House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was public.


Young Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The next question is on Motion No. 7. All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Young Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members


Young Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Young Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members


Young Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

Young Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

(Motion agreed to.)

Young Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Normally at this time the House would proceed to the taking of deferred divisions on report stage of the bill. However, pursuant to Standing Order 45(6), the recorded divisions will stand deferred until Monday, February 13 at6.30 p.m.

Young Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.


Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you were to seek it you would find unanimous consent to further defer that vote from Monday at the time of adjournment until Tuesday at 5.30 p.m.

Young Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the House give unanimous consent to this motion?

Young Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to.)

Agriculture And Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act
Government Orders

February 10th, 1995 / 12:50 p.m.

Mount Royal


Sheila Finestone for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

moved that Bill C-61, an act to to establish a system of administrative monetary penalties for the enforcement of the Canada Agricultural Products Act, the Feeds Act, the Fertilizers Act, the Health of Animals Act, the Meat Inspection Act, the Pest Control Products Act, the Plant Protection Act and the Seeds Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Agriculture And Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings


Lyle Vanclief Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food

Mr. Speaker, the government has tabled Bill C-61 introducing the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act, a major component of our program to reform enforcement of the regulatory system for agriculture and agri-food products.

This bill introduces an option to enforce agriculture regulations outside the courts when domestic or imported products do not measure up to Canada's excellenct standards for health, safety and quality. A system that allows for equal treatment of domestic and imported products has been requested by the industry.

The administrative monetary penalty system, AMPS, would allow government officials to issue monetary penalties for most breaches of eight federal statutes and regulations under those acts in cases involving both domestic and imported products instead of proceeding through the criminal justice system as has been the case in the past.

The use of the criminal justice system would be reserved for serious breaches warranting high fines, a criminal record and the possibility of imprisonment. The move is in keeping with the government's overall plan. This overall plan will include that we ensure our high standards, apply those standards consistently to both domestic and imported products, increase the rate of compliance and perform our important regulatory function in a more efficient and cost effective manner.

The administrative monetary penalty system means precisely what it says. Monetary penalties will be imposed for violations under eight acts and their regulations, including the Canada Agricultural Products Act, the Feeds Act, the Fertilizer Act, the Health of Animals Act, the Meat Inspection Act, the Pest Control Products Act, the Plant Protection Act and the Seeds Act.

The system we are proposing today was developed in conjunction with the Department of Justice through the regulatory compliance project, a cross government initiative looking at alternatives to criminal prosecution of regulatory violations. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food and I are acutely aware that food safety and quality have been and must continue to be our top priority.

Our reputation for safety, quality and the competitiveness of Canadian products is vital to our domestic consumers. It gives producers and processors a critical advantage in the international marketplace. Doing a better job as regulators means protecting that reputation both at home and abroad. That is tied to our overall government commitment to jobs and growth by making the most out of liberalized world trade.

A year ago this government made a number of commitments to the people of Canada. I am pleased to say that within our first year of office we have made a great amount of headway on a number of fronts. Improving the regulatory system is one of those areas.

In reforming the way we enforce regulations we have asked some basic questions. Does what we do now make sense practically and economically? How could we do a better job of regulating? What does the industry want? What about consumers and what about our international obligations?

Under the present conditions penalties for regulatory offences are dealt with under criminal law. That means they are prosecuted in the courts. This is costly. It can cause delays and means that strict requirements of criminal procedure must be followed. This places a considerable pressure on our limited resources.

As a regulatory department we are not dealing with crimes in the order of murder, theft and assault. We are dealing with regulatory contraventions that fall outside true criminal law such as misleading labelling of food products, improper sanitation procedures in food processing and failure to follow market requirements for federal inspection or for packaging.

This legislation, AMPS, will allow us to treat most of these regulatory violations outside criminal courts in a manner that requires less formal procedures and lower costs for proceedings. It will allow us to allocate our scarce resources to uses with the highest value.

This legislation is far more efficient than prosecution, as it allows for the settlement of penalties without going through a hearing process. It is also a much fairer process for violators, as it removes the criminal stigma with these violations.

The use of the administrative monetary penalty system would widen the array of options available to the department in responding to non-compliance. We now prosecute essentially in situations of serious non-compliance such as actions that introduce a foreign disease or a pest into the country. Those are the main areas in which we follow the present process because of the cost and time involved.

