House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was years.

Topics

National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill S-203, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day.

It was very encouraging to hear speeches from my hon. colleagues from across the way. It appears that everyone in the House supports the spirit in which this bill was introduced and supports the bill.

In today's society, we need the efforts of all Canadians, businesses, governments and individuals, in order to build a Canada that we want and to foster the values that Canadians hold dear. Canada would not be the country it is today without the efforts of millions of Canadians who, by their generosity and selflessness, have helped to build our country's reputation as a caring, giving nation on the world stage. For those reasons, I support Bill S-203.

As some members of Parliament know, the idea of a national philanthropy day is one that has been circulating for quite some time. It first appeared in 1986. The U.S. president at the time, Ronald Reagan, actually issued a proclamation to recognize the day. However, it should be noted that the day has never been formally recognized by the U.S. Congress. In fact, no other government has permanently recognized this day.

This is the time for our government to officially recognize the merits of such a day for the very people who work so tirelessly and selflessly to reach out to help those in need day after day.

According to the 2007 Canada survey of giving, volunteering and participating, Canadians are very generous. Over 23 million Canadians made a monetary donation to charitable and non-profit organizations in the preceding year. Just as an example, 84% of Canadians aged 15 and over made combined donations of $10 billion. This represents an average gift of $437 per person, an increase of 12% over the 2004 survey.

The generosity of Canadians is found across the age ranges. In 2007, those aged 15 to 24 donated an average of $142 per person. It is so heartening to think that despite the fact that some of these young people are just starting out in life, they still find the means to give to their fellow citizens.

The average amount donated does increase with age until it reaches a high of $611 per person for those aged 65 and over. That is heartening as well to see seniors, who sometimes are also in difficult situations, donating and giving so generously.

Generosity is evident across all income groups. Although in 2007 Canadians with a higher household income had the highest average donation of $686 per person, it is interesting to note that those Canadians with annual household incomes of less than $20,000 gave the highest percentage of their household income.

I am very proud to say that in December it was reported by the Fraser Institute that for the 12th year in a row Manitoba was once again ranked as Canada's most generous province. Manitoba led all provinces with the highest percentage of total income donated to registered charities.

Manitoba leads the country in part to people like businessman John Buhler, an extremely generous individual who lived down the street from me in Morden, Manitoba where I grew up. John and his wife, Bonnie, regularly donate large amounts of money to a wide variety of community organizations, including health care projects, educational institutions and museums and centres associated with human rights. John Buhler and the donations that he has made have been instrumental in contributing to the growth and prosperity of Manitoba.

I am also very proud to say that Winkler, which is the city in which I now live and which I am very proud to represent, is home to the second largest group of charitable donors in the entire country. That is a great honour for a group of people who are extremely generous and continually give of their time and finances.

The generosity of Canadians is also expressed in time, with billions of hours donated to causes in which Canadians believe. By contributing their skills and experience, these generous Canadians are also learning new skills and increasing their knowledge.

In 2007, 46% of Canadians aged 15 and over volunteered to an organization and 84% provided direct help to others outside of their home, sometimes just by helping their friend or neighbour or someone in need.

Canadians are extremely generous people. Our citizens have shown their generosity time and again in many ways. In every community, Canadians help those in need. They help their neighbours by setting up a trust fund for families who have lost their house in a fire. They help Canadians in other provinces when floods have taken away their homes or livelihood. They help people across the world in times of disaster or famine, as reflected in the outpouring of support following the recent earthquake in Haiti, as well as Chile.

A legislated national philanthropy day will officially recognize the efforts and selflessness of these Canadians. It will magnify the importance of special events already organized by entities and non-government organizations.

The calendar is already punctuated with special days, weeks and months aimed at increasing awareness among Canadian people to causes that deserve support and special recognition. An example celebrated recently is the International Day of Peace on September 21, which was first celebrated in 1982 and officially declared permanent by the United Nations General Assembly in 2002. This day gives an opportunity to individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace.

Other examples include Child Abuse Awareness Month, National Family Week and the YWCA Week Without Violence, all in October. Then there is Canadian Hockey Week in November. All of those special days, weeks and months represent occasions to reflect on important issues. They have been and will continue to be observed.

An act respecting a national philanthropy day would recognize the efforts of thousands of volunteers and the value of in-kind and financial donations that have supported a myriad of causes. In fact, the Association of Fundraising Professionals created the first national philanthropy day on November 15, 1986, to recognize the contribution that philanthropy makes to our communities.

