National Charities Week Act
An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts)
Peter Braid Conservative
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-458.
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1
May 1st, 2013 / 5 p.m.
Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time this afternoon with the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in support of our Conservative government's economic action plan 2013, as implemented through Bill C-60, the economic action plan 2013 act no. 1. This is a positive plan that would continue Canada's momentum in creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Many of the measures in Bill C-60 are aimed at strengthening our economy and ensuring a prosperous future for all Canadians.
However, our government also understands that a successful society also includes the capacity to respond to the needs of all Canadians, including the most vulnerable. That is why I am proud that our government is working so hard to support the charitable sector.
Charities play an important role in our communities. It is vital that we celebrate and support this excellent work. I have to say that I am constantly impressed by the remarkable work that all charities are doing, and I would like to commend them, especially their volunteers, for their commitment to improving the lives of others and contributing to our high quality of life.
In my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo, I have witnessed the collaboration and the commitment of our charities and volunteers who are determined to make a difference in our community. This has inspired me to focus many of my efforts on supporting the charitable sector. As a member of Parliament, I have been actively engaged and involved in advocating for charities, raising awareness of the important work they do in our communities and serving as their voice in Parliament.
In 2010, I tabled a motion in the House of Commons that triggered a finance committee study that reviewed the current tax system and considered changes that could motivate increased giving. By all accounts, this was a very worthwhile exercise. It brought together charitable organizations, experts and stakeholders, and generated a very comprehensive discussion about the challenges and opportunities faced by the sector. I would like to thank the finance committee members for their excellent work, as well as the witnesses who contributed their expertise and their suggestions.
The committee's report, tabled in the House last February, proposed several recommendations aimed at creating positive change in the sector, with a focus on tax incentives, transparency, reducing red tape for charitable organizations, and, of course, increasing public awareness.
Now with Bill C-60, our government is responding to the report's recommendations with the creation of the first-time donors super credit. This innovative new measure would increase the value of the charitable donations tax credit by 25% on eligible cash donations of up to $1,000 in any one taxation year if neither the taxpayer nor their spouse have claimed the credit since 2007.
This is a creative response to the challenge of growing the donor base in Canada, an issue that was brought forward during the committee study. The committee heard that there was a need to foster and promote a culture of giving and that tax incentives can play a role, both in increasing the number of new donors and in encouraging existing donors to give more. Studies have shown that 25% of donors provide almost 85% of all charitable donations. In other words, charities find themselves relying on a smaller number of people to make large gifts. Furthermore, the level of donations increases with age, and older Canadians tend to give more.
That is why I believe the first-time donors super credit would create new opportunities for supporting charities. It would significantly enhance the attractiveness of donating to a charity for young Canadians who are in a position to make donations for the first time, creating an immediate positive impact on the sector.
In fact, a survey recently conducted by BMO Harris Private Banking found that this initiative would go a long way toward achieving these objectives. Quoting from its press release, the survey found that nearly 70% of Canadians support the first-time donors super credit introduced in the federal budget. It goes on to say that 93% of Canadians feel the new credit would encourage more charitable giving or maintain current levels of support. Fifty per cent of young Canadians aged 18 to 34 said they would strongly consider contributing more to charities because of this new credit.
The charitable sector is also enthusiastic about this new initiative that will help to rejuvenate its donor base and encourage increased charitable giving. Imagine Canada, which had a proposal for a stretch tax credit, received a favourable response in the finance committee report subject to balancing the budget. It applauded the new super credit as a step in the right direction. It said in a press release, “This is a significant investment in our communities at a time of ongoing restraint”. This immediate and positive reaction is very encouraging, and it shows that a small change has the potential to make a big impact.
I also believe that the first-time donor super credit will provide an opportunity for charities to foster effective relationships between charities and a new generation of donors. By engaging young people and demonstrating the difference that their contributions can make in our communities, we will build a core of lifelong donors and enhance the long-term sustainability of our important charitable sector. This new initiative would also help to raise awareness of the tax benefits of donating to charities, which as I mentioned earlier was one of the core recommendations of the finance committee report.
