House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seal.

Topics

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is still a long way to go in the funding of not-for-profit organizations. The same goes for knowing what information to provide to members working in these organizations about their roles, responsibilities and duties as members. There is also a long way to go in providing more protection for their involvement.

All in all, there is a lot to be done and a lot that could be improved in this bill. Nevertheless, we are going to vote for the bill because it is a step forward for these organizations.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois has repeatedly said that it supports Bill C-4, given that the present Canada Corporations Act has become outdated.

Modernization of the act is certainly a step in the right direction, as has been said several times. The new act would take into account the financial resources and size of the organization in establishing its management mechanisms. It offers a flexible framework for the presentation of financial statements and for the internal rules of the organizations subject to it.

As well, we see a significant increase in efficiency and transparency in the process of incorporating not-for-profit organizations. Replacing the letters patent system by an as of right system of incorporation facilitates the creation of NPOs considerably. Elimination of the minister’s discretion in this regard is essential. All of this will enhance public confidence in NPOs and enhance their credibility in the public’s eyes.

I would like to give a little background to the enactment of the not-for-profit corporations act. The Canadian Corporations Act provides the framework for the incorporation and governance of federal not-for-profit corporations. The kinds of corporations governed under Part II of the Canada Corporations Act (CCA) include religious, charitable, political, mutual-benefit and general not-for-profit organizations.

In recent years some concerns have been raised that the act is outdated and that its provisions no longer meet the requirements of the modern not-for-profit sector. There have been public calls for its reform and in 1999 the federal government’s Voluntary Sector Task Force called for improvements to the regulatory structure that governs the sector. Industry Canada’s proposal to modernize the CCA was part of the task force’s plan.

In July 2000, Industry Canada issued a consultation paper, “Reform of the Canada Corporations Act: The Federal Nonprofit Framework Law”. Subsequently, the department held a series of roundtable discussions in cities across the country to consider the ideas presented in the document, and the various legislative options open to it. Following the suggestions made at the roundtables, the government decided to make concrete proposals for reforming the not-for-profit law.

On November 15, 2004, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-21, which never reached second reading. On June 13, 2008, during the second session of the 39th Parliament, the Conservative government adopted substantially the same direction as the Liberals and introduced Bill C-62. With the hasty election call last September, it died on the order paper, as did a number of other good bills, including the one presented by my hon. colleague to provide a tax credit for young people from the regions who go outside their region to study. This was an excellent bill, which had reached the end of the process and unfortunately, because of the Conservatives’ stubborn desire to trigger an election, died on the order paper. I find this regrettable because at last we had a concrete private member’s bill that could really have helped young people, students, to stay in their region. Because of the hasty election call, it died on the order paper. We will recall that what was uppermost in the Conservatives’ minds was to save their jobs, rather than to save the jobs of workers and young people.

This morning I read in the newspaper that scientists—if I can change the subject for a moment—are starting to leave Canada because of cuts to science and research. We have to set the tone.

I want to get back to Bill C-4. On September 3, 2008, a similar bill was introduced at first reading by the Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism).

Once again, it died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued last September 4. This was another bill that died on the order paper because of Conservative ideology. The Conservatives wanted to prorogue the House because they were afraid they would be defeated. Twice in six months they tried to save their jobs.

The minister finally re-introduced the same bill on January 28, 2009. This was Bill C-4, which we have been debating all day. The purpose is to propose new Canadian legislation on not-for-profit organizations that will establish a more modern, transparent framework for them to operate within. To this end, the system for not-for-profit organizations will be similar to the system for companies that fall under the Canada Business Corporations Act. The new bill will gradually repeal the Canada Corporations Act and replace its parts II, III and IV.

According to the minister, Bill C-4 will reduce the administrative costs of not-for-profit organizations and strengthen and clarify the rules governing them. More specifically, the bill will simplify the process for incorporating not-for-profit organizations, clarify the duties and responsibilities of their directors, set forth defences that their directors and officers can advance in case they are held responsible for something, increase the rights of the members of these organizations and allow the members to participate in the governance of their organization, and establish a better mechanism for overseeing the accounting of these organizations.

