An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction for volunteer emergency service)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Rick Casson  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Dec. 5, 2002
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2011 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my friend on a very good presentation to the House.

In discussing the budget, an hon. member made reference to the firefighters tax credit. A point of order was made to attempt to straighten everyone out about the fact that Liberal members did not vote against the firefighters tax credit. I wonder if my hon. friend recalls our friend Rick Casson putting forward his private member's bill, Bill C-325.

Does the member recall that almost every Liberal, and I say “almost” because I have not counted them, voted against it. I wonder if the House would allow me to table the press release from the Hon. Rick Casson and, of course, the voting record of members, particularly of the Liberal Party. Would the member be willing to allow me to table that in the House, of course based on the Speaker's ruling?

Liberal Party of CanadaStatements by Members

March 24th, 2011 / 2:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, in yet another chapter of partisan politics, the Liberals are proving to the public that they are not concerned about policy or people, but are just in it for themselves.

After the tax exemption for volunteer firefighters was presented in the budget this week, the member for Malpeque was falsely claiming that it was a Liberal idea.

That is really interesting because, on October 8, 2003, he voted against that tax credit put forward in my private members' bill, Bill C-325. The bill, which I originally introduced in December 2002, failed by a narrow margin of 96 to 99. Ninety-seven of the 99 members who voted against it were Liberals.

Does it matter whose idea something was? Are we not here to get things done for the people of Canada? How can Canadians trust Liberal members who at one time vote against something but change their position when they feel some political advantage is possible?

Is this not just another deliberate effort to mislead on the part of the Liberals? This is a question voters will need to consider when they choose their next member of Parliament.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 1st, 2008 / 1:50 p.m.
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Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting discussion. I suggest for the hon. member for Malpeque, in response to his answer to my question, that perhaps the more effective role at that time, rather than voting no, might have been to suggest an amendment, which may have made the private member's bill better for the firefighters.

However, I welcome the opportunity to acknowledge in the House the tremendous work and the efforts of emergency service volunteers, especially volunteer firefighters. Firefighters put their lives on the line responding to emergencies at a moment's notice, as my hon. colleague has suggested, making our neighbourhoods safer. Every community and every Canadian benefits from their selfless acts of heroism.

That is why I was so pleased to see our government recognize in budget 2007 that firefighters must have the proper training to effectively respond to emergencies.

The government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, provided $1 million to the International Association of Fire Fighters to support the hazardous materials training program, a move hailed by IAFF general president Harold Schaitberger in a March 21, 2007 press release, as a major advance for public safety in Canada, one they thanked the government “for listening and for acting decisively on this issue”.

These men and women, for whose contributions we all will forever remain grateful, protect our families, homes, businesses and the communities in which we live. Consequently, some volunteer firefighters and other emergency service volunteers often receive honorariums, most commonly in the range of only a few hundred dollars, in recognition of their vital contribution to the community.

I am not sure what amount of money could ever truly compensate an individual for putting his or her life on the line for others. However, these honoraria are paid by municipalities and other public authorities.

Under the current income tax rules, emergency service volunteers can receive up to $1,000 in such honoraria without having to pay any tax on this amount. If a volunteer receives an honorarium that exceeds $1,000, he or she would only have to include the amount above the $1,000 in income. In other words, if the honorarium were $1,200, only $200 would be added to the volunteer's income for tax purposes.

This special treatment is well deserved. It is a way to recognize the crucial role played by emergency service volunteers across Canada, who routinely give of their time and put themselves in harm's way with virtually no expectation of payment and in doing so, exemplify all the traits that we respect and admire. This is especially true in our smaller rural communities and towns where volunteer firefighters play a vital role, which many in larger cities may not fully appreciate.

As columnist Robert Aaron once noted, and I will paraphrase, it is in these places where neighbours look out for each other, where they are willing to risk their lives for each other.

Mike Walsh, past president of the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association, echoed that sentiment, remarking that volunteer firefighters “answer the call every day, literally putting their lives on the line for the people of their communities”.

A few Septembers back in my home riding of Macleod, I had the honour to be part of the High River Fire Department's 100th centennial gala. It truly was a memorable evening, as I heard first-hand of the contributions that our firefighters had made throughout the years, the good they had done, the sense of community that they had fostered, and I witnessed the respect and the admiration their neighbours felt for them.

This is why I always look forward to meeting with firefighters, such as the Lethbridge Fire Fighters Association, which myself, along with my colleague from Lethbridge, had the pleasure of sitting down with this past April. If I may take a moment, the member for Lethbridge has consistently been among Parliament's strongest advocates for firefighters and emergency service volunteers in his years in Ottawa, and I applaud him for that.

The legislation before us today seeks to recognize the importance of such emergency service volunteers, proposing a graduated income tax deduction that would see the size of the deduction increase with the number of hours volunteered.

To be more precise, emergency service volunteers would benefit from $1,000 deduction from income if they volunteered for over 100 hours or more and a $2,000 deduction if they volunteered at least 200 hours.

This issue is not new, though. In recent years very similar private members' bills, Bill C-325, introduced in the 37th Parliament, and Bill C-273, introduced in the 38th Parliament, similarly sought a deduction for emergency service volunteers based on hours volunteered.

I note, however, that Parliament declined to endorse both pieces of legislation. Indeed, the Standing Committee on Finance, after undertaking a thorough review of Bill C-273 in November of 2005, recommended that the House of Commons not proceed further with the bill based on a litany of concerns, such as: the definition of the term “volunteer emergency services” and what would it include; the definition of the term “emergency” and what it would be restricted to; the activities that would qualify in determining the number of hours of volunteering; the existence of accurate, reliable record keeping and reporting capacity to determine the number of hours of volunteer emergency services; the extent to which the number of hours of volunteer service in the proposal had been set at the appropriate level; whether the authority responsible for keeping records would be a municipal authority or an entity approved by the municipality; whether the term “volunteer” would be synonymous with unpaid; the relative merits of a tax deduction versus a refundable or non-refundable tax credit; the extent to which provincial, territorial tax revenues would be affected by the proposed measure; and the extent to which this type of measure should be designed, only following consultation with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Many of these concerns are still present in the legislation before us today and will require further examination as we progress. Among them is the recurring question of fairness and equity that has arisen during previous incarnations of this debate. Basically the issue, as portrayed by certain observers, is whether this measure would be fair and reasonable from the perspective of other volunteers who also selflessly volunteer their time, but are not classified as emergency service volunteers. To illustrate this, examples of people who work in hospitals, or with people with disabilities, or with children in need are often evoked.

