National Charities Week Act

An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Peter Braid  Conservative

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

Status

Dead, as of Oct. 23, 2013
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment establishes a National Charities Week and amends the Income Tax Act to provide that charitable gifts, Crown gifts, cultural gifts and ecological gifts made by an individual within 60 days after the end of a taxation year may be deducted from the taxable income of the individual for the taxation year.

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.

Votes

May 29, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Private Members' BusinessOpening Of The Second Session Of The 41St Parliament

October 16th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would like to make a statement concerning private members' business.

As hon. members know, our Standing Orders provide for the continuance of private members’ business from session to session within a Parliament.

In practical terms, this means that notwithstanding prorogation, the list for the consideration of private members' business established at the beginning of the 41st Parliament shall continue for the duration of this Parliament.

As such, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons that were listed on the Order Paper at the conclusion of the previous session are automatically reinstated to the Order Paper and shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation.

All items will keep the same number as in the first session of the 41st Parliament. More specifically, all bills and motions standing on the list of items outside the order of precedence shall continue to stand. Bills that had met the notice requirement and were printed in the Order Paper but had not yet been introduced will be republished on the Order Paper under the heading “Introduction of Private Members' Bills”. Bills that had not yet been published on the order paper need to be recertified by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and be resubmitted for publication on the notice paper.

Of course all items in the order of precedence remain on the order of precedence or, as the case may be, are referred to the appropriate committee or sent to the Senate.

Specifically, at prorogation there were three private members' bills originating in the House of Commons adopted at second reading and referred to committee.

Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, Bill C-458, an act respecting a national charities week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts) is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Bill C-489, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders) is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, committees will be required to report on each of these reinstated private members’ bills within 60 sitting days of this statement.

In addition, prior to prorogation, nine private members' bills originating in the House of Commons had been read the third time and passed. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, the following bills are deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House: Bill C-217, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief relating to war memorials); Bill C-266, an act to establish Pope John Paul II day; Bill C-279, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity); Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting); Bill C-314, an act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue; Bill C-350, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders); Bill C-377, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations); Bill C-394, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment); and Bill C-444, an act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer).

Accordingly, a message will be sent to the Senate to inform it that this House has adopted these nine bills.

Consideration of private members’ business will start on Thursday, October 17, 2013.

As members may be aware, among the items in the order of precedence or deemed referred to committee, there are four bills standing in the name of members recently appointed as parliamentary secretaries who, by virtue of their office, are not eligible to propose items during the consideration of private members' business.

Bill C-511, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act (period of residence) and Bill C-517, an act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons) were awaiting debate at second reading in the order of precedence at the time of prorogation.

Bill C-458, An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts), and Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), were in committee at the time of prorogation and, as stated earlier, have been returned there.

This is in keeping with the principle expressed at pages 550-551 and 1125 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which provides that bills remain on the order of precedence since they are in the possession of the House and only the House can take further decision on them.

These items are therefore without eligible sponsors but remain in the possession of the House or its committees. If no action is taken, at the appropriate time these items will eventually be dropped from the Order Paper, pursuant to Standing Order 94(2)(c).

Hon. members will find at their desks a detailed explanatory note about private members’ business. I trust that these measures will assist the House in understanding how private members' business will be conducted in this session. The table officers are available to answer any questions members may have.

I thank all members for their attention.

The House resumed from May 28 consideration of the motion 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.

National Charities WeekPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2013 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House once again to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-458. I would like to begin by thanking all of my colleagues in this place who have spoken to the issue of my bill, and who have also spoken about the importance of the charitable sector in Canada.

As members know, my bill 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, it would establish the last seven days of February as National Charities Week in Canada.

Canadians are among the most generous people in the world. When I look around my community of Kitchener—Waterloo, I see numerous events that provide support for worthwhile causes. I know that this is happening in communities across the country. For example, just this past weekend, I attended the annual Great Strides walk that raises funds for cystic fibrosis research. Hundreds of people participated in this event and almost $200,000 was raised that will support the great work of Cystic Fibrosis Canada and help find a cure for this disease. I might add that the walk that was held in Kitchener—Waterloo raised the second-highest amount in the country, and we are very proud of that.

Not only do Canadians strongly support their local charities, but as global citizens we also recognize our responsibilities internationally. Earlier this month, I had the privilege to travel to Africa with the Governor General. Everywhere we went we saw the impact of Canada's contributions to improve the lives of people in the developing world. I can say that we are well regarded for our international aid efforts and that is thanks, in part, to the generosity of individual Canadians.

In the four and a half years that I have been a member of Parliament, I have had the opportunity to present two items of private members' business. I have chosen to focus on supporting the charitable sector because I believe the sector is a foundation of a strong society. There are two aspects to creating positive change that will benefit the charitable sector. The first is to raise awareness. As Canadians, we need to be more aware of the work that is being done on the front lines in our communities, and consider how we can further support these important efforts. The second aspect is to take action. As members of Parliament, we come here to try to make a difference, and I think we are making good progress with regard to charitable organizations.

I was very proud that our government introduced the first-time donors super credit in our last budget, which would boost the charitable tax credit by 25% for new donors. This was a response to the recommendations of the finance committee following a study that was instigated by my private member's motion, Motion No. 559. Building on this momentum, I am pleased to now have the opportunity to advance this particular initiative.

There are a number of reasons that I believe Bill C-458 would lead to increased support for charities. It would move decisions on charitable giving away from the hectic holiday season. It would raise awareness of the tax benefits of charitable donations and encourage people to consider giving as part of their tax and financial planning. It would create a second season of giving, which would be further underscored by National Charities Week at the end of February. I believe that by combining an awareness campaign with a tangible measure that would motivate increased giving, Bill C-458 would benefit our charitable sector.

I was pleased during the first hour of debate, and it appears the second hour as well today, to hear support for Bill C-458 from all sides of this House. I believe my colleagues recognize the potential benefits of extending the deadline and would like to see this bill examined further in committee to discuss the merits and to get direct input from the charitable sector. I thank the House for the opportunity to bring forward Bill C-458. I encourage all members to support my bill as we work together for the greater good to strive to make a difference in the lives of the constituents we serve.

National Charities WeekPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely thrilled to be standing here today because I truly believe in Bill C-458. This is an important proposal before us today. It is intended to help Canadians across the country when they are involved in charities. We truly do have a commitment to help donors and ensure that they get the benefits that have been put forward by this government.

What would this proposal do?

This proposal would establish the last seven days of February each year as national charities week, and it would extend the deadline for individuals claiming charitable gifts for tax purposes from December 31 of a taxation year to 60 days after that day to match the deadline for contributions to registered retirement savings plans.

It is my sincere hope that members on both sides will set aside all of their talking points and listen to what is being said here. There is a member here in this House who has worked extremely hard on this bill, and I would hope that members, particularly from the NDP, will listen to the benefits the bill would provide to charities and donors.

Let me begin by saying that my hon. colleague for Kitchener—Waterloo has spent an awful lot of tireless effort advocating for charities and charitable organizations throughout his time here in Parliament. I have worked alongside this member and I am so proud to see the work that he has done.

He is in the House right now, and he is a humble fellow. However, I want to take this opportunity to thank him, not only on behalf of the government but on behalf of all Canadians, because they have seen his tireless efforts and appreciate everything that he does and continues to do so that charities can benefit from the best that we have here in Parliament. In fact, he is one of the best that I have the pleasure to work with.