Bill C-4 is very complex. It imposes a whole new framework on not-for-profit organizations. Here is a brief summary of each of its 20 parts.

Part 1 identifies the purpose of the bill and allows for the incorporation of organizations without share capital so that they can carry out their lawful activities. It defines what a soliciting corporation is, namely any organization that solicits funds from the public or a government or any other organization that receives donations from the public or government grants.

Part 2 replaces the current letters patent system with an as of right system of incorporation. After receiving and examining the required documents, the director immediately issues the certificate of incorporation. This will help not-for-profit organizations establish themselves much faster and start providing direct assistance to our fellow citizens.

Part 3 stipulates that these organizations have the capacity of a natural person.

Part 4 states that these organizations must keep accounting records and a list of their members and directors and must make this information available to their members. My colleagues just asked the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé and his answer with quite clear. Having accounting records and a list of members will greatly improve the transparency and governance of these organizations. There really will be transparency and not just the impression of it. Part 4 also provides measures to protect the privacy of the members of these organizations. We were discussing this point just a little while ago. It is also very important to keep the membership list private. My colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher said that with the advanced technologies of today, people need transparency but also their privacy. Bill C-4 covers that part too.

Part 5 gives corporations the authority to borrow, issue debt obligations and invest as they see fit. It also stipulates that corporations are prohibited from distributing their assets to their members, except in furtherance of their activities or as otherwise permitted by the act.

Part 6 deals with the technical aspects of debt obligations and Part 7 deals with the technical aspects of trust indentures.

Part 8 describes the authority and role of receivers, receiver-managers and sequestrators.

Part 9 stipulates that corporations must have a minimum of one director and that soliciting corporations are required to have at least three directors. It also clearly sets out the obligations of directors and corporations as well as the due diligence defence.

Part 10 stipulates that the by-laws set out the conditions of membership, whereas articles set out the various classes of membership and associated voting rights, which makes a clear distinction between the two.

Part 10 also establishes the voting procedure, including electronic absentee voting. It sets out the rules governing the way in which members can submit proposals at meetings, establishes the procedure for calling meetings of the members, including the obligation to give members advance notice of the meeting, and defines what constitutes a quorum.

Part 11 states that a corporation shall place before its members its financial statements and any report submitted to it by its public accountant. As was said earlier, the bill's purpose is to increase transparency and efficiency, and that aim is furthered directly in this part of the bill.

Part 11 makes it mandatory for soliciting corporations to table a copy of their financial statements and of the report of their public accountant with the director, who will then make these available to the public. Thus, donors to these non-profit organizations will know precisely where the money goes.

As members, we are giving a hand up to the corporations in our ridings. In this way it will be possible to see clearly where the money of our very important organizations is going, especially in more difficult times such as the ones we are experiencing currently. We can see how important this is. I attend numerous activities in my riding, which gives me an opportunity to take the pulse of these organizations and see how they operate. This will allow people to concretely see the expenditures and investments these organizations make to give back to the community, which is, to my mind, extremely important.

In Part 12 we see that the level of financial audit that is required is determined by the level of gross annual revenues of the corporation, and depends on whether or not the organization concerned is a soliciting corporation or not. This part states that the public accountant must be qualified to conduct the financial audit while being independent of the organization. The purpose, as you will have understood, is here again to promote transparency. The bill institutes the obligation of placing financial statements at the disposal of members, directors and officers when the organization is a soliciting corporation which solicits funds from the public, and these documents must of course also be made available to the public.

Part 13 establishes the procedure to be followed when the corporation undergoes fundamental changes, including amendments to the articles or by-laws of the corporation, amalgamation, continuance, reorganization or arrangements.

Part 14 describes the procedure for liquidation and dissolution of a corporation incorporated pursuant to the act. It establishes that in cases of dissolution of soliciting corporations or charitable organizations, any property remaining shall be distributed to one or more qualified donees within the meaning of the Income Tax Act, and not to its members.