Ironically enough, in previous debates on similar legislation, it has traditionally been Liberal members who have made such claims. Indeed, on October 6, 2003, in this very chamber, the current Liberal member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine articulated just that when she remarked:

—I fear that the hon. member's proposition may go too far. While it is very generous toward emergency service volunteers, it may be perceived as being unfair to other taxpayers who are also volunteers.

I recognize that emergency service volunteers want to be recognized for what they do, but...I am concerned about the fact that we are asking the House to put a value on one type of volunteerism as opposed to others.

Clearly, as the House acknowledged previously, a rigorous examination surrounding the proposal outlined in Bill C-219 is merited as we move forward.

I think often of our volunteer fire departments in our own communities, those of us who have the privilege of representing rural ridings. As my hon. colleague from Malpeque mentioned, many who represent their constituents in the House have been volunteer firefighters.

We all agree that we need to look at this in the most appropriate fashion. However, we need to recognize that we have to be very cautious in picking winners and losers and who will receive a tax credit and who will not receive one.

I think of one of the individuals who actually opposed me in my nomination process in 2004, with whom I got to be very good friends, Gordon Colwell, from the town of Okotoks in my riding. He is an amazing, compassionate individual, one who is the prime example of the volunteers we are discussing here today.

We all have friends. There is the mayor of my hometown of Clareshome. He is a firefighter who spends countless hours involved in putting his life on the line for the rest of us.

I also had the experience just last fall of having a fire on my farm. I was not even present. I could not count the number of neighbours who arrived at my farm with water trucks and firefighting equipment. That begs the question, do we acknowledge and offer tax credits to those individuals who did not ask for it, who came to help?

VolunteersStatements By Members

October 28th, 2003 / 2:10 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Progressive Conservative Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier this month I rose to support Bill C-325, a private member's bill that would have allowed volunteer emergency service workers, such as firefighters, to claim a much deserved tax credit in recognition of the tireless service they provide the community.

After spending 14 years as a volunteer fireman, I have a firsthand appreciation for the tremendous work these groups contribute to our society and know all too well how poorly these volunteers are compensated financially.

The Liberal government has greatly reduced services offered to Canadians and volunteers are being called upon to pick up the slack. It can be easy to forget just how many Canadians, especially in rural Canada, benefit from the service of volunteers.

I want to thank volunteer firefighters right across Canada who give of themselves in order that others may be helped. This was a good bill and should have been passed. I say shame on the government for voting against it.

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

October 9th, 2003 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague from Windsor West for his questions. I will try to deal with them as efficiently as I can.

The vote on Bill C-325 last night was a tragedy from the perspective that it lost by only three votes. It was 99 to 96. We were recommending income tax deductions for emergency workers and people who provide emergency services to protect us from fires. Most of them come from rural areas. The government opposed it. Overall there were a number, and I will give them credit for it, of members from the government side who voted in favour. It brought us really close but did not quite get us over.

It is a pittance compared to what we are talking about in Bill C-48. Our estimate is that probably over the first five years of these incentives it will be at least a billion and probably closer to a billion and a half dollars. In terms of those emergency workers, I do not know if we would have got up to a few million in terms of the break we were trying to give them and in effect saying to them that as a government, as a Parliament, as their elected leadership in the country, we prize what they were doing for us. The message they got yesterday was obviously that we do not.

We are going to hear if the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance says that he cannot afford the money that has been promised to the provinces for health care when he makes his financial statement in November.

We look at that and see that we cannot find that $2 billion, but we can find this for a very profitable industry. We then say to the minister that this industry is a polluter and that it should be paying its share. It should not be getting tax breaks. On the other hand, the government will say it cannot find money for health and will stick it to the provinces. They will have to find ways to deal with all the health problems that have been specifically created as the result of the burning of fossil fuels. It is terrible policy making on the part of the government.

As for the consumers getting the money, it is obvious they will not. There have been any number of other times when these tax breaks have been given and incentives provided, but did we see a reduction to our cost at the gas pump or the cost of home heating fuel? The obvious answer was, no. We did not get any of those breaks. The government stayed with the companies with their high-paid executives and money going to the shareholders.

On Kyoto and the marketing issue, I am really happy to hear that question because I have not had the opportunity to raise it in the House. We had the Kyoto announcement of spending about a billion dollars at a press conference attended by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Industry and the Minister of the Environment.

We have this retrofit program. The government has set aside $75 million. Everybody in the country who knows anything about it has told the government it is nowhere near enough. It also set aside $45 million to educate Canadians. That is an insult to Canadians.

Canadians led the fight dragging and kicking the government behind it to finally ratify Kyoto. We had people in the country in the ratio of 65% to 75% saying they were convinced that we had to ratify Kyoto and they finally got the government to do it. Now, is the government going to tell them what they have to do to implement around retrofit programs in their own homes and conservation? They do not need the education.

This is going to be another one of those boondoggles. It is going to be money going to the friends of the government to run absolutely useless education programs, promotional programs for conservation and doing retrofitting. It is not necessary. The dollars that need to be spent on that are probably a small percentage of the $45 million that has been set aside.

The Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 8th, 2003 / 6:10 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House will now proceed to the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-325, under private members' business.

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

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 6th, 2003 / 11:40 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-325 to amend the Income Tax Act to allow emergency workers to deduct $3,000 from their taxable income from any source.

This is a very good bill and the timing of this debate is very interesting from a personal standpoint. There are many stories out there but last week Ottawa hosted the World Extrication Championships. These are in categories called limited, unlimited, and rapid-ex. This is for emergency workers, most usually associated with a fire department, who attend the scene of accidents and remove people from cars. They basically have to be able to tear the car apart to get the people out and get them out safely, all in a timely basis.

There were 29 teams from around the world. For the first time ever this event was held in North America and because it was in Canada, Canada had quite a few teams. There were teams from Mississauga, Burlington, Scugog, Port Hope, Sooke in British Columbia, Halifax and Cumberland, British Columbia which is in my riding.

