National Philanthropy Day Act
An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
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.
November 22nd, 2012 / 1:55 p.m.
The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin
Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
November 22, 2012
I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 22nd day of November, 2012, at 11:01 a.m.
Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor
The schedule indicates that the bills assented to were Bill S-201, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day, Chapter 23; and Bill S-11, An Act respecting food commodities, including their inspection, their safety, their labelling and advertising, their import, export and interprovincial trade, the establishment of standards for them, the registration or licensing of persons who perform certain activities related to them, the establishment of standards governing establishments where those activities are performed and the registration of establishments where those activities are performed, Chapter 24.
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
November 5th, 2012 / 11:55 a.m.
Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the House and all the members who have spoken to the bill and indicated their support for it.
The bill having reached this stage is a tribute to Senator Terry Mercer from the other place. He has made numerous attempts to get this legislation passed. I know he would want me to thank the House and all members for their support.
Volunteer groups across Canada would appreciate this recognition, as would people who are donors. The bill is all about donors and volunteers across Canada, those millions of folks whom make Canada the most caring country in the world.
I hope every Canadian has had the benefit at some stage in their lives of the help of a volunteer, have had the benefit of their work, whether it is a hockey coach, a basketball or soccer coach who has made a difference in their lives, or a scout or girl guide leader who have taught many life lessons or a food bank volunteers who have helped provide the necessities of life.
The bill, as my last colleague to speak said, is a very non-partisan bill and it shows how we can all work together. I am confident we will all work together in the end and pass the bill. I hope we can work together in making the spirit of the bill felt across Canada as well.
It is encouraging that the bill, it appears, will pass before November 15, which is National Philanthropy Day, and that will be welcomed by the legions of volunteers across Canada.
I was a bit baffled last week, in view of the support from all parties for the substance of the bill, when I asked for unanimous consent to have it passed at third reading and an NDP colleague, perhaps acting on orders from on high in the party, refused consent for that to happen.
I will try again in a minute and perhaps members will see their way to support that measure. If not, I know the bill will pass and I know I will still have their support for the substance of the bill. I do not really see what the partisan advantage, or any advantage, a party gets from not giving consent to that at this stage, but those are the games perhaps that get played around this place.
I would be remiss if I did not express my appreciation to my Liberal colleague, the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, who was kind enough to make the switch that allowed the bill to come back so soon and have a chance of passing before November 15, National Philanthropy Day.
I am proud to have been the sponsor the bill in the House. I am pleased for Senator Mercer and countless others from both houses who have really tried to push the bill along and allowed us to be about to declare that November 15 every year will be National Philanthropy Day, an important day for us to mark.
Before I finish, I would like to see consent for the following motion: That, at the conclusion of today's debate on Bill S-201, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day, all questions necessary to dispose of the bill be deemed put and that the bill be read a third time and now pass.
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.
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
November 5th, 2012 / 11:40 a.m.
Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today and speak to Bill S-201, which proposes making November 15 of every year National Philanthropy Day. Our debate today demonstrates our support for those Canadians who are currently striving to make Canada a better place. As our Governor General recently said, philanthropy creates a society, community and a country that can achieve much more than the sum of its parts.
Philanthropy is an act of citizenship that is an integral part of our Canadian society. Many important Canadian institutions and organizations were founded through philanthropic activity. People working together for a common good, whether through donating money or volunteering their labour, is a defining value of our country. Many organizations in my own riding promote and support the greater community. I will list just a couple to begin with.
The Children's Aid Society, whose board I was a proud member of for several years, protects the rights of and stands up for foster children who do not have any families. Young children are placed in foster homes and the board of the Children's Aid Society supports the workers who dedicate their time working with them, overseeing them and providing policy and direct support for many of these children who are in the most need in our society.
There programs support those who cannot get out and shop for themselves. For example, Meals on Wheels supports those people who cannot help themselves.
