House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was goods.

Topics

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #11

Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Complaint of Alleged Theft—Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Government Orders

February 12th, 2009 / 3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley on February 3, 2009, concerning an RCMP investigation into charges of embezzlement and theft of funds which he believes have damaged his credibility and, thus, his capacity to fulfill his duties as a member of Parliament.

I would like thank the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley for having raised this serious matter, as well as the hon. chief government whip, the hon. member for Windsor West and the hon. member for Halifax West for their comments.

In raising this question of privilege, the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley noted that he was first made aware of accusations against him by a journalist who contacted him after having obtained a copy of an RCMP report through an access to information request, a copy of which the member has kindly provided to the Chair.

He stressed that had the journalist in question not chosen to share the report with the member, he would not have had the opportunity to defend himself.

The hon. member went on to explain that much of the information in this report had been redacted or removed from the report, including the names of those who asked the RCMP to investigate and the exact nature of the allegations. This led him to conclude: “—so I do not know exactly what the charges are.”

Despite these specific omissions, the hon. member pointed out that his own name could be identified at the end of the document and that the document also stated that the allegations were brought forward by members of the Conservative Party of Canada. As well, the report noted a sum of $30,000.

From these clues, the member inferred that what was at issue was the transfer of funds, also in the amount of $30,000, between what was then his riding association and campaign accounts. It was thus presumably these financial transactions that were the basis of the allegation of embezzlement filed with the RCMP in September 2008.

In his submission, the hon. member took great care to stress that it was the riding association and the campaign team that necessarily executed these transfers, acting independently of the hon. member himself, and that the people involved “...followed the letter and spirit of the law, along with Elections Canada regulations”.

The hon. member contends that the report, despite stating that the matter warrants no further investigation, is ambiguous in its conclusion and so still has the potential to cast doubt on his credibility and honesty and thus prevent him from effectively fulfilling his duties as a member of Parliament.

The hon. Chief Government Whip, in his reply, stated that the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley made reference to party members rather than any specific member of Parliament and that the member’s submission was tantamount to a personal statement and not a question of privilege.

The hon. members for Windsor West and Halifax West were supportive of the concerns expressed by the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. The hon. member for Windsor West noted how unfounded allegations of this nature can affect the public perception of an individual and the individual’s contribution to public life in Canada, while the hon. member for Halifax West underscored the danger of false accusations.

The Chair is of course entirely sympathetic to the plight of the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. However, in adjudicating questions of privilege of this kind, the Speaker is bound to assess whether or not the member's ability to fulfill his parliamentary functions effectively has been undermined.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, on pages 91 to 95, goes on at some length to stress the importance in this type of situation of establishing a link to parliamentary duties.

Two examples are useful to illustrate the importance of this linkage. In a 1978 ruling, Mr. Speaker Jerome rejected a claim by a member that a civil suit launched against him when he repeated on a radio talk show statements first made in committee was calculated to obstruct him in the performance of his parliamentary duties. The Speaker, in ruling that he could find no prima facie case of privilege, stated at page 5411 of Debates on May 15, 1978, that:

It seems quite clear that this matter has caused the member certain difficulties in the performance of his duties as a member of parliament, but I have trouble in accepting the argument that these difficulties constitute obstruction or harassment in the narrow sense in which one must construe the privilege of freedom from molestation—

In the second example, which dates from 1994, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, pages 94 and 95, states that a member:

...claimed he was being intimidated by the media and had received blackmail threats as a result of media reports concerning the authenticity of the Member's academic credentials. In finding that there was no prima facie question of privilege, the Speaker stated: “Threats of blackmail or intimidation of a Member of Parliament should never be taken lightly. When such occurs, the very essence of free speech is undermined. Without the guarantee of freedom of speech, no Member of Parliament can do his duty as is expected... While the Chair does not in any way make light of the specifics that have been raised...I cannot, however, say that he has sufficiently demonstrated that a case of intimidation exists such that his ability to function as a member of Parliament has been impeded.

The following quotation from pages 91-92 summarizes the view taken by successive Speakers:

...rulings have focussed on whether or not the parliamentary duties of the Member were directly involved. While frequently noting that Members raising such matters might have legitimate complaints, Speakers have regularly concluded that Members have not been prevented from performing their parliamentary duties.