This is a rather interesting story, because Cumberland is a small community of about 2,500 people, all volunteer. This team went up against teams from all over the world, many of them from large communities and who are fully paid personnel, from Australia, the U.K., the U.S. and Spain. In many ways Cumberland is a large exception.

We have heard other people speak today about how important volunteer emergency workers are within our rural communities. For example, it takes 30 volunteers to run the fire department in Cumberland. Cumberland is located very close to the North Island Highway. Historically a lot of accidents happen on the North Island Highway.

The Cumberland volunteer fire department is quite the story. They have become very specialized. A group within those 30 individuals has become very specialized at auto extrication; that is, taking people out of cars and getting them the paramedic assistance they need in a big hurry. They have saved a lot of lives.

I call the specialty individuals the junkyard dogs because they practise in the local junkyard, and they do that to the point where they have become world-class. I want to congratulate Ken, the team captain, as well as Glen, Sean, Mike and Bob. This dedicated group has previously won the western Canada championship. Last fall they went to the world championships in Prague. They are great ambassadors for Canada.

This costs money out of their pockets. It took a total community effort. Members can imagine how expensive that is and how difficult that is for a community of 2,500 people. The province gave some assistance. Their member of Parliament gave them some assistance. There was a request to the senior minister from British Columbia for some small assistance. I did not receive a response to the letter I sent making that request, and that still sticks in my craw.

However, these individuals are fantastic emissaries for the country. They are proud Canadians. Members cannot imagine how proud I was to be with the Cumberland extrication team on Saturday at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata. This was the wrap-up awards dinner that was held after a week of contest events. I was a proud Canadian, and so were they.

Then they announced the first of the 12 team awards in the four categories for first, second and third place. Cumberland placed third in the limited category at the world championships. This is an all-volunteer force in a little community. No other Canadian team won an award. This was an amazing result. I can only say how proud I am and how proud we all can be.

What does this mean? It means another fundraising effort in order to be able to go to the world's in Plymouth, England, next year. Can the Cumberland team attend? The team is not sure. It costs the individuals out of pocket expenses to attend these championships every time. Four of the five individuals on the team are forest industry workers. We know how difficult it has been to maintain continuous employment over the last period of time because of the softwood lumber dispute. The captain of the team holds down two jobs to make ends meet.

Would this bill make a difference? Yes, it would. Cumberland only exemplifies what happens in many other communities. Not only do the individuals make sacrifices, but their families do also. They make sacrifices financially and this takes these individuals away from their families.

These are volunteer emergency workers, the very people who run toward trouble rather than away from it. These are people the population at large absolutely require to make our society work properly.

I wholeheartedly endorse the intent, the mechanics, and the specifics of Bill C-325. I congratulate the member for Lethbridge for his very good initiative.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 6th, 2003 / 11:30 a.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I speak to Bill C-325. I strongly support any measure to improve conditions of emergency service volunteers across Canada, particularly in rural Atlantic Canada.

I think many people from larger urban centres do not realize the degree to which emergency services in rural Atlantic Canadian communities are overwhelmingly provided by volunteers. They risk their lives and are subject to significant injury. They take time from their careers and their families to go out and potentially make the ultimate sacrifice in trying to protect us, whether it is in search and rescue operations, or in first response paramedic services, which many of our rural fire departments are now providing, or in simple fire protection.

There has been a tremendous increase in the burden placed on our rural volunteer fire departments and emergency service volunteer organizations in recent years. If we were to ever consider the cost to government, federal, provincial and municipal, of trying to provide adequate emergency services to rural and small town communities, we would find that providing a federal tax benefit, either a tax credit or a tax deduction, would seem to be a pittance compared to the actual cost of government run infrastructure to provide emergency services, or fire protection, or search and rescue or first response services to rural communities.

I live in a community called Cheverie in Hants county, Nova Scotia. This is the community in which I grew up. We benefit from the local fire protection of the Summerville volunteer fire department, as well as the Walton volunteer fire department. In many cases, when there is a fire, we see volunteer fire departments work together to deal with the situation. The level of emergency services that we enjoy in that small community or the protection we have against disaster there is extraordinary, and the services are all provided by volunteers .

The fact is it has expanded beyond simple fire protection, to the extent that if something were to happen to a member of my family or myself from a health perspective, a medical emergency, the first people to the scene in all likelihood would be the first response team of the Summerville fire department. They are well trained but they are still volunteers.

The idea of finding ways through the tax system to encourage volunteerism in our emergency services makes so much sense. I know one argument I heard during other debates in the House by members opposite, even in the debate about a motion that I presented to the House in 2000 to provide a tax credit for emergency service volunteers, was that if we provided a tax credit or tax advantage for volunteers in the emergency services, then we would have to do it for volunteers in youth recreation, sports, the Boy Scouts or Girl Guides or whatever.

Emergency service volunteers are by definition different from any other sort of volunteer. When we talk about emergency service volunteers, we talk about people who risk their lives to protect us from things whether it be our house burning down or a medical emergency, or to protect us during a search and rescue. It is during these life and death situations that these volunteers take time from their lives, their families and careers. It is an extraordinary commitment that goes well beyond ordinary volunteerism, frankly.

I have some excerpts from the 2002 annual report of the Windsor, Nova Scotia, volunteer fire department. It states:

We have been responding to unprecedented numbers of Mutual Aid calls over the past few years and indications are that this situation will continue into the foreseeable future...most of these responses occur during what are working hours for the majority of our volunteer firefighters, which makes it difficult for us to continue to muster up the people we need for an adequate response...on the other hand, we recognize the fact that we too require assistance on a more regular basis than we once did, as we are much more conscious of our obligation to keep our station adequately staffed during times when we are out on calls.

Based on the annual report of the Windsor fire department in Windsor, Nova Scotia, there are more and more calls for volunteer firefighters and those calls are happening during working hours. It is not just the firefighters themselves who are making a contribution. Their employers are also making a contribution indirectly by providing that level of career and work flexibility to enable volunteer firefighters to provide that level of protection.

With regard to the issue of finding enough local volunteer firefighters for the proposed South West Hants fire station, the Windsor fire chief cited a lack of funding and acknowledged that:

We have seen very few people in the area express an interest in becoming firefighters.

