An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (volunteers)
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-399.
- Nov. 28, 2012 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.
National Charities Week Act
Private Members' Business
March 19th, 2013 / 5:35 p.m.
Murray Rankin Victoria, BC
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise on this important debate. I want to say in advance that the official opposition will be in support of the bill. However, it would take it to committee where we think it must be examined before we can sign on entirely to what would at first blush seem to be a fairly straightforward and sensible bill. Let me explain.
I salute my colleague from Kitchener—Waterloo for introducing the bill. It has, as he indicated, two separate points. The first is that the Income Tax Act would be amended to provide that charitable gifts, crown gifts, cultural gifts, and ecological gifts made by an individual within 60 days of the end of a taxation year may be deducted from the taxable income of the individual for that taxation year. It would be like, as I understand it, RRSPs, for which there is a later timeline after the taxation year and which can be counted retroactively. That is the first part. The second is to establish a national charities week.
There are essentially two issues that need to be addressed, two separate components that need to be taken into account. We need to examine at committee very carefully the impact on federal revenues the bill might have, total charitable giving and the distribution of charitable giving. All must be taken into account if we are to accept this in the House as a positive step. The true cost is very difficult to examine. I will come to that later, but that is what must be taken into account if we are to examine the bill carefully.
As I understand it, the origin of this concept was a recommendation made by tax lawyers Drache Aptowitzer, who appeared before the finance committee in its study of tax incentives for charitable organizations in October 2012. I think my colleague alluded to that. This occurred before I had the honour of serving on the finance committee. I was not there for that report. I will have more to say later about it.
There have been a lot of challenges facing charities in this country resulting, of course, in part, from the very precarious economic environment facing Canadians during the fiscal crisis of the last couple of years but also, it must be said, based on the attacks on the charitable sector by the Conservative government.
As the member for Victoria, with a strong environmental presence, I have had numerous constituents come to me and ask what is going on in Ottawa. Why is it that the CRA is targeting charities, requiring in some cases, I am advised, hundreds of thousands of dollars in audit costs because these primarily environmental charities were not well liked by the government. That is a very serious accusation. Yet charitable organizations are suffering not only under that concern but also from an increase in red tape, which is ironic, because that was one of the key recommendations of the report on charities alluded to by my colleague. I will have more to say about that in a moment as well.
In order to understand the first element of this, which is the creation of a week, as I understand it, at the end of February to salute charities, we need to take into account that there have already been other statutes proposed and enacted to deal with the charitable sector. For example, there was Bill C-399 on a tax credit for volunteers, Bill S-201 to create a national philanthropy day, tax incentives for a charitable donation study, which the finance committee has undertaken, and so forth and so on.
The context needs to be understood. Is it going to add value to have such a week to salute our charities in light of that reality? That needs to be understood. Again, it is something a committee could look at more carefully. We recommended and support this initiative so that a committee can look at it in the context I have just described.
The government's approach seems to find ways to increasingly transfer what we used to think of as government responsibilities to the private sector. Charities, in short, are often required by the government to take up the slack in what used to be governmental activities.
In my community, we have The Mustard Seed and Our Place. There are innumerable food banks from coast to coast to coast. These charities are doing what many Canadians think is the responsibility of the government. That is something that is increasingly a problem.
No less an authority than the Fraser Institute has indicated that Canadians give only about half as much as our American friends do to charities. Perhaps we are taxed more. Perhaps we are less generous people. I do not know. My friend has indicated that the donor base is in fact going down. Therefore, we need to understand the implications of the second part of the bill in an already quite fragile situation.
I indicated that the government on the one hand is encouraging Canadians to give more. At the same time, it is taking away essential public services.
I want to go to the place the bill originated, which was with the recommendations of the law firm Drache Aptowitzer. I looked at some of the writings they have posted on their website to try to understand where the bill would fit. Sadly, they report that the Conservative government is making charitable donations even more difficult for Canadians.
In an article called “T3010: Mounting Complexity for Charities”, they report that it is getting harder and harder, despite recommendations to the contrary. The breadth of information now required, they state, is enormous. They give a list of forms and information charities are required to provide that is astounding. A booklet of 40 pages in length is provided. There is form T3010, the registered charity information return; form TF725, the registered charity basic information sheet; the financial statements of the charities; and the directors/trustees and like officials worksheet. There are pages of schedules.
