House of Commons Hansard #42 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was energy.


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Macleod Alberta


Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, once again I listened with interest to my hon. colleague who seems to be speaking quite a bit today. He recognized the fact that this has been raised in two different parliamentary sessions, both by Liberals and by Conservatives. We recognize that, but what concerns me is the inconsistencies. Many Liberal members were very adamant in their opposition to the former iterations of this same private member's legislation.

In fact, the member for Richmond Hill suggested:

--the hon. member's proposal would significantly compromise the fundamental principle of the tax system, the principle that people with comparable incomes should pay comparable amounts of tax.

As well the current member for Halifax West dismissed it by saying, “In my view, it is not actually any more likely that someone will volunteer because of a tax deduction like this”. I could go on, but my hon. colleagues are suggesting that I wrap up.

I will wrap up with a question for the hon. member. Did he or did he not in the 37th session of the second Parliament, Wednesday, October 8, actually vote “nay” to the previous iteration of this?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member asked a very good question. However, I find it hard to believe the parliamentary secretary has his head stuck in the past.

One of the problems we have with that bill, and why Bill C-219 is necessary, is the people who are not paid do not get the deductions. Only the people who are paid with honorariums get it. The bill the member opposite talked about would have improved the situation for those who already received an honorarium, but it would have done nothing for those who did not.

Bill C-219 is important because it would give the same benefits to those volunteers who do not receive an honorarium. We need to give the same benefits to those firefighters and emergency workers who do not receive the benefit now.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, what I find alarming and amazing is the heckling from the government side when we are dealing with an important bill recognizing volunteers in our community. I do not quite understand it.

Six years ago this bill was put before Parliament and still nothing has been done. Farmers told us at the agriculture committee yesterday that they had shown up with the same complaints before Christmas, and still nothing has been done.

What is wrong with us collectively that we cannot get our government machine moving fast enough to help people in our country? Could the member comment on that?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that parliamentarians have to take charge. The contents of the bill are similar to the contents in previous bills. It has been stymied by none other than the Department of Finance. That is the reality. We have to take charge and get it done. That is easy enough to do if members of all parties support the bill and move it forward. The job will then be done.

Things are not happening now with the current government in place because everything is run out of the PMO. Remember when the Prime Minister said that he would be transparent and allow free votes? This bill is a prime example. Members of the party over there supported the bill in the past, but their deputy House leader came forward with a technicality to try to stop the bill in its tracks. That is coming out of the—

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Macleod Alberta


Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting discussion. I suggest for the hon. member for Malpeque, in response to his answer to my question, that perhaps the more effective role at that time, rather than voting no, might have been to suggest an amendment, which may have made the private member's bill better for the firefighters.

However, I welcome the opportunity to acknowledge in the House the tremendous work and the efforts of emergency service volunteers, especially volunteer firefighters. Firefighters put their lives on the line responding to emergencies at a moment's notice, as my hon. colleague has suggested, making our neighbourhoods safer. Every community and every Canadian benefits from their selfless acts of heroism.

That is why I was so pleased to see our government recognize in budget 2007 that firefighters must have the proper training to effectively respond to emergencies.

The government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, provided $1 million to the International Association of Fire Fighters to support the hazardous materials training program, a move hailed by IAFF general president Harold Schaitberger in a March 21, 2007 press release, as a major advance for public safety in Canada, one they thanked the government “for listening and for acting decisively on this issue”.

These men and women, for whose contributions we all will forever remain grateful, protect our families, homes, businesses and the communities in which we live. Consequently, some volunteer firefighters and other emergency service volunteers often receive honorariums, most commonly in the range of only a few hundred dollars, in recognition of their vital contribution to the community.

I am not sure what amount of money could ever truly compensate an individual for putting his or her life on the line for others. However, these honoraria are paid by municipalities and other public authorities.

Under the current income tax rules, emergency service volunteers can receive up to $1,000 in such honoraria without having to pay any tax on this amount. If a volunteer receives an honorarium that exceeds $1,000, he or she would only have to include the amount above the $1,000 in income. In other words, if the honorarium were $1,200, only $200 would be added to the volunteer's income for tax purposes.

This special treatment is well deserved. It is a way to recognize the crucial role played by emergency service volunteers across Canada, who routinely give of their time and put themselves in harm's way with virtually no expectation of payment and in doing so, exemplify all the traits that we respect and admire. This is especially true in our smaller rural communities and towns where volunteer firefighters play a vital role, which many in larger cities may not fully appreciate.

As columnist Robert Aaron once noted, and I will paraphrase, it is in these places where neighbours look out for each other, where they are willing to risk their lives for each other.