When I was an elementary school principal, there was a tremendous program started in my school by a teacher named Dorothy Alt, called the volunteer reading program. She was able to activate over 140 volunteers, many of them senior citizens, bringing them into the elementary school to work with our first-grade students, teaching them how to read. In this program, the volunteers would come in and be trained. They would spend hours and hours working with literacy professionals learning how to teach children how to read. This program produced some of the best literacy results in the country. Not long after it was implemented, our school was listed in the top 40 schools in the country by Today's Parent magazine, based primarily on the results of this literacy program, started by a wonderful teacher who dedicated her time and enlisted an army of volunteers in a small community.
There are stories like that taking place from coast to coast to coast. There is the in-from-the-cold program supporting homeless people. There are breakfast and lunch programs at our schools that support children who do not come to school having eaten a healthy meal. There are programs at hospitals across the country raising money for equipment, nurses auxiliaries and hospital auxiliaries. There are coaches who work with young men and women across the country providing hours and hours of volunteer time for the betterment and future of our country.
There are volunteer firefighters for whom our government recently was able to pass a bill providing them with a tax credit in their support across the country. My grandfather was a volunteer firefighter for over 40 years. He put in many hours protecting both lives and private property in his community. He thought that was a worthwhile experience. There is also the Terry Fox Run, which has raised millions of dollars across the country using volunteers from one coast to another, with corporations and individuals donating money every year to this program. Its leader never completed his journey but we are dedicated to completing it for him by solving cancer and finding a cure for that plague of these last two centuries.
All of these activities, these noble pursuits, could not take place without those who dedicate their time or money in giving of themselves to try to meet a need that exists in society. That is what this day is all about. That is what this bill is all about, Bill S-201, making November 15 every year National Philanthropy Day to celebrate those who give of their time and themselves.
We have many people working for a common good, but this is not limited to the volunteers and all of these organizations. We have examples, great people in our society who also give up their time.
It goes right to our head of state, Queen Elizabeth II. This year is only the second time in the history of our country when we have been able to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee. The first time was in 1897 for Queen Victoria. The second is this year, with our noble Queen, Elizabeth II.
Philanthropy and service go hand-in-hand and Her Majesty has dedicated her whole life to the service of others and this remains a remarkable example for the rest of us in Canada and throughout the Commonwealth. She champions public voluntary service around the world. Her Majesty is currently the patron of more than 600 charities worldwide and 33 are in Canada. These include the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Nurses Association. The sense of service has also been transferred to other members of the royal family.
The Queen and members of her family lend support to noteworthy Canadian causes such as environmental preservation, volunteerism and community service. They associate themselves with worthy causes and support organizations through the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, the Prince of Wales Charities in Canada and the Save the Children Fund. I, for one, am proud of the work that our royal family does in showing leadership to all of us of how to dedicate our time and money in the service of others.
Literally millions of Canadians follow this example and serve their communities in raising money for charities, donating their time and their hard-earned tax dollars for the good of others. In my riding of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley we are fortunate to have many people who give their time and effort for their community. I listed several organizations previously.
One recent project took place in Truro where we opened a new hospital last week. It was a $185 million project that was funded in part by the largest community fundraising effort in the history of my riding. The local community raised a total of $26 million toward this project. That amount totals to over $300 for every man, woman and child in the community. I wish to personally congratulate the chair, Chris MacDougall, and the other members of the to our health campaign for this outstanding effort in the support of our community. I would also like to congratulate all those who donated, the corporations, the individuals, the children who conducted penny parades and many other projects, toward building a hospital which is for the good of not only this generation, but many generations to come.
These projects happen across Canada each and every day. It is time that we set November 15 aside every year so we can celebrate those who give their time, those who give their money and those who take the time to work for these organizations to ask people to give money. We need to celebrate these people and support them. Without them, we would not have what I believe is the greatest nation in the world. It is because of this important role that volunteers, fundraisers, those who donate and others play in making our nation the best country that I support designating this day in honour of their generosity.
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
November 5th, 2012 / 11:35 a.m.
Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
I think that the bill from the member for Repentigny is worthy of applause. Although he is not here right now, he knows that I strongly support his bill.
This bill would provide a tangible way to recognize that volunteers are pillars of civil society. I think that Bill C-399 and Bill S-201 are two good starts to recognize the work being done by our volunteers. Obviously, during times of fiscal restraint, Bill C-399 will also be necessary to support ongoing volunteering in the country.