What they say, the same people who have recommended this 60-day period, which is the second phase of the bill, is that we now have schedule 7, another form, and that “this has to do with political activity which of course is a hot topic for government”. They continue that in the 2012 budget “there were several announcements about third party political funding and in particular, funding from outside Canada”, and the author states: “How dare those Americans meddle in a Canadian environmental issue!”
They say that the request for information would be very difficult to comply with and point out that a lot of expensive audits would be required.
The official opposition is concerned about the way charities have been targeted if they are not popular with the government. That is something I am hearing daily in my riding.
Imagine Canada and the charitable organizations it represents have a lot of mixed feelings about Bill C-458. They like the concept, but like us, they are very concerned about the administration.
The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants has said that by extending the deadline date by 60 days, from December 31 to the end of February, there will be administrative issues that will create concerns, namely the provision of receipts from the charities to donors to meet the deadline dates for personal tax returns, April 30, and trust returns, March 31.
The Canadian Bar Association, of which I am a proud member, has expressed similar concerns.
The costs are hard to imagine and hard to estimate. Would it result in an increase in personal donations? Perhaps. One would hope so. However, we need to examine carefully the real cost of this initiative.
The NDP will be supporting the bill so that it can be examined with the care it deserves at the finance committee or at the appropriate committee.
With that, I would just like to say that on the one hand the Conservatives are claiming to be helping charitable organizations, but on the other hand often cutting funding for those charities and making it more difficult with their red tape for them to continue to make the contribution they make to our society.
The House resumed from November 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-399, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (volunteers), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
November 28th, 2012 / 3:25 p.m.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
November 26th, 2012 / 11:55 a.m.
Jean-François Larose Repentigny, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the members of all parties represented in the House. I would like to thank my honourable NDP colleagues for their support, but I would also like to thank the Liberal and Conservative members. To me, the fact that we sometimes disagree and have different approaches is essential. I also think that this debate about what is happening with organizations across Canada is essential.
Bill C-399, which I call Madeleine Nadeau's bill after my grandmother, is a very important and well-drafted bill, despite what they might say. People have thrown around numbers like $430 million, but the fact is that the Department of Finance and the Parliamentary Budget Officer assessed the cost of the bill at $130 million. Those numbers are miles apart.
The whole point of this bill is to recognize a problem and try to solve it. Across Canada, volunteer numbers are stagnant. Most of the volunteers I talked to during the consultations I held told me that the reason they stop volunteering is that they can no longer do it. Volunteers pay, and that does not make sense. Volunteers provide vitally important services. They are the last bastion of our society. Volunteering produces real results, and the people who do it, who put their hearts into it, have to draw on their own funds just to show up. They are not asking to be paid or to receive tax credits. They just want us to come up with solutions.
MPs were asked to support sending this bill to committee so that committee members can study the range of problems in order to amend and improve the bill so that it meets the needs of all Canadians.
Last week, on November 15, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with approximately 50 organizations, just over 120 volunteers. That is the point I want to raise. This meeting was attended not by volunteers and organizations, but by the volunteers that make up these organizations that they manage on a day-to-day basis. These people were very clear about their support for the bill and said that it represents a step forward. They are looking to move in a certain direction and to get results.
Institution or volunteer? Machine or person? In this place we often have this philosophical debate. The government always says that it provides support to organizations, as though the answer to any problem was to throw money at it in the hope that perhaps the people, the poor citizens, will finally be happy with the results. However, no organization, no foundation can exist without the support of people, without the contribution of volunteers. They are the ones suffering at this time.
Our population is aging, the number of young people getting involved is declining, the economy is very fragile and people have less and less money in their pockets. The government will soon introduce Bill C-458, which has a $400 million price tag. We applaud the effort that has been made. The bill would establish a national charities week and would allow for an additional three months to collect even more money, even though people do not have more.
We will get results by encouraging volunteerism in the community and a human presence.
Knowledge and expertise are important parts of philanthropy and volunteering. Many people at the end of their career give their time and knowledge and share all of the experience they have gained over the years. They are the ones we want to have in organizations because of what they contribute.
In our region, a project to help animals did not succeed, while the same project was a success in another region because of the expertise of the volunteers who got involved. They were former bank directors, committed people who knew how to get money. They managed to purchase a building and create an entity because they invested their time. They never calculated how much money was required. They made the most of what they had.