A suitable alternative to prosecution that provides suitable deterrents to non-compliance is needed for effective regulatory enforcement. AMPS is such a system.

AMPS would provide the government with a much needed method of enforcing compliance with our regulations. The United States uses a monetary penalty system for exporters, yet we have not had this option to ensure that imports meet our standards in Canada. The United States department of agriculture and most other regulatory agencies in the United States use a system of monetary penalty.

Currently we have federal inspectors in plants and establishments in Canada and we generally have effective enforcement options in these situations to deal with non-compliant products. We can seize and detain the product in establishments or stop the processing line until the product is brought into compliance. For imported products these options are not possible. However, the monetary penalty system would give us an effective response to non-compliance in the market of these products.

The system would allow for the use of consistent enforcement practices against importers and domestic companies marketing products that do not meet Canadian health, Canadian safety or Canadian quality standards. Consistency of consequences for non-compliance combined with a greater rate of compliance increases the competitiveness of Canada's agri-food sector.

The recommendation to move to an administrative system came out of the department's regulatory review, where industry associations pointed out the need for active enforcement of domestic standards to imported products. They want a level playing field. This system would lead to equitable enforcement of regulations for domestic and imported products. Further consultation with the agri-food industry would take place in the development of regulations for the system.

The system emphasizes compliance, not punishment. In general, warnings would be issued before an administrative monetary penalty is proposed. In those situations where a penalty has been imposed, the system would allow officials with the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food to negotiate solutions with companies when the product violates an act or a regulation. Penalties may be reduced or indeed waived if corrective actions such as processing modifications, staff training, the purchase of new equipment or whatever it takes to ensure future compliance, are made by the industry.

This kind of immediate corrective action results in a better product. It also results in improved health and safety and, in the end, more effective enforcement. Negotiated solutions to non-compliance are not now available.

With the monetary policy system being administrative in nature, it would replace most prosecutions and decriminalize violations of the various acts, as there is not a possibility of obtaining a criminal record or of being imprisoned. The system represents a further step toward decriminalizing our regulatory violations. We would retain the right to prosecute offences committed with intent that have the potential to cause significant harm. As well, we would ensure the effective regulation of health, safety and quality of both domestic and imported products.

The system would also allow us to issue tickets at ports of entry to Canada and allow us to issue those tickets for minor violations committed by the travelling public that try to illegally bring meat or meat products or plants or plant products into Canada.

The problem of that type of thing happening has the potential to be serious because of the possibility of introducing plant or animal diseases into the country. For example, the introduction of foot and mouth disease a number of years ago resulted in millions of dollars in damages and costs for its control and eradication. The current system based on prosecution before the courts is generally inappropriate for these violations unless significant harm is done.

Along with an education component developed by the department to increase awareness of important requirements called "Beware and Declare", we expect the monetary penalty system to solve the problem efficiently and effectively.

Through these initiatives major airlines will be showing travellers coming into the country a video on the restrictions surrounding the importation of agriculture and agri-food products and the possibility of receiving a penalty if they attempt to bring meat or plant products into the country without declaring them.

The use of the monetary penalty is not a new concept in the federal regulatory system. The AMPS being proposed in the bill borrows on the system used by Transport Canada to regulate activities under the Aeronautics Act as does Human Resources Development Canada for enforcement under the Unemployment Insurance Act. Other departments are as well considering a system for use in their regulatory areas.

Under the administrative monetary penalty system we expect a higher rate of compliance simply because the system is flexible, faster, fairer, and sends a clear message on what the response to non-compliance will be. We believe the system makes sense as we move toward a partnership with industry and as we shift many of our inspection activities away from hands on inspection and move more toward a monitoring role.

New enforcement options are needed to address this shift in responsibility as industry will take on a greater ownership of ensuring that agri-food products are in compliance with regulations.

The administrative monetary penalty system provides alternatives to both overly strict and weak enforcement. As I said earlier, our main enforcement options at the present time are to seize and detain a product and to prosecute. In addition, we can suspend and cancel licences, deregister plants and withdraw services. Because these last three options stop business operations either temporarily or permanently, we have used these sanctions sparingly and only as a last resort. As well these sanctions are not available for imported products.

A monetary penalty would generally be considered appropriate when the violation posed actual or potential risk of harm to health or safety and would cause economic harm or is a threat to the environment.