Mike Walsh, past president of the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association, echoed that sentiment, remarking that volunteer firefighters “answer the call every day, literally putting their lives on the line for the people of their communities”.

A few Septembers back in my home riding of Macleod, I had the honour to be part of the High River Fire Department's 100th centennial gala. It truly was a memorable evening, as I heard first-hand of the contributions that our firefighters had made throughout the years, the good they had done, the sense of community that they had fostered, and I witnessed the respect and the admiration their neighbours felt for them.

This is why I always look forward to meeting with firefighters, such as the Lethbridge Fire Fighters Association, which myself, along with my colleague from Lethbridge, had the pleasure of sitting down with this past April. If I may take a moment, the member for Lethbridge has consistently been among Parliament's strongest advocates for firefighters and emergency service volunteers in his years in Ottawa, and I applaud him for that.

The legislation before us today seeks to recognize the importance of such emergency service volunteers, proposing a graduated income tax deduction that would see the size of the deduction increase with the number of hours volunteered.

To be more precise, emergency service volunteers would benefit from $1,000 deduction from income if they volunteered for over 100 hours or more and a $2,000 deduction if they volunteered at least 200 hours.

This issue is not new, though. In recent years very similar private members' bills, Bill C-325, introduced in the 37th Parliament, and Bill C-273, introduced in the 38th Parliament, similarly sought a deduction for emergency service volunteers based on hours volunteered.

I note, however, that Parliament declined to endorse both pieces of legislation. Indeed, the Standing Committee on Finance, after undertaking a thorough review of Bill C-273 in November of 2005, recommended that the House of Commons not proceed further with the bill based on a litany of concerns, such as: the definition of the term “volunteer emergency services” and what would it include; the definition of the term “emergency” and what it would be restricted to; the activities that would qualify in determining the number of hours of volunteering; the existence of accurate, reliable record keeping and reporting capacity to determine the number of hours of volunteer emergency services; the extent to which the number of hours of volunteer service in the proposal had been set at the appropriate level; whether the authority responsible for keeping records would be a municipal authority or an entity approved by the municipality; whether the term “volunteer” would be synonymous with unpaid; the relative merits of a tax deduction versus a refundable or non-refundable tax credit; the extent to which provincial, territorial tax revenues would be affected by the proposed measure; and the extent to which this type of measure should be designed, only following consultation with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Many of these concerns are still present in the legislation before us today and will require further examination as we progress. Among them is the recurring question of fairness and equity that has arisen during previous incarnations of this debate. Basically the issue, as portrayed by certain observers, is whether this measure would be fair and reasonable from the perspective of other volunteers who also selflessly volunteer their time, but are not classified as emergency service volunteers. To illustrate this, examples of people who work in hospitals, or with people with disabilities, or with children in need are often evoked.

Ironically enough, in previous debates on similar legislation, it has traditionally been Liberal members who have made such claims. Indeed, on October 6, 2003, in this very chamber, the current Liberal member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine articulated just that when she remarked:

—I fear that the hon. member's proposition may go too far. While it is very generous toward emergency service volunteers, it may be perceived as being unfair to other taxpayers who are also volunteers.

I recognize that emergency service volunteers want to be recognized for what they do, but...I am concerned about the fact that we are asking the House to put a value on one type of volunteerism as opposed to others.

Clearly, as the House acknowledged previously, a rigorous examination surrounding the proposal outlined in Bill C-219 is merited as we move forward.

I think often of our volunteer fire departments in our own communities, those of us who have the privilege of representing rural ridings. As my hon. colleague from Malpeque mentioned, many who represent their constituents in the House have been volunteer firefighters.

We all agree that we need to look at this in the most appropriate fashion. However, we need to recognize that we have to be very cautious in picking winners and losers and who will receive a tax credit and who will not receive one.

I think of one of the individuals who actually opposed me in my nomination process in 2004, with whom I got to be very good friends, Gordon Colwell, from the town of Okotoks in my riding. He is an amazing, compassionate individual, one who is the prime example of the volunteers we are discussing here today.

We all have friends. There is the mayor of my hometown of Clareshome. He is a firefighter who spends countless hours involved in putting his life on the line for the rest of us.

I also had the experience just last fall of having a fire on my farm. I was not even present. I could not count the number of neighbours who arrived at my farm with water trucks and firefighting equipment. That begs the question, do we acknowledge and offer tax credits to those individuals who did not ask for it, who came to help?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to speak this Friday afternoon in support of the initiative by the hon. member for Malpeque and his Bill C-219, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction for volunteer emergency service).