It is becoming harder to find emergency service volunteers. If we consider the sacrifice to careers, time with families, the risk of life and the dollar cost of being a volunteer, whether it is the cost for equipment or the cost for fuel and car expenses to travel to the emergencies, we ask a tremendous amount of our emergency service volunteers. If we were to consider the cost of providing this sort of infrastructure through a cooperative level of government, whether federal, provincial or municipal, without the involvement of volunteers, it would be basically impossible to afford the kind of protection that is taken for granted in a lot of rural communities.

I know a lot of people from urban Canada who, when they visit me in rural Nova Scotia, find it almost unfathomable that basic fire protection is provided by volunteers, but it is. We have to find a way to recognize the incredible contribution that our emergency service volunteers, our firefighters and first response paramedics, make on a day to day basis with a benefit through the tax system. Year in and year out these individuals are there to protect us.

I agree with the hon. member for Elk Island and his suggestion that it would be better to have a tax credit than a tax deduction. It probably would be simpler and it would provide a more direct benefit. The gross amount could be reduced to reflect the difference in terms of the actual tax benefit of a tax credit compared to a tax deduction.

I support Bill C-325 in terms of what it is trying to accomplish. I urge all members of the House to take a very positive step and recognize in a meaningful way the extraordinary commitment and contributions that emergency service volunteers provide across Canada. This type of legislation, whether it be a tax credit or a deduction, has been debated for many years in this place.

I have been here since 1997 and we have had these sorts of debates on various private members' motions, including my own. We have debated them ad nauseam. We have discussed this at finance committee as well as in the House during prebudget discussions. It is time for a multi-partisan response to the crisis that exists across Canada of the growing demands on our emergency service volunteers and the diminishing number of Canadians who have the time or the willingness to risk life and limb, to spend their own money, to sacrifice their career time and their time with their family to protect the rest of us.

The right thing for us to do would be to support this sort of tax deduction or tax credit and to move forward with a firm commitment to making Canadian communities safer while recognizing the extraordinary commitment of our emergency service volunteers.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 6th, 2003 / 11:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I do each time I am called upon to speak to a bill, I have taken the time to consult my constituents about the impact of passing Bill C-325. I also took a few moments to reread what has already been said in this House concerning the bill introduced by the hon. member for Lethbridge.

Essentially, the purpose of this bill is to grant an income tax deduction of $3,000 to anyone who performs over 200 hours of volunteer service with an emergency organization. The deduction would be granted to a volunteer on providing proof of the number of hours given to the community.

Rereading the speeches, I was surprised to see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health missed the point by mixing up all kinds of volunteerism. I would like to remind him that the bill addresses volunteer emergency service.

I made a brief list of the organizations found in my riding: volunteer firefighters, St. John Ambulance and the Service d'intervention d'urgence du Centre-du-Québec, or SIUCQ.

In each of these, volunteers not only give their time, but must take training to be able to act effectively in tragic circumstances. Once they complete basic training, volunteers must take part in a continuing education program in order to stay abreast of the latest intervention methods. Our communities cannot do without the presence of these specially trained emergency volunteers. They are all important; from the first aider to the volunteer ambulance driver, these people should be better recognized.

Thus, rather than being a payment, the tax deduction of $3,000 should be thought of as an incentive to aid recruitment. I do not think that passage of Bill C-325 would cause a huge rush to join these organizations. Bill C-325 is simply a small, tangible recognition of the many services rendered.

Here I am referring to St. John Ambulance volunteers . In this House, I often tell my hon. colleagues about activities going on in my riding. And St. John Ambulance volunteers are almost always involved. These volunteers go to sporting and cultural events alike, in order to help anyone who might get injured during the show. They would certainly appreciate the recognition provided for in this bill. Let us not lose sight of the tremendous work that they do. The St. John Ambulance attendants are needed by the people of Drummondville and all the communities in Quebec where they work.

Gratien Gagnon, assistant regional commissioner—region 4—for St. John Ambulance, told me that out of the twenty or so members in his organization, seven exceed 200 hours of volunteer work a year. For Mr. Gagnon, calculating the hours is not a chore, since St. John Ambulance already keeps track of these hours and publishes them in its annual report.

During a discussion, he said that the bill could be a good incentive for recruitment, provided that it does not involve more red tape for claiming hours worked. Mr. Gagnon did not hesitate to tell me that one thing is certain: this type of work is not really recognized. Organizations provide compensation, but in the end it is just so much paper.

I also inquired asked questions of the emergency response service known as the Service d'intervention d'urgence du Centre-du-Québec. Again, it is the same thing. There is a register of hours worked. Each volunteer is required to indicate his or her hours of attendance in writing. He or she must also sign the register upon arriving and departing the local chapter of the agency and any training activity. The presence of an agency such as the SIUCQ is a major asset for my region.

Although the various tragic events in our community are far from pleasant memories, whether the mini-tornado that hit part of Grantham Ouest in 1999 or the search for the lady with Alzheimer's reported missing in the summer of 2002, the 70 volunteers of the SUICQ have always played a very important role.

During the four-day search for this lady, the Centre-du-Québec emergency response services coordinated the volunteers. This is the mandate it has been given by the Drummondville public safety office. One would have to have seen them at work to have a clear idea of just what a great contribution they made to the search efforts.

In crisis situations like these, as we saw during the ice storm when the whole area was without power, these volunteers, who are also trained first aiders, helped affected individuals and families, as well as helping restore order after the storm.

In addition to the hours these volunteers spend searching for people, they are constantly involved in skills upgrading in order to take full advantage of the equipment made available to them.

Since by its very nature, disaster is rarely predictable, emergency service volunteers need to be readily reached. For this they need pagers, and the volunteers end up paying for these themselves, because their organizations lack the funds for this. As a result, I feel it is totally appropriate for the government to compensate these volunteers in order to support all they do.

Emergency response volunteers make a vital contribution to the quality of life of hundreds of residents in small communities who would otherwise not have access to fire or ambulance services or to search and rescue.

These services are essential to the safety of the community as a whole. We must not forget, either, that volunteers providing such services often do so at risk of life or limb.

I therefore wish to take this opportunity to draw attention to the work of the committed volunteers in my riding and to again tell them how much I admire them. As a result of that admiration, I support this bill unconditionally, since its purpose it to make a special tax deduction available to people providing these services, which I consider very important.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 6th, 2003 / 11:05 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague from Lethbridge who has brought forward this private member's bill, Bill C-325, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction for volunteer emergency service).