Administrative monetary penalties would be imposed on the basis of absolute liability, that is the penalty could be imposed without proving intent or negligence. The concept of absolute liability is appropriate to the administrative enforcement of regulations with modest levels for penalties and no threat of imprisonment.

We expect to begin implementation with penalties that will be broken into three basic levels ranging from $50 to $6,000 depending on the severity of the offence. The proposed legislation, however, would allow us to set maximum penalties at $15,000. This built-in flexibility would help to accommodate future increase that might be due to inflation and other causes.

The amount of the penalties could be adjusted higher or lower based on several mitigating or aggravating criteria, including seriousness of the violation, the compliance record, the degree of intent to commit a violation, the amount of harm done including harm to health and safety and economic and environmental harm.

As part of the system a review process would be set up to give an opportunity to be heard to those who believe they did not commit a violation. That review would be carried out by an appropriate government official, or a violator could request a hearing before an independent tribunal with recourse to the Federal Court of Canada as the final level of review.

Again in keeping with the emphasis on compliance, not punishment, the proposed act would authorize officials to enter into negotiations, if requested by the offenders, for the amount of penalties and for concluding compliance agreements. Under the compliance agreements, fines can be reduced or waived if the industry takes the necessary steps to ensure future compliance.

As well, under this system fines will be reduced by 50 per cent for offenders who pay the fine within the time prescribed by regulations without asking for a review. Doing a better job of regulating makes sense for the consumer, for the industry and for government.

The administrative monetary penalty system would provide for a quick response to most non-compliance situations. Combined with other enforcement measures, this should have the effect of improving compliance with the regulations. In turn this is expected to reduce the government's exposure to liability resulting from the underenforcement of statutes and regulations.

To conclude I would like to say that to introduce this system initially requires the passage of this omnibus legislation that would amend the eight acts I listed earlier. Implementation of the administrative monetary penalty system is an important step in our overall plan. It is important in order to improve the agriculture and agri-food inspection system. It is important to apply our standards of high quality, high health and high safety equally to products coming into the country and to products produced in Canada. It is important to stop the travelling public from bringing in illegal plants, animals or products made of plants and animals, and to bring an overall greater sense of fairness and expediency to the enforcement of regulations.

We are working in close co-operation with the industry. We are adapting to the changing business environment. We are finding different ways of doing business that do not compromise on the world renowned standards of excellence in Canada.

I recommend members of the House approve Bill C-61 as expeditiously as possible.

Agriculture And Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to Bill C-61, immediately after the presentation by the hon. member for Prince Edward-Hastings, especially since the hon. member, until quite recently, operated a big farm in his own riding and is an expert on the subject.

The purpose of the bill before the House today is to provide enforcement options to deal with persons who violate certain laws that regulate health standards and the quality of agricultural products sold in Canada and, of course, Quebec.

This legislation, as we just pointed out, will affect eight acts and their regulations, including the Canada Agricultural Prod-

ucts Act, the Meat Inspection Act, the Fertilizer Act and the Health of Animals Act. With Bill C-61, the government establishes what are referred to as AMPS. AMPS stands for administrative monetary penalties system. Throughout this debate, when we refer to AMPS, that is what we mean. The purpose of Bill C-61 is to extend the range of enforcement options available in legislation administered by the Food Production and Inspection Branch.

Under this system, an inspector from the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food will be able to impose penalties when regulations are violated. This procedure would obviate the need for going to court, so this is also a matter of alleviating the burden on the judiciary system.

After reading the Auditor General's comments on inspection procedures, it is clear changes were necessary. I realize that these changes are not directly related to the changes recommended in the Auditor General's report, but this may be a first step.

I may remind the House that in his latest report, the Auditor General of Canada pointed out that resources were being wasted as a result of the incredible confusion with respect to inspection standards. A document from the Food Production and Inspection Branch tells us that the government expects to cut $44 million in this sector over five years, including $22 million in the next budget, which the minister will be bringing down a few weeks from now. After the by-election in Brome-Missisquoi, of course.

It would be worthwhile knowing the savings, which my colleague from Prince Edward-Hastings did not mention, the amount of the savings generated by this new approach and whether these savings are included in the cuts mentioned earlier.

We must be very careful to avoid imposing drastic cuts that could affect the quality of inspection services. At the risk of digressing briefly from the context of the bill we are currently considering, that is Bill C-61, I will take the liberty of adding that I have received a lot of mail from small meat-packing firms concerned about possibly having to pay inspection costs themselves.