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the volunteer firefighters of Quebec, including those in my riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. I have a great deal of admiration for those who devote their free time and sacrifice time spent with family to help their community and rescue people in difficulty. I think it is only right to encourage these people, these volunteers, who risk their lives for the common good, and to show them our appreciation and give them a pat on the back to encourage them to keep up the good work.

Emergency service volunteers are recognized under the provincial and federal income tax acts. Currently, the first $1,000 received in a year for volunteer work is not taxable. Bill C-219 will increase that deduction to $1,000 for the first 100 hours worked and to $2,000 when the number of hours worked in a year has reached 200. This bill by the member for Malpeque comes from the heart and is intended to support people who help their community. We should thank the hon. member for this initiative.

In Quebec, out of roughly 24,000 municipal firefighters, more than 18,000, or roughly 75%, are volunteer or part-time firefighters. In other words, three municipal firefighters out of four are volunteer or part-time firefighters. Although we may not be going through the same volunteer shortage that other countries are experiencing right now, we do have to wonder about the future.

Volunteer firefighters have always been able to join the fire department without any specific provincial hiring or training criteria applying. In other words, it is up to the municipality involved to decide what training these firefighters must have in order to be hired at the fire department. While some require the nine initial modules of training, in other words, level I, others do not require any training. Often, the decision is based on local risk or available budgets. In that context, many volunteer firefighters have joined the ranks without any training. That is why qualified instructors are currently recognizing the skills these firefighters have acquired. In other words, they are verifying whether the firefighter's experience over the years corresponds to the municipality's desired level of training. Inevitably, this may have an impact on volunteer firefighting.

Éric Lacasse, president of the Association québécoise des pompiers volontaires et permanents stated, “I do not believe we will see an abandonment of the field, but with the skills assessment, clearly, firefighters with more experience will not be interested in investing time in training, especially since they are generally older and have been doing this work for many years. We must not forget that this is not their permanent or primary job.”

According to Mr. Lacasse, we should not expect major upheavals in the years to come, “I think that the wave of people annoyed by the skills assessment and who wanted to leave have already left. The most obvious impact, I think, will be the injection of young blood into fire departments. The average age will then be somewhere between 20 and 30 years old.”

How does the volunteer firefighter system work? I would like to talk about how the program works.

As in France and elsewhere, volunteer or part-time firefighters in Quebec have another job that ensures a steady income. Since they have occupational constraints that must be respected, the fire department provides them with digital or voice pagers so they may be reached when needed. On average, each fire brigade comprises approximately 20 firefighters who take turns being on duty. Thus, each volunteer firefighter is generally assigned one week of duty per month. However, some departments call upon all their firefighters at once. There seems to be no standard method of operation. When a firefighter is on duty, he or she must be available 24 hours a day, although they do not necessarily have to remain in the fire station, thanks to modern communication devices. When an emergency centre receives a call, the firefighters who must respond are notified at the same time.

A volunteer firefighter who is working at his or her regular job may get a call to respond to a fire.

Typically, prior agreements have been reached with the employer. Everything depends on the employer's flexibility. Some are reluctant, while others have no problem with this constraint, depending, of course, on the nature of the business. However, in most cases, an employee who leaves work to fulfill his or her duties as a volunteer firefighter receives no financial compensation whatsoever.

Therefore, it makes sense to clarify that, under section 154 of the Quebec Fire Safety Act, an employer can be fined from $200 to $1,000 for refusing to allow an employee to leave work to act as an on-call firefighter without good cause. However, the firefighter must have already informed the employer of his or her duties as a firefighter and must advise the employer in the event the firefighter must leave work precipitously to respond to a fire. The employer must also be informed of the nature and frequency of such interventions.

Furthermore, every employee is required to communicate with the employer before leaving the workplace. Of course, this section applies to firefighting activities, not to prevention, training or maintenance. Also, a labour commissioner serving as conflict arbitrator is empowered to determine whether the employer's refusal to cooperate is justifiable if the absence of the employee from work could result in a loss. If the employee considers himself or herself to be a victim of discriminatory measures, he or she may appeal to the labour commissioner.

With respect to payment, municipalities are responsible for determining rates of pay. Some firefighting organizations pay firefighters about $10 per hour spent fighting fires, while others pay up to $20. I would note that these amounts are paid only for time spent fighting fires, not for time on call. Wealthier municipalities may offer various lump sums to their firefighters, but this practice is less common.

Firefighters do not sign a contract upon entering into service. They go through a 12-month probationary period. Upon successful completion of the probationary period, the firefighter is taken on strength for an indeterminate period of time. This means that they can be released from their commitments at any time.