Part 15 lists the various powers which a court may confer upon an inspector to conduct an investigation, through an order, to follow up on complaints submitted by an interested party.

Part 16 contains provisions regarding the remedies that a complainant can exercise, specifically, the derivative action, the oppression remedy and injunctions. It establishes a defence against the above-mentioned actions and remedies that is based on tenets of faith. A religious corporation can use this defence when it can prove that the act leading to the action was reasonably based on the beliefs of its members. In this type of case, no order is made under the act against the corporation in question.

Part 16 also sets out the offences and punishments for violations of the Act, mainly, with respect to false and misleading statements, and improperly using information taken from a corporation's register of members or other directories.

Part 17 allows for the use of electronic communications between the corporation and its members. We have been talking about this a lot in the Bloc Québécois, and, in light of technological advancements, we believe that this possibility will become extremely important, crucial, actually—emphasis on “crucial”—to corporations' survival. We are now in the Internet age, and it is becoming more and more complicated to reach certain groups, such as young people, who are big Internet users. Electronic communications such as emails would make it easier for organizations to reach and attract them.

Keep in mind that, as the population ages, it will become important over the next few years to attract young people to community and non-profit organizations. Without new blood, these organizations could cease to exist because of a lack of new members to ensure their survival and continued dedication to causes such as protecting the poor. In my riding of Repentigny, Maison La Trace de l'Assomption helps those most in need. It has an incredible team of five directors who do wonderful work for the town of L'Assomption and its most needy residents.

I do not mean that this organization would not be able to find new volunteers, but sometimes the idea that it might experience difficulties recruiting new volunteers touches me personally. Since I am young myself, I understand that ways must be found to go and find new blood, just as political parties must do. The Bloc Québécois does this and has been encouraging young people for years, contrary to the big federal parties who find it somewhat more difficult to do so. My colleague is nodding his head, showing that he agrees with my position. Honestly, we have to help young people to join these organizations and encourage them to volunteer. As someone who has done a lot of volunteering, I know that this work is extremely gratifying, and helps people to mature. It increases a person's self-esteem immeasurably.

To get back to Bill C-4, part 18 sets out the general administrative provisions needed for the application of the act.

Part 19 identifies the passages of the legislation which apply to bodies corporate without share capital incorporated pursuant to a special act of Parliament. It also provides a procedure to revoke organizations incorporated pursuant to a special act of Parliament and associated with a body corporate that was later dissolved.

To conclude, part 20 provides for a three-year transition, for organizations incorporated under part 2 of the act governing community organizations. It also repeals parts II and III of the CCA.

The main issues are subdivided into four categories concerning four different aspects of the changes created by the adoption of this bill. The first classification concerns flexibility and permissiveness. There is no non-profit organization classification system in the Canada Corporations Act. There is no such provision in Bill C-4 either.

I must conclude but I could talk for hours. You can see that I am very interested in this file and very knowledgeable about it, because of the lengthy discussions that took place with my Bloc Québécois colleagues.

We would have liked to see this in Bill C-4.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Repentigny on his brilliant speech about Bill C-4.

As he pointed out, Bill C-4 modernizes the existing act and makes the system more democratic.

I would also like him to comment on an element he did not mention, but that I am sure he can discuss: the elimination of the minister's discretionary power. I would like him to comment on the fact that the powers are now in the hands of members and organizations.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his excellent question.

The elimination of the minister's discretionary power is an important element. We all know how much the Conservatives like to interfere in everything.

The example I have in mind is the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The Conservatives want to make sure that everyone knows they are funding SSHRC grants, but the grants are exclusively for the study of business and the economy. As I said at the beginning of my speech, scientists, great thinkers, a lot of them from Quebec, are relocating to the United States. Right now, the Université de Montréal is losing a lot of scientists to the United States.

