, whenever there is a need Winnipeggers and Manitobans step forward and give to so many causes and emergency situations," said Katz.

Manitoba ranked 35th out of 64 jurisdictions in the United States and Canada for generosity.

The Fraser Institute, a public-policy think-tank, looked at donations to registered charities that were claimed on personal income tax returns in 2011 across Canada and the United States.

From those income tax returns, they developed a generosity index based on how many charitable tax receipts were claimed and the percentages of combined income donated to charity.

The study found a lower percentage of Canadians are donating to registered charities and those who are give less than they did nearly a decade ago -- 22.9 per cent of tax filers claimed charitable donations in 2011 compared to 25.1 in 2005.

Virgin Radio personality and frequent philanthropist Ace Burpee said his Manitoba upbringing taught him the value of being charitable.

"There was a culture growing up in rural Manitoba that that was just what you did. As soon as someone needed help, you helped," said Burpee.

That giving culture is part of living where we do, said Gail Asper, president of the Asper Foundation.

"I think there is first of all a sense of isolation that if we don't look after ourselves, if we don't get it done, it's not going to get done for us. And I think it might come from the Prairie farm attitude where you help your neighbour."

Asper supports a number of local charities, including the Winnipeg Foundation and Winnipeg Harvest.

"I know from extensive work with organizations like the United Way that your life can change in a second and you're going to need help at some point in your life. You have to make sure that the institutions and organizations that can help you are strengthened while you are in a position to help them," said Asper.

Rick Frost, CEO of the Winnipeg Foundation, said he's thankful for Manitobans' commitment to charity, which helped the non-profit collect the third-highest dollar amount of donations in its history this past year.

Frost said non-profits still need more financial support from Manitobans.

"Even though (we're) No. 1 on the list and have consistently been, we always are looking at the numbers saying it's less than one per cent of income," said Frost. "I don't think charities should be reluctant to ask for a little more."

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca rachel.swatek@freepress.mb.ca

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