So far in my remarks I have focused on why designating November 15 each year as national philanthropy day by means of legislation is necessary. I would like to finish by mentioning that legislating a national philanthropy day would contribute to the recognition of the huge contribution of the philanthropy sector to Canadian communities and to many worthy causes around the world. It also would recognize the tremendous positive difference that Canadians, along with non-profit organizations, companies and governments make. I think it is safe to say that legislating a national philanthropy day could help promote and enhance the activities surrounding philanthropy in Canada.

As we can see, there are numerous advantages associated with this bill. The government certainly sees merit in the idea of celebrating philanthropy. Indeed, it encourages Canadians to make charitable donations using income tax incentives. Legislating a national philanthropy day is an appropriate mechanism for advancing this government's agenda.

For all of those reasons, I encourage and urge all of my fellow colleagues and hon. members of this House to support this important bill.

National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business

February 1st, 2011 / 5:55 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, as with my other colleagues in the House I am rising in support of Bill S-203, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day.

I am sure all my colleagues in the House share my support for the sentiments set forth in the preamble to the bill to recognize the Canadian spirit of giving and volunteerism.

Volunteerism builds strong communities. Encouraging and rewarding civic participation is important. We need to ensure that the incentives are fair and effective though for voluntary participation. Considerable time and energy is gifted daily by ordinary Canadians but not just to registered charities.

Let me share with the House a study conducted jointly by a number of government agencies, Statistics Canada and Volunteer Canada. The study was called Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating in 2007. The study found that almost 23 million Canadians, or 84% of the population aged 15 and over, made a financial donation to a charitable or non-profit organization in that year. During that same time, 12.5 million Canadians, or 46% of the population, volunteered their time through a group or organization.

Sad to say a more recent study has shown that since 2007 the donations by Canadians has dropped to 23% of the population. Apparently in 2007 Canadians donated a total of $10 billion, yet since 2007 a more recent study shows that the figure has dropped by $1 billion. It shows a concern in the populace. It shows that people are suffering in the economic recession but still being as generous as they possibly can.

Canadians volunteer to flood and clear community rinks, to coach children's soccer and hockey. Individuals freely volunteer their time fundraising for community facilities, for sports programs, for outings for the disabled and the elderly, for food banks, for breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, cancer treatments and support, and organizations such as Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign in Africa

There is a broad array of organizations supporting work and a broad array of Canadians giving their voluntary time and effort to support those who may be suffering or struggling, both in this country and abroad, and that is to be commended.

I am proud of my constituency of Edmonton--Strathcona's countless volunteer hours donated to deliver programs and to maintain community league facilities and programs. This is something unique about Alberta. We have for many decades had communities maintaining community leagues for the service of the children and families in the neighbourhoods. To their credit, volunteers with numerous community leagues have tackled fundraising and hands-on efforts to make their facilities more energy efficient and accessible.

Countless hours are donated by literally thousands of volunteers in my riding to deliver successful festivals such as the Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. The Silver Skate Festival, which is coming up soon and I welcome members to come to that activity, and the Ice on Whyte Festival, both festivals to try to make our winters liveable.

Philanthropy includes both the gifts of money or work for the benefit of others. There are numerous local, regional and national awards recognizing these philanthropic acts.

Just this past year, many members may have participated. CBC ran a competition to recognize and profile Canadian volunteer efforts at home and abroad. We can be very proud of the individuals who were focused in that program, both the ones that ultimately won and the ones who were showcased and nominated.

In Alberta, non-government organizations, including small groups and youth groups, are yearly honoured for their work for the environment by Emerald Awards. Among the highest accolades in this country are the Governor General Order of Canada Awards.

Rather than just a designated day however we should be taking concrete actions to encourage and reward these important contributions to society. As I noted earlier, unfortunately the amount of money donated and the time and effort put into volunteering is declining in the country for a variety of reasons. These kinds of efforts are critical, particularly in hard economic times and particularly when a lot of programs are being downloaded to municipalities and onward to volunteer organizations.

A number of proposals have been tabled recommending expanded tax credits, including donations in kind for services, materials or property. These donations are important and consideration should be given to recognizing, rewarding and encouraging this kind of generosity.

Those with charitable status obviously have a clear advantage over other volunteer organizations in raising funds. As it has become increasingly difficult to obtain this status, consideration should be given to offering other measures to reward donors to non-profit organizations that do not have the charitable status.

