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Conservative MP for Kitchener—Waterloo (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 40.90% of the vote.
Statements in the House
National Charities Week Act March 19th, 2013
moved that Bill C-458, An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-458, an act respecting a national charities week and to amend the Income Tax Act.
Canada is known throughout the world as one of the best countries in which to live. One of the reasons for this reputation is our strong sense of social responsibility. We care about our fellow citizens and we work together to ensure that everyone can fulfill their potential and enjoy a high quality of life.
Charitable organizations put these core values into practice. They do valuable work in our communities, helping those in need and creating a strong, compassionate and inclusive society.
As the member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo, I have been working since first being elected in 2008 to foster valuable partnerships with the many charitable organizations in my community and across Canada. I have to say that I am constantly impressed by the remarkable work they are doing.
I commend them and all of their volunteers for their commitment to improving the lives of others and for contributing to the quality of life we enjoy here in Canada. However, I do recognize that charities face complex challenges, and adequate funding continues to be an overriding concern.
During the global recession, many organizations saw a drop in donations while demand for their services increased. Stats Canada reported a decline in donations of over 5% in both 2008 and 2009, and while the latest statistics show an increase as our economic recovery takes effect, the current level of donations is still below that of 2007.
With respect to the overall donor base in Canada, the 2010 Canadian survey of giving, volunteering and participating indicates that 25% of donors provide almost 85% of all charitable donations. In other words, charities find themselves relying on a small number of people to make large gifts, and older donors tend to give more.
People give for a variety of reasons. While compassion and altruism remain the primary motivation for charitable donations, 23% of Canadians cited the tax credit as an important factor. This is what motivated my private member's motion in the previous Parliament, which was passed unanimously by this House in 2011 and resulted in the finance committee study on tax incentives for charitable donations.
The finance committee study reviewed the current tax system and considered changes that could motivate increased giving. By all accounts, this was a very worthwhile exercise. The study brought together charitable organizations, experts and stakeholders and generated a comprehensive discussion about the challenges and opportunities faced by the sector.
I would like to thank the finance committee members for their excellent work, as well as the witnesses who contributed their expertise and suggestions.
I am pleased with the recommendations contained in the report, which focus on tax incentives, transparency, red tape reduction for charitable organizations and public awareness.
I am optimistic that this will lead to real action to benefit our charities and the donors who support them.
Building on the momentum of this committee study, I am pleased to now have the opportunity to advance an initiative that I believe will continue to raise awareness of Canada's charitable sector and lead to increased support.
During the committee study, I was intrigued with the proposal to extend the charitable tax donation deadline. It was suggested that this extension would make it easier for Canadians to donate to the causes that are truly important to them.
To ascertain the sector's response to such a measure, I held a round table with a number of charities in my riding and consulted with representatives from national charitable organizations. Many felt that this was a common sense idea with great potential. Based on this positive feedback, I proceeded with this initiative and tabled my bill on October 31, 2012.
My private member's bill, Bill C-458, proposes to extend the deadline for charitable donations by 60 days, so that eligible donations made up until March 1 may be claimed in the previous calendar year. In addition, my bill proposes to establish the last seven days of February as national charities week in Canada.
There are a number of reasons I believe this measure will lead to enhanced support for charitable organizations. The current deadline of December 31, as we know, falls during the busy holiday season. At this time, of course, Canadians are not usually focused on strategic financial planning.
Further, many charitable organizations are challenged to provide staff during this busy time in order to seize year-end donations and to process receipts. Then when tax time comes in February, people may realize that if they had made a charitable donation, they could have reduced their tax payable and maybe even received a tax refund. Of course, by then it is too late.
While many Canadians give generously during the holiday season for altruistic reasons, my proposal, I believe, would create a second season of giving in the first 60 days of the year, a period that many charities have told me does not typically see a high level of donation activity.
In addition, moving the deadline to the tax preparation season in February would provide a motivation to increase giving in order to maximize existing financial tax incentives. It would raise awareness of the charitable tax credit and encourage Canadians to give more prominent consideration to including charitable giving in their financial planning and tax preparation decisions.