The members of the Bloc quebecois will be keeping a close watch, at the appropriate time, to ensure the government does not dump the costs onto small businesses. That is the end of my brief digression, Mr. Speaker.

The fact remains that the AMP system provides for the imposition of fines, but through an administrative process. An AMP cannot lead to either a criminal record or imprisonment. The main objective of the system is to ensure compliance with the law, it appears. It is not intended to impose heavy fines as the result of an offence.

The system invites negotiation much more than severe penalties. In fact, to my understanding, it provides an alternative to public officials who must ensure compliance with legislation. The principle is clear: the intention is to reduce the number of legal proceedings and to provide more satisfactory solutions to carrying out the law.

Representatives from the agricultural sector have already pointed out that overly excessive fines were sometimes imposed for offences and that officials sometimes had to simply overlook certain mistakes. The flexibility of the AMPs could lessen the problem.

What Bill C-61 provides that is new is an alternative solution for the offender. Once an individual is found guilty, he has a number of options open to him. He can contest his guilt with the minister within a prescribed time frame and under certain terms of the regulations. If, on the other hand, he accepts the guilty verdict and pays the fine, the amount of the fine is automatically cut in half.

In our system of justice, the presumption of innocence is a fundamental right. By giving the offender this option, the accused is in effect threatened with having to go to trial and having to hire a lawyer to defend himself, with all that entails. He is simply told to pay up and be quiet. We oppose this principle which would require the less affluent to admit their guilt even though they would like to proclaim their innocence. The implementation of this measure could create a dangerous precedent.

I would like to compare this possibility to a personal experience of mine. I was stopped by an officer of the Sureté du Québec; I was certainly at fault, driving at 141 km per hour. The officer said, very kindly, "Sir, you were doing 141 but we will say 135, that will save you this much, you will save that much".

Once he gave me the ticket, I of course wrote out the cheque as soon as I got home and sent it off right away and, in so doing, admitted my guilt. As another example, one of my friends was once ticketed in a different but similar situation, for failing to come to a stop, although he was sure he had stopped properly.

He decided to plead not guilty but he too, poor fellow, should have written out a cheque as I did to get some peace of mind. He had to appear three times in court in Thetford Mines. The first time, the case was postponed because the judge was not in a good mood. The second time, the officer failed to appear. He had informed the court, but there had not been enough time to inform my friend; the third time, he won.

Yes, he won, but the money he saved did not make up for the costs incurred since he missed nearly three full days of work, not to mention his travel expenses and what he paid for his defence.

So, you see, I am more or less convinced that many of our fellow citizens will simply pay, even if they are not at fault, they will pay immediately to receive the 50 per cent reduction. What a deal!

You know that for a $2,000 fine, the fine is reduced by 50 per cent if paid in cash. So, for that reason, I strongly suspect that many people will pay forthwith to avoid costs which, in my opinion, would be much greater. It is a basic right and it must still be respected. As the hon. members opposite have said so well, we live in the world's most democratic country, so we must not let this wonderful democracy run wild, even though it sometimes seems, in my opinion anyway, to only hobble along in some cases.

Therefore, we are against the principle which obliges the less well-off to admit their guilt, even though they would rather claim their innocence. Applying this measure could set a dangerous precedent because the other available option, if the fine is $2,000 or more, is to reach an agreement with the minister. Applying this alternative solution is simple. If the minister accepts-the decision is discretionary-offenders can considerably reduce or even cancel their fines if corrective measures are taken to comply with the regulations in the future, that is individuals or businesses will see their fines reduced by $1 for each $2 they invest to improve their methods, businesses, ways of doing things or working, whether they buy new equipment or give new training to their employees.

Therefore, for each $2 invested in their businesses, $1 is taken off of their fines. This means that for each investment made to comply with the department's regulations, their fines are regularly reduced by 50 per cent. Thus offenders are able to negotiate their sentences. Our judicial system does not lend itself, in my opinion, to this kind of negotiation. When people make mistakes, they must bear the consequences.

This method constitutes a form of economic discrimination in the sense that individuals and businesses with bursting wallets will barely feel the impact of the sanctions, while people who are innocent, but have less financial means at their disposal, could pay bigger fines than their rich neighbours, sometimes for lesser violations.

