Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the House on the third reading of Bill C-4, An Act respecting not-for-profit corporations and certain other corporations.
First of all, I would like to thank the chair, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, and the rest of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, the committee on which I sit, for the committee's hard work in the examination of this piece of legislation. The extensive bill we were required to study dealt with highly complex subject matter, and the time and the seriousness for which the committee approached the task are greatly appreciated.
I would also like to thank all those who appeared before the committee to make comments and suggestions. In studying this bill, the committee was able to draw on the collective expertise of these witnesses, which allowed it to improve the bill through a number of amendments based directly on their recommendations.
This bill, which was returned to the House by the committee, is an important step forward for the volunteer and not-for-profit sectors in Canada in terms of governance.
The corporations that will benefit from Bill C-4 touch on all aspects of our lives. Some are charitable organizations, others represent groups of individuals or companies or provide services for their members or for their communities regardless of their mission or size. All of these organizations will benefit from the provisions of the new Canada not-for-profit corporations act.
It must be remembered that the current legislative framework for federally incorporated not-for-profit corporations has not been substantially altered in over 90 years. As a result, the current legislative framework imposes an administrative and financial burden on the organizations involved. Bill C-4 proposes that this framework be replaced by new legislation, the Canada not-for-profit corporations act, which will help alleviate those burdens.
Under the new legislation, incorporating a not-for-profit organization would only take a few days and would involve very little paperwork. The requirements imposed upon these corporations would be reduced to the strict minimum to ensure good governance depending on their size and objectives. The new act will give not-for-profit organizations the flexibility they need to concentrate on their mission. For example, these organizations and their members will finally be able to make full use of modern electronic means to communicate and to hold their assemblies and meetings.
The new act will provide a modern governance framework for the volunteer sector based on member accountability that will allow it to fully play its role. Members will be equipped with the tools they need to effectively manage their organizations. They will also be able to take appropriate measures to correct certain situations when necessary.
In addition, the governance framework will provide the Canadian public with a means of ensuring that sums of money raised are used appropriately and in a responsible manner, which should help boost Canadians' level of trust in not-for-profit corporations.
In order to be able to operate, most not-for-profit corporations count on the support of Canadians from all walks of life. Millions of Canadians are either employed directly in the not-for-profit sector or volunteer their time. In one way or another, they do this to help not-for-profit corporations.
Coming at a time when the expectations of the Canadian public and the members of these organizations have never been higher, the proposed new governance structure in the Canada not-for-profit corporations act will greatly clarify the roles and responsibilities of the directors and officers of the corporations.
The clear duty of care and the due diligence defence against liabilities will help ensure that federal not-for-profit corporations will continue to be equipped to recruit and retain the services of energetic and talented individuals as officers and directors.
For all these reasons, this bill is long overdue. During the committee hearings on Bill C-4, a number of witnesses stated that this new bill would greatly improve the governance system and legal framework of not-for-profit corporations and corporations without share capital in Canada. All agreed on the need to pass Bill C-4, some insisting that it be done quickly.
When such an important framework statute that affects our economy is being modernized and updated, certainty as to how the changes will come about and be enforced is of great importance to all stakeholders.
The government recognizes this and will take concrete steps to help the not-for-profit sector to transition into the new act. With that in mind, a number of tools such as guides and fact sheets along with model articles of incorporation and model bylaws are being developed by Corporations Canada to help not-for-profit corporations and their directors adjust to the new regime.
Notification of the passage of this bill along with information on the availability of materials that will assist in the transition to the new legislation will be sent out to all corporations that will be impacted. This information will be posted on Corporations Canada's website for easy reference, and officials will be available to assist, if required.
Finally, Corporations Canada will work with other government departments and voluntary sector umbrella organizations to deliver training materials to affected corporations.
I am convinced that the flexibility and ease of use provided by this new legislation will be recognized, accepted and welcomed by the volunteer sector.
Let us wait no longer. Corporations in the voluntary and not-for-profit sectors need a framework that is free of excessive demands and also of red tape. They need it as soon as possible. I therefore encourage all members to support this initiative aimed at providing organizations that are important to Canadians with a modern framework that will allow them to devote their full energies and resources to fulfilling their primary purposes of providing much needed services to millions of Canadians.