In conclusion, Bill C-399 is a bill for volunteers. What I am hearing in this House is that we support volunteers and are listening to them. We want the bill to be sent to committee so that we can find the solutions together. Let us work together: that is the message we are sending. We must not use cost and red tape as excuses. On the contrary, the bill was designed to put the onus on volunteers to claim the credit if they are interested.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
November 26th, 2012 / 11:50 a.m.
Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Repentigny introduced a bill that is very important for all volunteers in Canada. The purpose of Bill C-399 is to provide a tax credit of a minimum of $500 and a maximum of $1,500, in respect of travel expenses to individuals who perform a minimum of 130 hours of eligible volunteer services and make at least 12 trips in order to do so during the taxation year.
I would like to thank my hon. colleague for introducing this bill, which, I hope, will receive support from the other parties in the House, because volunteer work is often what makes our communities so dynamic. This work, which is done by very generous people either out of charity or solidarity, strengthens ties between people and builds on the values of communal living. There is no doubt in my mind that the volunteers in my riding deserve a tax credit like the one proposed by my hon. colleague, especially those who live in the regions and who have to travel in order to help people.
Whether they are helping young people, seniors, those less fortunate or even veterans, volunteers in Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel give of their time to help organize celebrations, to help with fundraising or to commemorate important sporting, environmental or cultural events, and they therefore deserve to be celebrated, encouraged and thanked. They often work very hard and have to travel a lot. It is possible that they can no longer afford to volunteer.
Papineau has the CR3A, or Comité régional du troisième âge de Papineau, whose mission is to help seniors remain in their homes with respect and dignity, and to end social isolation among seniors. Seniors who still live at home have an even harder time in the regions, since they can often no longer drive. Thus, it is very hard for them to get out of the house to go and see their family and friends. Our wonderful volunteers go and get them and take them to the grocery store, to see their friends, or even just out for coffee. It is very important to end the isolation that seniors sometimes fall victim to when they cannot get around on their own. As long as they can take care of their homes, they do not necessarily have to move into a big institution or seniors' home. It is better for seniors to stay at home and maintain their dignity.
The Centre d'action bénévole d'Argenteuil provides almost the same services. The Coup de pouce co-operative in Argenteuil is made up of volunteers who are trying to improve the lives of people who are isolated because of their age or a physical limitation. It can be very difficult for people who live in the regions to get around because of the large distances that have to be covered.
It is important to point out that this bill takes transportation into account in the granting of the tax credit. In my opinion, that is the most important part of this bill. Of course, volunteer work is already demanding, but people really put their hearts into it. However, the travel required to help others in remote and rural areas is often not taken into consideration. We do not think about how much travel is required. Whatever the cause or objective, volunteers in my region have to travel long distances to do volunteer work.
Sometimes really dedicated volunteers simply can no longer afford the cost of gas, particularly in difficult economic times. Yet it is in more difficult economic times that we need volunteers the most. That is why people who dedicate their time and talents to helping the most vulnerable members of our society must be recognized. We must also encourage other people to get involved and lend them a hand. These volunteers, who are often retired, get involved because they love their community and their fellow citizens, and it is true that they will do this work with or without a tax credit.
However, without these people, life in our cities and towns would not be the same. We must therefore recognize their work and encourage this type of involvement. We must actively respond to the challenges faced by the volunteer sector in these difficult economic times. For example, the cost of gas is increasing, and we are not doing anything to go to the people who are isolated and help them to get out. I am using this example because it clearly demonstrates how this tax credit will really support this type of volunteer work and will allow volunteers to travel more in the regions to help the less fortunate.
Clearly, vulnerable people have even more need of help and volunteers when times are tough, but right now, the government is abandoning these people. They often have to turn to charity. But volunteers are also being affected by the difficult economic times, which are forcing them to limit their volunteer work when needs are on the rise.
The total amount of donations and volunteer hours has not really changed since 2007. However, during this same period, needs have skyrocketed. For example, the number of people who need food aid is on the rise. The NDP wants to tackle this problem. This motion is the first step in the fight to support the volunteer sector.
I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of this bill, which will really help our rural communities in particular.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
November 26th, 2012 / 11:40 a.m.
Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-399.