The member also put forward another motion, Motion No. 559, which called for the Standing Committee on Finance to study tax incentives for charitable donations. That motion was supported, thankfully, by all parties in the House. As a member of the finance committee, I am pleased to report that after extensive consultations, we have presented the government with a comprehensive report that we can all be proud of.

To the member's credit, the recommendations of that report are clearly reflected in the most recent budget economic action plan 2013 in the form of an important initiative that I will speak about at great length later on.

With respect to the member's current bill, let me quote a recent editorial in the National Post praising the legislation before us today, noting that:

Too often of late, private members' bills have served explicitly partisan ends. [The member for Kitchener—Waterloo's] Bill C-458, however, seeks to improve the lot of needy citizens simply by adjusting a bureaucratic formality. This is the sort of effort we'd like to see more of in Parliament....

First, I would like to tell the House that the Conservative government proudly salutes the volunteers who contribute to charities established to improve the quality of life of people who need help.

Volunteers are remarkable, altruistic Canadians who have an impact on people's lives, and who do so without any hope of reward. They give of their time and energy because they are concerned for the less fortunate.

Canadians should be proud to know that Canada is one of the countries with the most charities and non-profit organizations.

According to estimates, there are more than 160,000 charities and non-profit organizations, and their goal is to help solve our country's greatest social problems.

In addition, ordinary Canadians know very well that the charitable sector plays an essential role in society and provides invaluable services to the most vulnerable individuals, thanks to generous financial support for their important work.

According to Statistics Canada, more than 5.7 million Canadians made donations totalling nearly $8.5 billion to registered charities in 2011. They also receive assistance through the tax system in the form of a personal tax credit and a corporate tax deduction for charitable donations.

In fact, federal government tax assistance for charitable donations exceeded $2.9 billion in 2012. Canadian tax incentives for charitable donations are among the most generous in the world.

Our Conservative government fully supports the charitable sector. In fact, we have taken numerous steps to enhance support for such organizations since 2006, including exempting donations of publicly listed securities to charities from capital gains tax, reforming the disbursement quota rules for charities, reducing their administrative complexity to better able charities to focus their time and resources on charitable activities, introducing integrity measures to combat fraud and abuse in the charitable sector and, lastly, enhancing public transparency and accountability to ensure that charities devote their resources to charitable and not political activities.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, following the finance committee's report on charitable donation tax incentives, a direct response to another initiative by the member for Kitchener—Waterloo, economic action plan 2013 proposes a new temporary first-time donor super credit, designed to encourage new donors to give to charity. The FDSC, which is the first time donor super credit, will increase the value of the federal charitable donations tax credit by 25 percentage points if neither the taxpayer nor his or her spouse has claimed the credit since 2007.

The FDSC will apply on up to $1,000 in cash donations claimed in any one taxation year from 2013 to 2017. This new credit would significantly enhance the attractiveness of donating to a charity for young Canadians who are in a position to make donations for the first time. Helping to rejuvenate and expand the charitable sector's donor base will have an immediate impact in supporting the sector. This is great news.

It is clear that our government and the member for Kitchener—Waterloo are hard at work to ensure that charities have the help they need to do what they do best. Let me take a moment to remind my hon. colleagues of the member's outstanding reputation in this regard.

Imagine Canada, the leading umbrella organization representing Canadian charities, has praised his willingness to consult with charities on new ideas, stating:

[The member for Kitchener—Waterloo] has been and continues to be a real champion for the charitable sector. He demonstrates a sound understanding of the issues we’re facing.

I am sure my colleagues on both sides of the House would agree with that assessment and will join our Conservative government in sending this bill to the finance committee for the hearing it so richly deserves. Let the champion, the member for Kitchener—Waterloo, present this bill so that we can further assist charities across the country to ensure that their good work is being done.

Lastly, I want to say why it is important to support this proposal at second reading so that it can be studied in greater detail.

We realize the bill’s aims are clear and noble. By supporting it at second reading, we can conduct a thorough examination, reflecting contributions by parliamentarians, charities and other stakeholders, and thus report on the status of some important issues. For example, if the deadline is changed from December 31 to March 1, how much will donations increase, and what is the estimated cost of this measure?

The study of Bill C-458 will also be an opportunity for charities to indicate whether they are concerned about the reduced time limit for issuing tax receipts to last-minute donors. Charities currently have approximately six to eight weeks after the end of the year to issue receipts to donors. It is quite logical to believe that, if the time limit for making charitable donations is extended by two months, the organizations will have to make administrative adjustments to reflect the new deadline.

In saying all of that, I look forward to and count on the support of the members on both sides of the House so we can get this bill to the finance committee to do the important study that is required. We want to hear from charities and organizations that have no other interest except helping those who are most vulnerable. Let us give them a chance to speak, and we will do what we can to ensure that they have the assistance of this government, as we have demonstrated in the past, so they can benefit from the generosity of Canadians.

National Charities WeekPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-458, An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts).

The New Democrats will support this bill at second reading. It provides for two main measures. First of all, it amends the Income Tax Act to provide that charitable gifts, made within 60 days after the end of a taxation year are eligible for a tax credit for that taxation year. Second, it establishes a National Charities Week, which would be the last week of February.

We therefore support this bill at second reading so that it can go to the committee stage. Since I sit on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, I am well aware that the New Democrats do very serious work in committee. We work very hard. I have also sat as a substitute on several other House committees, and I can state that the New Democrats' work is exemplary. They do very serious work, analyze bills, listen to witnesses, take their recommendations seriously and insist that they be included in reports, unlike the Conservatives, who already have their minds made up and very often do not listen to the experts and scientists.

It is also important that the Standing Committee on Finance study this bill so that the committee can get a clearer idea of the actual cost of this measure. We must ensure that this measure is an adequate response to the difficulties charities currently face.

I would also like to talk about certain organizations in the riding of Drummond. For example, organizations benefiting from the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, the HPS, came to see me before the budget was tabled last year. The organizations affected include Ensoleilvent, Refuge La Piaule, Maison Habit-Action, Tablée populaire, Comptoir alimentaire and Carrefour d'entraide. These are all charitable organizations that assist the homeless and the poor in my riding.

These organizations are unfortunately being abandoned by the Conservative government. Their budgets have not even been indexed for several years now, perhaps more than five. Year after year, although demand is increasing in Drummond and elsewhere in Quebec and Canada, the funding allocated to the HPS is not even indexed. Although the Conservative government has fortunately renewed the program, allocated funding is inadequate. The government also wants to interfere in the way the organizations want to manage their money. We wanted complete freedom in this area so that the organizations, which know people's needs, could take the most appropriate action. We wanted funding to be allocated in a general way, but that is unfortunately not the case.

As my hon. colleague from Manicouagan noted in his excellent speech, the Conservative government is currently withdrawing from charities, which can no longer rely on recurring funding. They cannot count on stable funding with which to provide appropriate assistance. Furthermore, they are now accountable to the federal government.

On the contrary, with the Conservative government’s gradual and clear withdrawal, these organizations are increasingly being left to fend for themselves, so to speak. They must solicit businesses and generous donors more often for funding. At times, they are forced to adopt an approach that may not always be the most appropriate one, with questionable or dubious results.

A very large company that may not necessarily be bad but that may have other interests could in some way influence charitable organizations into doing what it wants them to do. Sometimes their actions may be questionable. That is why it is important for the federal government to ensure an adequate level of funding for agencies like the ones I mentioned, so that they may provide adequate support to members of the public.

