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Minister of Human Resources Diane Finley a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

This is part of The Globe and Mail's in-depth look at the evolution of philanthropy. Read more from the series here.

The federal government is looking to increase incentives for Canadians to contribute to charities, and will consider expanding capital-gains exemptions that allow people to donate shares in companies.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has asked the Commons finance committee to study charitable donations incentives – including proposals to allow individuals an exemption from capital gains tax if they donate shares in privately held corporations or real estate.

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"We await the study and its findings," Chisholm Pothier, a spokesman for Mr. Flaherty, said in an e-mail Sunday.

Ottawa already provides a tax exemption to donors to contribute shares in publicly held companies, a vehicle that has provided a major boost to charitable giving from wealthy individuals.

The Harper government has plans to overhaul the way it finances charities and non-profit organizations. While the first steps will be small, the government's ultimate goal is a shift in public expectations as to the role of government in assisting social causes.

Policies being considered include new tax rules to allow charities and non-profits to raise money through side businesses, boosting personal tax credits for charitable giving, and other incentives. The first step will be changes to traditional grants.

Diane Finley, Minister for Human Resources and Skills Development, said the government wants to boost the accountability of the non-profit sector.

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