It is a costly proposal. It would seek to amend the Income Tax Act and create a new non-refundable tax credit for select volunteers and individuals who perform volunteer service, although it is unclear from the bill exactly whom it would benefit.
Let me begin by saying that there is no question that charities and non-profit organizations contribute to all aspects of Canadian life, including education, health, faith, human rights and the environment, as well as arts and culture. Not only that, I think we can all agree that charities and the volunteers who support them face unique challenges during uncertain economic times.
However, not only is there absolutely no evidence that this costly bill will engage more Canadians in helping others, but charities themselves have also gone so far as to suggest that it may harm volunteerism and result in fewer people giving their time to those in need.
Let us first look at the cost. It is important when members of this House are considering legislation for them to consider the cost of legislation. The opposition has simply deferred this, estimating that it would cost roughly $430 million annually. That is a lot of money. For the people of my riding that would represent about $4,000 per constituent or thereabouts. The would come from their pockets. Even worse, Canadian charities are questioning the wisdom of the idea, as costly as it is.
According to Volunteer Alberta, the voice of volunteerism in that province, a province that the Liberal Party may not want to listen to but I think has an important voice here in Parliament, the proposed tax credit could actually reduce volunteer motivation by attaching a tax benefit and an economic value to something that is otherwise altruistic. That really is at the heart of volunteerism. It is something that we all do because we want to give back. There is something innate within Canadians in actually wanting to help each other. We actually want to be there for our neighbours.
Not everyone volunteers. It is concerning in that regard that some service clubs have seen declining memberships. However, I do not think this is a sign of the people involved seeking to be reimbursed or some kind of cost return to their volunteering. It may be a bit of a statement about how our society has become busier and people perhaps living lives that are a little less interpersonal than before. Frankly we all act interact so much digitally now, with text messages seeming to replace phone calls and Facebook replacing a lot of time people might otherwise spend congregating with their neighbours.
Maybe these are things that we should be looking at in considering how we can restart the growth in volunteerism and service clubs. Nonetheless, I do not think I have ever heard anyone who volunteers or anyone from a service club indicating that they would do more or support their community more if someone would just pay them to do it.
Since 2006, we have demonstrated our commitment to strengthening the charitable sector by enhancing the incentives for people to donate to registered charities and making a number of improvements in the way charities are regulated. These measures include the elimination of the capital gains tax on donations of publicly listed securities to charitable organizations, public foundations and private foundations; the elimination of the capital gains tax on donations of ecologically sensitive lands to public conservation charities; and the reform of the disbursement quota to reduce the administrative burden on charities.
This has really worked, whether it was the hospital foundation in Peterborough that has raised a very significant amount of money based on these specific tax changes, or the local university, or local museums that have raised significant funds as well. These have helped charitable organizations.
Then of course there is the donation of ecologically sensitive land. The Otonabee Region Conservation Authority, which oversees very significant wetlands in my part of the province, has in fact received donations of land.
These changes have helped and are bringing about very significant societal benefits.
I am very fortunate and I think a lot of us feel the same way. I have said many times in my own riding that a city and a town are really a collection of buildings, streets, infrastructure and businesses. However, what makes them a community is the people, the people who come together to help each other. I come from such a strong community where volunteerism is something that we do, where donating to charity is something that we do disproportionately, and I am proud of it.
We could all say of our communities that there are people who go above and beyond, because they feel it is their calling. One of the things that I am afraid of, frankly, is that we will start to put some of these folks into a category where they should receive a benefit for what they are doing. The benefit they are getting from what they are doing cannot be measured in dollars and cents or in tax credits. It is a benefit they receive from the hearts of others, a benefit they receive by knowing they have made the community better. Many of them do not want recognition at all. That is one of the remarkable things about so many volunteers. They just want to know in their own hearts that they have made a difference, and believe me, they do.
Not only would the bill place an undue administrative burden on charities, but also, volunteer organizations across the country have spoken out against the idea of a tax credit. For example, Ruth MacKenzie, the president and CEO of Volunteer Canada, the respected national voice of Canadian volunteerism since 1977, has said:
I don’t think tax incentives are necessarily the way to encourage it. More importantly, I don’t think it’s going to increase the quality of the contribution volunteers make or the degree organizations benefit from volunteer engagement.