A number of organizations in my riding could benefit from official recognition of their philanthropy and a tax credit for the volunteers who give of their time to help those in need.
I worked for a long time in community services. I often talk about it in the House because this is something that is very important to me. I assure the House that communities benefit a great deal from this giving of time and money.
I salute my former colleagues in the Saint-Hyacinthe community services sector. I stand here today on behalf of them. Without volunteering and donations from the people of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, my riding, a number of community organizations would unfortunately have to shut down, and it is the public that would ultimately suffer.
I am thinking in particular of Comptoir-Partage la mie, a food bank that serves the needy in Saint-Hyacinthe. This organization has a minuscule budget and not one employee. It is run entirely by volunteers. Without donations and volunteers, this organization could not provide food aid to the growing number of people in Saint-Hyacinthe who cannot make ends meet. That was highlighted last week by the Food Banks Canada report. That is the reality; people have do not have a choice.
I am also thinking of Parrainage civique--MRC d'Acton et des Maskoutains, an organization that matches volunteers with people with intellectual disabilities. The services provided by this organization are key to ensuring that people with an intellectual disability are appropriately integrated into the community. It is run almost entirely by volunteers. Without these volunteers, without access to these services, people with intellectual disabilities would have a great deal of difficulty or more obstacles in their lives.
The bill will highlight the work of volunteers. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers and community organizations in my riding for their work.
In closing, I would like to raise a small concern about this bill. It is a fine proposal but, as I was saying, it is not an end in itself. Not only should we be acknowledging the work of volunteers by thanking them, but we must do more. We must remember that the government has a certain responsibility to help organizations that are helping the most disadvantaged. Furthermore, the government has a role to play when it comes to housing and the fight against poverty and homelessness, for example.
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
November 5th, 2012 / 11:30 a.m.
Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today to speak to Bill S-201, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day, which comes to us from the upper chamber.
National Philanthropy Day was first celebrated on November 15, 1986. Canada was the first country to officially recognize this day in 2009, following a declaration by the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
Since then, Parliament has tried six times to have November 15 officially declared National Philanthropy Day. However, none of those six attempts ever succeeded, because the bills all died on the order paper as a result of either prorogation or elections. I think it is safe to say that the seventh attempt will succeed and November 15 will be officially declared National Philanthropy Day in Canada.
It is important to note that, even though approximately 70% of Canadians made charitable donations in the past year, a national philanthropy day will increase public awareness of the importance of volunteer work and the donations that can be made to various community and non-profit organizations. Sometimes, even a $5 donation can make a difference at the end of the year; such donations add up.
I am confident that most Canadians also regularly participate in charitable activities. In Canada, 2 billion hours of volunteer work are done each year, which is equivalent to approximately 1 million full-time jobs. This shows that volunteer work is truly essential. A national philanthropy day is a very good way to thank these volunteers and organizations and to get the federal government to officially recognize, through legislation, the major impact that they have on our society. It is of the utmost importance to thank them.
It is important to set a aside a day to take the time to thank those who give of their time and money. Canada needs these people and these donations. Volunteers play an invaluable role in our everyday lives and enhance the wellness of our communities. They help the charitable sector to make a great contribution to the social and economic well-being of our communities across the country.
It is important to note that Canadians' generosity goes beyond our borders. We know that Canadians play a very active role internationally. Many Canadians go to other countries to help people on the ground, to stand up for a cause, to help build or renovate homes, or to provide help after a tragedy, and we know there are many tragedies. Outside the country, Canadians are known as people who do not hesitate to give many hours of their time without expecting anything in return. What is important for these people is the feeling of satisfaction gained from helping to make things better. It is really important not to underestimate the importance of volunteer work, particularly in the midst of an economic crisis, when social and economic needs are even greater than usual. We know that communities are experiencing increasingly hard times. This bill will recognize the importance of all the work that is being done.
It is also important to note that most Canadians said that, in 2012, they intended to donate $480 or more, which is a fairly substantial amount, to some philanthropic cause. It is thus very important not to lose these donations.