This is already happening throughout Canada's charitable sector. In fact, I have seen a number of charities that are already highlighting the new super credit in their website communications for their fundraising campaigns in an effort to engage young people and first-time donors. This includes SicksKids Foundation, Easter Seals, and a number of smaller charities that are seizing the opportunity to inform their potential donors about the tax credits to which they may be entitled. All of these efforts are aimed at the overarching goal of long-term sustainability for the charitable sector.
Our government has a strong record of taking action to support our charities, and since 2006 we have been steadily increasing the generosity of the charitable donations tax incentive. Budget 2006 introduced a complete exemption on the capital gains tax associated with the donation of publicly listed securities to public charities. It also extended the exemption of donations of ecologically sensitive land to public conservation charities. Budget 2007 extended the exemption for donations of publicly listed securities to private foundations. Budget 2010 further reformed the disbursement quota rules for charities, reducing administrative complexity to better enable charities to focus their time and resources on charitable activities.
As the member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo, I have been personally focusing many of my efforts on advocating for our charities with my first private member's motion that initiated the important charity study, and more recently my private member's bill, Bill C-458, which proposes to extend the tax deadline for charitable donations.
In conclusion, I am extremely pleased that our government is taking concrete action to support and sustain charitable organizations. As a result, I encourage all members to support all the important measures in Bill C-60, including the first-time donors tax credit that will benefit charities, donors and our society as a whole.
National Charities Week Act
Private Members' Business
March 19th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of my constituents in the Alberta riding of Crowfoot to participate in the private member's debate brought forward by my colleague, the member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo.
First, I would start by saying that the Good Book says that it is more blessed to give than to receive. For all members of Parliament from all sides, as we look around our constituencies at the various charitable organizations that are volunteering their time and are doing everything they can to support good causes, we want to thank them. We also agree that there is a satisfaction, a feeling of being blessed, when we can be part of that and give in a charitable way. Anything we can do to help enhance that type of giving is to be commended.
Therefore, I thank the member for Kitchener—Waterloo. I had some questions about Bill C-458 initially and I sat down here in the House with the member for Kitchener—Waterloo. I understood that this was a member who had a passion for charitable organizations and for trying to do the right thing. There is no hidden agenda here. It is simply a question of how he can better move charitable organizations forward so that people can be part of that blessing, so to speak, of being able to give and to donate to these good causes.
In that stand, he has introduced Bill C-458, which proposes mainly two changes. The first change would create a national charities week in the last week of February each year. My colleague also wants to amend Canada's Income Tax Act. He would extend the deadline for people claiming charitable gifts for tax purposes from December 31 of the taxation year to 60 days after that to match the deadline for contributions for RRSPs.
This is an admirable attempt to help Canadians contribute to those less fortunate. All members of the House want to commend our colleague for bringing these two ideas to debate here in the House of Commons. The member for Kitchener—Waterloo, as it has already been stated, is earning quite a reputation for himself and his constituents as being one who cares about charities. We congratulate him and recognize that.
Previously, his private member's Motion No. 559 prompted a study by the House of Commons finance committee, which brought major attention to the needs of charities. In turn, his motion prompted a national conversation about the good work of these organizations in Canada. The committee's subsequent work report will no doubt inform the government's future action on support for those charities, potentially as soon as the upcoming budget 2013.
I can say to my constituents and to all Canadians listening to this debate that our Conservative government understands the value of the selfless work of charities and of the volunteers that make them successful. I see the value of this work in my constituency. It is remarkable to see the generosity and hard work of many churches, youth groups, schools, seniors groups and local organizations in my riding. I take this opportunity to commend all of them.
I am invited to many charitable events and fundraisers throughout the year in my riding. As a former businessman who owned an auction company and was an auctioneer, I am able to be the auctioneer for some of these events. I tell all of the charities in my riding that nobody wants to hear my speech, but they all want me to come and do the auction sale for them. Through this work, I have the opportunity to meet with many key people in the community, both in the volunteer sector and those who contribute through their finances.
Bill C-458 has some potential to increase the incentives that already exist for Canadians to give money generously to charities. It would facilitate even more good work in communities here in Canada and around the world. That is why it is important for the bill to be studied closely.