This is particularly critical as an increasing number of community services are being downloaded to volunteer groups. Concerns were raised this week in the House about cuts to federal support to small organizations helping immigrants. Last fall we heard continued pleas to restore federal support to aboriginal healing centres. Both of these organizations depend on a lot of volunteer effort but require basic resources to maintain and run their programs, to coordinate volunteers and to deliver those services.

In closing, it is important to keep front of mind that the majority who donate their time and resources to causes that are important to them do so out of an interest in helping those in need. They are not doing it to seek a tax deduction or any form of reward.

It is noteworthy that a recent study, and I notice that a colleague across the way mentioned this as well, shows increasingly it is Canadians with lower incomes who are donating more. As we look to the cutting of corporate taxes, perhaps we should be looking to corporations to make larger donations to the causes that many Canadians feel it is important to contribute to.

I support the passage of this bill intended to recognize the contribution by volunteering Canadians. However we can and must do more to incent and recognize this contribution to our economy, to safe, liveable communities and to quality of life for all Canadians.

National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak today to Bill S-203, which seeks to declare, through legislation, that each and every November 15 be known in Canada as National Philanthropy Day.

The proposal goes to the root of what philanthropy is today and how it impacts the lives of Canadians, both those who are philanthropic and those who benefit from it.

Our notion of philanthropy has evolved as Canada has evolved, reflecting good times and bad. Today it is a concept that is deeply ingrained in the very nature of who we are as a nation.

In the English language, we date the word “philanthropy” to the early 1600s when it was coined from the Greek philanthropos meaning love for mankind. Early usage of the word related to the concept of altruistic concern for human welfare. Over time we came to think of how philanthropy manifested itself in society, usually related to large donations of money, property, voluntary labour to good causes or of individuals providing direct help to others.

From the North American perspective, we especially think of philanthropy as it relates to the endowment of major institutions, universities, hospitals and libraries. Indeed the word “philanthropist” often conjures images of the early giants of industry like Andrew Carnegie or Alexander Graham Bell. In fact, in Canada's early years as a nation, the concept of philanthropy was almost always connected to religious organizations.

Prior to the onset of the Great Depression, most charitable works in Canada flowed through the church. The stock market crash changed all of that.

In the 1930s we saw the rise of service clubs and community-based organizations that channelled donations and volunteer hours to help those less fortunate, or to raise money and increase awareness around specific causes. Prime among these was Community Chest, which had its roots in church charities but later evolved into the United Way of Canada. The United Way plays a critical role in helping us understand the philosophy of community leadership and building through targeted giving.

Today, in a very real way, we have returned to the original 17th century interpretation of philanthropy. It has spread deeply into the core of who we are as Canadians and it truly expresses a love for mankind.

Other early philanthropic actions established institutions such as Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, founded in 1875 in response to Elizabeth McMaster's concern over the high death rate among the city's children.

In 1909, in accordance with the Geneva Convention, the Canadian Red Cross Society Act was established. Since then, the Canadian Red Cross has improved the living conditions of some of the most vulnerable people in Canada and around the world.

Numerous examples of other well-established institutions can be named to reflect the tremendous historic contribution of the philanthropic sector such as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind established in 1918.

More recent generosity has been responsible for fuelling modern research into illnesses like tuberculosis, heart disease, cancer and HIV-AIDS and for raising awareness of the need for this funding.

On a local level I am proud to represent Red Deer, which is a very giving community. Central Albertans take pride in giving countless hours and donating their hard-earned money to the causes they believe in. The Red Deer & District Community Foundation is a great example of how local philanthropy can have a profound effect on a community. It started as a gesture of generosity from one individual but is now a community institution. It is a steward of donors' gifts and can serve donors beyond their lifetime. It is also a locally based grant maker providing much needed resources to charitable organizations in central Alberta.

Red Deer is also home to Jack and Joan Donald, co-founders of the Parkland Income Fund. They are well known in our community for their generous spirit. The Donald School of Business at Red Deer College was recently named in recognition of their contribution. Their commitment to central Alberta was recognized in 2005 with a generosity of spirit award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. They have also both individually been named as Red Deer citizens of the year.

As a former teacher, I am also proud of how literacy campaigns and public education programs have benefited from a groundswell of volunteerism. Thousands of Canadians benefit from different literacy programs across Canada. LEARN was Canada's first national literacy campaign. More recently Raise a Reader has raised $12.7 million across Canada since 2002.