As the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley pointed out, the document had been severely edited, to remove the names of all the individuals involved, except for his own name which still appears in the document’s file name at the end of the report. It was this that allowed the journalist to identify the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley as the object of the criminal complaint. Had his name not appeared in the document’s file name, his identity might arguably have been protected.

Having reviewed the report in question, it is apparent to the Chair that the authors of the report were no more meticulous, not to say incredibly careless, than those who edited the document to comply with the usual practices in access to information requests.

The report contradicts itself repeatedly, first stating that there are “insufficient grounds or cause to warrant launching an investigation”, then referring to “the outcome of the investigation”, then going further to refer to the possibility of reopening the said investigation and then returning full circle to state that “no investigation will be occurring”.

The redactors of the report who prepared it for release under access to information took pains to delete the names of the complainant or complainants, but left the name of the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley in the filename at the end of the document. Such apparent carelessness and the confusion that can result are no doubt just cause for concern. In fairness, it should be pointed out that on February 4, 2009, as can be seen on page 342 of Hansard, the Minister of Public Safety advised the House that the RCMP had confirmed that “this file was closed” and that “...Conservative Party officials have also made it clear that they do not believe that the hon. member in question, the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, did anything wrong”.

However, without minimizing the seriousness of the complaint or dismissing the gravity of the situation raised by the hon. member, it is difficult for the Chair to determine, given the nature of what has occurred that the member is unable to carry out his parliamentary duties as a result. Accordingly, the Chair must conclude that there is no prima facie question of privilege.

This does not take away from the potential reverberating effects of this case. By raising the matter in the House as he did, the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley forcefully defended himself from these allegations, explaining that the facts show no hint of any wrongdoing whatsoever on his part.

His complaint is legitimate and he is correct when he laments that “The report is here forever. It is not going to go away” and when he spoke about the integral nature of trust and credibility to our work as members of Parliament.

Once again, I would like to thank the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley for bringing this important matter to the attention of the House.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-4, An Act respecting not-for-profit corporations and certain other corporations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to speak on Bill C-4. I will begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill in principle—until there is evidence to the contrary, let me assure you.

The Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, as it stood before, was what you might call a bit behind the times. The time had come to modernize it. Introduction of this bill is a step in the right direction.

The new legislation will, of course, take into consideration the financial means and the size of the organization with respect to the implementation of its administrative mechanisms. The intent is to provide the organization with a more flexible framework for presentation of its financial statements, and also for setting up its bylaws. The intent also is to considerably improve the efficiency and transparency of the process of incorporation of not-for-profit corporations.

The system of letters patent will be replaced by an as-of-right system of incorporation, thus greatly facilitating the process. As well, the credibility of not-for-profit corporations in the public eye will be enhanced.

This bill will be referred to a committee. It will, however, perhaps become necessary to hold broader consultations, above and beyond the simple parliamentary committee framework with experts attending. We may also have to involve community organizations.

Let us examine the context per se of the creation of the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. The present act comes under the Canada Corporations Act. The types of corporations governed by part II of the Canada Corporations Act include—as we know—corporations that are not-for-profit, but religious, charitable, political or mutualist in character, as well as others.

In recent years, many people have voiced concerns about the obsolete nature of the Canada Corporations Act, and the fact that its provisions no longer meet the requirements of the not-for-profit sector, the not-for-profit sector of today. A number of stakeholders therefore called for the act to be reformed and improvements made to the framework that regulates that sector.

Around July 2000, Industry Canada produced a consultation paper entitled “Reform of the Canada Corporations Act: The Federal Not-for-Profit Framework Law”. This led to the introduction of a bill that was first known as Bill C-21, which was introduced on November 14, 2004, by the Liberal government, but never made it past second reading.

On June 13, 2008, during the 39th Parliament, it was the Conservative government that introduced Bill C-62, but as we all know, an election was called, an election that I would describe as not only hasty, but even premature. When Parliament resumed on December 3, 2008, a similar bill was introduced by the Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism). Once again, because the House was prorogued, it was put off indefinitely.

Finally, in January 2009, Bill C-4 was introduced.

This bill has very clear objectives. It proposes a new Canada not-for-profit corporations act that would establish a more modern and transparent framework for such organizations. The operational framework for not-for-profit corporations would be much more similar to corporate governance under the Canada Business Corporations Act.