For my good friend, my colleague from Lethbridge, whose riding encompasses a lot of rural areas, this is extremely important. Volunteers are extremely important in rural areas as they man emergency services and are providing the quality of life and that valuable service which otherwise would be extremely costly for Canadian taxpayers. These individuals are volunteers in our rural communities who are manning emergency services. My colleague and everybody who lives in rural Canada recognize the importance of these individuals to their well-being and safety.

My colleague introduced Bill C-325 because, first, he feels there is a need to recognize these people and he actually wants to recognize the importance of the volunteer men and women in emergency services and our dependency on their services. Second, he wants to attract and retain volunteers in a time in which they are increasingly difficult to recruit. Third, he wants to compensate these courageous individuals for their efforts in providing a safe environment for people in rural Canada.

Let us talk about these three points in detail. Let us talk about the importance of volunteer men and women in emergency services. As I said in my earlier remarks, emergency services are very costly services to provide in small rural communities. These individuals who have dedicated their time and training and who work in emergency services, which we all know adds an element of danger to their lives as well, are unsung heroes in their communities.

It is time for us to recognize them. It is time for us to stop, look and see what they are doing. Volunteerism is a very important factor in Canada. This afternoon, in an S.O. 31, I also will speak about volunteers in Canada. Canada is considered the number one country in the world because of volunteers. Volunteers span the whole country from east to west; every community has its volunteers. It is very important that we as public policy makers recognize that those who volunteer their time for the betterment of others should receive recognition and our thanks. We recognize their contributions and this is a very small way of recognizing their contributions.

All we are asking is that the workers be allowed to deduct $3,000 from their taxable incomes from any source. It would help them in many aspects. It would help them in regard to recognition. It would be a small token of appreciation from Canada. It would be a little extra money for their services so that they would feel important, because they are important, and they would recognize that we have not forgotten them.

It is important for us to recognize our volunteers. Volunteerism is the essence of Canadian society. It is the stronghold and foundation of our society. It is what brings us the quality of life such that we are recognized around the globe as the number one country in the world.

In these difficult times we must also look at retaining volunteers. There are pressures of time at their work and for their children. All these things put extra pressure on people, who find that they now have less free time on their hands in which to volunteer.

Therefore, the first thing they will drop is volunteerism, because at the end of the day nobody wants to be burnt out. Those of us who come in daily contact with volunteers know that many of them are already burnt out, but they keep on working for that quality of life.

We must ensure that we do not lose this vital component of our society in Canada, volunteerism, and the best way to do that is to ensure that volunteers feel important, feel that they are part of society and feel recognized. Giving them a tax deduction is an aspect of letting them know that they are a very vital part of the community.

As we have stated, emergency services are considered essential services. Our laws ensure that people in emergency services are always available to provide those very needed services and safety features. So it is with volunteers too. We must make sure that is recognized. We must work to ensure that volunteers are available, because if they are not, then what do we do? Would it mean that these services would be reduced? That is not an acceptable option. Otherwise it would be a very expensive situation for us. A $3,000 tax deduction is not a very big sum of money. It would be a very small token of appreciation for these people.

Third, these are courageous people who have families and other work. They take time off from their work and their families to perform these services as well. They would welcome this reward, which would recognize those who volunteer their time and would make sure that those who live in rural communities or anywhere else have that level of comfort in knowing that emergency services are available in times of difficult situations.

Giving tax benefits is one of the small ways in which we can recognize those who provide services for society. We as politicians have given tax deductions, and generous tax deductions as a matter of fact, to those who contribute to political parties because we recognize the importance of political parties to the democratic system of our country. Hence, we have a system where we recognize quite generously those who donate to political parties. I do not see anything wrong with it. As a matter of fact, developing the system through Bill C-24, which is coming out, where the taxpayer now will foot the bill, is a recognition of the value of democracy in our country.

Here is one of the essential elements, providing volunteers, a vital service, at no cost to the taxpayer. So the recognition of a tax deduction of $3,000 would go a long way. We all know that to get a tax deduction based on one's income, it starts from 18% and goes up. It is not a very generous amount that would cost the Government of Canada a lot of money. The alternative is more expensive.

Therefore, I do not see why we would have difficulty in agreeing to the bill. It is not a big sum of money. It is not going to impact the finance minister's books. As a matter of fact, the government wastes more money on other things like the HRDC boondoggle and the gun registry. They have spent more money wasting it on those things, so why can we not recognize the people who really count, who make our country number one, with this small token of appreciation?

It is my pleasure to support my colleague's bill recognizing these individuals.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 27th, 2003 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I had to wonder if my hon. colleague from Elk Island has a stopwatch on his desk. I see he has a little clock over there that told him he had 12 seconds left. I was both curious and amazed, because in looking around the Chamber I see that we do not have any second hands on the clocks and there is nothing else that can tell us our time is up except the nice indications we get from Mr. Speaker once in a while.

I welcome the opportunity this evening to debate the bill sponsored by the hon. member for Lethbridge.

It seems to me that there are many benefits we receive when we volunteer, as certainly I have received from my own experiences, whether it was coaching minor hockey or being involved in the Metro Food Bank Society in Halifax or other activities. I and volunteers I have talked to through those experiences have all shared the feeling that we often gain more by volunteering than we actually put in.

In other words, the volunteers do tremendous things and give great service to our communities, but many of them would tell us that they actually learn so much and gain so much themselves through their service that it makes it very worthwhile. Those rewards may not be tangible. They may not be dollars and they may not be tax deductions, but I think they are very meaningful to anyone who has volunteered. I would venture to say that everyone in this Chamber has undoubtedly been involved in their community and undoubtedly has volunteered at some time in their life. Probably all members have done a great deal of volunteer work over the years.

Bill C-325 proposes a $3,000 tax deduction for emergency service volunteers. The proposed deductions could be claimed against income from all sources. More specifically, it would apply to those who have given more than 200 hours of volunteer service over the year.

As I have said, there is a variety of benefits people get from volunteering, but I also think we have to consider the real implications and the costs of a provision like this, as well as what possible abuses there might be. We cannot ignore the fact that abuses are possible. If a small community organization gives out receipts or some kind of certificate showing that a person has given 200 hours of volunteer service, we have to make sure that it is being done properly and is valid and that there are no abuses in those cases. In the vast majority of cases, of course, community organizations would not abuse that process, but we still have to consider those possibilities.