My proposal would enable individuals to have a complete picture of their financial situation when considering charitable donations, the same as they currently do with the registered retirement savings plans, or RRSPs. This would benefit the many Canadians who are not salaried employees: small business owners, part-time workers, students and those whose income varies throughout the year.
In fact, Canadians who plan their charitable giving tend to give more. According to the 2007 Canadian survey of giving, volunteering and participating, fewer than 20% of donors plan their charitable donations. However, those who do plan their donations give an average of almost $800 annually, compared to $350 for those who do not plan in advance.
Other studies have shown that people who build charity into their financial plans are much less likely to decrease their level of giving during an economic downturn. The finance committee's report on tax incentives for charitable giving emphasized the need to raise public awareness in order to promote increased giving and I believe this is what my bill would help to achieve.
It would also contribute to creating a culture of giving among Canadians that will support and sustain the charitable sector over the long term so that charitable organizations can continue their valuable work in our communities. To further underscore the importance of Canada's charitable sector, national charities week would present charitable organizations with the opportunity to highlight their work and tell their stories, and for all Canadians to celebrate their achievements. Canadians demonstrate their generosity when they see how their donations make a difference in the lives of others.
Since introducing my bill last fall, I have received a great deal of positive feedback from across the country, from individual Canadians, charitable organizations, many of my colleagues and the media. For example, an editorial in my local newspaper, the Waterloo Region Record, stated:
Braid’s bill strikes us as a non-partisan, common sense proposal that deserves support across the political spectrum. It should be passed.
An editorial in the National Post observed the following:
This is a small change, but a significant one. It will ease the burden on charities, and individuals, by providing a little end-of-year breathing room for those who would like to donate but find that the cut-off date has passed before they are able to.
One of my constituents stated, “As a person who works in leadership in a charitable organization, and sits on the Boards of several others, I think this makes very good sense and I appreciate it”. A second constituent wrote to me and said, “After a lifetime as a tax practitioner and also having a close association with charitable organizations, I think you have identified a simple solution to increasing charitable giving among Canadians. Well done”. Lastly, another constituent wrote, “Bravo! ...I do wish I had thought of that, as a lifelong professional fund raiser, now retired. If there is any way that I can help you in your endeavour, please do contact me”.
Twitter, that great litmus test of public opinion, gave a great deal of positive encouragement to my initiative, including a tweet that said, “Could be a fascinating game changer for charities to raise funds”.
However, as with any new initiative, the bill has also raised some concerns regarding its implementation. For this reason, it is important that the bill receive a full examination at committee to ensure, as I believe, that the advantages will far outweigh any potential perceived disadvantages.
As a government, we need to further enhance our partnerships with charities to seek their input and expertise and to further promote the important role that charities play in our society. As members of Parliament, all of us in the House are here to work for the greater good and are striving to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve. I encourage all members to support my bill, which will further support our charities and help them to fulfill our shared goal of building a better society.
The Economy March 1st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government is focused on what matters most to Canadians: jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. However, we all recognize that Canada is not immune to the global economic challenges from beyond our borders. As we have said many times, Canada's economy has been and will continue to be impacted by ongoing turbulence from both the U.S. and Europe.
Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance please update the House on the state of Canada's economy?
Literacy February 13th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, teaching a young child to read is one of the most important and one of the most rewarding things we can do as parents and as a society.
Early childhood literacy not only provides an essential foundation for individual lifelong learning and success, it also prepares our future workforce to compete in the knowledge economy and enhances the quality of life for all citizens.
Ensuring that all young people can learn to read is the goal of Strong Start, an organization in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo. Strong Start delivers an effective program that builds initial reading skills and enables children of all backgrounds and capabilities to succeed in a school setting.
Please join me in congratulating the staff and volunteers of Strong Start for their commitment to early literacy and for making a difference in the lives of families in our community.