In more concrete terms, this bill will simplify the incorporation of not-for-profit corporations. It will also clarify the rights and responsibilities of boards and establish defences for officers and directors in the event of liability. It will also provide members with increased rights to participate in the governance of their corporation. Furthermore, it will establish a better mechanism for oversight of the corporation's accounts.

This bill seems to be relatively complex for some. It is divided into 20 parts in order to establish a new framework for not-for-profit organizations. The first thing, of course, is to identify the purpose of the bill, which is to incorporate corporations without share capital so that they may exercise their activities.

There is a definition of soliciting corporation. This term, of course, means any corporation that solicits public funding as well as any corporation that receives public donations or government grants.

The second part points out that the current letters patent system is being replaced with an as-of-right system.The director, after receiving and reviewing the required documents, can immediately issue a certificate of incorporation.

It also sets out the capacity of a corporation as a natural person. This section will have to be further developed because surely the related legal aspects and responsibilities are implied. Madam Speaker, we are both responsible for our actions. And so an organization will obviously be responsible for its actions, which will simultaneously protect the director, the board, the president and directors.

Of course, this would require that organizations keep accounting ledgers as well as a list of members and directors and make these documents available to members while still protecting privacy.

Allow me to digress for a moment. I am not going to go into detail about each of the 20 parts of this bill, but I must tell you that I was an accountant in another life. If I was not auditing, I was examining accounting ledgers, and if I was not doing that, I was preparing financial statements.

Unfortunately, I often found that certain organizations were led and controlled and that basically only one person participated in the organization. One person could solicit funds, collect them, use them and, unfortunately, sometimes use them for activities other than those that appeared in the charter at the time.

That needs to be mentioned.

We have to modernize the act so that similar situations do not arise again. Naturally, it gives them permission to borrow, to issue debt obligations and to invest as they wish. There are several technical aspects with respect to issuing debt obligations and the use of trust indentures. It outlines the role of the trustee if an organization were to be placed in receivership.

This bill also requires organizations to have at least one director or at least three in the case of a corporation that solicits funds. I am wondering about the element of responsibility. Sometimes I wonder how the act can state that there will be at least one director. That means that some organizations will have only one director. Does that also mean that there will be only one member? As I was explaining earlier, I am familiar with such cases. At least with this bill, if soliciting is involved, there must be three directors. Thus, public money donated by individuals has at least a chance of being used appropriately.

There is also a set of bylaws. The members must fulfill certain conditions. Thus, the bylaws set out the type of voting and the related voting rights. The voting procedure, the bylaws governing how members are to hold meetings, the calling of a meeting and quorum are all set out in the bill.

Another part talks about financial statements. It states that the organization must make available to its members the financial statements and any report submitted by its public accountant. It requires soliciting corporations to file a copy of their financial statements and public accountant's report with the director, who in turn makes them available to the public.

A multitude of non-profit organizations never submitted their financial statements, not even to members. With this bill, at least, the financial statements prepared by the public accountants will be forwarded to the corporation's director, who in turn will make them available to the public. That is a very important element.

The level of financial review required will be determined by the organization's revenues. For low-revenue organizations, a public accountant will conduct a review and submit a report. For medium-revenue organizations, if the board of directors so authorizes, the public accountant will review and report once again. For high-revenue organizations, the financial statements will have to be accompanied by an audit report. Here again, the reports will have to be submitted to the director of corporations, as I said earlier, and made available to the public.

The bill also refers to fundamental changes to what I will not call the charter, because that will no longer exist, but the organization of the not-for-profit corporation.

The bill includes provisions pertaining to proceedings to liquidate or dissolve a corporation. It also lists the powers a court can confer on an inspector who investigates a complaint filed by an interested person.

The bill contains provisions on offences. It also brings things up to date by allowing not-for-profit organizations to communicate with their members electronically. This bill therefore modernizes the legislation and allows for electronic equipment. That is something I wanted to mention.

Of course, there will be a three-year transition period for organizations to which part II of the Canada Corporations Act applies, which will now be recognized as corporations under the new legislation. There are some very important issues concerning this new bill, such as the fact that there is no classification system for NPOs in the Canada Corporations Act. Bill C-4 also does not include a classification system.

In the government's view, the new act does not need a classification system because the framework is permissive and flexible. Permissive can sometimes have a negative connotation. Nevertheless, this is a situation that exists within the new legislation because it is permissive and flexible and of course allows organizations to choose how to implement the relevant provisions. The accent is instead on the adoption of a set of rules intended to guide them in the conduct of their business, rather than imposing a system of rules they would be required to adhere to.