In my view, it is not actually any more likely that someone will volunteer because of a tax deduction like this. Hopefully it will not be more likely for a person to volunteer because of a tax deduction. I think people volunteer because they believe in their community, and that really is the best reason for volunteering. People believe in what they are doing and they enjoy it. Volunteering, generally speaking, is very enjoyable. I do not see that this bill is going make it more likely that we will have more volunteers in our society.

I see that I am out of time. I certainly could add a great deal more to my comments. I may not have the actual seconds at my hand as my hon. colleague from Elk Island does, but I see from your look, Mr. Speaker, that my time is up.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 27th, 2003 / 6:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add a few words to the discussion on Bill C-325, put forward by my hon. colleague from Lethbridge.

He of course has my undying loyalty since his daughter lives in my riding. I have to pay a great deal of attention to make sure that all my constituents are happy. I have to be loyal to the member for Lethbridge because of that.

I recognize the history, especially in the remote areas of the country, of volunteers for emergency services. We think of firefighters and ambulance drivers. Not that long ago people from all walks of life were doing this voluntary work and they did it to the best of their ability. Sometimes they were ill-prepared for it because of lack of training and lack of proper equipment in the communities. However they do the best they can and have done so over many years.

I remember quite distinctly, when I was probably five or six years old, living on the prairies. I think I have mentioned in the House before that my father was the one who arranged for a new telephone network. None of us had phones until then. My dad was the one who kicked off organizing phones. These phones were the hand cranked ones. The young people here will really wonder whether I have escaped from the museum recently.

However we had these hand cranked phones. I still remember that our ring was two longs and one short. When our phone rang everyone on the whole network could pick up and listen to what we were saying. It was called a party line at that time. The intention was that one of our neighbours was calling and we would respond because it was our ring.

The practice in those days was that if anyone needed help in an emergency they would get on the phone and crank the thing. It was one very long ring in which case everyone would get on the line. We cannot do today because the present technology does not permit it.

However one morning there was a very long ring. My dad answered the phone and found out that our neighbour had been involved in a farm accident. In fact, my dad was one of the persons who arrived there as soon as he could. He found out that the tractor had actually taken the life of one of our neighbours. This was the lady who was calling to her neighbours asking for help. She said that she needed help.

As a little aside, those were wonderful communities in those days. I also remember that was the year all the neighbours got together and harvested Mrs. Pasch's fields before any of them did their own. That was the kind of community relationship that gave rise to the volunteers who then had the opportunity to go for more training and become better equipped to help people when they were in need.

Bill C-325 reflects that that spirit of co-operation and kinsmanship is still very much alive. It is quite evident in all of the small communities in my riding and certainly in others as well.

My colleague has put forward this bill, which, in a very small way, would give a small monetary recognition to the people who work as volunteers. I commend the member for that. He is obviously reflecting the sentiments of many people who believe that those who volunteer in these emergency services deserve more recognition than just sort of a passing thanks.

As has been mentioned on numerous occasions already in today's debate, this provides for a deduction from taxable income of up to $3,000 for a person who volunteers for a minimum of 200 hours. I am sure my colleague will not mind if I say to him that I certainly support his bill in principle. I would like to see it go to committee, but there are a few revisions which I would recommend to my colleague and to the committee when they study this bill. I think that perhaps he might be open to some of these revisions.

First, as an amateur mathematician I have a bit of a problem with the 200 hour cut-off. This is called in mathematics a stepping function, where it has one value until a certain place, at which point it has a completely different value. To explain what I am referring to I will use an example. If someone worked 195 hours, according to this bill that individual would be entitled to nothing. It is the same for a person who worked 196, 197, 198 or 199 hours, but as soon as they get to the 200 hours suddenly they can deduct up to $3,000 from their taxable income and thereby have a considerable saving in the amount of taxes they would pay.

I would like to see some thought given to changing it from a stepping function into one that perhaps has a little more uniformity to it as it goes along. I know there is a bit of a problem in terms of bookkeeping, but I think it could be done. It would make it much more fair instead of having this instantaneous threshold. That is one little suggestion I have.

I also would like to counter the argument put forward by the parliamentary secretary in terms of the amount of book work required. I think this is an item which is already being done in many instances and it is also, just like our income tax system in totality, based on the honour system. I think it would not be a huge increment to ask a person who is a volunteer to keep an annual log that would contain three columns: the date, the time in and the time out. It would show the hours worked that day. Every time a person was involved in an activity as a volunteer in emergency services it would simply be entered into a log. I really sincerely doubt that it should take more than between five and eight seconds, which is my estimate, for that book work to be done. Then in the end the person would simply have to add it up, put a signature to it and declare that it is accurate; of course there is a rule against providing inaccurate information.

There is something else I would like to recommend, and here I agree somewhat with the parliamentary secretary. I think an amendment should be made to make this into a refundable tax credit so that not only those who have other income get this reward. Very often we find that people who do this kind of volunteering are people who have more free time. Many of them do not have a great deal of independent income, so again, what would happen here I think is a potential unfairness. There could be two people side by side, both of whom meet the criteria but one with larger income who can thereby reduce his or her taxable income and get a benefit, whereas the other person may have little or no income or not even be in a taxable bracket. This would thereby not provide for that individual a thank you in a compensatory form.

I would like to close by commending my colleague for the recognition of a very important element in our society: the work of the volunteer, the person who says, “Yes, if someone is in distress I will be there to help. I will put my own life and safety at risk if necessary and I will do what I can to help my neighbours”. I think this is a good step forward.

I cannot resist saying in my closing 12 seconds that we should probably consider very, very strongly increasing the basic exemption for all Canadians since they are all being taxed to death.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 27th, 2003 / 6:05 p.m.
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Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having this opportunity today to address the members of this House with respect to Bill C-325. If adopted, this bill would entitle emergency service volunteers to claim a $3,000 tax deduction if they provided 200 hours or more of emergency volunteer work.

First, Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more with the member. Emergency service volunteers deserve to be recognized for their valuable contributions to the safety, security and well-being of our communities.

There are numerous examples that come to mind in which emergency service volunteers played an important role: the tornado that whipped through Edmonton in 1987 and left large numbers of Edmontonians homeless, the Manitoba and Saguenay floods, or the crippling ice storm of 1998.