Canadians support the House engaging in a full assessment of the implications of the bill. We will be paying close attention to what stakeholders and those involved in carrying out our charitable work have to say. As my colleagues have noted, Canada already has one of the most generous systems of tax support for charitable donations in the world.
Our Conservative government has already introduced several measures in recent years to enhance incentives for donations. We have taken action to improve transparency and accountability in the charitable sector, including through measures announced in economic action plan 2012.
I want to thank the member for bringing this bill forward. A study in the House of Commons would be a very positive thing, and I look forward to the bill passing.
National Charities Week Act
Private Members' Business
March 19th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC
Mr. Speaker, naturally, we are going to support Bill C-458 since it is well-intentioned and the NDP supports the charitable sector.
Nevertheless, I would like to say that the Conservatives' rhetoric is causing confusion. On the one hand, they claim to support charitable organizations, but on the other, they are cutting funding for such organizations and constantly attacking them. There is every reason to believe that the government's approach to the charitable sector is to gradually transfer its responsibility toward Canadians to the private sector. I would like to remind the government that it is and must remain responsible for, among other things, essential public services.
Now, I will explain the two main components of this bill. First, this bill seeks to amend the Income Tax Act by extending by 60 days following the end of a taxation year the period during which people would be eligible for a tax credit for donations made to charities for that same tax year. Second, the bill seeks to establish a national charities week during the last week of February.
We support this bill in order to send it to committee. There, we will try to make the changes necessary to make it into a financially responsible bill that meets the needs of Canadian workers.
For the moment, the financial cost estimates are based only on hypotheses about how people will react to the extension of the tax credit deadline. I do not think that is good enough, and I think we could do much better.
The Standing Committee on Finance needs to have a more specific idea of the cost of such a measure and it needs to know that this bill is an appropriate response to the problems faced by charitable organizations. We also do not have any evidence to show that a national charities week in February would really benefit this sector.
Many charitable organizations also expressed concerns that were mainly administrative in nature. They intend to raise these issues when the bill goes to committee. They are also of the opinion that the bill could help to solve this sector's problems but that it is certainly not the be-all and end-all.
Efforts to increase charitable donations are commendable and we support them. However, we also have to ensure that an in-depth analysis is conducted of the impact this bill would have on federal revenues, as well as on the total amount of donations and their distribution. That being said, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about some of the most fundamental aspects of this bill and the Canadian tax system.
Although charity work is important, the government's actions are as well. A lot of churches and other shelters for the homeless, run by the private sector, keep people from freezing to death on the street, but governments here and elsewhere in the world have found that the only long-term solution is affordable housing.
Cancer research centres can be managed privately, but some of the best research comes out of publicly funded universities and hospitals. Yes, it is important to ensure that charities can continue to function, but when the government abandons its responsibilities toward vulnerable groups by delegating those responsibilities to the charitable sector, damage can be significant.
People who count on systems that the government puts in place may not find the private sector alternative right away. When the government behaves this way, it hurts the people directly affected by government assistance and communities as a whole.
Furthermore, if the government tries to make the legislation work through the tax system, it could end up abandoning the less fortunate. Often, the government's special tax exemptions are given only to individuals who are well off.
This does not mean that they do not need it—far from it—and we must continue to work at lowering the cost of living for everyone. However, all I am saying is that a single mother with three children who earns $23,000 a year needs more help than a family with two people earning $50,000 each. Up until now, the government has chosen to ignore the single mother.
In 2009, 33.4% of Canadians did not pay taxes. They therefore could not benefit from the government's many attempts to legislate through taxes. Critics consider them lucky, but these are seniors living below the poverty line.
These are students who cannot eat balanced meals because they do not have enough money left over after paying for books and tuition. These are the least fortunate who work for minimum wage or even less if they work in the service industry. If they have children, their expenses double or triple.
When the government promises tax breaks, all these people hear is that they will receive fewer resources from this government. In many cases, the least fortunate are not informed of the tax breaks offered by the government and they obviously do not get an accountant to fill out their tax returns. It is not complicated. Even if they pay taxes and are entitled to exemptions, these people often do not have the knowledge or expertise to take advantage of them.
Some will say that these people should simply go to an accountant, but if the single mother of three I mentioned earlier can save $60 by filling out her tax return on her own, so she can buy groceries for her kids, it is obvious which choice she will make.