Unfortunately, as we saw once again with the renewal of funding for the HPS, the government has failed on this score. This is a failure on the part of the Conservative government. While it did renew HPS funding, unfortunately it stripped the HPS of its general character, something that agencies in Drummond had asked it not to do. Funding amounts were not indexed, as had been requested. In a few years’ time, the process will have to be repeated.

I want to mention the excellent work the member for Hochelaga is doing in support of social housing. I want to thank her for her hard work. We can all be proud of our social housing critic. She is doing an excellent job and we are seeing the fruits of her labour. We are continuing our hard work in this area, because we are not getting a lot of support from those across the way.

I would like to mention the fine work being done by all of the charitable organizations across Canada fighting against social inequality. They provide support for our fellow Canadians during difficult times and make a truly essential contribution.

As I pointed out earlier, the NDP and the majority of Canadians believe that it is important not to relieve the government of its responsibilities. Our social policies must also reflect the actions of charitable organizations. We must support these agencies in a more tangible way.

Government cuts to grants to NGOs working in the area of international citizenship adversely affect all agencies.

The facts show that we have reason to be leery of the Conservative government’s approach. It seems to want to leave the charitable sector to fend for itself. As I said earlier, this is a dangerous approach.

Canadians want a responsible government that shoulders its responsibilities. They do not want a government that sloughs off its basic responsibilities onto the private sector, with all the risks that may entail. Once again, I refer to the excellent speech by the hon. member for Manicouagan, who explained these points so well.

In short, I will say that the NDP supports the charitable sector. We want a comprehensive, coherent, long-term policy. We must include the charitable sector when we create social policies, and charitable organizations should not be required to manage our social programs. The government must remain the master planner. It must retain the responsibility. The Conservative government must maintain the social programs and invest in them in order to avoid an explosion in demand in the charitable sector.

I would like to point out that other organizations have suffered funding cuts. Earlier, I talked a lot about HPS and the initiative to end homelessness, but then there are Rights and Democracy, Alternatives, Kairos, and Development and Peace. All these charitable organizations work independently and accountably.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government has not supported them; on the contrary, it has made cuts, which is really deplorable. We are in favour of charitable donations, but the government must also face up to its responsibilities. Unfortunately, the Conservative government has not done so. The NDP will do it in 2015—the public can rest assured.

National Charities WeekPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2013 / 5:50 p.m.
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Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-458.

Before I begin, I want to thank the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for his tireless work on behalf of his constituents since his arrival in Parliament in 2008. The member has done considerable work as the vice-chair of the government operations and estimates committee and as a member of the industry, science and technology committee. He is one of the hardest working MPs that I have come to know. He has demonstrated commitment through a lifetime of volunteer work, having sat out a year of his schooling to volunteer with aboriginal communities in northwest Ontario and abroad in India. In more recent years, he has worked hard on behalf of the United Way. The hard work has won the member praise from across the aisle as a respected advocate for charities across the country.

In addition, I would like to take a moment to recognize that member's outstanding parliamentary record as a champion of the charitable sector. The Globe and Mail recently noted, “as a backbench MP, [the member for Kitchener--Waterloo] has carved out a niche of expertise and influence on the charities file”.

In 2010, he sponsored Motion No. 559, which called for the Standing Committee on Finance to study tax incentives for charitable donations, which was passed by the House with unanimous consent. This motion played a crucial role in the development of economic action plan 2013 and, as a result, the committee heard important evidence demonstrating the need for the government to foster and promote a culture of giving.

Most important, the committee learned that tax incentives had a crucial role to play in increasing the number of new donors. That is why in economic action plan 2013 the government has introduced the first-time donor's super credit. Thanks to the hard work of the member for Kitchener—Waterloo, our government continues to build on a strong record of support for the charitable sector.

The first-time donor's super credit would significantly enhance the attractiveness of donating to a charity for young Canadians who would be in a position to make donations for the very first time and would have an immediate impact in supporting the charitable sector.

The Bank of Montreal surveyed 1,000 people about the first-time donor's super credit, and roughly half of those between the ages of 18 and 34 said that they would contribute more to charities because of this special tax break. Overall, the survey found that 70% supported the first-time donor's super credit.

Not only that, but charities across the country have welcomed this new credit. Katharine Schmidt from Food Banks Canada had this to say:

The super credit will provide an enticing opportunity for more Canadians to donate to their local food bank if they haven't already done so. Food banks across the country continue to struggle to raise enough money to keep their doors open. We believe this credit is a step in the right direction to provide food banks with a new tool with which to seek out new donors.

Furthermore, the new super credit would be a valuable tool for the arts. Camilla Holland, the advocacy chair for the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres lauded the government on its commitment to work with the charitable sector in providing charitable giving incentives. Miss Holland said that the new super credit was “welcome strides towards growing donors and levels of giving for... theatre companies of all sizes”.

This super credit would also help the health care sector raise funds for research and innovation. I would note that the Canadian Multiple Sclerosis Society had this to say about the super credit:

We are also very pleased to see the commitment to strengthen the capacity of the Canadian charitable sector...I'd like to provide a few illustrations of how these measures will help the MS Society of Canada and the people we serve....We are also encouraged by the recognition in Economic Action Plan 2013 to foster and promote a culture of giving in Canada. The introduction of a new, temporary First-Time Donor's Super Credit for first-time claimants of the Charitable Donations Tax Credit will encourage all young Canadians to donate to charity.

However, more broadly, the introduction of the first-time donor's super credit will achieve its intended purpose by helping charitable organizations raise considerable amounts of funds from new donors.

Marcel Lauzière, president and CEO of Imagine Canada, had the following to say about the government's new super credit:

Imagine Canada...is very pleased that today's federal budget includes a First-Time Donor's Super Credit to encourage more Canadians to give to charity, and a commitment by the federal government to work with the charitable sector and with Imagine Canada to encourage more donations by a greater number of Canadians....The Super Credit will help us make real progress...generating up to $110 million a year from new donors for causes that Canadians hold dear. This is a significant investment in our communities at a time of ongoing restraint....We are pleased at the government's commitment to work with Imagine Canada and the charitable sector to encourage more Canadians to give more.

This super credit would supplement the existing charitable donations tax credit with an additional 25% tax credit for a first time donor on up to $1,000 of donations. Overall, this incentive would expand and rejuvenate the charitable sector's donor base and would provide an estimated $25 million in annual tax relief.

Since 2006, our Conservative government has lowered taxes on Canadians more than 150 times, including lowering the GST from 7% to 5%. In doing so, we have reduced the overall federal tax burden on Canadians to the lowest point in over 50 years. We have also introduced the tax-free savings account to help Canadians save more of their hard-earned money. On this side of the House, we understand that lowering taxes leaves more money in the pockets of Canadians, giving them greater flexibility to donate to charity.

Our government wholeheartedly supports the intent of Bill C-458 and I applaud the noble efforts my hon. colleague has made to aid charities in their important work. Indeed, this bill has the potential to encourage young Canadians on a path of sustained charitable donations throughout their lives. A strong culture of charitable donations empowers these organizations to make an even bigger impact in communities across the country.

Our government is committed to returning to balanced budgets before the next election and we will do so by building on the solid foundations of our economic action plan, which has served Canadians well.