Just how broad philanthropy's reach has become is addressed in a research document produced by Imagine Canada, a leading organization among Canada's charities and non-profit organizations. Its research paints a picture of philanthropy in Canada that touches different facets of our lives. The study depicts meaningful success stories in the areas of amateur sports, education, the environment and international development, as well as health care, hospitals and population-specific health issues.

Experts point to the role that philanthropy has played in helping to fulfill our national concept of multiculturalism. Many newcomers to Canada are encouraged and given tangible help through volunteerism. The research cited some specific examples of the outpouring of assistance provided to the so-called “boat people” of Vietnam. So great was Canada's support for these 34,000 refugees that the country received the prestigious Nansen Medal for humanitarianism.

One inspiring act of Canadian altruism and philanthropy dates back to 1921 when Sir Frederick Grant Banting worked a miracle in a University of Toronto laboratory. As there were no research grants for medicine at the time, Banting sold his own car to finance his ground-breaking research, which led to the discovery of insulin. Beyond that initial donation, Banting also gave up any income he would have received from his discovery by selling the rights to insulin for one dollar in order to ensure that the drug would be affordable to those who needed it. This is a truly inspiring tale of philanthropy.

Looking across the scope and breadth of philanthropy in Canada, experts note that philanthropy goes beyond donating money and includes gifts of time and spirit. I especially like the sentiment that philanthropy is about what is in our heart and our spirit, not about what is in our bank account.

Contemporary philanthropy is as much about innovation and vision as it is having the good fortune of having deep pockets and the spirit to give generously. The ability to take risks and make long-term commitments to causes that are not necessarily popular or in fashion is recognized as the mark of a modern philanthropist.

As we look at the good work done by people across Canada and across our history, it is interesting to consider what moves us to philanthropic gestures, what makes us give of our time, our hard-earned money or the sweat of our brow for the future that we believe we can make a little brighter.

Some of us are motivated by individual situations. We may be sitting at home watching the news on television and be touched by a famine, flood or earthquake. It may be something happening now, perhaps on the other side of the world to people whom we have never met, may never meet, that sometimes touches us and moves us to action. We reach for our cheque book or the telephone. We are engaged and it moves us to action. For that moment, however long, we are philanthropists. Tomorrow may see us return to life as before, but we have acted today and may act again when another event touches us in that way.

For others, philanthropy is a regular habit, part of their lives and intertwined with some activity or some organization that makes community giving a part of their raison d'être.

As we look across the country, we realize that philanthropy has many faces. It shows itself in grand gestures and in small intimate ways. It is both personal and collective, both public and very private. That brings us to the question of how we recognize these many and varied contributions of time, money and energy.

I admire the aims of this proposed legislation and ask members to join me in supporting November 15 as National Philanthropy Day. Let us celebrate and support the actions of so many Canadians who have given so much to so many.

National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to support Bill S-203, sponsored by the member for Peace River. I note that this bill has had a torturous route from the beginnings in the Senate. It was introduced as Bill S-217, then Bill S-210, then Bill S-204 and then Bill S-46, all introduced since October of 2004 by Senator Jerry Grafstein. Therefore, it should be an inspiration to all of us that if we embark on a good idea and a good bill, it might take six years and we might not even be around by the time it ends up passing through the House. However, we should not give up hope because there is proof that patience is a virtue and this bill will make it through after all these iterations and all these years.

The bill is very straightforward. It is only a page long. There were some excellent speeches today indicating a number of different forms philanthropy can take in our society. We tend to think of the rich people who get their names in the paper donating millions of dollars and we do not necessarily think of all the volunteer work that is done and has been dealt with and covered rather well in the speeches in the House this hour today and the hour before.

I want to make note of a constituent of mine who grew up in my constituency, one Clara Hughes, whom we see on national television every night in ads for depression. She is a six-time medal holder in both summer and winter Olympics, and I think she is the only athlete in that class. However, at an earlier point in time she donated 100% of her entire winnings from the Olympics, which was only $10,000, to the Right to Play organization doing work in Africa. That speaks volumes to her dedication to charity. Also, her mother, Maureen Hughes, and Dodie Lester are also still constituents of mine. I want to give Clara credit, and I have wanted to for a long time now, for her very thoughtful donation to Right to Play.

Also, the role of Habitat for Humanity was mentioned by one of the other members. It plays an important role in my community as well. In fact, it has just developed a very large development of houses for people.