Considering how the Conservatives have been acting for years, I have to say that I am very happy about the elimination of the minister's discretionary power. At least we will have one area in which the Conservatives do not run the whole show. They usually try to control everything. Imagine if the Conservative government had won a majority. Thank goodness the Bloc Québécois was there to prevent a Conservative majority. This is the beginning of a great victory because the Conservatives will not be able to interfere in this area, take control, and impose their own ideology and dogmatism.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Chairman, I am very happy to rise to speak on Bill C-4, An Act respecting not-for-profit corporations and certain other corporations.

We are indeed at the last stage, in the House of Commons, of a long process that began several years ago. The act governing these matters is completely obsolete. It must consequently be modernized and that is the purpose of Bill C-4. The new act will take financial means into account, as well as the size of the corporation and the implementation of management mechanisms. It offers a flexible framework for the submission of financial statements as well as the establishment of regulations and the structures of the organizations it will govern. There is a considerable increase in the efficiency and transparency of the incorporation process for not-for-profit corporations.

I sat as a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. We had already begun working on this matter in 2004. This is a very hefty act which demanded an array of detailed analyses. I think that the members from all parties who sat on the committee did their work very well. And consequently, today we have an interesting bill.

The letters patent system of incorporation has been replaced by an as of right system. The incorporation of not-for-profit corporations is greatly facilitated by this procedure. The abolition of the minister's discretionary power in this regard was more than necessary to eliminate the discretion that could be exercised by the minister, which went back to a whole other era. This needed to be corrected.

This will increase the confidence of the public and the credibility of not-for-profit corporations. And we know that the public already has a very favourable view of the nature of not-for-profit organizations. In our work especially, members know that many organizations work to help our citizens and provide different types of support and help their own members. If these organizations did not exist, the state would have to step in instead, in one way or another. From that perspective, it was urgent that the federal act which governs federally incorporated not-for-profit corporations be modernized.

In fact, the Canada Corporations Act, which is the existing act, and will still be in effect until we have passed this bill, provides the frame of reference for the incorporation of not-for-profit federal corporations.

In fact, the types of corporations governed under part II of the Canada Corporations Act include religious, charitable, political, mutual-benefit, and general not-for-profit organizations.

In recent years, some concerns have been raised that the act is outdated, as I was saying earlier. Since 1999, there have been public calls for the act to be reformed. It has been ten years now. A voluntary sector task force created by the federal government called for improvements to the regulatory structure that governs the sector. Industry Canada's proposal to modernize the act was part of the task force's plan.

In July 2000, Industry Canada issued a consultation paper entitled “Reform of the Canada Corporations Act: The Federal Nonprofit Framework Law”. The department then held a series of round-table discussions in cities across the country to consider the ideas presented in the document. That process eventually led to the Liberal government introducing Bill C-21 on November 15, 2004. The bill never made it to second reading.

At that point, we entered a cycle of minority governments, which we are still going through and which I do not think we will get out of for a while yet, in both Quebec and Canada, because the population does not have enough confidence in a single party today to give it a majority mandate. That is especially true in Quebec, where people feel that they have been regularly shortchanged by federalist parties, which have a Canada-wide vision. As a result, they have often put Quebec's interests on the back burner while putting Canada's interests first, and these two sets of interests are not necessarily the same.

So, we are caught in this cycle of minority governments, and we do not know how much longer the cycle will last. In my view, as long as any party aspiring to become the government does not introduce a project that reflects Quebeckers' wants, among other things, the party will not win people's support. Based on experiences in recent years, such as the Conservative party's recognition of the Quebec nation, which was an empty shell and not followed by any other commitments, I think the population has received a very clear message and, as a result, it has not been willing to give such a mandate.

We are now seeing the same thing with the Liberal Party, which is boasting about the fact that it will reform the employment insurance system, when we know very well that that same party is the one responsible for the Axworthy reform in 1994. Even though the Liberals had promised Canadians that they would stop the Conservative reform, instead what we saw was an even speedier reform that hurt the unemployed and had them contributing the most to reduce the deficit. And no one ever returned the favour. I do not think this period is over.