With respect to Bill C-458, we encourage all members to support the referral of the bill to committee where it can be further examined.

In closing, I would like to quote a recent Waterloo Region Record editorial, which praised the legislation before us today. It noted:

[The member for Kitchener Waterloo's] bill strikes us as a non-partisan, common sense proposal that deserves support across the political spectrum. It should be passed.

I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment and thank the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for his work. I encourage all members to vote to give the bill the hearing it so rightly deserves.

National Charities WeekPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2013 / 5:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, as I rise today to speak to Bill C-458, the national charities week act, I want to refer to what my colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor noted during the first hour of the debate. As he stated in his remarks in this House, the Liberal Party of Canada will be supporting the bill.

We are all proud of the outstanding work done by Canada's charities.

However, I would like to reiterate the two main concerns my colleague previously raised. As the House heard, Bill C-458 would amend the Income Tax Act by allowing taxpayers to deduct donations made within 60 days of the end of the taxation year from that year's taxable income.

During the study by the Standing Committee on Finance of tax incentives for charitable donations, Adam Aptowitzer noted that there is no economic modelling on the issue of tax deadlines, which means that while there is no modelling to support keeping the current deadline, there is also none to encourage moving it to the end of February.

Before making this change, Parliament needs to know all of the facts.

First, we need to hear from stakeholders about the impact these changes would have on fundraising strategies. The current tax deadline coincides with December holidays, which are the basis of major fundraising campaigns for many Canadian charities.

It costs money to raise money. We should be asking if it makes sense to encourage another series of campaigns at the end of February, a time more associated with paying down debt and making RRSP contributions than charitable giving. We need to hear the broader not-for-profit sector's views on whether this would be a useful or productive change.

Second, my colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, that extraordinary, exceptional member of Parliament, rightly pointed out that we have no estimate of the impact Bill C-458 might have on federal revenues. Donation tax credits for individuals cost the treasury about $2.4 billion per year. If more Canadians claim donor tax credits, these costs will grow. Of course, we would hope that the increase would be offset by an attendant increase in charitable donations, but again, we have not seen the data on this point.

That is why Bill C-458 needs to be studied in more detail in committee.

To give a reasonable and responsible verdict on this legislation, parliamentarians need to know the costs involved, and they need to know the potential positive impact on increased charitable giving.

It is a timely moment to talk about the state of charitable giving in Canada. As the finance committee's recent report showed, government funding to the charitable sector has declined, and charities rely increasingly on private donations. While Canadians give time and money generously, the number of Canadians claiming the charitable donation tax credit has been stable since 1990, while the number of individual taxpayers has grown by over seven million.

We need to ask ourselves what we can do to help charities expand and strengthen their donor base.

The Liberal Party is encouraging the government to take meaningful action to promote the charitable sector. We believe that two measures in particular would have a definite impact.

First, we urge the government to establish a stretch tax credit for charitable donations. Second, we recommend extending the capital gains tax exemption to include gifts of private company shares and real estate.

A stretch tax credit rewards donors who increase the amount they give to charity by stretching the tax credit on the difference.

In their brief to the finance committee on this subject, Imagine Canada outlined the benefits. They said that a stretch tax credit would “challenge more Canadians to give and to give more”.

Another goal is to “strengthen and revitalize the donor base for many years to come”.

They said it would “benefit the broadest number of taxpayers; support the broadest number of charities and communities”.

Finally, the measures should “entail minimal impact on the federal Treasury in proportion to the benefits gained”.

This is an innovative reform with support from Canadians as well as many Canadian charities.

On the subject of reform, many in this House would know Donald Johnson as one of Canada's leading philanthropists and a tireless advocate of tax reform in the charitable sector. D.K. Johnson has worked for well over a decade advancing the cause of the charitable sector in Canada. In 2011, he told the finance committee that there was a strong case to be made for eliminating the capital gains tax on gifts of private company shares and real estate.

The economy remains weak. Charities need more resources, because more people need help, and since those resources would need to come from private donations, the government ought to do everything it can to encourage giving. According to D.K. Johnson's testimony, this tax change would cost the treasury between $50 million and $65 million but would result in $200 million in new donations. That is the sort of dramatic result Canadian charities need and could benefit from.

The finance committee's report recommended that the government “explore the feasibility and cost of adopting a stretch tax credit” and of cutting the capital gains tax on donations of certain assets. These measures ought to be prioritized by the government.

Canada's charities deserve real support, because they make a real difference in people's lives. I would like to highlight a couple of examples from my riding. The Mermaid Theatre in Windsor, Nova Scotia does incredible work with young people and for young people. Their youth theatre project, which has been running for more than 20 years, gives teenagers a chance to explore tough questions and create innovative theatre, building confidence and performance skills.

Another great example is Camp Brigadoon on Aylesford Lake in my riding, which is a place for children with chronic illnesses, conditions and special needs. These kids face tremendous challenges, but with the help of staff and volunteers, they make friends and explore beautiful Lake Aylesford and the Annapolis Valley. They have fun. They get to enjoy the fun and the opportunity to go to a summer camp that children who are not burdened by chronic health issues often take for granted. For many of these children and their families, summer camp was something that was simply inaccessible for a child with a chronic illness. Camp Brigadoon is an example of the kind of non-profit organization that makes a real difference in people's lives.

Another example is the Alzheimer Society. The work the Alzheimer Society does is really important to families like mine. My mother has Alzheimer's. I know the work the Alzheimer Society does.

There is the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation and the incredible work they are doing on brain health and on issues of dementia and Alzheimer's. Tax changes for charitable giving would help attract more money to the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation and help potentially find a cure in the future for some of these brain health issues. In the interim, it could help people and their families living with these brain health issues deal with the issues and have a higher quality of life.

These are examples of the invaluable work that exemplifies the dedication and generosity of Canadian charities, the important work they are doing and the difference they are making in communities and for Canadian families. We are all proud of Canada's charities. We want to see them grow and prosper.

My Liberal colleagues will be supporting this bill.

That said, there are far more concrete steps this House can and ought to take to foster the long-term sustainability of Canada's donor base. I encourage the government to give them serious attention.

The House resumed from March 19 consideration of the motion 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.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1Government Orders

May 1st, 2013 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time this afternoon with the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in support of our Conservative government's economic action plan 2013, as implemented through Bill C-60, the economic action plan 2013 act no. 1. This is a positive plan that would continue Canada's momentum in creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Many of the measures in Bill C-60 are aimed at strengthening our economy and ensuring a prosperous future for all Canadians.

However, our government also understands that a successful society also includes the capacity to respond to the needs of all Canadians, including the most vulnerable. That is why I am proud that our government is working so hard to support the charitable sector.

Charities play an important role in our communities. It is vital that we celebrate and support this excellent work. I have to say that I am constantly impressed by the remarkable work that all charities are doing, and I would like to commend them, especially their volunteers, for their commitment to improving the lives of others and contributing to our high quality of life.

In my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo, I have witnessed the collaboration and the commitment of our charities and volunteers who are determined to make a difference in our community. This has inspired me to focus many of my efforts on supporting the charitable sector. As a member of Parliament, I have been actively engaged and involved in advocating for charities, raising awareness of the important work they do in our communities and serving as their voice in Parliament.

In 2010, I tabled a motion in the House of Commons that triggered a finance committee study that reviewed the current tax system and considered changes that could motivate increased giving. By all accounts, this was a very worthwhile exercise. It brought together charitable organizations, experts and stakeholders, and generated a very 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 their suggestions.