The member for Edmonton—Strathcona indicated that while $10 billion was raised in charitable donations in Canada in 2007, donations dropped off substantially during the recession to the tune of perhaps $1 billion. That is very serious in any sort of activity. A $1 billion drop is a 10% drop in a recession, which is very serious.

A number of years ago, probably in the 1970s, there was recognition that somehow governments should expand their involvement and their role in social services and that people should not have to rely on the good will of churches and charitable organizations.

Manitoba expanded social services greatly under the Schreyer government in 1969 to 1977. There was this feeling that charities had somehow outlived their usefulness, that it was the state's responsibility to provide for the social good of its citizens. However, over time there is a recognition that no matter how many programs the state developed, no matter how much money it spent, the needs were still there. In fact, charities actually expanded their role, both in numbers and involvement, over those years. Therefore, there is no possible way we could fulfill all of the demands and needs in society without charitable giving.

I definitely want to talk about something I see is very positive, and that is the move by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to commit half of their fortunes to charities and have it be given away while they are still alive.

I have read a number of articles on this topic. It was initiated by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. They have called fellow billionaires together in the United States and coaxed them, cajoled them and shamed them into joining their group. They have done quite well. They have a huge number. I do not know what percentage of billionaires in the states are members of this organization, but it is expanding. The organization is gaining converts every day. It holds private parties to get people involved. It is not without a certain amount of uncertainty because there are disagreements among families, among spouses and it is actively working to pull these people together. It will be a tremendous help because the Gates Foundation and Buffett Foundation are doing tremendous work in Africa on AIDS. Those two have shown some very positive direction.

There are others as well. I believe Mr. Zuckerberg has recently donated $100 million to the state of New Jersey for education. Ted Turner has donated $1 billion.

People who have made a lot of money over the years recognize they will not take it with them. Warren Buffett is a great example. I had the experience of driving by his house in Omaha about a year and a half ago. He is a regular guy. The local folks know him very well. He has no address on his house, by the way. However, he has concluded that his children do not need the $50 billion. He said that he would take care of his children, maybe a few million here and there, but that is it. He has said that it is time for him to take his billions and make the commitment while he is still alive rather than have people deal with his estate after he is gone. It is groundbreaking that he is prepared to do that. This man does not live the lavish lifestyle by any means. He still has the same wife for 40 years. His income is $100,000 a year. He works in the same office. He is just a regular person.

This is the type of direction and leadership that we should be promoting. I would like to know where the Canadian billionaires are. In the first hours of debate I asked the member for Peace River if people were approaching Canadian billionaires about involving themselves. Maybe Warren Buffett will come across the border and make his approach to them and get them involved.

Warren Buffett started something and we should encourage it and try to get as much movement in this as possible. It only takes one or two people to get the ball rolling. The worst thing that can happen is it gets bogged down and comes to a standstill. Anything the government can do to encourage Canadian billionaires to do the same thing would be positive.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been involved with the Manitoba government over the last several years on a number of different projects. The Gates are certainly approachable. They are not hard to get hold of. Nor is it hard to deal with them. I would encourage the government to do more than just pass bills, which is good, but we should be a little more proactive in encouraging our Canadian billionaires to follow the lead of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates in the United States.

National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 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?

National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, a month and a half ago or so the Minister of Finance circulated a letter to all members of the House asking for input on the upcoming budget.

In my correspondence to the minister, I identified two areas in particular. Certainly I know that we are not going to sway the government much on some of the hard-held ideological items such as child care, but I was hoping to at least bring to his attention two issues that I think would make a considerable amount of difference, especially in rural communities and in households in which families are struggling to make ends meet.

The first one I talked about was an income increase for seniors in this country. Many seniors are faced with the choice between trying to fill their prescriptions or fill their oil tanks or fill their cupboards, so certainly that money would make it right back into the economy if we were able to increase the incomes of the seniors in this country.

The other one was with regard to EI. For workers and for those in industries that are seasonal in nature, under a past Liberal government a pilot project was established. The best 14 weeks had been established, and I know that the current government has supported it and has rolled it over to June. There should be evidence within this that this program, this initiative, is worthwhile. It means a great deal to people who work in the industry. It means a great deal to those who run businesses and drive the economies of rural communities across the country. It is an important initiative.

Back on the day that I asked the Minister for Human Resources and Skills Development the question, in her response she said they will make a decision on this and will make the decision on what is best for Canadian workers and Canadian job creators.