Obviously, designating this day will help encourage volunteering and giving. I think that is a realistic objective.
That is why we recognize the importance of this bill, which would permanently designate every November 15 as National Philanthropy Day, as declared by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.
We support this initiative but want to point out that we must obviously do more to support volunteers and encourage philanthropy. The bill is not an end in itself.
My colleague's bill amends the Income Tax Act to grant a $500 to $1,500 tax credit in respect of travel expenses to individuals who perform a minimum of 130 hours of volunteer services and make at least 12 trips in order to do so during the taxation year.
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
November 5th, 2012 / 11:20 a.m.
Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Oak Ridges—Markham, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, for bringing forward Bill S-201, which would designate November 15 every year as National Philanthropy Day.
According to Statistics Canada, 80% of Canadians give to a charity, have given and in 2010 gave almost $11 billion alone. Philanthropy is not just about donating money. His Excellency the Governor General recently described philanthropy as giving “time, talent and treasure”, noting particularly that two-thirds of the meaning honestly had nothing to do with money. Very simply, it was giving of oneself.
Philanthropy can very simply be described as anything one can do to make the world a little better place. When Canadians give of their time, talent and money, they can and they have made Canada a better place. I know locally in my riding, Volunteer & Information Quinte, one organization, represents and comprises more than 150 agencies and various organizations.
I would like to mention a few today that I have had the personal pleasure to be involved with. There is Alternatives for Women. There is the Alzheimer Society; I participate in the annual walk as much as possible to demonstrate, of course, that it is so important not only to support the victims but the affected families. There is the Canadian Hearing Society and the Canadian Cancer Society. Locally I was privileged to act as the past president of the local Canadian Cancer Society, and every year we have thousands of people who participate in the cure for cancer walk in our riding, which I know we are all so pleased to support.
There is the Christmas Sharing Program that is out there for families who at that time of year need that special help. There is Operation Red Nose. Not every community has one, but we are so blessed in our riding to have a group of people who put together such a caring group of volunteers who decided they would help out at that troublesome time of year for some people. It has been a tremendous asset—certainly the contribution from Rick Watt, the organizer, and a number of his committee members. To the past chairs over the years and certainly the outgoing chair, Mary Hanley, and the present incoming chair, Mark Rashotte, I wish them well in their work this year again.
There is the CNIB; Family Space; Safe Communities; and Gleaners Food Bank. That is an organization, locally, that has had a far-reaching effect across our entire riding, and there are the food banks across our country. I know they have served the school breakfast programs and have been helping families across our country, certainly in my riding, going through some challenging times.
There is the Habitat for Humanity, which in many cases provides the dignity of having a home that would not otherwise be available for people. There is the Children's Aid Society; the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit; the Heart and Stroke Foundation; the Multiple Sclerosis Society; and the number of children's day cares we have in our riding and the hundreds of volunteers who help out, helping the moms and pops feel more comfortable during their day at work, knowing their children are being looked after.
It is the Community Living and the Chamber of Commerce. I served as the president of a local Chamber of Commerce, and when I see the hundreds of members and hundreds of businesses that reach out, not only through the business itself but through their employees, as members of the Chamber of Commerce, I know they contribute tremendously to our area.
There is the Red Cross and the Sexual Assault Centre, and it is sad that we need that, but for those who have been victimized, what a wonderful resource it is, to be able to reach out and be assisted.
There is the Salvation Army, Sally Ann as most of us comfortably call it. When we see that kettle campaign every year, that is only the tip of the iceberg of all the wonderful work and volunteerism they do in our communities.
There is the Three Oaks shelter for abused women. Once again, it is unfortunate that in society we even need something like that, but it is a reality we have. When we have the people who help in those times of distress, it is tremendously encouraging.
We have the Trenton Military Family Resource Centre, and of course this has been more in vogue as we have had a number of repatriation ceremonies at Trenton, right next to me. I see the post-traumatic stress syndrome that is evident through a number of armed forces personnel. I am very pleased to see the volunteers there.