The committee's report, tabled in the House last February, proposed several recommendations aimed at creating positive change in the sector, with a focus on tax incentives, transparency, reducing red tape for charitable organizations, and, of course, increasing public awareness.

Now with Bill C-60, our government is responding to the report's recommendations with the creation of the first-time donors super credit. This innovative new measure would increase the value of the charitable donations tax credit by 25% on eligible cash donations of up to $1,000 in any one taxation year if neither the taxpayer nor their spouse have claimed the credit since 2007.

This is a creative response to the challenge of growing the donor base in Canada, an issue that was brought forward during the committee study. The committee heard that there was a need to foster and promote a culture of giving and that tax incentives can play a role, both in increasing the number of new donors and in encouraging existing donors to give more. Studies have shown that 25% of donors provide almost 85% of all charitable donations. In other words, charities find themselves relying on a smaller number of people to make large gifts. Furthermore, the level of donations increases with age, and older Canadians tend to give more.

That is why I believe the first-time donors super credit would create new opportunities for supporting charities. It would significantly enhance the attractiveness of donating to a charity for young Canadians who are in a position to make donations for the first time, creating an immediate positive impact on the sector.

In fact, a survey recently conducted by BMO Harris Private Banking found that this initiative would go a long way toward achieving these objectives. Quoting from its press release, the survey found that nearly 70% of Canadians support the first-time donors super credit introduced in the federal budget. It goes on to say that 93% of Canadians feel the new credit would encourage more charitable giving or maintain current levels of support. Fifty per cent of young Canadians aged 18 to 34 said they would strongly consider contributing more to charities because of this new credit.

The charitable sector is also enthusiastic about this new initiative that will help to rejuvenate its donor base and encourage increased charitable giving. Imagine Canada, which had a proposal for a stretch tax credit, received a favourable response in the finance committee report subject to balancing the budget. It applauded the new super credit as a step in the right direction. It said in a press release, “This is a significant investment in our communities at a time of ongoing restraint”. This immediate and positive reaction is very encouraging, and it shows that a small change has the potential to make a big impact.

I also believe that the first-time donor super credit will provide an opportunity for charities to foster effective relationships between charities and a new generation of donors. By engaging young people and demonstrating the difference that their contributions can make in our communities, we will build a core of lifelong donors and enhance the long-term sustainability of our important charitable sector. This new initiative would also help to raise awareness of the tax benefits of donating to charities, which as I mentioned earlier was one of the core recommendations of the finance committee report.

This is already happening throughout Canada's charitable sector. In fact, I have seen a number of charities that are already highlighting the new super credit in their website communications for their fundraising campaigns in an effort to engage young people and first-time donors. This includes SicksKids Foundation, Easter Seals, and a number of smaller charities that are seizing the opportunity to inform their potential donors about the tax credits to which they may be entitled. All of these efforts are aimed at the overarching goal of long-term sustainability for the charitable sector.

Our government has a strong record of taking action to support our charities, and since 2006 we have been steadily increasing the generosity of the charitable donations tax incentive. Budget 2006 introduced a complete exemption on the capital gains tax associated with the donation of publicly listed securities to public charities. It also extended the exemption of donations of ecologically sensitive land to public conservation charities. Budget 2007 extended the exemption for donations of publicly listed securities to private foundations. Budget 2010 further reformed the disbursement quota rules for charities, reducing administrative complexity to better enable charities to focus their time and resources on charitable activities.

As the member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo, I have been personally focusing many of my efforts on advocating for our charities with my first private member's motion that initiated the important charity study, and more recently my private member's bill, Bill C-458, which proposes to extend the tax deadline for charitable donations.

In conclusion, I am extremely pleased that our government is taking concrete action to support and sustain charitable organizations. As a result, I encourage all members to support all the important measures in Bill C-60, including the first-time donors tax credit that will benefit charities, donors and our society as a whole.

National Charities Week ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of my constituents in the Alberta riding of Crowfoot to participate in the private member's debate brought forward by my colleague, the member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo.

First, I would start by saying that the Good Book says that it is more blessed to give than to receive. For all members of Parliament from all sides, as we look around our constituencies at the various charitable organizations that are volunteering their time and are doing everything they can to support good causes, we want to thank them. We also agree that there is a satisfaction, a feeling of being blessed, when we can be part of that and give in a charitable way. Anything we can do to help enhance that type of giving is to be commended.

Therefore, I thank the member for Kitchener—Waterloo. I had some questions about Bill C-458 initially and I sat down here in the House with the member for Kitchener—Waterloo. I understood that this was a member who had a passion for charitable organizations and for trying to do the right thing. There is no hidden agenda here. It is simply a question of how he can better move charitable organizations forward so that people can be part of that blessing, so to speak, of being able to give and to donate to these good causes.

In that stand, he has introduced Bill C-458, which proposes mainly two changes. The first change would create a national charities week in the last week of February each year. My colleague also wants to amend Canada's Income Tax Act. He would extend the deadline for people claiming charitable gifts for tax purposes from December 31 of the taxation year to 60 days after that to match the deadline for contributions for RRSPs.

This is an admirable attempt to help Canadians contribute to those less fortunate. All members of the House want to commend our colleague for bringing these two ideas to debate here in the House of Commons. The member for Kitchener—Waterloo, as it has already been stated, is earning quite a reputation for himself and his constituents as being one who cares about charities. We congratulate him and recognize that.

Previously, his private member's Motion No. 559 prompted a study by the House of Commons finance committee, which brought major attention to the needs of charities. In turn, his motion prompted a national conversation about the good work of these organizations in Canada. The committee's subsequent work report will no doubt inform the government's future action on support for those charities, potentially as soon as the upcoming budget 2013.

I can say to my constituents and to all Canadians listening to this debate that our Conservative government understands the value of the selfless work of charities and of the volunteers that make them successful. I see the value of this work in my constituency. It is remarkable to see the generosity and hard work of many churches, youth groups, schools, seniors groups and local organizations in my riding. I take this opportunity to commend all of them.

I am invited to many charitable events and fundraisers throughout the year in my riding. As a former businessman who owned an auction company and was an auctioneer, I am able to be the auctioneer for some of these events. I tell all of the charities in my riding that nobody wants to hear my speech, but they all want me to come and do the auction sale for them. Through this work, I have the opportunity to meet with many key people in the community, both in the volunteer sector and those who contribute through their finances.

Bill C-458 has some potential to increase the incentives that already exist for Canadians to give money generously to charities. It would facilitate even more good work in communities here in Canada and around the world. That is why it is important for the bill to be studied closely.

Canadians support the House engaging in a full assessment of the implications of the bill. We will be paying close attention to what stakeholders and those involved in carrying out our charitable work have to say. As my colleagues have noted, Canada already has one of the most generous systems of tax support for charitable donations in the world.

Our Conservative government has already introduced several measures in recent years to enhance incentives for donations. We have taken action to improve transparency and accountability in the charitable sector, including through measures announced in economic action plan 2012.

I want to thank the member for bringing this bill forward. A study in the House of Commons would be a very positive thing, and I look forward to the bill passing.

National Charities Week ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, naturally, we are going to support Bill C-458 since it is well-intentioned and the NDP supports the charitable sector.