National Defence February 12th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to see someone from my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo featured prominently on the national stage. Today Tom Jenkins presented his report, “Canada First: Leveraging Defence Procurement Through Key Industrial Capabilities”.
Could the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women please update the House on what this report means for our important defence and security industries in Canada?
Conflict in Mali February 5th, 2013
Mr. Chair, I am somewhat surprised by the question. I know my hon. colleague has been here for this evening's discussion and debate, but it seems as if perhaps he did not listen.
Our government has made significant investments in the country of Mali. We have been involved in international development efforts in Mali since 1962. In 2010-11 we contributed over $110 million. Our commitment remains very strong.
We want to see the return to democracy in Mali and we support those efforts. The French effort, the military effort, is unfolding as we speak and it is progressing well. We need to let that situation continue to unfold. It is going in the right direction. We look forward to a full return to democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law in the country of Mali.
Conflict in Mali February 5th, 2013
Mr. Chair, that is a question that I am pleased to have the opportunity to answer and one that is really a patently unfair notion with respect to our government.
I am the vice-chair of the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association, and I know a bit about our government's commitment to Africa. We were the first G8 country to fulfill our commitment to double aid to Africa. That is leadership.
I mentioned earlier the Prime Minister's initiative on child and maternal health, which benefits primarily women and children in Africa. We have untied food aid, which is a particularly significant initiative.
Let me briefly explain one important initiative that pertains to my own riding of Kitchener—Waterloo, to which our government provided strong support. Through the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the next Einstein initiative has the goal of finding the next Einstein in Africa.
Supporting Africans, helping Africans find the solutions they need to their own challenges, that is leadership.
Conflict in Mali February 5th, 2013
Mr. Chair, I certainly reject the premise of the question. Our Prime Minister has shown significant leadership with respect to Africa. The child and maternal health initiative is the pride of all Canadians. It is a signature Canadian initiative that is making an incredible mark on the world, saving the lives of women and children primarily in the continent of Africa.
In terms of the leadership of our Minister of International Cooperation, a number of months ago we established a matching fund so that Canadians who donated to the Sahel crisis would have their donations matched. More recently, our minister was in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, where he pledged additional Canadian support for humanitarian efforts in Mali. That is leadership.
Conflict in Mali February 5th, 2013
Mr. Chair, education is a key focus of our development efforts, not only in Mali but across the African continent. Supporting education is critical to helping to build a strong society, to helping to give children and youth the tools they need to succeed in their respective societies. This is just one example where Canada, through our international development agency, CIDA, is having a direct positive impact on the people of Mali, particularly on its children in this case.
Conflict in Mali February 5th, 2013
Mr. Chair, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to participate in this take note debate on this important topic as we approach the midnight hour. I want to thank my colleagues across the House of Commons for participating in the discussion this evening.
As the House knows, events in Mali are unfolding quickly, and the Government of Canada is gravely concerned about the growing humanitarian crisis, not just in Mali but in the wider Sahel region. I welcome the opportunity to shed light on Canada's current role in providing assistance to Mali and in the Sahel.
Our hearts go out to the people of Mali. For nearly two decades, supported by a government committed to democracy, Malians have persevered against terrible odds. They have worked hard to reduce hunger, malnutrition, corruption and illiteracy, and Canada has been proud to support all of their efforts in this regard.
Our government developed a long-term program that supported Mali's own strategy for reducing poverty. Within that framework, the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, focused on three priorities: the needs of children and youth, including the health of newborns and their mothers; food security; and governance. Our investments helped to generate impressive results, especially in the areas of health and education.
For example, between 2006 and 2010, the rate of prenatal consultation increased from 75% to 79%. Between 2007 and 2010, the percentage of live births attended by skilled health personnel jumped from 41% to 43%. More recently, in 2010, primary students received more than 1.2 million new textbooks, which allowed Mali to meet its target ratio of two textbooks per student. That will have a significant impact on the quality of their education.
In these troubled times, Canada remains a steadfast partner in Mali and the wider region in West Africa.