We need to be realistic. This government has used targeted tax exemptions to solidify its slim support in ridings across the country as it saw fit. It did so with little regard for those most in need, and with even less regard for a balanced budget for the country. Another year goes by with another deficit and another round of cuts to social programs, jobs and employment insurance benefits.
This government has a bad habit of saying that it helps charitable organizations, but then cuts their funding and attacks organizations that defend positions that are not in keeping with the government's policies. Take Rights and Democracy, for example. The government decided to put an end to that non-governmental rights group, which had gained worldwide clout and an international reputation since its creation in 1988. The Conservatives interfered politically and appointed people who defended the Conservative ideology within the organization. At the time, dozens of public servants denounced the Conservatives' political interference.
That is how the government works. When an organization refutes its ideology, it simply cuts that organization off. If no specific organization is in the crosshairs, the government simply slashes international development aid, as it did in the last budget.
Although we support the charitable sector, we deplore the Conservative government's lack of long-term vision for the sector. This sector needs a comprehensive, coherent, long-term policy. Expecting the charitable sector to become an alternative to essential government services is completely absurd. Organizations working in this area should not replace government in offering services to the people. If that is the case, then that does not bode well for the country.
If we want to avoid an explosion in demand for charitable services, the government simply needs to do its job and maintain and invest in social programs. We will support this bill at second reading so that it can be examined more closely in committee. It is important to support the charitable sector in Canada as part of a long-term vision and without losing sight of the government's responsibilities towards the public.
National Charities Week Act
Private Members' Business
March 19th, 2013 / 5:55 p.m.
James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-458, a private member's bill introduced by my friend and colleague, the member for Kitchener—Waterloo. I will support this bill at second reading and I hope all members on both sides of the House do the same. It has certainly received some positive support in the speeches I have heard thus far, which I also appreciate.
As the member for Kitchener—Waterloo pointed out, the bill would establish the last seven days of February as national charities week and would extend the tax deadline to claim charitable donations from December 31 to the end of March, matching the deadline for RRSP contributions. The member's objective is obviously quite noble, seeking to encourage a greater number of Canadians to give more generously to charities, supporting these organizations in their valuable work both in Canada and around the world. As chair of the finance committee, I hope and fully expect that Bill C-458 will be supported by all parties and I look forward to further discussion and analysis of this proposal, including hearing from the member and from a wide range of groups in the charitable sector.
However, before I speak directly to the legislation before the House today, I will take an opportunity, as his colleague, to recognize the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for his truly outstanding record in support of the charitable sector since first being elected in 2008. In 2010, he sponsored Motion No. 559, which called for the Standing Committee on Finance to study tax incentives for charitable donations, a motion that was supported by all parties. Having a colleague supported by all parties is quite unique in the House. I am very happy to report that after extensive work last year and into early this year, the finance committee completed that important study, and I encourage all parliamentarians and Canadians to view that study.
As chair of the committee, I can tell the House that we heard important evidence showing the need for the government to help foster and promote a culture of giving. Not only that, but we learned that tax incentives had a definite role to play in increasing the number of new donors and encouraging existing donors to give even more. I am pleased to report that the committee's study brought attention to the importance of charitable giving. I am confident it will help inform the government's further action to support charities.
With this outcome, we can all agree that the member's contributions to date have truly been invaluable. His reputation in this regard is well known. Imagine Canada, the leading umbrella organization representing Canadian charities, has praised the member's willingness to consult with it on new ideas, saying, “[The member] has been and continues to be a real champion for the charitable sector...He demonstrates a sound understanding of the issues we’re facing”. I am sure my colleagues on both sides of the House will agree with that assessment and will join our government in sending the bill to the finance committee for the hearing that it deserves.
In supporting this proposal to committee, a proposal which was raised during the previous study which I mentioned, we can ensure that it will be carefully considered by both parliamentarians and charities alike. At committee, we can answer the questions that have been raised by members during this debate today. We can conduct a thorough examination of the bill.
An important consideration is how this proposal will be effective in encouraging Canadians to increase their donations. A study at the finance committee will help us to determine to what degree a later deadline for annual contributions will impact donations and at what cost. We will also hear from charities about the potential impact of a March 1 deadline on their ability to deliver important services to Canadians.