Last week, following a federal-provincial meeting, this Conservative government, led by the Minister of Labour, proposed a bill to protect the jobs of reservists. It wants to require businesses to hold the jobs of reservists who temporarily leave their jobs to go to fight in Afghanistan. It wants to prohibit companies from refusing to hire reservists because they could be called to go to war. It wants to give privileges to reserve soldiers who have student loans. In short, the Minister of Labour's bill would free reservists from professional and financial restrictions that often make them hesitate to serve in Afghanistan.

What a surprise. Could it be that this government wants private businesses to do more than it does? Does it want these businesses to treat their part-time employees better than the government itself treats its full-time employees? This government is not leading by example. It wants to place restrictions on companies that it will not abide by itself. It wants everything for its soldiers and for the war in Afghanistan, but nothing for volunteer firefighters, people who save lives.

By not supporting this bill, the government is clearly showing once again that it has a military rather than humanitarian focus and that this deliberate choice is not restricted to Afghanistan. Here, every day, this Conservative government is obsessed with law and order, prison, firearms, prison sentences, war, machine guns, drones and military helicopters. It is not promoting the death penalty internationally, but it no longer stands in solidarity with countries and agencies that want to prohibit the death penalty.

This government is not telling us the truth when it talks about the torture of prisoners in Afghanistan.

This Conservative government does not have the same values as the nation of Quebec. It does not share the values of solidarity, and it will therefore never be able to defend the interests of Quebeckers and volunteer firefighters.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak to the bill and I congratulate the hon. member for Malpeque for putting it forward.

I am shocked and amazed that this was put before Parliament six years ago and reintroduced in the House of Commons for the third time in October of last year and still nothing has happened. I say shame because something like this should not have any obstacles.

When we look at the giveaways in corporate taxes, something that is a minimal amount of money that helps people, those volunteers who are precious and who keep our communities alive, those who provide, in this case, emergency services, there should be no question of assisting them in any way that we possibly can.

I remember years ago, when I was working for the Yukon Recreation Branch, that we put on seminars to show people in communities how to help and work with volunteers. Often we forget and we take them for granted. We forget there are people who do not take any money for jobs they do day in and day out and we even forget to thank them for that.

I believe firmly that if we are able to get this bill passed it will be a bill that will thank those people who put, in this case, their lives on the line for us.

It is almost similar to the feedback I am getting from the private member's bill that I tabled on the GST for 100% reimbursement for school boards. It is something we would think would not cost that much money but would help school boards as they try to overcome these great financial difficulties with government cutbacks these days.

Somehow once again the big government machine stops and we cannot move to help people who need the help.

With regard to the bill, I would like to read a letter I received from Munro Pickering who is with the Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Services, Company #1 Rossland, British Columbia, Rossland and District Search and Rescue. He said:

I am writing regarding the proposed tax incentives for volunteers in Canada. I have been A/ a volunteer firefighter for 20+ years and B/ a search and rescue member and manager for 20 years. Many members spend a large sum of money on equipment they use in these endeavours and are on call 24/7. Also, much time is spent fundraising, whereas this time would be better spent training. Any tax deferments/incentives would be gratefully appreciated and would lead to more members to provide the services needed. Membership lists are available upon request.

Thank you for your interest in this matter.

I would like to add that in my riding, as in all ridings--I guess with the exception of major cities where people doing this work are paid and, thankfully, they are--we have people from Princeton, to Hedley, to Osoyoos, New Denver, Caslow, all these small communities have dedicated people who gather once a week and practise to be there when we need them.

In my own community, which is called Pass Creek and is approximately 15 kilometres outside of Castlegar, there are dedicated individuals. My neighbours and friends gather every Tuesday to ensure they get the proper training to be there in case I or someone else needs them. Recently they received a state of the art fire truck which all of us are very proud of and which will help them to do their work.

In a press release from Parry Sound we have the McDougall fire chief, Brian Leduc, and Seguin fire chief, Dave Thompson, who both support this bill. The press release reads:

We need to encourage people to volunteer as firefighters and really, most of us, as fire chiefs, are at our wits' end because we can't find people to replace those who leave”, said Mr. Thompson.

Mr. Leduc said people don't put their names forward for any financial reward, but that the tax deduction would help the many who end up paying out of pocket to serve.

This seems to be a recurring theme. Those of us who volunteer in our communities pay out of pocket and people do this willingly. Surely, if this happens, we, as parliamentarians and as government, should do all we can to assist them as they continue to provide this valuable work.

The press release further states:

“There's probably some guys, if they sit down and figure out expenses (such as lost wages, gas to attend calls); there's probably guys that it costs them to be a volunteer firefighter”, said Mr. Leduc.

