Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue the speech I began last week on Bill S-201.
As I said last week, I will be supporting Bill S-201 in its present form. However, I cannot stress enough that this bill to create National Philanthropy Day is not nearly enough and does not come close to meeting the needs in terms of what we can do to support philanthropy. I will not repeat everything I already said in that regard. I will get directly to the point.
As my party's critic for seniors, I have met with several associations and groups—intervention, support, political and advocacy groups—working on the ground that must rely on volunteers and the commitment of their members day in and day out.
During each of my consultations with groups, associations and organizations over the past year and a half, when it came to identifying the issues and challenges they face, the creation of National Philanthropy Day was never at the top of their list.
This does not necessarily mean that they opposed the creation of National Philanthropy Day, but it was definitely not the most pressing need facing the people working on the ground who provide such valuable services to the public. The vast majority of the time, the most urgent need identified by volunteers, groups and associations was financial support.
Volunteer work represents a large portion of the work done in this country. This work is unpaid, but it is no less important than the services offered by the public and private sectors. Unfortunately, these organizations need stable financial support.
They cannot fill out paperwork year after year and then, every third year, worry about whether or not they will receive the grant or amount of money they need to keep going. They are forced to plan for the very short term. They often implement projects that meet the real needs of their community, but then have to abandon these vital projects within a few years, after investing a great deal of time and energy into them, because grants provide very short-term funding and must be renewed, or depend on the government of the day. That is a real need, something that the government could do if it were serious about acknowledging philanthropy.
I would like to speak briefly about what a national philanthropy day could achieve, in real terms or otherwise. I have been a member of this House for more than one and a half hears and, unfortunately, I am coming to the realization that all too often, bills are introduced to show Canadians that an issue is being taken seriously, or that the parliamentary system is useful. Unfortunately, when we dig a little deeper, we often realize that it is a smokescreen, that a big show is being put on that does not really do anything about an issue, but that lets us sit back and say that the issue was taken seriously and that action was taken.
There are many things we could do to truly support philanthropy in our country, but a national philanthropy day seems to be one of the least effective means of taking a stand. What will this initiative really do for our communities?
As a member of Parliament, I can see that cities and communities are struggling with unbelievable tax loads, with road networks that are in need of work and repairs, and with other significant burdens and tasks. These communities are waiting for support from the provincial and federal governments, but too often this support unfortunately never comes. These municipalities and regions are already struggling with many burdens, tasks and expenses.
The federal government is unexpectedly downloading more and more costs onto the provinces.
The expected health transfers are decreasing, and the age for old age security eligibility is changing from 65 to 67. Once again, the provinces will end up footing the bill. The provinces have had enough; they cannot take any more.
I agree with having a philanthropy day, but how will it be celebrated? Who will pay for the celebrations and awards given to philanthropists? Choosing a date on the calendar is not enough. What will this give us in a practical sense? Who will be able to organize activities to celebrate this new national day? People are wondering. The municipalities and provinces do not need another expense or another burden.
Will the federal government provide funding to those who want to celebrate this national day? I am not sure. I have not seen any specific details on this in the bill.
Everyone in this House recognizes the importance of philanthropy for our country, but we do not agree on how to support it. What measures need to be put in place? Beyond passing a bill and choosing a date on the calendar, how can we encourage and recognize philanthropy in tangible ways? This is something that is worth thinking about.
In this regard, my NDP colleague introduced or will introduce a bill that includes very tangible measures to support philanthropy. I hope that members of all parties will move beyond lip service and support this bill at second reading, even if it is just to seriously examine how we can provide tangible support for philanthropy. This is not a partisan issue. All members of the House agree that philanthropy must be encouraged, but the issue is how to do so. Everyone agrees that a national day is not nearly enough and is not a very tangible measure.
There are exceptional people in my riding and across the country who are very active and who give of their time and talent to their community and their country on an ongoing basis. I am thinking of George Nydam, an extremely active retiree who advocates for quality public transit in his riding; of Paulette Siag, the president of the Dollard-des-Ormeaux seniors' club, which has over 500 members; and of Colette Zielinski, another retiree and activist who heads up a group that provides services to people with arthritis.
These are just a few examples, but I could go on naming people for hours. I will not do so because my time is up, but I would like to end my speech by sincerely congratulating all those who get involved in order to support their communities and their country.