Not only does Volunteer Canada oppose this costly and ineffective NDP proposal, but it has been quick to point out that the charitable sector does not appear to have been consulted at all by the NDP in its hasty drafting of this legislation, which could actually impede charities' ability to serve vulnerable Canadians.
While decrying the bill in a recent interview with CharityVillage, Ms. MacKenzie agreed with the government's position on the bill, noting that “no one...directly consulted with me or Volunteer Canada” about Bill C-399.
I think this is a core function of ours as members of Parliament. I do not doubt that in its conception, the intent of the bill was that it would do something very positive for people who volunteer. I will not impugn the motives of the person who brought forward the bill; I just happen to think it is a bad bill.
It is really essential that when we bring forward legislation that will have a direct impact on a sector, especially a sector as large as the charitable sector in Canada, one that is relied upon by so many as a sign of the strength of our communities, that Parliamentarians consult with them. It is clear that consultations have not taken place.
When I speak to volunteers in my riding, they are not seeking this kind of tax credit. If the government is to make that kind of $430 million investment, they would like it to go to the people they are volunteering for, not themselves. They are not seeking that, which is remarkable.
The other thing that I think is quite profound is that here we are debating an NDP tax credit, a very expensive one, of $430 million, when it is more often the case that the NDP are simply bringing forward tax increases, such as the idea of a $21 billion carbon tax that would take money from every Canadian, including from volunteers and charities. There is also the potential increase in the HST that has been talked about by one of the NDP members from Toronto, the member for Trinity—Spadina. The NDP talks about tax and spending increases constantly. It seems at odds with that for NDP members to be contemplating a tax reduction in this sector. It is absolutely ironic that this is what we are debating.
We believe that taxes should be as low as possible for every single Canadian, and we believe in supporting the charitable sector.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
November 26th, 2012 / 11:20 a.m.
Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the NDP private member's bill, Bill C-399. While we can all agree that volunteers strengthen Canada by bringing positive change to their communities, this poorly written bill would do nothing more than provide costly and duplicative tax breaks for all the wrong reasons.
Despite this bill's numerous technical flaws, which I will explore later in my remarks, it is at odds with the very definition of service. Why do people volunteer? Why do Canadians selflessly give their precious time to organizations that help the less fortunate? It is because they seek personal growth and character through compassion for others. We know for certain that people because they are passionate about a cause and want to do something good for others, not because they are looking for a tax break.
While I am sure this is obvious to the millions of Canadians who volunteer, there is hard evidence to back it up. Recently, Volunteer Alberta commissioned a study on the potential impact of tax credits for volunteer participation funded by the Muttart Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to strengthening the charitable sector. The results were clear. Speaking to its findings, Karen Lynch, executive director of Volunteer Alberta, stated:
There is no evidence that a tax credit incentive would increase the level of volunteerism and in fact, it would change the definition of volunteering fundamentally. Volunteering would no longer be the free giving of a person’s time....
Notwithstanding the member for Repentigny's misguided assumptions about why people are motivated to help their fellow Canadians, this bill appears to have been drafted on the back of a napkin. It proposes to give a tax break to volunteers who perform 130 hours of service a year, helping “vulnerable populations”. It is important to note that the bill gives no further definition, leaving it up to the government to arbitrarily decide which organizations may or may not qualify with no objective rules or guidelines.
It has been a long-standing practice that the Income Tax Act treats all charitable purposes equally, meaning that the government stays out of the business of deciding which charities are more or less deserving of special treatment, meaning that all registered Canadian charities have access to the same benefits.
However, Bill C-399 would require the government to determine what is a vulnerable population and which charities serve it. All charitable work is worthwhile and no volunteer is more valuable than another. Is the NDP member suggesting that the work of a charitable clothing shop is more important than an environmental conservancy? Should orphaned children be considered vulnerable and Canadians with disabilities not? As written, this bill pits Canadian charities against one another and is nothing more than a costly distraction from the important work that they do each and every day to contribute to the health of their communities.
Furthermore, the bill would allow non-profit organizations, or NPOs, to issue certificates for tax purposes, which is also problematic. While the CRA has the tools it needs to regulate Canada's 85,000 registered charities and ensure compliance, this is not the case with NPOs. The Canada Revenue Agency does not keep information on organizations of this type, so it would be almost impossible to determine which NPOs deal with vulnerable populations and which should be permitted to issue certificates. This would raise significant compliance concerns that would almost certainly result in fraud and abuse.