Currently, organizations have about six to eight weeks following the end of the year to get tax receipts to donors for early filing. If the deadline were to be moved 12 weeks later, charities would obviously have to make the necessary administrative adjustments. However, the most important reason for members to vote to send the bill to committee is that charities could share their views on this important bill and on this topic.
On the larger issues of charities, which I want to address and which some other members have spoken about today, I emphasize that our Conservative government fully supports the important work of charities to improve the lives of Canadians who rely on their support. Each and every day, selfless and remarkable volunteers make a difference in lives all across the country without expecting anything in return. In fact, there are over 160,000 Canadian charities and non-profit organizations that support worthwhile causes in our communities. That is an amazing number, of which all members should be proud.
That is why our government is committed to the charitable sector and we have continuously strengthened that commitment, including successive actions to improve tax incentives for donations. I will remind members of a few of these actions.
Budget 2006 exempted gifts of publicly listed securities from capital gains tax and extended that exemption to donations of ecologically sensitive land to public conservation charities.
Budget 2008 extended the exemption to certain donations of exchangeable shares.
Budget 2010 significantly reformed the disbursement quota rules for charities, reducing administrative complexity and better enabling charities to focus their time and resources on their charitable activities.
Budgets 2011 and 2012 introduced important integrity measures to ensure transparency and accountability for charities designed to combat fraud and abuse in the charitable sector, helping to increase the confidence of Canadians that their hard-earned dollars would be used exactly in the spirit that they were intended.
Our government wholeheartedly supports the intent of Bill C-458, and I applaud the selfless efforts by my hon. colleague to better support charities in carrying out their important work. Indeed, the bill has the potential to encourage Canadians to give more generously to charities than ever before, empowering these organizations to make an even bigger difference in communities across our country.
Nevertheless, it is vital that my colleagues on the finance committee and all parliamentarians have an opportunity to examine the bill in greater detail to ensure charities have an opportunity to share their perspective on this unique and very exciting proposal.
I would like to quote from a recent National Post editorial that praised the legislation before us today, noting that:
Too often of late, private member’s bills have served explicitly partisan ends. [The member for Kitchener—Waterloo's] Bill C-458, however, seeks to improve the lot of needy citizens simply by adjusting a bureaucratic formality. This is the sort of effort we’d like to see more of in parliament...
Speaking as someone who has been in this chamber for over 12 years, the member for Kitchener—Waterloo serves as an example for all of us in terms of how we can have an impact on a policy process, how we can have an impact on the budgets that are presented in the House of Commons and how we can truly improve the lives of Canadians from coast to coast.
I am therefore very proud to support the bill at second reading. I hope we can study it at the finance committee as soon as possible. I encourage all members on both sides of the House to support it.
National Charities Week Act
Private Members' Business
March 19th, 2013 / 5:45 p.m.
Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-458, which my Liberal colleagues and I will be supporting.
Bill C-458 proposes the establishment of a national charities week at the end of February, in order to showcase and celebrate the work of Canada's charitable organizations. Canada's broader not-for-profit sector is as diverse as Canada itself. Charities are wide-ranging in focus and in scope, working on issues as varied as medical research, children's rights and heritage preservation. From food banks to hospitals to synagogues to theatres, Canada's charities make a difference in communities across the country. They do great work and they deserve our support. They certainly have the country's support, for there is no doubt that Canadians are generous, compassionate and community-minded.
According to the 2010 Canada survey of giving, volunteering and participating, nearly half of Canadians aged 15 and over volunteer. All together, they give 2.1 billion hours of their time to charities and not-for-profits; 84% give financially, contributing an average of $446. People of all ages share in this effort, from youth, who are the most likely to volunteer, to seniors, who give more hours and more money than any other cohort.
Canadians who give to charity can and should take advantage of the tax relief available to them. However, not all donors claim tax credits for their donations. At the moment, the most generous donors and the donors most likely to claim tax credits are those who give on a regular basis and who plan their giving in advance, which leads us to the crux of the bill.