The fundamental concept underlying a classification system is that the corporations would be treated differently. Some would find themselves with more rules imposed on them by the State than others. As proposed here, most corporations would be treated in the same way and could enact various levels of regulation according to their requirements and the specific wishes of their members.

However, the opposite is true, according to the national charities and not-for-profit law section of the Canadian Bar Association. They feel that not including a general classification system is a major flaw in this bill. There is indeed a considerable difference between, for example, a charitable or benevolent organization and a mutualist one, which I will explain.

I am being told that I have two minutes left, so I will move along rapidly. Let us take the mutualist organizations. The resources of these organizations are directed toward the membership, whereas the resources of charitable organizations are directed toward an object, which may be very specific individuals other than the members. The act has provision for this. In these organizations, the money is not supposed to be used for the membership, but in some it may be, depending on the characteristics of the members and the object and vocation of the organization.

I am getting the sign that my time is very nearly up, but I would like to caution my colleagues with respect to one important aspect of this bill.

As far as respecting the jurisdiction of Quebec is concerned, at the present time section 154 of the Canada Corporations Act stipulates that the federal minister may grant a charter to a corporation if it carries on objects of a national, patriotic, religious, philanthropic, charitable, scientific, artistic, social, professional or sporting character, or the like.

It would appear, however, that clause 4 of the proposed legislation would not oblige the not-for-profit corporations to stipulate in their by-laws the object they intend to pursue.

It could happen that the objects chosen and determined by the corporation encroach on Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. There therefore needs to be provision for that situation in the act so that federal corporations do not encroach upon provincial areas of jurisdiction.

Let us therefore return this bill to the committee and carry out a thorough study of all the—

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville has the floor for questions and comments.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Sherbrooke for his explanations of Bill C-4. His activities in his previous life contributed a lot to his understanding of this bill.

I have a question for him. The minister introducing the bill would seem to be saying that the bill would promote transparency and require not-for-profit corporations to be accountable. I would ask my colleague to explain how this bill achieves the objective set by the minister.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

In the past, the directors of many not-for-profit organizations and the organizations themselves have been prosecuted. As I said at the start of my remarks, an organization is like a natural person. It may be prosecuted for various reasons under a number of environmental or civil liability laws.

In the matter of transparency, reference was made to the public disclosure of financial statements and many other matters I did not mention, such as the protection of members' privacy and the fact that the list could not thus be made available to everyone. There is also the matter of due diligence by directors.

Directors are protected when they act appropriately. In some other organizations, this may not always be the case. Some directors do not always necessarily act appropriately and could be prosecuted. And so, some directors who are being prosecuted and have made errors will have their costs covered. In this regard, while there may be transparency and accountability, it is still not clear whether a person is hiding errors behind due diligence. In this situation, costs would be covered in the case of mismanagement.

So there are a number of points. It may seem relatively complex, but a degree of transparency can be obtained through this bill. As I said earlier, the bill must be returned to committee to have certain aspects refined and, possibly, to address concerns of legal counsel, who have serious questions about various aspects.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, as the hon. member is very knowledgeable in this area, I would like his opinion on how he thinks we can continue to recruit volunteers to not-for-profit boards and to charities when it seems that this legislation will make it more difficult?

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I am not sure I understand what my colleague means when he says that the bill would make it more difficult. The Canada Corporations Act obviously had to be adjusted and modernized. In the old days, when people got their charter, they just turned around and went to work. They did not really have to produce any reports on the corporation itself. They had to report in a somewhat more regulated way when the corporation could issue charitable receipts.

According to my interpretation, not-for-profit organizations are not necessarily and automatically entitled to issue income tax receipts, even if they can raise money.

There are some nuances here, but I do not see anything in the bill that would make it any harder or easier for people to volunteer for not-for-profit organizations. I think volunteers are better protected than they used to be. Some things need to be cleared up, though, so they are not overprotected. People do accept a certain amount of responsibility. If they always exercise due diligence, if they do the right thing, they will no longer have to worry about being sued directly because it is clearer now with this bill that the corporation can be sued directly.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I have worked with non-profit organizations for 35 years so I know full well the contributions they make to Canadian society. What really troubles me is the increasing downloading by our federal and provincial governments on to the non-profit sector to deliver services that really should be delivered by government.