Nevertheless, I would like to say that the Conservatives' rhetoric is causing confusion. On the one hand, they claim to support charitable organizations, but on the other, they are cutting funding for such organizations and constantly attacking them. There is every reason to believe that the government's approach to the charitable sector is to gradually transfer its responsibility toward Canadians to the private sector. I would like to remind the government that it is and must remain responsible for, among other things, essential public services.

Now, I will explain the two main components of this bill. First, this bill seeks to amend the Income Tax Act by extending by 60 days following the end of a taxation year the period during which people would be eligible for a tax credit for donations made to charities for that same tax year. Second, the bill seeks to establish a national charities week during the last week of February.

We support this bill in order to send it to committee. There, we will try to make the changes necessary to make it into a financially responsible bill that meets the needs of Canadian workers.

For the moment, the financial cost estimates are based only on hypotheses about how people will react to the extension of the tax credit deadline. I do not think that is good enough, and I think we could do much better.

The Standing Committee on Finance needs to have a more specific idea of the cost of such a measure and it needs to know that this bill is an appropriate response to the problems faced by charitable organizations. We also do not have any evidence to show that a national charities week in February would really benefit this sector.

Many charitable organizations also expressed concerns that were mainly administrative in nature. They intend to raise these issues when the bill goes to committee. They are also of the opinion that the bill could help to solve this sector's problems but that it is certainly not the be-all and end-all.

Efforts to increase charitable donations are commendable and we support them. However, we also have to ensure that an in-depth analysis is conducted of the impact this bill would have on federal revenues, as well as on the total amount of donations and their distribution. That being said, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about some of the most fundamental aspects of this bill and the Canadian tax system.

Although charity work is important, the government's actions are as well. A lot of churches and other shelters for the homeless, run by the private sector, keep people from freezing to death on the street, but governments here and elsewhere in the world have found that the only long-term solution is affordable housing.

Cancer research centres can be managed privately, but some of the best research comes out of publicly funded universities and hospitals. Yes, it is important to ensure that charities can continue to function, but when the government abandons its responsibilities toward vulnerable groups by delegating those responsibilities to the charitable sector, damage can be significant.

People who count on systems that the government puts in place may not find the private sector alternative right away. When the government behaves this way, it hurts the people directly affected by government assistance and communities as a whole.

Furthermore, if the government tries to make the legislation work through the tax system, it could end up abandoning the less fortunate. Often, the government's special tax exemptions are given only to individuals who are well off.

This does not mean that they do not need it—far from it—and we must continue to work at lowering the cost of living for everyone. However, all I am saying is that a single mother with three children who earns $23,000 a year needs more help than a family with two people earning $50,000 each. Up until now, the government has chosen to ignore the single mother.

In 2009, 33.4% of Canadians did not pay taxes. They therefore could not benefit from the government's many attempts to legislate through taxes. Critics consider them lucky, but these are seniors living below the poverty line.

These are students who cannot eat balanced meals because they do not have enough money left over after paying for books and tuition. These are the least fortunate who work for minimum wage or even less if they work in the service industry. If they have children, their expenses double or triple.

When the government promises tax breaks, all these people hear is that they will receive fewer resources from this government. In many cases, the least fortunate are not informed of the tax breaks offered by the government and they obviously do not get an accountant to fill out their tax returns. It is not complicated. Even if they pay taxes and are entitled to exemptions, these people often do not have the knowledge or expertise to take advantage of them.

Some will say that these people should simply go to an accountant, but if the single mother of three I mentioned earlier can save $60 by filling out her tax return on her own, so she can buy groceries for her kids, it is obvious which choice she will make.

We need to be realistic. This government has used targeted tax exemptions to solidify its slim support in ridings across the country as it saw fit. It did so with little regard for those most in need, and with even less regard for a balanced budget for the country. Another year goes by with another deficit and another round of cuts to social programs, jobs and employment insurance benefits.

This government has a bad habit of saying that it helps charitable organizations, but then cuts their funding and attacks organizations that defend positions that are not in keeping with the government's policies. Take Rights and Democracy, for example. The government decided to put an end to that non-governmental rights group, which had gained worldwide clout and an international reputation since its creation in 1988. The Conservatives interfered politically and appointed people who defended the Conservative ideology within the organization. At the time, dozens of public servants denounced the Conservatives' political interference.

That is how the government works. When an organization refutes its ideology, it simply cuts that organization off. If no specific organization is in the crosshairs, the government simply slashes international development aid, as it did in the last budget.

Although we support the charitable sector, we deplore the Conservative government's lack of long-term vision for the sector. This sector needs a comprehensive, coherent, long-term policy. Expecting the charitable sector to become an alternative to essential government services is completely absurd. Organizations working in this area should not replace government in offering services to the people. If that is the case, then that does not bode well for the country.

If we want to avoid an explosion in demand for charitable services, the government simply needs to do its job and maintain and invest in social programs. We will support this bill at second reading so that it can be examined more closely in committee. It is important to support the charitable sector in Canada as part of a long-term vision and without losing sight of the government's responsibilities towards the public.

National Charities Week ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2013 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-458, a private member's bill introduced by my friend and colleague, the member for Kitchener—Waterloo. I will support this bill at second reading and I hope all members on both sides of the House do the same. It has certainly received some positive support in the speeches I have heard thus far, which I also appreciate.

As the member for Kitchener—Waterloo pointed out, the bill would establish the last seven days of February as national charities week and would extend the tax deadline to claim charitable donations from December 31 to the end of March, matching the deadline for RRSP contributions. The member's objective is obviously quite noble, seeking to encourage a greater number of Canadians to give more generously to charities, supporting these organizations in their valuable work both in Canada and around the world. As chair of the finance committee, I hope and fully expect that Bill C-458 will be supported by all parties and I look forward to further discussion and analysis of this proposal, including hearing from the member and from a wide range of groups in the charitable sector.

However, before I speak directly to the legislation before the House today, I will take an opportunity, as his colleague, to recognize the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for his truly outstanding record in support of the charitable sector since first being elected in 2008. In 2010, he sponsored Motion No. 559, which called for the Standing Committee on Finance to study tax incentives for charitable donations, a motion that was supported by all parties. Having a colleague supported by all parties is quite unique in the House. I am very happy to report that after extensive work last year and into early this year, the finance committee completed that important study, and I encourage all parliamentarians and Canadians to view that study.

As chair of the committee, I can tell the House that we heard important evidence showing the need for the government to help foster and promote a culture of giving. Not only that, but we learned that tax incentives had a definite role to play in increasing the number of new donors and encouraging existing donors to give even more. I am pleased to report that the committee's study brought attention to the importance of charitable giving. I am confident it will help inform the government's further action to support charities.

With this outcome, we can all agree that the member's contributions to date have truly been invaluable. His reputation in this regard is well known. Imagine Canada, the leading umbrella organization representing Canadian charities, has praised the member's willingness to consult with it on new ideas, saying, “[The member] has been and continues to be a real champion for the charitable sector...He demonstrates a sound understanding of the issues we’re facing”. I am sure my colleagues on both sides of the House will agree with that assessment and will join our government in sending the bill to the finance committee for the hearing that it deserves.

In supporting this proposal to committee, a proposal which was raised during the previous study which I mentioned, we can ensure that it will be carefully considered by both parliamentarians and charities alike. At committee, we can answer the questions that have been raised by members during this debate today. We can conduct a thorough examination of the bill.