To give one example, monthly donors to Girl Guides of Canada make sure they get income tax receipts. Those of us who buy and enjoy the cookies every spring and autumn do not. The number of people who give in this way is declining. By establishing a national charities week, however, we can work with the not-for-profit sector to encourage Canadians to practise planned giving and to make them more aware of charitable donation tax credits.
Bill C-458 also proposes amending the Income Tax Act so that taxpayers can claim a tax credit for gifts made during a calendar year and during the first 60 days of the following year. In effect, the deadline for eligible charitable donations would coincide with both the national charities week and the deadline for registered retirement savings plan contributions.
In their earlier submission to the Standing Committee on Finance, Mr. Drache and Mr. Aptowitzer made a similar proposal that suggested such a move. They said:
This would allow donors to make decisions when completely informed of their tax situation for the previous year. It would also allow charities and donors to focus on the tax aspects of giving and increase the opportunities for educating taxpayers on the tax incentive of donating.
During his testimony to committee on February 9, 2011, Mr. Aptowitzer stressed that moving the deadline to February would give charities the opportunity to campaign and to get donors to think about charitable giving in the tax context, which is something that the committee talked about as being a new thing for the tax code.
While it is true that Canadians associate the end of February with the tax preparation and the RRSP deadline, we should note that the parallel between RRSP contributions and charitable donations is not exact. They both reduce taxable income, but Canadians who contribute to an RRSP are also putting money toward their own retirement. Essentially, they are paying themselves. It is important that we bear that difference in mind and not assume that Canadians will start thinking about charitable giving in the same way that they think about their RRSPs. That said, there is no doubt that the considerable efforts made to educate Canadians about the tax aspects of RRSP contributions have led more people to contribute to their RRSPs and that making the same effort on behalf of charitable donations could have a decided impact.
There are certain issues that a committee study would need to address. In particular, we would need to hear from charities and non-profit organizations about how the proposed changes to the tax deadline might affect their fundraising strategies and annual cycles of donations. Currently, the tax deadline coincides with the end of the winter holiday giving season. Many charities base major fundraising campaigns around the December holidays. They are the experts on what works and what resources they have available and we should take our consultations with them very seriously.
It should also be noted that the fiscal impact of Bill C-458 is still unclear since it will be largely dependent on donor behaviour. At the moment, donation tax credits for individuals costs the federal treasury approximately $2.4 billion per year. If the bill's outreach measures are as successful as we hope they will be and more Canadians claim the charitable tax donation tax credit, that figure will rise. A committee study should include detailed modelling so that parliamentarians have an accurate idea of how much Bill C-458 would cost.
While it raises some questions that would need to be answered at the finance committee, Bill C-458 provides Canadians with an opportunity to celebrate their charitable sector and educate each other about charitable giving. I thank the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for introducing the bill and invite all members to join me and the Liberal Party in supporting it.
On the point of charitable giving, I personally am from the most charitable province of all, Newfoundland and Labrador. I do not mean to play favourites, but nonetheless it is a bragging point for a small province such as we are. I like to think that on all occasions we punch above our weight, certainly when it comes to charitable donations. Our volunteer base is incredibly large for our small communities. In my riding alone there are over 198 communities. There are well over 800 communities in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador alone. Many smaller remote communities in both areas, on the island and the mainland of Labrador, benefit from charitable donations, not just financially but also in volunteer hours spent at bake sales and dinners in these areas.
Our most treasured volunteer groups in the province would be the volunteer firefighters and the volunteer search and rescue. These people spend an incredible amount of hours involved in raising money, keeping our communities safe and in many ways allowing our communities to thrive. Our children have activities and get involved in their communities based on what inspires them, and what inspires them are the people who give hours to their community.
All of that would not be possible if it was not for the generosity of many individual Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Many companies and businesses give an incredible amount of money to their local communities, whether it be for local festivals or a fundraiser for a person who needs help for health reasons.
I have been to several fundraisers in my riding and throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, as my colleagues from Random—Burin—St. George's and Avalon can attest to. They have been to many fundraisers where certain people need help, whether it be for health reasons or to get somewhere for some sporting event. We do this all the time. It is inbred within us to give, as our children will give and our parents give. This bill is the type of measure that allows better contributions. It allows people and companies to give and financially plan better.