I will give a concrete example. The government gives money to the Mennonite Immigration Centre in Edmonton, which is appreciated, to assist immigrants who are settling into Edmonton but it does not give the organization money for temporary foreign workers.

Out of the goodness of their Mennonite hearts, they continue to help those workers as well, many of whom are being laid off and stranded because they cannot afford to move back to their countries.

Rather than tabling this bill, why does the government not bring some real initiatives to the committees that will help the voluntary sector that has been downloaded with responsibilities for environment and social causes across the country?

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I agree with much of what my colleague from the NDP said. I think, though, that we can do both.

Not-for-profit organizations are capable of raising money and even going out and getting grants without necessarily spending too much time on administration. They spend more of their time providing services to people who need them. The government is modernizing the act precisely in order to encourage this.

We still need to add some positive elements to the mix. In addition, I think the hon. member is right when she says the government should do more to help people who volunteer. These organizations are often left on their own. Good people spend a lot of time and even some of their own money helping the disadvantaged and the less well-off in our society. However, if governments, whether federal, provincial, Quebec or even municipal, started paying people who give so much of their won time, their entire budgets would probably be thrown off kilter. Government should definitely help these organizations. But should it provide unlimited support? I do not think so. There should be targets, which are more beneficial in terms of the return to society.

I think, therefore, that not-for-profit organizations that solicit money from the public should be regulated and government should make an effort to ensure that volunteers are also “rewarded” and, most importantly, helped to provide services to the most disadvantaged.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. It is my duty, pursuant Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber, Immigration and Refugee Board; the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Employment Insurance.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, I first want to thank the hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook for sharing his desk with me. It makes my life a little easier to speak today.

I stand here today to speak to Bill C-4. It is important to note that I oppose this legislation, as do all New Democrats, as it appears today. We need to recognize the work that not-for-profit organizations and charities do. It is something that we all benefit from.

This legislation ensures that our country's not-for-profits and charities, organizations that look after our most vulnerable, help educate our children, support our seniors and help the disabled, will become bogged down with legislation rather than doing the work they are there to do.

Regulatory reform would be a minor improvement for the not-for-profit sector. This is certainly not its main priority. The bill only addresses one aspect of many that were raised during the voluntary sector initiative through consultations with not-for-profit organizations over the last decade. Special attention should also be paid to strengthening the privacy of members' information and lists and minimizing the regulatory burden imposed on not-for-profits by the copious amounts of legislation.

Canada's voluntary sector was not hoping for 170 pages of legislation of Robert's Rules of Order. Over years of consultations, this sector hoped there would be more important issues like securing stable, long term financing, clarifying and improving the charitable status process and advocacy needs that would be addressed.

I believe that if the government had been willing to spend as much time dealing with issues important to this sector as they have on regulating it, we could have had a stronger voluntary sector. This bill would tend to exclude lay people from starting or running not-for-profits.

I had the distinct honour and privilege of working for the United Way Centraide in Sudbury and district for five years. This year, with great volunteers like Jim Thompson, chair of the campaign, and Paul Gomirato, Abbas Homayed and Robert Keetch, just to name a few, and the staff, Michael Cullen, Vicky Lafond, Tiffany Sutton Taylor and others at that office, they raised a staggering $2.43 million this year. A huge congratulations needs to go out to the United Way of Sudbury because that $2.43 million is a new record. It is continuing to help fund programs in Sudbury. Over 60 programs were funded last year and I am sure it will be funding more programs in my community this year.

However, it is legislation like this that will inhibit the great work of organizations like the United Way Centraide in my riding. It would inhibit the great work of the YMCA in Sudbury and the efforts of John Schmitt, the executive director there. He, along with his staff, created a great program called “Building Strong Kids”. It identifies the programs that children need and puts them into those specific programs to ensure they get the services they need. They can do this thanks to the United Way and the work that the United Way board of directors can do through their its campaign chair and volunteers to offer services to people in my riding. By doing that, they are able to help thousands in my community, which is great news for us in Sudbury.

However, what is worrisome about this legislation is that it will take people away from doing what they are very good at doing, which is raising the funds my community needs. Once they are able to raise the funds, the money is put into these great programs. If we are bogged down in legislation and having to jump through loopholes and red tape, it will slow down the work that organizations like the United Way can do.