We also have no idea of how the offenders' compliance costs will be estimated, or of what will happen if suppliers inflate prices. If we want to give businesses incentives to invest, let us do it through tax programs or through other means, not by negotiating sentences.

Another thing that bothers me is the power given to the minister and, by extension, to his employees. The minister will use his own employees to ensure compliance instead of the courts. They will be the masters of the destiny of those who have committed violations. They decide if there has been a violation, label it as minor, serious, or very serious, set the amount of the penalty, decide on the cases in which the tribunal may intervene and approve or reject compliance agreements. It seems to me that this is being done and that it could be detrimental and could lead to the obvious risk of political interference, not to say barefaced patronage.

These officials will have full authority to determine whether or not there has been a violation, and if so, the degree of fault. Who will decide if the fine is $2,000 for a minor infraction, $10,000 for a serious infraction or $15,000 for a very serious infraction? The decision-making process is therefore decentralized and the minister claims that the regulations remove any risk of arbitrary decisions. Because they are seen by the department as essential to an equitable application of penalties, it goes without saying that a draft of the regulations must be made available to the members of the committee studying this bill.

I am also somewhat bothered by the independence of the tribunal responsible for hearing the complaints of those named in notices of violation and for reviewing the decisions made by the minister or his officials. This reminds me, if I may digress again, of the meeting last week of the 19 Quebec Liberal members with the president of the CBC to discuss coverage of the referendum campaign in Quebec. It is terrible, Mr. Speaker, the political interference of this government in information. When we speak of democracy in a country such as ours, the first thing this should call to mind is the right to accurate, truthful and unbiased information. When a Liberal party caucus meets with the president, it is not to tell him: Cover the referendum, but do not slant it in favour of the Yes side, slant it in our favour because we are the ones who pay you, who set your budget and who will reappoint you to your position. And, for that matter, we are the ones who appointed you to it in the first place.

I also heard in the fall in this House that the minister of heritage had written to a quasi-judicial body, the CRTC, which reports through his department. The minister had written so that one of his constituents could obtain a licence. And the Prime Minister excused him by saying that he was not alone, that eight other ministers had written-

Agriculture And Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am very sorry, but the time set aside for government orders has expired. The hon. member can continue next time.

It being 1.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Charitable And Non-Profit Organization Director Remuneration Disclosure Act
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.


John Bryden Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

moved that Bill C-244, an act to require charitable and non-profit organizations that receive public funds to declare the remuneration of their directors and senior officers, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and pleasure to rise today to speak on behalf of Bill C-224, an act that would require charitable and non-profit organizations to declare once a year the salaries and benefits of their directors and senior officers.

This is a votable bill. If passed into law it will have a profound effect on all Canadians. It is a first step in bringing public accountability to a huge sector of the Canadian economy that has never been under meaningful public supervision.

I am speaking of the not for profit sector, the charities and non-profit organizations that pay no taxes and yet account for at least $120 billion in revenues and expenditures each year, about one-sixth of Canada's gross domestic product. Let me repeat, $120 billion, a sixth of GDP.

Incredible though it may seem, Canada has had few rules of public accountability governing this huge sector of the economy. The financial affairs of charities are but thinly disclosed to the public while those of non-profit organizations are entirely beyond public scrutiny. Even though charities and non-profit organizations are funded directly or indirectly by the taxpayer, they have been allowed to operate at whatever level of secrecy they choose.

Oh, yes, they will argue, they have to keep books. They have to be prepared for an audit by Revenue Canada. However there are 70,000 charities and 60,000 plus non-profit organizations. What are the chances of a spot audit? Even if an organization is audited, the Income Tax Act forbids public disclosure of the financial details or the results of the examination. The public has no right to know even when a charity or non-profit organization is discovered to have failed to keep the public trust, neither right nor opportunity.

This is a situation that has gone on forever. The potential for abuse is huge. The scope of the likely waste is difficult to comprehend. If only one-quarter of this $120 billion is being frittered away, soaked up in excessive salaries, improper contracts or bureaucratic inefficiencies, then Canadians are losing $30 billion annually, which becomes $30 billion out of the economy.

No wonder Canada has a debt and deficit crisis. I must say it never made sense to me that Canada, with all its resources and given its fine entrepreneurial spirit, should be in the cellar with Italy in terms of debt among the G-7 nations. Now it does.