Therefore, as a party we support the bill for all the reasons mentioned, such as the planning aspect and the end of year coinciding with RRSP contributions. I would advise the committee to consider how they would publicize this tax credit in order to take full advantage of it. Whether it is the biggest city or the smallest community, this definitely is of benefit to not only the small communities but the volunteers who give and make it worthwhile.
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.
National Charities Week Act
Private Members' Business
March 19th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to recognize the hundreds of charitable organizations from coast to coast and the phenomenal work they do not only within Canada, but outside of it as well.
We should recognize that Bill C-458 will have a fairly profound impact in individuals being able to contribute toward charities. When we talk about that extension, we see things like RRSPs and the impact they have had. We look forward to ultimately seeing the bill go to the next stage in anticipation that there will be a great deal of feedback provided.
To get more on the record the incredible work the huge number of charitable organizations do, I want compliment to the member for bringing forward the bill. We look forward to the next stage. I would like to provide him with another opportunity to maybe add a few words.
National Charities Week Act
Private Members' Business
March 19th, 2013 / 5:15 p.m.
Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON
moved that Bill C-458, An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-458, an act respecting a national charities week and to amend the Income Tax Act.
Canada is known throughout the world as one of the best countries in which to live. One of the reasons for this reputation is our strong sense of social responsibility. We care about our fellow citizens and we work together to ensure that everyone can fulfill their potential and enjoy a high quality of life.
Charitable organizations put these core values into practice. They do valuable work in our communities, helping those in need and creating a strong, compassionate and inclusive society.
As the member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo, I have been working since first being elected in 2008 to foster valuable partnerships with the many charitable organizations in my community and across Canada. I have to say that I am constantly impressed by the remarkable work they are doing.
I commend them and all of their volunteers for their commitment to improving the lives of others and for contributing to the quality of life we enjoy here in Canada. However, I do recognize that charities face complex challenges, and adequate funding continues to be an overriding concern.
During the global recession, many organizations saw a drop in donations while demand for their services increased. Stats Canada reported a decline in donations of over 5% in both 2008 and 2009, and while the latest statistics show an increase as our economic recovery takes effect, the current level of donations is still below that of 2007.
With respect to the overall donor base in Canada, the 2010 Canadian survey of giving, volunteering and participating indicates that 25% of donors provide almost 85% of all charitable donations. In other words, charities find themselves relying on a small number of people to make large gifts, and older donors tend to give more.
People give for a variety of reasons. While compassion and altruism remain the primary motivation for charitable donations, 23% of Canadians cited the tax credit as an important factor. This is what motivated my private member's motion in the previous Parliament, which was passed unanimously by this House in 2011 and resulted in the finance committee study on tax incentives for charitable donations.
The finance committee study reviewed the current tax system and considered changes that could motivate increased giving. By all accounts, this was a very worthwhile exercise. The study brought together charitable organizations, experts and stakeholders and generated a comprehensive discussion about the challenges and opportunities faced by the sector.
I would like to thank the finance committee members for their excellent work, as well as the witnesses who contributed their expertise and suggestions.
I am pleased with the recommendations contained in the report, which focus on tax incentives, transparency, red tape reduction for charitable organizations and public awareness.
I am optimistic that this will lead to real action to benefit our charities and the donors who support them.
Building on the momentum of this committee study, I am pleased to now have the opportunity to advance an initiative that I believe will continue to raise awareness of Canada's charitable sector and lead to increased support.
During the committee study, I was intrigued with the proposal to extend the charitable tax donation deadline. It was suggested that this extension would make it easier for Canadians to donate to the causes that are truly important to them.
To ascertain the sector's response to such a measure, I held a round table with a number of charities in my riding and consulted with representatives from national charitable organizations. Many felt that this was a common sense idea with great potential. Based on this positive feedback, I proceeded with this initiative and tabled my bill on October 31, 2012.
My private member's bill, Bill C-458, proposes to extend the deadline for charitable donations by 60 days, so that eligible donations made up until March 1 may be claimed in the previous calendar year. In addition, my bill proposes to establish the last seven days of February as national charities week in Canada.