There is, of course, the United Way itself, which is really an umbrella financial organization that just absolutely makes it possible for a number of these groups to be able to participate. It raises a significant amount of funds. Those funds come through volunteers, companies, corporations and individuals.
There are the Victorian Order of Nurses, the Quinte Vocational Support Services, the Brain Injury Association, and Foundations itself, which is a group dedicated to assisting young people having challenges or looking for mentorship or fellowship. Some people classify it as a drop-in centre, but it does so much more. It provides a hot meal, a warm smile and a ready helping hand. There is the Diabetes Foundation and the various hospice organizations supported by many volunteers in all communities. At times of ultimate sadness, there are ways to reach out, help console and show the consideration necessary.
There is the Diabetes Foundation, as I mentioned before, and the Mental Health Support Network. In my area, there is the Quinte United Immigrant Services. It is a wonderful help not only to new Canadians who go there for advice and assistance but, as a member of Parliament who deals with a number of immigration cases, as do a number of my colleague, I find it a wonderful assistant to me in providing support, consideration and advice. There is Pathways to Independence. Having been a big brother myself over a number of years, I know Big Brothers Big Sisters reaches out and helps many people.
There are autism services and local hospital auxiliaries. I am sure many people go into hospitals and always find the auxiliary there to reach out, welcome, give directions and console at times of distress. There are, of course, all churches spread throughout the country. There are a significant number in my riding who are most active. They run many volunteer programs and are literally a cornerstone of our communities.
There are service clubs, such as the Legion, the Rotary, the Kiwanis, the Lions, the Women's Institute, the Kinsmen or the Elks. The list goes on. It is absolute volunteerism to the ultimate. There is Meals on Wheels for those who are not able to cook their own meals; they do not have the capacity, the commodities or the ability to do so. There are senior citizens clubs that reach out to people they know need help, guidance and assistance. There are Scouts Canada, the Girl Guides and the Humane Society. People question why I would include Humane Society. To many people who live alone or have an animal, that animal is a very precious being, so the Humane Society reaches out in a number of ways.
There are thousands of coaches, sponsors and volunteers in many sporting, cultural and artistic organizations throughout the ridings in our country. I know many of them. I have been a coach myself at the various levels, whether provincial, national or local. I see the countless hours put in on semi-pro teams and kids' teams or teachers putting in the dedicated commitment to many young people after hours. There are many more I could name, but I am obviously limited in my time here today in listing all the local contributors, let alone those who reach out both nationally and internationally.
We have to remember that it is our young people. They might not be able to donate money, but they represent an important demographic because they are future of philanthropy. Though they make up a small number, they of course will ensure the future sustainability of our voluntary sectors. We all recognize that seniors are the most active volunteers, but as they age, they will begin to reduce their volunteer participation.
Our government has numerous programs and projects that encourage youth in their philanthropic endeavours, because when people are inspired to take action, they can make an incredible impact not only in their communities but around the world. Whatever way it is manifested, philanthropy plays an important role in our country. It is at the heart of who we are as a nation; it is part of our identity; it is at the core of our values; and it is the spirit of giving of every type, from donating to volunteering. It defines our people and our country. Therefore, why do we need to legislate a national philanthropy day? As the Prime Minister has himself said, volunteers need to be acknowledged and honoured for their work. This day would be a day to do so.
I am happy to support this legislation highlighting the actions of so many generous Canadians across the country. I tip my hat and my hand today to all of those who contribute so much to making our country what it is.
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
November 5th, 2012 / 11:10 a.m.
Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to rise to speak in support of Bill S-201 to establish a national day of philanthropy on November 15.
I want to talk about why philanthropy is important and what philanthropy is. Some people might just say, “Cut taxes, establish property rights, support the free market and things will take care of themselves in the world. Everybody will eventually get taken care of”. I want to talk about why that view is insufficient.
When I think about that question, I also think about why I chose to be a member of the Liberal Party of Canada. The way I look at how government should work, what the role of government is in society, fits very well with the Liberal Party's view. My abbreviated explanation for why I feel I belong in the Liberal Party is that when I look back at my own life, I see that the things I have been able to do, the things I have been to accomplish, came from 50% hard work and 50% luck. That view of the combination of things that led to what I have accomplished also leads me to believe that the government should act in a certain way.