Drought and poor harvest over the last two years, combined with conflict in the north, has jeopardized the access of some two million people in Mali to nutritious food. It has put at risk the education of countless children and youth and has forced more than 385,000 people to flee their homes in search of sanctuary, either within Mali or in neighbouring countries. For that reason, Canada continues to provide humanitarian assistance, and in a very strong way.
Our support is helping to distribute hygiene kits to prevent the spread of illness and disease. It is feeding children suffering from hunger and malnutrition. It is providing blankets and shelter to families who have left everything behind. It is enabling families to earn money so that they can meet their basic needs with dignity.
Our government will continue to respond to the evolving humanitarian needs of the Malian people. Through our partners, such as the international Red Cross movement, the UN World Food Programme and Canadian NGOs, our support is reaching people desperately in need, both in Mali and in affected countries.
Canada's support does not end at Mali's borders. Canada has a long history of assisting our friends in Africa. In fact, last year, nearly half of CIDA's assistance focused on sub-Saharan Africa. In 2011-2012, Africa received 62% of our total food security program, 60% of our agricultural support and 63% of our health support. These are significant numbers.
Canada is a leader in food security. We are the first G8 country to deliver on its L'Aquila food security commitment. Our government has untied food assistance.
As recently as 2007, over half of Canadian food assistance to developing countries had to be purchased in Canada. Tied aid is not effective and it is not efficient.
We are focusing on achieving results for taxpayer investments. Tied aid undermines the ability of developing nations to produce or buy goods for themselves and delays the assistance from reaching the people who so desperately need it.
That is why our Conservative government untied all food aid in 2008 and set 2012-13 as the deadline for fully untying the goods and services delivered through Canadian aid programs. Through our support, 7.8 million chronically food insecure people have been given food in Ethiopia, for example. Over 1.3 million people in Mali have been given emergency food and nutrition assistance. These are results.
We work with African countries both bilaterally and regionally. At the heart of Canada's approach is our support for African-led solutions to development challenges and regional problems. We support major global and multilateral organizations that work in Africa, notably the African Union, the African Development Bank, the UN World Food Programme, the United Nations Children's Fund and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
With our assistance, African countries have made significant progress on a number of fronts in recent years. We know that issues like drought, disease and conflict do not respect national borders. That is why we are taking a regional approach with regard to our assistance in Mali.
Last February, for example, Canada answered an emergency appeal from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This helped to provide essential items, such as blankets, kitchen sets, shelter and sanitary supplies to Malians who had fled to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. In that same month Canada provided support to the International Red Cross to deliver household items and hygiene kits as well as food to some 600,000 people, including populations in the north of Mali where the needs were greatest and the risks were highest.
We took further steps this past summer. In August Canada made a contribution to the World Food Programme. This helped to provide food and nutrition assistance to Malian refugees in Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.
Members know that we stood shoulder to shoulder with our friends in the Sahel region, by creating the Sahel crisis matching fund in response to an escalating food security and nutrition crisis in the region. As part of the matching fund initiative, CIDA allocated funds for the provision of emergency food in the region.
Canada has been a strong friend to the people of Mali and the Sahel region and we continue to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable, particularly women and children.
Just last week at the donors' pledging conference in Ethiopia, the Minister of International Cooperation announced additional assistance for a number of initiatives aimed at addressing pressing humanitarian needs.
We will not abandon Mali. We have collaborated with committed partners in the country for a long time. We are drawing on this expertise now to support work on the front lines. We will continue to stand with the people of Mali in their time of need.
BlackBerry February 4th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, the BlackBerry is back. I am proud to have BlackBerry headquartered in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo. The company is our region's largest employer and corporate supporter.
I am also proud to be the first member of Parliament with the coveted new BlackBerry 10 in my hands.
Released last week, in a splash around the world, the new operating system has received rave reviews. RIM invented the Smartphone and, once again, BlackBerry is transforming the industry. This is Canadian innovation at its best.
Some have suggested that there may be an element of national pride at stake here, perhaps not unlike a gold medal hockey game. Well, it is sudden death overtime and BlackBerry just put the puck in the net.