Not only that, non-profits would be responsible for tracking the hours and expenses of their volunteers, burdening charities, many with limited human resources already, with the responsibility of providing this information to the CRA and giving rise to concerns from the sector. Annette Vautour-McKay, executive director of the Volunteer Centre Southeastern New Brunswick in Moncton, stated, “From a management perspective, I would imagine the requirements of the bill would be quite taxing”.
When we think about it, this measure is completely opposed to the bill's intended purpose in its misguided attempt to get more people to give their time to charitable causes. It would increase the administrative workload for volunteers. Charities have an essential role to play by providing valuable services to vulnerable people. While this particular bill is clearly flawed, our Conservative government fully supports the work of the charitable sector and provides it with significant support. In fact, tax support for registered charities in Canada is considered to be among the most generous in the world, providing almost $2.7 billion in tax assistance in 2010.
Since 2006, we have introduced countless measures to make the tax system easier on charities by easing the administrative burden and cutting red tape, cracking down on fraud and introducing more ways for Canadians to give.
For example, in budget 2010 we significantly reformed the disbursement quota rules for charities by reducing administrative complexity and helping organizations focus their time and resources on the people in need. In budget 2011, we brought in a range of measures designed to combat fraud and abuse in the charitable sector, increasing Canadians' confidence that their donations would go toward supporting legitimate charities and would be used for charitable purposes. However, there is always more we can do, and I know this from my colleagues who sit on the House finance committee, where they have been hard at work studying ways to further increase charitable donations.
I take this opportunity to recognize and thank the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for his Motion No. 559, adopted by Parliament in March 2011, which inspired our Conservative government to request that the finance committee undertake this study. I am pleased to report to the members of this House that the committee has heard from more than 50 witnesses, held half a dozen meetings and met with Canadian volunteers from all across the country. Charities have had the opportunity to make their voices heard, bringing forward important proposals on how our government could make things a little easier for volunteer organizations to do their work, along with innovative ideas to encourage Canadians to give even more of their time and hard-earned money.
However, not once in the course of this study did Canada's charities suggest anything even close to resembling what the NDP member is advancing here today. Not once did they propose a tax credit, which is contrary to the essence of service and the spirit of volunteerism, and not once did they recommend that the government saddle them with more red tape, which would make it difficult and costly to provide Canadians with the services and support on which they rely. In fact, Ruth MacKenzie, chairman and CEO of Volunteer Canada, a pre-eminent national voice on volunteerism since 1977, has lamented that this bill's sponsor never bothered to get in touch with her organization. Not only that, but Volunteer Canada is clearly opposed. Ms. MacKenzie stated:
Our thoughts on this bill are in line with our general thoughts on the broader issue of tax incentives for volunteering--that it would not be something we’d support.
Mark Blumberg, a noted lawyer in the field of charities and non-profit law agrees. I believe his words sum it up nicely, when he says, “...I wish they would spend some more time consulting with the sector before introducing private members bills ostensibly to the benefit of the sector”.
Our Conservative government is dedicated to ensuring that charitable organizations, whatever their purpose, have the tools they need to do their work. What they do not need is a costly duplicative tax break for volunteers, pitting charities against one another and creating needless red tape without benefiting the sector or the Canadians it serves.
I look forward to the finance committee's report, and I am confident that its recommendations will help our government build on its outstanding record of support for charities.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
November 26th, 2012 / 11:10 a.m.
Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to the bill. I would like to congratulate the member for Repentigny for moving it. It is a great idea to have a tax credit for volunteers.
To summarize, the bill would allow a tax credit between $500 and $1,500 for volunteering a minimum 130 hours with 12 trips throughout the year. This is a modest tax credit in recognition of service to one's community. A lot of people volunteer in communities and this is a way to show our appreciation. It certainly would help.
I know that volunteers do not do this for money. Before I was elected to the House of Commons, I did a lot of volunteer work in my community. I certainly did not do it for money and no one else does it for money. However, it would certainly encourage more people to volunteer if there were a tax credit.