An important consideration is how this proposal will be effective in encouraging Canadians to increase their donations. A study at the finance committee will help us to determine to what degree a later deadline for annual contributions will impact donations and at what cost. We will also hear from charities about the potential impact of a March 1 deadline on their ability to deliver important services to Canadians.

Currently, organizations have about six to eight weeks following the end of the year to get tax receipts to donors for early filing. If the deadline were to be moved 12 weeks later, charities would obviously have to make the necessary administrative adjustments. However, the most important reason for members to vote to send the bill to committee is that charities could share their views on this important bill and on this topic.

On the larger issues of charities, which I want to address and which some other members have spoken about today, I emphasize that our Conservative government fully supports the important work of charities to improve the lives of Canadians who rely on their support. Each and every day, selfless and remarkable volunteers make a difference in lives all across the country without expecting anything in return. In fact, there are over 160,000 Canadian charities and non-profit organizations that support worthwhile causes in our communities. That is an amazing number, of which all members should be proud.

That is why our government is committed to the charitable sector and we have continuously strengthened that commitment, including successive actions to improve tax incentives for donations. I will remind members of a few of these actions.

Budget 2006 exempted gifts of publicly listed securities from capital gains tax and extended that exemption to donations of ecologically sensitive land to public conservation charities.

Budget 2008 extended the exemption to certain donations of exchangeable shares.

Budget 2010 significantly reformed the disbursement quota rules for charities, reducing administrative complexity and better enabling charities to focus their time and resources on their charitable activities.

Budgets 2011 and 2012 introduced important integrity measures to ensure transparency and accountability for charities designed to combat fraud and abuse in the charitable sector, helping to increase the confidence of Canadians that their hard-earned dollars would be used exactly in the spirit that they were intended.

Our government wholeheartedly supports the intent of Bill C-458, and I applaud the selfless efforts by my hon. colleague to better support charities in carrying out their important work. Indeed, the bill has the potential to encourage Canadians to give more generously to charities than ever before, empowering these organizations to make an even bigger difference in communities across our country.

Nevertheless, it is vital that my colleagues on the finance committee and all parliamentarians have an opportunity to examine the bill in greater detail to ensure charities have an opportunity to share their perspective on this unique and very exciting proposal.

I would like to quote from a recent National Post editorial that praised the legislation before us today, noting that:

Too often of late, private member’s bills have served explicitly partisan ends. [The member for Kitchener—Waterloo's] Bill C-458, however, seeks to improve the lot of needy citizens simply by adjusting a bureaucratic formality. This is the sort of effort we’d like to see more of in parliament...

Speaking as someone who has been in this chamber for over 12 years, the member for Kitchener—Waterloo serves as an example for all of us in terms of how we can have an impact on a policy process, how we can have an impact on the budgets that are presented in the House of Commons and how we can truly improve the lives of Canadians from coast to coast.

I am therefore very proud to support the bill at second reading. I hope we can study it at the finance committee as soon as possible. I encourage all members on both sides of the House to support it.

National Charities Week ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2013 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-458, which my Liberal colleagues and I will be supporting.

Bill C-458 proposes the establishment of a national charities week at the end of February, in order to showcase and celebrate the work of Canada's charitable organizations. Canada's broader not-for-profit sector is as diverse as Canada itself. Charities are wide-ranging in focus and in scope, working on issues as varied as medical research, children's rights and heritage preservation. From food banks to hospitals to synagogues to theatres, Canada's charities make a difference in communities across the country. They do great work and they deserve our support. They certainly have the country's support, for there is no doubt that Canadians are generous, compassionate and community-minded.

According to the 2010 Canada survey of giving, volunteering and participating, nearly half of Canadians aged 15 and over volunteer. All together, they give 2.1 billion hours of their time to charities and not-for-profits; 84% give financially, contributing an average of $446. People of all ages share in this effort, from youth, who are the most likely to volunteer, to seniors, who give more hours and more money than any other cohort.

Canadians who give to charity can and should take advantage of the tax relief available to them. However, not all donors claim tax credits for their donations. At the moment, the most generous donors and the donors most likely to claim tax credits are those who give on a regular basis and who plan their giving in advance, which leads us to the crux of the bill.

To give one example, monthly donors to Girl Guides of Canada make sure they get income tax receipts. Those of us who buy and enjoy the cookies every spring and autumn do not. The number of people who give in this way is declining. By establishing a national charities week, however, we can work with the not-for-profit sector to encourage Canadians to practise planned giving and to make them more aware of charitable donation tax credits.

Bill C-458 also proposes amending the Income Tax Act so that taxpayers can claim a tax credit for gifts made during a calendar year and during the first 60 days of the following year. In effect, the deadline for eligible charitable donations would coincide with both the national charities week and the deadline for registered retirement savings plan contributions.

In their earlier submission to the Standing Committee on Finance, Mr. Drache and Mr. Aptowitzer made a similar proposal that suggested such a move. They said:

This would allow donors to make decisions when completely informed of their tax situation for the previous year. It would also allow charities and donors to focus on the tax aspects of giving and increase the opportunities for educating taxpayers on the tax incentive of donating.

During his testimony to committee on February 9, 2011, Mr. Aptowitzer stressed that moving the deadline to February would give charities the opportunity to campaign and to get donors to think about charitable giving in the tax context, which is something that the committee talked about as being a new thing for the tax code.

While it is true that Canadians associate the end of February with the tax preparation and the RRSP deadline, we should note that the parallel between RRSP contributions and charitable donations is not exact. They both reduce taxable income, but Canadians who contribute to an RRSP are also putting money toward their own retirement. Essentially, they are paying themselves. It is important that we bear that difference in mind and not assume that Canadians will start thinking about charitable giving in the same way that they think about their RRSPs. That said, there is no doubt that the considerable efforts made to educate Canadians about the tax aspects of RRSP contributions have led more people to contribute to their RRSPs and that making the same effort on behalf of charitable donations could have a decided impact.

There are certain issues that a committee study would need to address. In particular, we would need to hear from charities and non-profit organizations about how the proposed changes to the tax deadline might affect their fundraising strategies and annual cycles of donations. Currently, the tax deadline coincides with the end of the winter holiday giving season. Many charities base major fundraising campaigns around the December holidays. They are the experts on what works and what resources they have available and we should take our consultations with them very seriously.

It should also be noted that the fiscal impact of Bill C-458 is still unclear since it will be largely dependent on donor behaviour. At the moment, donation tax credits for individuals costs the federal treasury approximately $2.4 billion per year. If the bill's outreach measures are as successful as we hope they will be and more Canadians claim the charitable tax donation tax credit, that figure will rise. A committee study should include detailed modelling so that parliamentarians have an accurate idea of how much Bill C-458 would cost.

While it raises some questions that would need to be answered at the finance committee, Bill C-458 provides Canadians with an opportunity to celebrate their charitable sector and educate each other about charitable giving. I thank the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for introducing the bill and invite all members to join me and the Liberal Party in supporting it.

On the point of charitable giving, I personally am from the most charitable province of all, Newfoundland and Labrador. I do not mean to play favourites, but nonetheless it is a bragging point for a small province such as we are. I like to think that on all occasions we punch above our weight, certainly when it comes to charitable donations. Our volunteer base is incredibly large for our small communities. In my riding alone there are over 198 communities. There are well over 800 communities in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador alone. Many smaller remote communities in both areas, on the island and the mainland of Labrador, benefit from charitable donations, not just financially but also in volunteer hours spent at bake sales and dinners in these areas.