It would also inhibit the great work that the CNIB and Paul Belair, the executive director in Sudbury, are doing to help vision impaired people in my riding. I can keep going with Maison Vale Inco Hospice and Leo Therien; the Human League; the Red Cross; The Corner Clinic; Big Brothers Big Sisters; and Elizabeth Fry. All of those organizations are doing great work but there is some fear that legislation imposed by Bill C-4 will slow them down in doing what they are best at doing, and that is providing the services to the people in my riding.

This legislation would also inhibit the great work of the Social Planning Council of Sudbury. Janet Gasparini, its executive director, has provided great progress in providing reports on poverty reduction. We have done such a great job in Sudbury. We have identified the poverty reduction strategy. It has been endorsed by my Chamber of Commerce which is something I am very proud of. It has also been endorsed by the health unit. It has seen the importance of creating a poverty reduction strategy and the work we are putting forward into this through the not-for-profits and charities. Again, there is some fear that Bill C-4 would not help it address the needs it is talking about.

This legislation does nothing but provide a minor improvement in regulatory reform, but at a time when charities and not-for-profits need to focus on staying afloat in this economic downturn, they are being hit with new regulations. We have heard about the unfortunate layoffs at Xstrata over the last few days. This happened on Monday. Xstrata has been a great contributor to my community through the United Way, at the YMCA, and many other charitable organizations and many other not-for-profits. Its employees and the union, CAW Mine Mill, have actively been involved in the community.

The loss of 700 jobs in my community through Xstrata will actually inhibit the company and the union from providing the donations to many of these organizations that provide the services that they now will actually need. So, it is a Catch-22 in that sense, they are going to be using the services of the United Way and other organizations but at the same time these organizations are going to be struggling for dollars.

What does this mean for great organizations like the United Way and the YMCA? Regulations will not help recruit new board members. It will just scare them away from the copious amounts of legislation they must learn just to volunteer. One of the great things that the United Way does in Sudbury is it offers what is called a leadership development program. This program takes individuals between the ages of 18-29 and teaches them about the rules and regulations and about being a member on a board. We know that we need young people on more boards of directors across the country, especially in my riding. When we can train young people and give them the skills necessary to sit on a board of directors and become a member of a board of directors after one year, that is something we all should be embracing.

Right now this new legislation could inhibit this great program. It will actually have to reformat its whole way of teaching this legislation to its students. This program has done such a great job that it expanded into what we call community leaders on board. So now it is open to everyone of all ages within the community to get engaged in the voluntary sector, into not-for-profits, into charities to make sure that we have enough people, to ensure that the work that needs to be done in our community is getting done through the not-for-profit sector.

We have more regulations in this legislation for not-for-profits regarding transparency than is required by huge industry and big business. That is a shame. The increased regulatory requirements for not-for-profits are likely to result in higher costs for not-for-profits and the federal regulator alike. Despite assurances to the contrary, with no plan or assistance to help not-for-profits or charities in the bill, I do not see how we can continue to support this.

If this is now going to committee, it is important to look at what we can do to ensure we are actually going to make this a better bill. The legislation regarding not-for-profits and the charitable organizations right across the country needs to ensure that we can continue to help the most vulnerable, to help our seniors. But not-for-profits do more than just help our most vulnerable. I know our colleges and universities are not-for-profits. We have airport authorities that are not-for-profits, our Legions. We cannot let the same legislation guide an airport and then guide a Legion.

It is time that we oppose this legislation. We want to ensure that we put the right legislation in place to help these organizations in the future.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
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4:35 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I too share the member's concerns given that we have had consultations across the country for several decades on what we need to do to support the voluntary sector.

We do not need more awards and more accolades for the voluntary sector. We need genuine programs that will support the sector, particularly now when we have this economic decline. We need new rules in place to enable corporations to get greater credit for charitable donations. We need to provide support to these non-profit corporations to get trained in dealing with directors' liability, and in fact assisting them to get directors' liability insurance. I am in favour of making directors liable, particularly major corporations.

I agree with my colleague across the way that to impose this kind of provision at a time when we are downloading more of our social and environmental programs on the non-profit sector will set a pall over people volunteering to be directors. I only just found out this afternoon that a well renowned North American organization, The Nature Conservancy, has laid off several hundred people. This is the main mechanism in North America to set aside the protection of lands.

We need to wake up and we need to be bringing these major issues to the table, not simply reforming an outdated corporations act.