I would like to take a few moments to talk about some volunteers in my community. At an event Friday evening, I had the pleasure of meeting a volunteer named Michel Piette who lives in Chelmsford. Every day, Michel volunteers at the Alliance St-Joseph elementary school, where he helps out in many ways, including making photocopies for teachers and helping the children get dressed in their winter clothes. Last week or the week before, he even made taffy for St. Catherine's day. The teachers and students alike all appreciate everything Michel does for them.
I would like to mention three people from my community: Patty Smith-Taylor, Cathy Castanza and Reg Devost. They have been volunteers at the youth centre in Rayside-Balfour since its inception. This is a centre that was built in the late 1990s to give youth a place to go after school to do their homework, play games and get counselling from some of the volunteers. These three volunteers have been there from the start and they are still there today. Although there are others who help at the youth centre, these three people do not and never did have any kids who went to the youth centre. They are doing this out of the kindness of their hearts, which is certainly appreciated.
As well, the Sudbury Regional Hospital is manned by so many volunteers I do not know the number. They help people as they come in the door, give them directions and even take them exactly where they want to go. It is a big hospital and can be very confusing for seniors to navigate. These volunteers help them get to their appointments.
On Friday night I went to an event that celebrates co-ops.
The event centred around the Caisse populaire des Voyageurs. As we all know, Desjardins was built by volunteers, and many volunteers are still very active in this co-op. It has become quite an institution in Canada.
I do not think that we need to convince anyone in the House that volunteers play a very important role in all communities.
I would like to give an overview of what volunteers do. They run committees and boards of directors, provide advice and consulting and mentoring services, visit with seniors, prepare and deliver meals, provide transportation, advocate for social causes, and lead sports activities for children and teens. In short, volunteers contribute to the development of their communities and help non-profit organizations provide programs and services to millions of Canadians.
According to the United Nations' State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2011, “Volunteerism benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer by strengthening trust, solidarity and reciprocity among citizens, and by purposefully creating opportunities for participation.”
Perhaps the biggest benefit people get from volunteering is the satisfaction of incorporating service into their lives and making a difference in their community and country. Volunteering gives a retired person something to do after retirement other than sitting at home. It is a proven fact that volunteering keeps seniors younger.
According to Statistics Canada, the number of hours people spent volunteering in 2010 was 2.1 billion. That is a lot of hours for people to be volunteering. That is equivalent to 1.1 million full-time jobs. If we had to pay these volunteers for 2.1 billion hours, just at minimum wage of $9 an hour, that would be $18.2 billion. That is a lot of money. However, I said a while ago, these volunteers do not expect to be paid but if they were given a tax credit it would help organizations recruit more volunteers.
Most of us here in the House of Commons have a lot of volunteers in our offices. I have Stéphanie Pépin who does my e-news letter. In my office in Sturgeon Falls, I have a young fellow by the name of Stéphane Bissonette who is 13 or 14 years of age. He does my French website. He does it because he can first of all and because he enjoys it. We are not expected to pay these people and they do not expect to receive any money but I wanted to give members a sample of what volunteers can do.
I have Holly Fryer and Sam Faubert in my office in Ottawa who are doing volunteer work as part of their program at the University of Ottawa. They are certainly enjoying themselves doing this. I also have Ray Pellerin and Denis Noël volunteering in my office in Sturgeon Falls. With the Christmas season coming, we will be having a Christmas parade in Sturgeon Falls and Ray has volunteered to drive the truck and Denis is getting the float ready. This is another good example of volunteerism.
I would like to thank the Ontario Trillium Foundation for providing start-up funding for our newest program called social enterprise in collaboration with the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce. The purpose of this program is to provide training and support for local non-profit groups exploring social enterprises. Social enterprises are businesses owned by non-profit organizations selling goods or services in the marketplace for the purpose of generating income and/or creating social, environmental and cultural values.
We support Bill C-399. We hope to send it to committee to make some changes to it. All private members' bills can be amended to include other things and to make them better.
Volunteers must make 12 trips of one kilometre to the place of volunteering. In a small community, like some of the communities in my riding, one kilometre is not very far. We certainly want to look at that.
I thank all of the volunteers from coast to coast to coast for doing what they do.
The House resumed from September 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-399, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (volunteers), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
November 5th, 2012 / 11:50 a.m.
Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed, but pleased nonetheless to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-201, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day. The first National Philanthropy Day was celebrated on November 15, 1986, and in 2009, Canada was the first country to officially recognize this day.