However, in terms of Bill C-4, which is currently before us, this new Canadian legislation on not-for-profit corporations is making its way through the various stages. In this Parliament, we have the opportunity to vote at third reading and send it to the other place. We hope the new legislation will come into force quickly.

I agree with the minister who said this bill will cut administrative costs faced by not-for-profit corporations. That is a good thing, and it will strengthen and clarify the governance rules that apply to these corporations. The only reservation that the Bloc Québécois has expressed in committee and that it strongly defended, although unsuccessfully, is that the bill contains no classification measures. All not-for-profit corporations will be lumped into the same category. I think that constitutes a weakness and that we will be back in this House in three, four or five years to amend the act accordingly. Only then will people see that the Bloc Québécois was right about that.

Overall, the Bloc Québécois believes that this is a good bill that will simplify the incorporation of not-for-profit organizations. Previously, corporations had to obtain letters patent with clear objectives. Now, all they need is articles of incorporation that are recognized. I believe that this will be simpler. The bill will clarify the directors' duties and liabilities. We have seen in the past in this sort of organization that when things are going well, there are no problems. When things are not going well, it is important that each person's liabilities be well defined and that the directors know what they are getting themselves into when they join the board of a not-for-profit organization. There was a need for clarification.

The bill will also establish defences for officers in the event of liability, so that a director's personal property is not at risk. These issues will be clarified in the act, which may motivate more people to get involved in not-for-profit organizations. Our society will benefit, because not-for-profit organizations often fill needs that the government cannot fill and the private sector is not filling either. Consequently, it is appropriate to keep going in the same direction.

The bill will also give members greater rights by enabling them to play a role in the governance of the organization. The liability of members versus directors was not always clear in the old act. These things are clarified in the bill, and anyone who joins a not-for-profit organization will have a clearer understanding of his or her rights, responsibilities and authority and will be able to act accordingly.

The bill will also establish a better oversight and accounting mechanism for corporations. We believe that this will be a great improvement. This bill has many parts that are very complicated, but I would just like to mention a few.

Part 1 outlines the bill’s purpose, which is to allow the incorporation of organizations without share capital for the purposes of carrying on legal activities, and defines the concept of a soliciting corporation. This expression designates any corporation that solicits funds from the public or a government or any corporation that receives private donations or government grants. We can see that this clarification is designed to distinguish soliciting corporations from non-soliciting corporations. I believe that this will be an appropriate clarification.

As I said, the present letters patent system is being replaced with an as-of-right system. Once again, this represents some worthwhile progress. It also sets out the capacity of a corporation as a natural person. This is a simplification as far as the legal interpretation of these matters goes, and will be to the benefit of both members and the corporation itself. A number of more technical aspects are also clarified, for instance the technical aspects relating to issuing debt obligations and trust indentures. These are more technical and more complex matters that would do well to be clarified.

It is stipulated that the by-laws must set out the conditions for membership, and the articles of incorporation the categories of voting rights for each.

There is a section specifically on members' rights, as well as another complete section on complainants and their recourse in the event of such things as abuse, and the possibility of court orders. It establishes a defence based on religious doctrines against the actions and recourses referred to. A religious organization can make use of this defence when it can reasonably prove that the act leading to the court action was based on a tenet of faith held by the members of the corporation. In such a case, the court may not make an order under this legislation against the organization in question.

There is a clear delineation of individual and collective rights, while taking into consideration the charter implications but without this meaning that people will have to take their recourse as far as a charter challenge on each occasion. These clarifications will be welcomed. There is also indication as to how organizations are to communicate with their members electronically, something that was not there before. The act is obsolete and was drafted at a time when there was nothing like the Internet and various other means of electronic communication. It is important that this be included, especially since it will result in significant savings.

There are a number of general administrative provisions as well to ensure that the framework functions very smoothly, but there are still a few questions left untouched. For instance, there is still no classification system, as I have said before. I think that great attention needs to be paid to the application of the law, and perhaps the Senate will re-examine this matter.