There are a number of reasons I believe this measure will lead to enhanced support for charitable organizations. The current deadline of December 31, as we know, falls during the busy holiday season. At this time, of course, Canadians are not usually focused on strategic financial planning.
Further, many charitable organizations are challenged to provide staff during this busy time in order to seize year-end donations and to process receipts. Then when tax time comes in February, people may realize that if they had made a charitable donation, they could have reduced their tax payable and maybe even received a tax refund. Of course, by then it is too late.
While many Canadians give generously during the holiday season for altruistic reasons, my proposal, I believe, would create a second season of giving in the first 60 days of the year, a period that many charities have told me does not typically see a high level of donation activity.
In addition, moving the deadline to the tax preparation season in February would provide a motivation to increase giving in order to maximize existing financial tax incentives. It would raise awareness of the charitable tax credit and encourage Canadians to give more prominent consideration to including charitable giving in their financial planning and tax preparation decisions.
My proposal would enable individuals to have a complete picture of their financial situation when considering charitable donations, the same as they currently do with the registered retirement savings plans, or RRSPs. This would benefit the many Canadians who are not salaried employees: small business owners, part-time workers, students and those whose income varies throughout the year.
In fact, Canadians who plan their charitable giving tend to give more. According to the 2007 Canadian survey of giving, volunteering and participating, fewer than 20% of donors plan their charitable donations. However, those who do plan their donations give an average of almost $800 annually, compared to $350 for those who do not plan in advance.
Other studies have shown that people who build charity into their financial plans are much less likely to decrease their level of giving during an economic downturn. The finance committee's report on tax incentives for charitable giving emphasized the need to raise public awareness in order to promote increased giving and I believe this is what my bill would help to achieve.
It would also contribute to creating a culture of giving among Canadians that will support and sustain the charitable sector over the long term so that charitable organizations can continue their valuable work in our communities. To further underscore the importance of Canada's charitable sector, national charities week would present charitable organizations with the opportunity to highlight their work and tell their stories, and for all Canadians to celebrate their achievements. Canadians demonstrate their generosity when they see how their donations make a difference in the lives of others.
Since introducing my bill last fall, I have received a great deal of positive feedback from across the country, from individual Canadians, charitable organizations, many of my colleagues and the media. For example, an editorial in my local newspaper, the Waterloo Region Record, stated:
Braid’s bill strikes us as a non-partisan, common sense proposal that deserves support across the political spectrum. It should be passed.
An editorial in the National Post observed the following:
This is a small change, but a significant one. It will ease the burden on charities, and individuals, by providing a little end-of-year breathing room for those who would like to donate but find that the cut-off date has passed before they are able to.
One of my constituents stated, “As a person who works in leadership in a charitable organization, and sits on the Boards of several others, I think this makes very good sense and I appreciate it”. A second constituent wrote to me and said, “After a lifetime as a tax practitioner and also having a close association with charitable organizations, I think you have identified a simple solution to increasing charitable giving among Canadians. Well done”. Lastly, another constituent wrote, “Bravo! ...I do wish I had thought of that, as a lifelong professional fund raiser, now retired. If there is any way that I can help you in your endeavour, please do contact me”.
Twitter, that great litmus test of public opinion, gave a great deal of positive encouragement to my initiative, including a tweet that said, “Could be a fascinating game changer for charities to raise funds”.
However, as with any new initiative, the bill has also raised some concerns regarding its implementation. For this reason, it is important that the bill receive a full examination at committee to ensure, as I believe, that the advantages will far outweigh any potential perceived disadvantages.
As a government, we need to further enhance our partnerships with charities to seek their input and expertise and to further promote the important role that charities play in our society. As members of Parliament, all of us in the House are here to work for the greater good and are striving to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve. I encourage all members to support my bill, which will further support our charities and help them to fulfill our shared goal of building a better society.
November 28th, 2012 / 3:35 p.m.
Bill C-458 would designate the last seven days of February as National Charities Week. It would also amend the Income Tax Act to extend the deadline for charitable, crown, cultural, and ecological gifts until the end of February.
This bill does not concern questions that are outside federal jurisdiction. It does not appear to clearly violate the Constitution, including the charter. It does not concern questions already voted on in the current session, and it does not concern questions currently on the order paper as items of government business.
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.