No nation can possibly let an economic sector worth one-sixth of its GDP run along without scrutiny, without public accountability and not run up serious bills. And not have the financial crisis that Canada now faces.

There is irony here. As the finance minister casts around for spending cuts and savings crucial to the budget soon to be tabled, he looks in every corner of the rest of the economy; consumers, corporations, social programs, the public service and so on. He does not look at charities and non-profit organizations. Is there no waste here, no savings? Of course there are. I can only guess at the reason why charities and non-profit organizations have not yet come under the deficit reduction microscope.

It may well be because there has been no decent financial overview of the not for profit sector. It has literally been a case of out of sight, out of mind, for a generation of finance ministers.

No doubt this is true of non-profit organizations. There were 60,000 of them in 1986 and up until two years ago they did not have to file an annual financial information return equivalent to that required of charities. They only had to file as incorporated companies or trusts. If they were neither, they did not have to file at all.

Consequently, as the Auditor General stated in 1990, Revenue Canada "has no effective check on the right to enjoy tax exempt status". He could have stated further that the public, private citizens, journalists and even members of Parliament have no opportunity whatsoever to see how they manage their affairs.

However, thanks to the information returns required of charities, though very inadequate in terms of public disclosure, we can at least glimpse the huge dimensions of Canada's charity industry. I would like to refer my colleagues to an excellent paper, "A Portrait of Canada's Charities" which was produced by the Centre of Philanthropy, based on a study of 1993 charity returns.

Briefly, here are some of its findings. Canada has 70,000 charities through which $86 billion passed in 1993 for 12 per cent to 13 per cent of GDP. This amount is equal to the GDP of the entire province of British Columbia and considerably more than the entire agricultural sector. Forty billion dollars was paid out by charities in salaries and benefits-a huge sum.

Government funding of charities amounted to $49 billion in 1993, slightly more than half of all the charities' revenues. Hospitals and teaching institutions received 58 per cent of all

revenues, or about $50 billion. By contrast churches received only 6 per cent of revenues or about $5 billion.

Here is the problem. Anyone can find out how much a minister of a church is making for 6 per cent of the charity take. But it is usually impossible, right across this country, to find out the salary of a hospital or university president for 58 per cent of the charity take.

Why not? Hospitals and universities are all fully funded directly or indirectly by the taxpayer. Why does the taxpayer not have the right to know how much of his hard earned tax dollar is being spent on the salaries of their chief administrators? Why not?

The answer is, and I am sure that 90 per cent of Canadians will agree, that the taxpayer should know. We do have the right. If you are paying the bill you have a fundamental right to know how your money is being spent. That is a given. That is what Bill C-224 addresses.

It would require every not for profit organization to file a statutory declaration showing the total remuneration and benefits received by all directors and senior officers of charities and non-profit organizations. The minister of revenue would then make this information available to anyone who wanted it.

This I should add is no less than what is required now by publicly traded companies in Canada. If for profit companies are required to provide this kind of disclosure to shareholders, why should not charities and non-profit organizations do the same thing for their shareholders, the taxpayers of Canada?

It seems so reasonable, so obvious, so morally right. The fact is, however, that hospitals for instance have often ferociously defended the secrecy of their books and denied absolutely, even to members of their own governing boards, details on the salaries paid their top administrators. Indeed, trying to find out how most hospitals run themselves is akin to trying to assess the administrative practices of the government in Beijing from city hall in Thunder Bay. Most hospital board meetings are held in camera. The public and press are excluded.

This is all the more mystifying in that governments at all levels are told that hospitals are hurting, that beds must be cut back unless funding is sustained or even increased. Yet not even the politicians deliberating the problem of health care spending are entitled to know how much a hospital president is making. Why not?

Some might argue that the current charity information return already provides enough information about remuneration. It does not. It only requires totals and sadly, some charities filling out the form step around the spirit of openness.

For example, the charity return asks for the "total remuneration paid to employees who are executive officers, directors or trustees of the charity". Then it asks for the total number of people involved, which invites division of that number to get the average per individual.

Alas, often the trustees of charities are unpaid. Therefore the number you are dividing by is inflated and the average remuneration appears far lower than it actually is for key administrators.

Sadder still is the fact that many charities simply skip the remuneration lines altogether. The Canadian Cancer Society of Ontario reports paying over $8 million in salaries and then leaves the following lines on executive remuneration blank. Therefore we do not even get totals.