There is transparency and accountability. The current law requires non-profit organizations to keep detailed accounts of their activities; however, there is no requirement—as there is under this bill—to disclose this information. With Bill C-4, non-profits must make their financial statements available to their members, directors and officers as well the director. This makes it possible for directors and officers to have better oversight of the corporation's management, for members to monitor the organization's financial position between annual meetings and to ensure that the monies are truly used for the stated purposes and objectives.

We were speaking earlier of the interest in democratization so that members truly know what organization they belong to, what powers they have and how to obtain information. This clarification is welcomed by most stakeholders and organizations. This bill is the result of consultations undertaken in various parts of Quebec and Canada. This is the umpteenth version and one which, I believe, will result in an important consensus in this House.

The current legislation allows anyone to obtain a copy of the list of members of a non-profit organization, and the law contains a list of permissible uses. The new bill would restrict this right to members, creditors and directors. This provision will make it easier for members to communicate, to require directors to keep an up-to-date list of members, to protect the sales of certain types of non-profit organizations, prevent the misuse of such a list and ensure that it is not forwarded to just anyone. We have all received documents inviting us to apply for a certain credit card or program. We wonder where they get their information? On occasion, these lists were provided under this law, which was not specific and did not prohibit this type of transfer of information. That will now be prohibited. That is a useful benefit.

In terms of effectiveness, the former law had a system of letters patent that were very difficult to obtain. Under the law, establishing a corporation was not a right. Now, it will be one and it will be much easier to be approved. In an “as of right” system the establishment of a company is automatically granted. With this major change, the procedure for discretionary approval will disappear.

This is an improvement to the whole of the system and advances its democratization. The incorporation process will be simplified and corporations will benefit from increased flexibility, and a more efficient and less costly system. In that regard, improvements are considerable and well-thought-out.

As regards fairness, we can see that with the new legislation the clear definition of the duties and responsibilities of directors will facilitate the recruitment and retention of qualified people on boards of directors. This was not always the case under the previous act.

The due diligence standards that are being proposed are well defined by the courts. Thus, they offer an established instrument to not-for-profit corporations. This standardizes diligence standards for directors, and the bill takes harmonization with other federal acts into account.

It was urgent that this be done, as the acts that are affected were obsolete and referred to several acts that were no longer in effect or had been modernized.

This too is important: directors and officers are currently exposed to much liability. The new legislation introduces several measures to limit liability, for instance, the incorporation of the organization, which creates a legal entity that can be held responsible; a clear definition of diligence standards; the possibility for the director of defending him or herself by invoking a due diligence defence; new provisions which would compensate the director for costs incurred and costs entailed by legal action pursuant to an unfounded suit or incidents which would, in the opinion of the corporation, justify compensation.

After several years of consultation, this act now appears to us to be one which deserves our support. There will be some specific follow-up to be done on certain aspects of the bill but overall this is a positive piece of legislation. The Bloc Québécois contributed to making this a bill of the highest possible quality. We have arrived at the final stage and I think that the House of Commons will see fit to pass this bill. We will thus have carried out the modernization of the not-for-profit corporations legislation, which will be to the advantage of this entire sector.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my hon. colleague's province of Quebec, some innovative things have been done in early learning. Some of the new science that has come out recently has shown the effects of child abuse and the withdrawal of some of a child's basic needs. This is important in the context of non-profits because many non-profits work toward filling those gaps.

Some of the new neuroscience that has come out has clearly shown that physical activity in children turns on parts of the brain that are involved in learning. It has been found that when a child participates in 30 to 45 minutes of good physical activity, such as aerobics, every day, those parts of the brain are turned on and the children can focus more easily and learn better. It has been found that the outcomes for children in school are profoundly better and more superior when kids have a chance to be physically active. Dr. Tremblay and others in Montreal have been groundbreakers in this area.

Does my friend think the government has a responsibility not only to encourage non-profit organizations to do what they do, but it has a role to play to work with the provinces and learn from what certain provinces are doing superbly?

