Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his speech, which I thought was rather well researched and skilfully crafted.
I wish to tell him that members of the Bloc Quebecois are not against this bill but would like to discuss it more thoroughly. I want to take this opportunity to add my two cents' worth to the discussion.
Today's debate is on Bill C-224, an act to require charitable and non-profit organizations that receive public funds to report the remuneration of their directors and senior officers, which was introduced by my hon. colleague, the hon. member for Hamilton-Wentworth.
This bill would require charitable and non-profit organizations that receive, directly or indirectly, any payment from the public funds of Canada to report the remuneration and benefits received by their directors and senior officers. My Bloc colleagues and I think that the objective of this bill deserves our support.
It would be appropriate, in the name of openness, to require organizations receiving funds from the federal government or the public to disclose the remuneration and benefits provided to their directors and senior officers. Canadians would thus be able to ensure that public funds used to support charitable organizations do not end up in the pockets of those who administer these organizations, as we have seen recently at all levels.
As a donor, the federal government would be entitled to require that the remuneration and benefits received by the directors and senior officers of non-profit organizations, at least those supported by the government, be made public.
We support the principle of this bill for another reason: it will always be difficult to assess with accuracy the voluntary sec-
tor's contribution to Canadian society until we find out the number of paid employees and their salaries, as well as the size of the infrastructure in place to facilitate the work done by volunteers.
In these difficult times, understandably, volunteer work and donations are more needed than ever. This is due to the fact that voluntary organizations face an ever-growing demand for programs and services, on the one hand, and a reduction in government assistance and stiffer competition for private funds, on the other hand.
We must recognize that volunteer work is an essential element of society as well as a way of life and social duty. It is a democratic gesture which plays a very important role in the life of the community and compensates, as I just explained, for the government's gradual withdrawal from a number of sectors.
However, the situation is more complex as regards non-profit volunteer organizations, since they include various national, provincial and municipal organizations which are active in sectors as diverse as health, social services, the environment, justice, education, international assistance to name but a few.
I have some concerns regarding this bill. First, as my hon. colleague mentioned, line 16 in clause 3 reads as follows: "-receives, directly or indirectly". That wording is very general and could include a vast number of non-profit organizations which think they have nothing to do with the federal government, or with direct funding from Canadian taxpayers.
For example, a university research fund receiving money from a provincial government would or could be affected by this bill, since money received could indirectly come from federal-provincial transfers. Consequently, that research fund would have to disclose the salaries of its managers or directors.
As well, would an organization like the Knights of Columbus in a small town be subject to this bill, since the vast majority of such small charitable and non-profit organizations rely on public donations and therefore on public money?
I am concerned that the objective of this bill might be altered by the means used to achieve it. I fear that this bill might be stalled because it is too ambitious and could generate a lot of red tape.
This bill put forward by my colleague is commendable, its purpose being to eliminate as much as possible frauds committed by administrators and directors of non-profit organizations who take money from the Canadian public and use it more for themselves than for the great causes they claim to defend.
In order to respect the spirit of this bill, I think that we need to look more closely at its scope. We cannot treat in the same fashion organizations that are responsible and those that some people use to their own financial advantage, as can be seen occasionally.
We must also make a distinction between most small non-profit or charitable organizations and those that have large budgets. What constitutes a large budget, $50,000, $100,000? We do not know exactly. We need to have statistics on this and discuss the issue.
We must also make a distinction between a person who works hard all year long for a cause he or she believes in and who receives, for example, $40,000 a year as executive director and another person who would receive the same amount of money to organize, for example, a fund-raising campaign lasting two months. A mere report to the minister cannot make the difference between these two cases.
There is also a problem of confidentiality, of course, when a person's employment revenues are disclosed without the job description or the length of employment being known. For all these reasons, I think that the scope of this bill has to be limited.
First of all, only the organizations receiving directly any payment from the federal government and major non-profit or charitable organizations would have, for example, to file along with their annual reports a statement of income and salaries specifying the major positions and the remuneration of their incumbents.
With this proposal, there will be no need to create more bureaucracy, since companies already have to produce an annual report to which the income and salaries annex could be added, as would be the case for some charitable or non-profit organizations that meet criteria which, I think, still have to be defined.
Hence, the remuneration and benefits of the directors and managers of all major non-profit organizations would be disclosed, which is the purpose of this bill, and the financial institutions minister would be able to answer any legitimate inquiry.
Knowing full well that the hon. member for Hamilton-Wentworth is acting in the interest of the Canadian population, for which he must be commended, we would be prepared to support the principle of the bill if we could amend it to abolish some of the pointless conditions it prescribes for the vast majority of non-profit organizations whose staff receive little or no remuneration and to avoid creating another useless level of bureaucracy.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers in Canada as well as in Quebec, who work day in and day out to promote a cause they believe in.