In these instances, disaster relief volunteers provided assistance at critical times. They aided the distressed victims of these natural disasters and helped re-establish calm out of chaos.

There are many kinds of volunteers that deserve some recognition, and there are many different ways to recognize their contributions. This may come as a surprise to some members, but Statistics Canada estimated that there were approximately 6.5 million Canadians across this country who volunteered in 2000. As you can imagine, these volunteers make valuable contributions to their communities in many different ways.

Some volunteers help seniors get around. They coach our children's sports teams. They prepare, serve and deliver meals to others in need. They provide education services and advocate on important issues. And they help protect our environment. In fact, in the year 2000, volunteers freely donated over one billion hours of their time. That is an average of 162 hours per volunteer.

Why do these volunteers give their time so generously? The member's bill reflects a view that emergency service volunteers either expect or need financial recognition for their service. But is this really true?

Statistics Canada has done a very interesting survey that sheds light on this question. Perhaps it should not be surprising, but the survey finds that most Canadians do not appear to expect financial assistance or incentives as a reward for their volunteering.

The National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating asked Canadians why they volunteered. There are a number of reasons, and none of the main reasons are related to financial gain.

Ninety-five per cent said they volunteered because they wanted to help a cause in which they believe; 81% volunteered because they desired to put their skills and experience to work; almost 70% volunteered because they had been personally affected by the cause that the charitable organization supports.

Canadians cited several other reasons for volunteering. They see volunteering as a way to explore their own strengths. They have friends who volunteer and they want to share the experience. They want to fulfill religious obligations or beliefs. And for some, volunteering is a way to demonstrate or acquire skills in order to open doors to new opportunities.

The hon. member's bill is well-intentioned, but it seems to miss the point. Financial rewards are not the reason that Canadians volunteer. Volunteering, first and foremost, comes from the heart.

I reach the same conclusion when I look at the issue from an equally important perspective: the perspective of Canadians who do not volunteer. The same Statistics Canada survey asked Canadians why they did not volunteer or why they did not volunteer more.

You have to search well down the list of reasons to find financial cost. In fact, the main barrier was a lack of time. Seven in ten Canadians cited time limitations, not financial costs, as a reason for not volunteering or not volunteering more.

There are other reasons why Canadians do not volunteer or volunteer more. Some find they are unable to make a year round commitment to volunteering. Some might consider becoming a volunteer, but have never been personally asked to do so. Perhaps they just need an invitation to get them started. Still others cited health problems, or a lack of interest.

At the bottom of the list is financial cost. Barely 10% of all volunteers believe that financial cost is a barrier to volunteering. Again, I respectfully suggest that the bill is aiming at the wrong issue.

Aside from financial rewards, what are some of the other ways to encourage volunteering efforts? There are many ways. Sometimes it is simply raising awareness of the volunteer's cause. Raising awareness is one dimension of the Canadian Volunteerism Initiative. This initiative is backed up with a new investment of $35 million, as announced by the Minister of Heritage last December. This funding will help establish national centres and local networks that, in turn, will help to strengthen the voluntary sector's ability to encourage and enhance the experience of volunteering.

Among other things, these investments will support an outreach awareness campaign, and help organizations develop and test new innovative methods for sustaining volunteerism.

The Canadian Volunteerism Initiative is the first ongoing program to be established under the Voluntary Sector Initiative, a partnership initiative that was established in 2000 to strengthen the voluntary sector's capacity and its relationship with the federal government.

Another way to recognize the efforts of volunteers if through public awards and honours. There are a multitude of awards distributed each year that recognize the outstanding contributions of volunteers. For instance, the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award is bestowed on a long-service volunteer who has contributed substantially to families and groups in his or her community.

I would just like to take a minute to talk about one of those recipients: Mary Fitzpatrick of Newfoundland. Mary was recognized for 14 years of volunteer work. She visited seniors' complexes. She hand-made quilts and donated them to needy individuals. And she knitted finger puppets for children undergoing blood work. Members must have seen those puppets that are put on the tip of the kids' fingers. Mary Fitzpatrick compassionately and freely gave to her community.

Clearly, this is a prime example of how to recognize the contributions of volunteers other than with money.

To reiterate, the private members' bill essentially misses the mark. Providing financial rewards is not the way to recognize and increase volunteer work. Due to the misguided premise of this bill, I would encourage members of this House to vote against it.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 27th, 2003 / 6 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to say a few words on Bill C-325, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, regarding a deduction for voluntary emergency services. At the outset I want to express my support for the bill to the hon. member who introduced the bill. It or something like it should have been introduced in the House of Commons a long time ago. It is long overdue.

The bill is only one page long but it says a lot. It amends section 60 of the Income Tax Act by adding a paragraph to that section. It indicates that an emergency service volunteer could avail of a $3,000 tax deduction if he or she has performed at least 200 hours of service in the previous year. It is a very good bill. As I said, it is a bill that is long overdue and one which we should all support.

Section 60.03 is added. It requires a volunteer to obtain a certificate from the relevant authority attesting to the 200 hours of volunteer service. It stipulates that training time can be included in the 200 hours. It is a reasonable safeguard against the deduction being abused by people who have not put in the necessary time or effort on behalf of their community. As I said, it is a one page bill but it says an awful lot.

We are all very much aware that volunteers are the heart and soul of our community. Volunteers are also part of the economy. I do not know if members are aware that Canada has 7.5 million volunteers. We have 175,000 not for profit organizations. It is a little difficult to believe but those 7.5 million volunteers put 1.1 billion hours of work annually into the Canadian economy for various causes.

Believe it or not, the volunteer work is estimated to be worth about $16 billion annually. That translates into about the budget of four medium size provinces, or four provinces the size of Newfoundland and Labrador. That is $16 billion and it is the equivalent of 578,000 full time jobs. That is remarkable.

In my constituency there are 12 to 15 volunteer fire departments. I very often have the opportunity to attend their various banquets and what have you. I can tell members firsthand of the great contribution these people make to their communities. I feel very lucky to have been the minister of municipal affairs in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador for about three and a half years. I had the opportunity to visit just about every volunteer fire department in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is only when we see the kind of contribution that these people make and we visit so many of them that we actually get a feel and a flavour for all of the hard work they put into emergency volunteer services. We need to be very grateful for the contribution, sometimes of life and limb, that these people make.