Here in the Liberal Party, as with many other people, we believe in hard work. We believe in standing on one's own two feet. We believe in paying one's way and reaping what one sows. We believe in individual responsibility. Liberals also believe in nurturing strong families and in the self-reliance of strong, extended families.
We also see that in society we do not all have equality of opportunity. We do not have the same starting points in life, the same nurturing families or neighbourhoods. We do not have the same health. We do not have access to the same education. The Liberals have recognized all of that in their own lives, and how plain, dumb luck was important in contributing to the success or failure of certain parts of our lives.
Liberals also believe in the power of a market economy where goods and services have prices that carry information and that should reflect reality, and where resources are thereby allocated efficiently to maximize the growth of the economic pie. We believe we should not always be focused on cutting the pie into exactly equal slices.
We know that three things in a market can cause economic distortions and be a net detriment to the world. We believe we get what we pay for. We also know that markets are never perfect. There are externalities. A big one, for example, is the ability to pollute for free, which has distorted many economies including our own. There is also asymmetric information in economies where big companies have the advantage of knowing exactly what is going on in the world. They have the resources to do that. People shopping on the retail level do not have the same information and markets often do not work very well in those cases.
There are often different risk tolerances in the market. When people are in danger of not having shelter or not having food or facing their own mortality, decisions can be made, which are bad over the long term. That is another case where markets cannot work. People often do not have the time or the resources to be informed and participate in the market.
Certain things cannot participate in the market. Wildlife or the natural environment does not participate in the market, so it does not get a voice and it does not get to express the things it values in the marketplace. That is when the market can break down. Then sometimes there is unfair ownership of public goods. Art, science and other things of public value are not recognized by the market. That is another place where markets can break down.
Therefore, we know two things. We know we do not have equality of opportunity and we know we do not have markets that work perfectly. Markets never work perfectly. The idea that we can simply cut taxes, let people stand on their own two feet, establish private property rights and support a free market and that will solve everything and set up a good society does not work in practice.
What role does philanthropy play? What role does volunteering time or donating money have to play in making a better society? Why not have a government program to correct all the problems?
I think that goes back to what philanthropy and charity mean. It is very clear, when one looks at the roots of the words “philanthropy” and “charity”, that it is about love of God, love of man and loving one's neighbour as oneself. Philanthropy comes from a desire to express that love.
We can have the best government programs one could imagine, but without love, without a reason for wanting to care for the people around us, the people we live with, all of those programs are rather meaningless and our existence is rather meaningless. It is the love behind what we do that defines who are.
I have often asked people from different countries what their babies call their mothers when they are little. Everybody I have asked, from Africa, Asia and different parts of the world, say that their babies call their mothers “mama”. That is common to people speaking all sorts of different languages, and it is not surprising. I think that evolution of communication between mother and child really led to the development of human beings' ability to communicate and become civilized. I have always thought that perhaps humans should be defined as the animal whose babies call their mothers “mama”.
However, I think it is really the other way around. We are defined by the love mothers have for their infants, which we do not see anywhere else in the natural world. This is a love that is foreign to the economics here, the marketplace. It is a love that is a free gift, something that is not earned or even deserved. It is just given. I think that is what should define us as humans, which is why philanthropy is important.
That is why it is important for private individuals and governments to work together to make society a better place. It is why it is not enough to simply have government programs to try to solve every problem. It is important for people to donate what time and money they have to make their society a better place. It is also important for people to engage and participate in their democratic government to make it strong to serve the people of this country.
Wherever we see this true philanthropy that comes from the desire to express love, we should recognize it and honour it. That is the real reason I think we should establish a national day of philanthropy and why we should pass the bill.
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
November 5th, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.
Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue the speech I began last week on Bill S-201.
As I said last week, I will be supporting Bill S-201 in its present form. However, I cannot stress enough that this bill to create National Philanthropy Day is not nearly enough and does not come close to meeting the needs in terms of what we can do to support philanthropy. I will not repeat everything I already said in that regard. I will get directly to the point.