The purpose of Bill S-201 is to make the 15th of November of each and every year National Philanthropy Day. Passing this bill would be one way for parliamentarians to recognize the crucial role that philanthropy plays as an important pillar for the welfare of our society. I am proud to join my colleagues in supporting this bill.
I grew up in a family that understood the importance of community involvement and volunteerism. When I was a teenager, my parents, Christine and Alain, encouraged me to give my time to causes that were important to me. Thanks to them, I was able to see the value of volunteering a few hours a month for my community. I also learned about the benefits of volunteering by watching my parents, who have now been involved in Scouts Canada for almost 30 years. Over the years, they have helped over 100 young children enjoy wonderful experiences that they never would have had if it were not for volunteers like my parents.
The importance of volunteering and philanthropy for our society must not be underestimated, especially in the current context of economic austerity, in which the socio-economic needs of our communities are growing a little more each day and the services they have access to are becoming scarce. Volunteers who generously give their time, or Canadians who make charitable donations, actively contribute to the quality of life and vitality of our communities, and meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.
Officially recognizing November 15 as National Philanthropy Day will allow us to honour and thank the many volunteers who generously dedicate themselves to their communities, as well as the major donors and philanthropists from coast to coast to coast, and will encourage more and more people to follow their lead.
In my role as a member of Parliament, every day I see first-hand the extraordinary work that the volunteers in my riding, Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, do on the ground, and I am sure that all hon. members have seen the same thing in their own ridings.
On October 26, I had the opportunity to attend the volunteer gala in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, just as I did last year. Like similar galas in many municipalities across the country, this event is organized every year by the mayor and city council to thank volunteers and recognize their tremendous service to the community. About 40 community, sports and cultural organizations were represented at the event on October 26, and many individuals were specifically honoured for the tremendous contribution they make as volunteers in the municipality of Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures.
I was very pleased to see the number of people who are willing to volunteer their time, expecting nothing in return. They simply want to ensure that their community is a place where everyone can access services and enjoy a better quality of life. All of the volunteers at the gala contribute in their own way to the vitality and vivacity of their municipalities and provide essential services to their communities. These volunteers demonstrate remarkable generosity and dedication, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to pay tribute to them here today and to highlight the importance and value of their contributions to the riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.
Of course, I could say exactly the same thing about the volunteers in every municipality of the regions of Portneuf and Jacques-Cartier, but unfortunately, like everyone else, I do not have enough time here this morning. In fact, I have even less time left than I thought when I began speaking. I have enough time to say that one thing is clear for me today: selflessness and altruism are deeply ingrained in the hearts of the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. Creating a national philanthropy day would be a nice way to thank them and all other Canadians who donate their time or money in order to support the charitable organizations in their communities.
Although I am in favour of designating November 15 as National Philanthropy Day in Canada, I believe that much more needs to be done to support the country's volunteer and philanthropic movement. Bill S-201 is certainly a step in the right direction, but we can and should go even further to support our volunteers. Recent studies have shown that Canada's current economic situation is having a negative impact on charitable donations.
Despite the increased need for the services offered by charitable organizations, the number of people who are currently making donations has not increased, nor has the amount of money being donated across the country.
With regard to volunteer work, some witnesses who recently appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage said that many of the volunteers they know are no longer able to be involved because they do not have the financial resources to pay for the costs associated with their volunteer work, for example, transportation and parking costs. Every day, we talk to different people who work in non-profit organizations in our communities, and they say that there is a desperate need for money for their general operating budgets, as well as for resources to provide direct assistance to people who decide to get involved in their organizations.
As parliamentarians, we have the responsibility to implement measures to support the volunteer sector, while encouraging others to do the same. As a number of my colleagues have already mentioned, that is why the hon. member for Repentigny introduced Bill C-399 to amend the Income Tax Act in order to provide a tax credit to individuals who perform a minimum of 130 hours of volunteer service in their community and make at least 12 trips in order to do so during the taxation year.
This is one way to encourage and recognize volunteer work. I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to my colleague for his initiative, and I hope that members of all parties will support this bill, which is not at all partisan and would help Canadians in each of their ridings across the country.
In the meantime, since Bill S-201 is filled with good intentions and seeks to celebrate philanthropy and volunteer work in our communities, I will be very pleased to vote in favour of it.