Volunteering in the emergency service sector is especially important to our small communities across the country. For many small towns without volunteers there would be no local fire department, no local ambulance service, or no local search and rescue team. While these services are vital to the security of the community at large, they are often a danger to the life and limb of the people performing them. I see absolutely no problem in endorsing a special income tax deduction for people who provide these very important services.

We all have our blue books and red books when we go into campaigns. The Progressive Conservative Party in our blue book, our platform in the 2000 general election, said “A Progressive Conservative government would provide a tax credit of $500 per year to all emergency service volunteers”. Our party's reaction to the government's $1,000 deduction for volunteers in receipt of an honorarium, is it should apply to all emergency service volunteers.

I think it was Winston Churchill who said that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. It is appropriate to make that quote here. Bill C-325 seeks to give back a little to the volunteers who give a lot. As I have said, at times they probably, God forbid, give everything, life and limb included, to make our communities better and safer for all of us. This initiative is even more important in a post-September 11 world.

I congratulate the member for bringing in the bill. I wholeheartedly support moving it forward in the business of the House.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 27th, 2003 / 5:45 p.m.
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Oak Ridges Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Lethbridge, for his initiative. The bill proposes a $3,000 tax deduction for emergency service volunteers and this proposed deduction could be claimed against income from all sources. More specifically, it would apply to those who have given more than 200 hours of volunteer service over the year.

Certainly, having been the past chair of a volunteer organization in my community and on the board of directors for 19 years, I can appreciate the valuable contributions that volunteer make. As a former municipal councillor, I appreciate the tremendous work that volunteers do, whether it is the annual Canada Day events or the Santa Claus parade, et cetera. It is very important and no one should underestimate the work that volunteers give to their communities.

I believe all members of the House appreciate that valuable role and we admire the dedication of volunteers who sometimes risk their lives to help their fellow citizens in emergency situations. Emergency service volunteers play a number of different roles. For example, as the member knows, they fight fires, conduct search and rescue operations, and provide first aid. Indeed, these volunteers respond to thousands of calls each year and in doing so expose themselves to danger, such as going into a home engulfed in flames and filled with toxic smoke in order to rescue a fellow citizen or responding to a traffic accident where there may be a risk of explosion.

It is clear that these volunteers contribute substantially to the security and safety of our country and its citizenry. They accept risks and dangers for the sake of protecting others. Their role is of particular importance in many rural communities, as the hon. member has pointed out, that are not in a position to have full time emergency personnel to handle extreme circumstances such as the Manitoba or Saguenay floods. Each Canadian who has been aided by an emergency service volunteer knows the valuable role of those services. Every Canadian should appreciate that one day they may be the ones who need that help. Knowing that these volunteers are there gives us great comfort and for that we should all be thankful.

The government knows that the safety and security of Canadians is a very important issue. To illustrate that, I would like to remind members of the House that the government in 2001 included in the budget a $6.5 billion investment to enhance the economic and personal security of Canadians. Among those investments was $1.6 billion to enhance emergency preparedness. As a result, Canada will be in a better position to respond to its emergencies, such as natural disasters, emergencies that are often responded to by emergency service volunteers.

The priority that the government gives to security is clear and it is also clear that the government readily agrees with the hon. member for Lethbridge on the important role of emergency services. The issue that I want to explore is what is fair and reasonable, as outlined by the hon. member.

The Income Tax Act already recognizes the important role of emergency service volunteers. These individuals can receive up to $1,000 in financial recognition from a public authority without having to pay any tax. Before 1998, this exemption was targeted at volunteer firefighters and was limited to $500 annually. This special provision is fair and reasonable. If a public authority finds reason to provide a small amount to compensate the emergency service volunteers, for instance, because of the costs they incur in providing their services, the rules essentially say that the government will not diminish the value of the compensation by taxing it.

The rules also relieve public authorities of the burden of having to prepare tax information slips for modest amounts they pay to emergency service volunteers. The measure that is now in place is reasonable and, as I mentioned before, has been enhanced in recent years, but the hon. member's proposal is generous to the point of being unfair. It would impose a significant administrative burden on the organizations that engage emergency service volunteers.

When it comes to fairness there are two points that we should examine. First, if adopted, the hon. member's proposal would significantly compromise the fundamental principle of the tax system, the principle that people with comparable incomes should pay comparable amounts of tax.

The proposed $3,000 deduction is a very significant amount of money, and I would like to take a second to put it in context. The proposal before us would permit emergency service volunteers to receive the equivalent of three months pay at Ontario's minimum wage, tax free. This would hardly be fair or reasonable from the perspective of other persons who also contribute to society.

For instance, consider the plight of a single parent of young children working at a fast food restaurant. This person probably has little time to devote to volunteer activities and thus could not gain access to the deduction because he or she is raising young children, and yet the worker's income is fully subject to taxation.

Not only that, but I point out that the bill proposes a deduction. Tax relief provided by a deduction always depends on the person's highest tax rate. As a result, a deduction would provide more relief to those volunteers with high incomes and it would provide no relief for volunteers with little or no taxable income.

The deduction proposed in this private member's bill may also entitle the taxpayer to more income tested tax benefits like the Canada child tax benefit or the GST credit.

On the grounds of fairness, the bill falls short.

I also want to note the compliance burden that the bill would place on volunteer organizations and volunteers themselves.

In order to fairly administer this proposal it would require public authorities to count the hours of service provided by each volunteer. The volunteer, the public authority, and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency all know when the eligibility criteria, the 200 hours of service, has been surpassed. This may prove difficult to monitor in many situations. That is a lot of accounting. There are more than 400,000 emergency service volunteers in Canada.

Perhaps while being well intentioned, Bill C-325 is unfair on a number of levels. It would impose an undue administrative burden on the organizations that engage volunteers in providing emergency services to Canadians. The intent of the proposal is one which we can appreciate but the difficulty is in terms of administration and in terms of fairness.

I have pointed out to members of the House the fact that in this particular case the government has already made progress in terms of this. I must point out as well that we increased the $500 that individuals can receive up to $1,000 of financial recognition from a public authority without paying any tax.

The issue here is the degree which the member proposes which would be up to $3,000, and the difficulty of administering it. The government cannot support the private member's bill that is before the House today.