I would like the member to highlight some of the early learning work that happens in the province of Quebec that other provinces in Canada could learn from.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
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1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question, though I find the question a little far removed from Bill C-4. Certainly, the more not-for-profit organizations that have clear objectives and members who know what they have to do, the more possibilities there will be for those raising funds for good causes such as preventive health programs, and the better off we will all be.

Certainly, in Quebec, very important and interesting measures have already been taken. Everything to do with health is under provincial jurisdiction, of course. Just last week, I had meetings with people responsible for health in my region. They stressed how important it is to discuss prevention.

There is the whole area of curative medicine that must come into play when people are sick. But we also have a responsibility for comprehensive preventive medicine. This is not just the practice of medicine; it is also making each person responsible for his or her own health and making the government responsible—in Quebec's case—for health education. There is the role of physical education, the way in which each individual must be responsible for his or her own heath. We must also make sure that we have all kinds of tools for our young people so that they are able to determine the quality of their own health and so that they can avoid having to resort to curative medicine unless there is no other choice.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
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1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup for his excellent presentation. He spoke to a point that we argued for in committee, the classification of organizations.

In the hon. member's opinion, how would Bill C-4 have been improved if a classification of organizations had been accepted and made part of the bill?

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May 5th, 2009 / 1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my Bloc Québécois colleagues for expressing that point of view in committee. It should have been part of the legislation but, sadly, it was not. It is not enough to make us vote against the bill, but I do think that it is an important point. The Canadian Bar Association agrees that failure to include a generalized classification system is one of the bill's major shortcomings.

For example, charitable organizations work for the good of the general public by trying to help people who are neither directors nor members of the association. In other words, these organizations have money that they want to make available to a specific clientele. Such organizations are much different from mutualist organizations, which seek to help their own members. If the legislation included this kind of classification, both organizations and the government—in providing services to organizations—would have been able to adopt a much more precise approach.

Without a classification system, all organizations will end up in a melting pot. I believe that, in the end, additional regulations will be needed, but the government and most committee members did not want to incorporate regulations into the legislation. Perhaps regulations will be introduced, but if not, we will be back here in a few years to consider amending the law as a result. I am sure that a classification system would have been a very good move, and I think that the government should have heeded the Bloc Québécois' recommendation.

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1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his remarks.

I would like to remind him that, as members, we all know of numerous organizations and non-profit organizations in our ridings that do incredible work. So we have all come across volunteers and seen them working every day. However, during election periods, we have an outstanding volunteer working for us, the official agent.

In my view, he is, in some ways, the ideal volunteer who meets all of the requirements of the new act we have been discussing. The hon. member was just explaining the merits of Bill C-4 and why we will be supporting it.

This bill will simplify the constitution of non-profit organizations. A volunteer agent could be chosen from among everyone in the organization.

It will clarify the duties and responsibilities of the directors. A volunteer agent's role is laid out in the elections act in a way that it is not generally explained to the members of society.

It will establish lines of defence for the directors and officers in liability cases. An official agent's role and responsibilities are very well explained, as are the ways in which he is to fulfill those responsibilities.

It will give members more rights, allowing them to be involved in their organization's governance. We know that the official agent's documents are clearly printed and made public a few months after an election.

It will establish a better mechanism for monitoring the organization's accountability. We know that the financial agent must keep the books according to a specific method and that they are examined twice before being made public.

Can the hon. member tell me if he does not see that by adopting Bill C-4 we are perhaps making the people and volunteers in these organizations and non-profit organizations a little more like financial agents during an election?

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1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague makes a very good case. In fact, we will be establishing a regulatory framework that it is much more clear and precise and one that applies to organizations under federal charter. Non-profit organizations have a provincial and Quebec charter. In this case, the framework will be much better defined. It will result in more volunteers for organizations. When the scope of activity is clearer and more specific, it is much easier to be engaged in an organization.

Modernizing the act will increase the participation of citizens in society through various non-profit organizations. This will be the case for what is truly democratic, such as the electoral process, and also for other types of movements that more closely resemble the type of organization they wish to have.

Our work basically acknowledges the importance of the quality of volunteer work.

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

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1:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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1:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.