This practice is common. Any random sampling of annual charity returns will come up with many where the remuneration lines are not filled out. There is obviously an unwillingness by many charities to provide this elementary information. They get away with it because there is no penalty for their omissions short of revoking their charity status. There is no adequate screening of the filled out forms either. Errors abound and some must be deliberate.

Bill C-224 partially plugs this loophole. The legislation provides a penalty for the failure to disclose. A fine of up to 50 per cent of the funds received from government is a law that has teeth. Perhaps that sounds tough but in fact legislators in the United States have been tearing their hair and trying to bring to task not for profit organizations that have been giving executives excessive compensation.

The lifting of charitable status is too slow, the ways of concealing excessive compensation too intricate. I have to add that the United States is years ahead of Canada in trying to tackle this problem.

How bad is it? In the United States the information returns of both non-profit and charities are available to the public. There too, they have this phenomenon of organizations skipping the lines pertaining to executive remuneration. Prodding by the Internal Revenue Service has disclosed salaries exceeding one million dollars annually, $300,000 or $400,000 is not unusual.

This is undoubtedly happening in Canada as well. Our charity information returns are primitive in the detail they require in comparison to those of the Americans. The Canadian public, citizens, journalists or politicians cannot even see the returns of non-profit organizations. While these are available to every American on demand at the office of the non-profit organization, the equivalent information in Canada is denied to Canadians.

While my remarks have tended to focus on charities it is only because there is at least some public information on them. There is nothing on non-profit organizations. Nothing at all.

Revenue Canada is not even sure how many there are. The only figure I could obtain, 60,000, is nine years old and nobody-I mean nobody-knows how much money flows through them yearly. If it is even half that of charities, that is $40 billion. I suggest that that figure is conservative. I suggest that it could be considerably more. I suggest the combined figure that I have been using, $120 billion, is also conservative.

Last week I received a visitor at my constituency office in Hamilton-Wentworth riding. He was from Manitoba and while on business in Toronto he drove over to meet me because he had read in his local paper that I was investigating the not for profit industries.

He told me that he headed a for profit company in the business of recycling building materials. He said that he was being killed by a non-profit organization in the same business which enjoyed a competitive advantage because it did not pay taxes.

That same week, I received a call from the president of a Toronto union local representing jail workers. His problem was with a non-profit organization hired by the provincial government to manage group homes for youths convicted under the Young Offenders Act. The union wanted access to the company's financial statements for the purposes of negotiating a collective agreement. Denied. A non-profit organization does not have to disclose financial details to anyone. Secrecy is absolute, no matter how the taxpayer's dollar is being spent, and so it goes.

The real problem is that we do not know the net negative effect non-profit organizations are having on the economy. That many exist purely to pay inflated salaries to their principal officers there is no doubt. In doing so, with the advantage of not having to pay taxes, are they forcing out of business legitimate for-profit enterprises which would pay taxes? How damaging to a free market economy is a plethora of businesses which only have to compete sufficiently to line the pockets of their executives rather than sufficiently to show a profit to pay shareholders? How much of Canada's deficit is rooted in non-profit companies doing barely enough and no more?

There is only one quick way to get at this issue: require non-profit organizations to declare the remuneration of their principal officers, as Bill C-224 proposes, and the benefits as well.

MPs are often accused of having a too rich pension plan. I agree that is so and that it should be brought into line with industry. Tax exempt charities and non-profit organizations are dependent upon the taxpayer too, no less so than MPs. What kind of pensions do their executive officers get? Chances are given that this information has never been available, many of their pension plans would make current MP pensions look starved and stingy.

Just as the public demands accountability of its politicians, so it should demand accountability of those organizations dependent upon public and governmental generosity. There is no excuse for secrecy when tax dollars are being spent, directly or indirectly.

Finally, it is clear that the entire $120 billion not for profit sector is urgently in need of review and oversight. However, a problem of such magnitude cannot be solved overnight.

Nevertheless, something must be done immediately because the loss to the economy is undoubtedly enormous. The floodlight of public scrutiny must be brought to bear as quickly as possible. That is the intention of Bill C-224. It cannot cure in a stroke an industry that has been allowed to function unsupervised for decades but it can bring into sharp relief the fundamental nature of the problem. By forcing into daylight those executive salaries and benefits which are obviously excessive, it can show the greed.