As my party's critic for seniors, I have met with several associations and groups—intervention, support, political and advocacy groups—working on the ground that must rely on volunteers and the commitment of their members day in and day out.
During each of my consultations with groups, associations and organizations over the past year and a half, when it came to identifying the issues and challenges they face, the creation of National Philanthropy Day was never at the top of their list.
This does not necessarily mean that they opposed the creation of National Philanthropy Day, but it was definitely not the most pressing need facing the people working on the ground who provide such valuable services to the public. The vast majority of the time, the most urgent need identified by volunteers, groups and associations was financial support.
Volunteer work represents a large portion of the work done in this country. This work is unpaid, but it is no less important than the services offered by the public and private sectors. Unfortunately, these organizations need stable financial support.
They cannot fill out paperwork year after year and then, every third year, worry about whether or not they will receive the grant or amount of money they need to keep going. They are forced to plan for the very short term. They often implement projects that meet the real needs of their community, but then have to abandon these vital projects within a few years, after investing a great deal of time and energy into them, because grants provide very short-term funding and must be renewed, or depend on the government of the day. That is a real need, something that the government could do if it were serious about acknowledging philanthropy.
I would like to speak briefly about what a national philanthropy day could achieve, in real terms or otherwise. I have been a member of this House for more than one and a half hears and, unfortunately, I am coming to the realization that all too often, bills are introduced to show Canadians that an issue is being taken seriously, or that the parliamentary system is useful. Unfortunately, when we dig a little deeper, we often realize that it is a smokescreen, that a big show is being put on that does not really do anything about an issue, but that lets us sit back and say that the issue was taken seriously and that action was taken.
There are many things we could do to truly support philanthropy in our country, but a national philanthropy day seems to be one of the least effective means of taking a stand. What will this initiative really do for our communities?
As a member of Parliament, I can see that cities and communities are struggling with unbelievable tax loads, with road networks that are in need of work and repairs, and with other significant burdens and tasks. These communities are waiting for support from the provincial and federal governments, but too often this support unfortunately never comes. These municipalities and regions are already struggling with many burdens, tasks and expenses.
The federal government is unexpectedly downloading more and more costs onto the provinces.
The expected health transfers are decreasing, and the age for old age security eligibility is changing from 65 to 67. Once again, the provinces will end up footing the bill. The provinces have had enough; they cannot take any more.
I agree with having a philanthropy day, but how will it be celebrated? Who will pay for the celebrations and awards given to philanthropists? Choosing a date on the calendar is not enough. What will this give us in a practical sense? Who will be able to organize activities to celebrate this new national day? People are wondering. The municipalities and provinces do not need another expense or another burden.
Will the federal government provide funding to those who want to celebrate this national day? I am not sure. I have not seen any specific details on this in the bill.
Everyone in this House recognizes the importance of philanthropy for our country, but we do not agree on how to support it. What measures need to be put in place? Beyond passing a bill and choosing a date on the calendar, how can we encourage and recognize philanthropy in tangible ways? This is something that is worth thinking about.
In this regard, my NDP colleague introduced or will introduce a bill that includes very tangible measures to support philanthropy. I hope that members of all parties will move beyond lip service and support this bill at second reading, even if it is just to seriously examine how we can provide tangible support for philanthropy. This is not a partisan issue. All members of the House agree that philanthropy must be encouraged, but the issue is how to do so. Everyone agrees that a national day is not nearly enough and is not a very tangible measure.
There are exceptional people in my riding and across the country who are very active and who give of their time and talent to their community and their country on an ongoing basis. I am thinking of George Nydam, an extremely active retiree who advocates for quality public transit in his riding; of Paulette Siag, the president of the Dollard-des-Ormeaux seniors' club, which has over 500 members; and of Colette Zielinski, another retiree and activist who heads up a group that provides services to people with arthritis.
These are just a few examples, but I could go on naming people for hours. I will not do so because my time is up, but I would like to end my speech by sincerely congratulating all those who get involved in order to support their communities and their country.