It is the small business operators in this country who create the jobs--the guys who run the fish plants, the tourism operators who have a small window of opportunity to really make their season. If they do not have access to a pool of labour, then those industries just do not operate. If we take that pool of labour away, those businesses dry up, so it is important that we be able to support the workers in those communities. In doing so, we support those businesses, and that is good for everybody. As long as we continue to do this, it benefits the entire country.

My question for the parliamentary secretary is this: is the minister willing to make the commitment to go beyond the June deadline to ensure that the best-14-weeks pilot project is made permanent, so that we can give some degree of certainty to these industries and these workers?

6:25 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, we have been focused on taking action to address the needs of Canadian families and the Canadian economy.

We will continue to act in those interests. We are focused on job growth, expanding the economy, investing in skills training and helping those who were hardest hit by the global recession.

The economy has responded since July 2009. Over 400,000 new jobs have been created. Unfortunately, if the opposition and the coalition had their way, their proposed actions would very well destroy those hundreds of thousands of jobs and throw our economy into reverse by raising taxes. That is something we will not do.

When we go back to the question that was asked by this hon. member of the minister, he said that the Conservatives were looking at cancelling the best 14 weeks and the working while on claim programs. The member said these programs have helped those in need during these tough economic times. They have benefited the most vulnerable, the youth, women, low-skilled workers, and low-income families.

In fact, with respect to the EI pilot projects, months ago, on October 12, we announced that we were extending the two EI pilot projects for 8 months, namely the best 14 weeks pilot and the working while on claim pilot. We also announced that we were reintroducing the extended EI benefits pilot for up to two years.

In light of that, one would think this member would get up today in the House and say, “Well, thank you very much. I said you were cancelling the program. You did not cancel the program. Thankfully you extended the program as I wanted you to do. In fact, you have extended three of the EI programs that help those who are most vulnerable.”

I would think he would get up in the House to thank the government for doing that instead of not doing it. Quite frankly, we have taken many actions that have helped hundreds of thousands of Canadians, through our improvement to the EI system. Long-tenured workers have received extra help through extra weeks of EI. Career transition assistance is also helping tens of thousands of long-tenured workers who need additional support for retraining to find a new job.

Over 265,000 jobs have been protected through our enhancements to the work-sharing program. That's another thing one would think this member would stand up in the House to thank the government for preserving those jobs. I do not hear him doing that.

We are focused on helping Canadians get back to work. We have made unprecedented investments in training. In fact in 2009-2010, we invested more than $4 billion in training, helping over 1.2 million Canadians.

We have also introduced tax cuts and premium freezes to ensure that Canadians have more money in their pockets to take care of themselves and their families and to spend on their priorities.

All of this is to say that we have taken significant action. We have acted strongly to help Canadians through the global recession, and we have done so in a reasonable and responsible way. We have invested where investment counts. We have ensured that people have jobs. One would think this member would get up in the House to thank the government for doing these things and get behind these things and support them.

Shamefully, the Liberals voted against many of these initiatives. These initiatives are helping the Canadians who need help the most.

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, if the parliamentary secretary is holding his breath waiting for me to congratulate him on the measures, I assure him we will see a member of the House turning blue, because what the government did was not even a half-measure. It extended the program to June. These seasonal industries usually start up in June. That is when the tourist season begins in these rural communities. That is when the fisheries begin in these rural communities.

The business owners are saying that people are making a decision now about whether they will stay with that industry or move out of those communities. That pool of talent, that pool of labour, will be lost. They will be gone from those communities.

Many of these operators will not be able to start their businesses up, because the best 14 weeks project will lapse in June. That is the sad part, because it has been proven that the best 14 weeks takes the disincentives out of the program—

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, this member indicated that we have cancelled the programs. Of course, we have not cancelled it; we have extended the programs.

The member's Liberal Party has a shameful record when it comes to voting against help for Canadians. It voted against up to 20 additional weeks' of EI for long-tenured workers, extending the enhanced work-sharing program, additional funding to help youth gain valuable work experience, and the apprenticeship incentive grant and tool tax credit. The Liberals voted against all of that.

Something the government will not do is to balance our books on the backs of the most vulnerable, those who need our help the most, the low skilled and the low income families, by cutting transfer payments to the provinces by $25 billion, like the Liberal Party did; nor will we raid the EI account as the Liberals did to the tune of $50-plus billion. If we had that money there, we could probably do a lot of the things this member is asking for today, that is, if the Liberals had not raided those accounts and used them for pet political projects at that time. We will not do that.