Our most treasured volunteer groups in the province would be the volunteer firefighters and the volunteer search and rescue. These people spend an incredible amount of hours involved in raising money, keeping our communities safe and in many ways allowing our communities to thrive. Our children have activities and get involved in their communities based on what inspires them, and what inspires them are the people who give hours to their community.

All of that would not be possible if it was not for the generosity of many individual Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Many companies and businesses give an incredible amount of money to their local communities, whether it be for local festivals or a fundraiser for a person who needs help for health reasons.

I have been to several fundraisers in my riding and throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, as my colleagues from Random—Burin—St. George's and Avalon can attest to. They have been to many fundraisers where certain people need help, whether it be for health reasons or to get somewhere for some sporting event. We do this all the time. It is inbred within us to give, as our children will give and our parents give. This bill is the type of measure that allows better contributions. It allows people and companies to give and financially plan better.

Therefore, as a party we support the bill for all the reasons mentioned, such as the planning aspect and the end of year coinciding with RRSP contributions. I would advise the committee to consider how they would publicize this tax credit in order to take full advantage of it. Whether it is the biggest city or the smallest community, this definitely is of benefit to not only the small communities but the volunteers who give and make it worthwhile.

National Charities Week ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2013 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise on this important debate. I want to say in advance that the official opposition will be in support of the bill. However, it would take it to committee where we think it must be examined before we can sign on entirely to what would at first blush seem to be a fairly straightforward and sensible bill. Let me explain.

I salute my colleague from Kitchener—Waterloo for introducing the bill. It has, as he indicated, two separate points. The first is that the Income Tax Act would be amended to provide that charitable gifts, crown gifts, cultural gifts, and ecological gifts made by an individual within 60 days of the end of a taxation year may be deducted from the taxable income of the individual for that taxation year. It would be like, as I understand it, RRSPs, for which there is a later timeline after the taxation year and which can be counted retroactively. That is the first part. The second is to establish a national charities week.

There are essentially two issues that need to be addressed, two separate components that need to be taken into account. We need to examine at committee very carefully the impact on federal revenues the bill might have, total charitable giving and the distribution of charitable giving. All must be taken into account if we are to accept this in the House as a positive step. The true cost is very difficult to examine. I will come to that later, but that is what must be taken into account if we are to examine the bill carefully.

As I understand it, the origin of this concept was a recommendation made by tax lawyers Drache Aptowitzer, who appeared before the finance committee in its study of tax incentives for charitable organizations in October 2012. I think my colleague alluded to that. This occurred before I had the honour of serving on the finance committee. I was not there for that report. I will have more to say later about it.

There have been a lot of challenges facing charities in this country resulting, of course, in part, from the very precarious economic environment facing Canadians during the fiscal crisis of the last couple of years but also, it must be said, based on the attacks on the charitable sector by the Conservative government.

As the member for Victoria, with a strong environmental presence, I have had numerous constituents come to me and ask what is going on in Ottawa. Why is it that the CRA is targeting charities, requiring in some cases, I am advised, hundreds of thousands of dollars in audit costs because these primarily environmental charities were not well liked by the government. That is a very serious accusation. Yet charitable organizations are suffering not only under that concern but also from an increase in red tape, which is ironic, because that was one of the key recommendations of the report on charities alluded to by my colleague. I will have more to say about that in a moment as well.

In order to understand the first element of this, which is the creation of a week, as I understand it, at the end of February to salute charities, we need to take into account that there have already been other statutes proposed and enacted to deal with the charitable sector. For example, there was Bill C-399 on a tax credit for volunteers, Bill S-201 to create a national philanthropy day, tax incentives for a charitable donation study, which the finance committee has undertaken, and so forth and so on.

The context needs to be understood. Is it going to add value to have such a week to salute our charities in light of that reality? That needs to be understood. Again, it is something a committee could look at more carefully. We recommended and support this initiative so that a committee can look at it in the context I have just described.

The government's approach seems to find ways to increasingly transfer what we used to think of as government responsibilities to the private sector. Charities, in short, are often required by the government to take up the slack in what used to be governmental activities.

In my community, we have The Mustard Seed and Our Place. There are innumerable food banks from coast to coast to coast. These charities are doing what many Canadians think is the responsibility of the government. That is something that is increasingly a problem.

No less an authority than the Fraser Institute has indicated that Canadians give only about half as much as our American friends do to charities. Perhaps we are taxed more. Perhaps we are less generous people. I do not know. My friend has indicated that the donor base is in fact going down. Therefore, we need to understand the implications of the second part of the bill in an already quite fragile situation.

I indicated that the government on the one hand is encouraging Canadians to give more. At the same time, it is taking away essential public services.

I want to go to the place the bill originated, which was with the recommendations of the law firm Drache Aptowitzer. I looked at some of the writings they have posted on their website to try to understand where the bill would fit. Sadly, they report that the Conservative government is making charitable donations even more difficult for Canadians.

In an article called “T3010: Mounting Complexity for Charities”, they report that it is getting harder and harder, despite recommendations to the contrary. The breadth of information now required, they state, is enormous. They give a list of forms and information charities are required to provide that is astounding. A booklet of 40 pages in length is provided. There is form T3010, the registered charity information return; form TF725, the registered charity basic information sheet; the financial statements of the charities; and the directors/trustees and like officials worksheet. There are pages of schedules.

What they say, the same people who have recommended this 60-day period, which is the second phase of the bill, is that we now have schedule 7, another form, and that “this has to do with political activity which of course is a hot topic for government”. They continue that in the 2012 budget “there were several announcements about third party political funding and in particular, funding from outside Canada”, and the author states: “How dare those Americans meddle in a Canadian environmental issue!”

They say that the request for information would be very difficult to comply with and point out that a lot of expensive audits would be required.

The official opposition is concerned about the way charities have been targeted if they are not popular with the government. That is something I am hearing daily in my riding.

Imagine Canada and the charitable organizations it represents have a lot of mixed feelings about Bill C-458. They like the concept, but like us, they are very concerned about the administration.

The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants has said that by extending the deadline date by 60 days, from December 31 to the end of February, there will be administrative issues that will create concerns, namely the provision of receipts from the charities to donors to meet the deadline dates for personal tax returns, April 30, and trust returns, March 31.

The Canadian Bar Association, of which I am a proud member, has expressed similar concerns.

The costs are hard to imagine and hard to estimate. Would it result in an increase in personal donations? Perhaps. One would hope so. However, we need to examine carefully the real cost of this initiative.

The NDP will be supporting the bill so that it can be examined with the care it deserves at the finance committee or at the appropriate committee.

With that, I would just like to say that on the one hand the Conservatives are claiming to be helping charitable organizations, but on the other hand often cutting funding for those charities and making it more difficult with their red tape for them to continue to make the contribution they make to our society.

National Charities Week ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to recognize the hundreds of charitable organizations from coast to coast and the phenomenal work they do not only within Canada, but outside of it as well.

We should recognize that Bill C-458 will have a fairly profound impact in individuals being able to contribute toward charities. When we talk about that extension, we see things like RRSPs and the impact they have had. We look forward to ultimately seeing the bill go to the next stage in anticipation that there will be a great deal of feedback provided.

To get more on the record the incredible work the huge number of charitable organizations do, I want compliment to the member for bringing forward the bill. We look forward to the next stage. I would like to provide him with another opportunity to maybe add a few words.