In the immediate area where I live, namely the Southern Interior, it has comparable groups of dedicated individuals who are there at a moment's notice to help us. There is the Castlegar Society for Search and Rescue. It is a non-profit society of professional volunteers dedicated to providing search and rescue services to our community and the surrounding area. It is based in Castlegar and has about 25 to 30 active members.

We also have the Nelson Search and Rescue. It is a registered non-profit society consisting of over 40 dedicated and highly skilled individuals who are capable of an organized response to assist local police, fire departments and B.C. Ambulance in a variety of areas.

We often do not know what goes on and this is an example of what is happening right across the country. The group consists of a management team, an initial response team, a rope team, a swift water team, and general search and rescue personnel. These teams include mountain rescue technicians, rope rescue instructors, Canadian avalanche technicians, paramedics, physicians, swift water rescue technicians, and certified helicopter flight rescue systems practitioners.

This society is managed by a board of directors, consisting of a coordinator and six directors. Directors meetings are held at least once on the last Wednesday of each month. General training is conducted on the first Wednesday of each month, with additional weekend training, usually quarterly. Individual teams train together on a regular basis as team members see fit.

It is important for us to understand what happens at the grassroots level. I know when the member for Malpeque was thinking of bringing this bill forward, he had in mind people who he is in contact with on a weekly basis where he lives.

In my area there is also the South Columbia Search and Rescue, formerly known as Beaver Valley Search and Rescue. In 2000 members of the society voted on a name change to better reflect the response area of Trail, Waneta, Montrose, Fruitvale, Pend D'Oreille and other regions of South Columbia. This group assists with other SAR groups in B.C. and most often with the local search and rescue groups of Rossland, Castlegar and Nelson.

Their members are trained in GSAR, ground and inland water search and rescue. No prior training is required for interested new members, although an interest in outdoors and a basic level of fitness is a benefit. All GSAR training is provided by quality local instructors.

Specialized training opportunities also exist in the area of rope rescue, swift water rescue, avalanche rescue, tracking, et cetera. A lot of money and time has gone into ensuring that we have the very best quality of assistance in time of need.

A recent search summary was issued on Monday, January 28. Rossland & District SAR was called at 2235 hours on January 5 to look for a local skier who failed to return from a late afternoon tour. A 44 year old male with touring equipment and experience had last been seen between 1400 and 1430 hours at the Red Mountain base area. A hasty search was conducted by 19 Rossland & District SAR members. Due to very poor and dangerous weather conditions, the search was suspended at 0230 hours, which is 2:30 in the morning, and commenced at 6 o'clock in the morning with the assistance of the Castlegar SAR, Beaver Valley SAR and Salmo SAR teams.

Let us not forget that these people do other things in their lives. They are not full time members of these teams. They have taken time to get the training and to dedicate part of their lives to helping other people. On this particular search, a total of 31 search personnel responded on Saturday morning. At 8:10 a.m., the subject skied out after spending the night in a snow cave near Mount Grey. It was a happy ending and thankfully the skier was found alive.

We often forget, though, that these folks put their lives in the line of duty, especially when it comes to rescues in the mountains where I live. Lately, there have been avalanche conditions. It has been tough. People sometimes do not make very smart decisions and go out of bounds. These people are then called in to get them.

So, Mr. Speaker--

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor is rising on a point of order.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, at this point in the debate I can only say that I am absolutely inspired by everyone in this House and all the good things said by four parties in the House. At this point, I would like to ask through you, Mr. Speaker, that everyone in the House accept Bill C-219 unanimously, that we put forward a motion to accept this unanimously so we can put this into committee and have it accepted for our volunteer emergency service personnel across this country, who so rightly deserve it. I ask for unanimous consent.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members



Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

There is no consent.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join in this debate today. I want to congratulate my colleague from Malpeque for making sure that this issue gets the opportunity to raise its head again. It is one that has been around for a number of years. I had the pleasure in the last Parliament of introducing it as Bill C-273.

In clarification of some of the points brought forward by the parliamentary secretary, I stood shoulder to shoulder with the member for Malpeque, who seconded my private member's bill in the last session, as well as the member for Lethbridge, who is respected in this House for the work he has done on behalf of firefighters across the country. Under a previous government, he brought forward similar legislation.

We stood shoulder to shoulder. We went to committee to represent this bill. Tough questions were asked, but it was never defeated by the finance committee. If the parliamentary secretary remembers, Parliament was dissolved. We went to the polls. The writ was dropped and the legislation died on the order paper. That is the history of the bill. That is in essence what happened with Bill C-273, so let us be fair about that.

I certainly thought at the time that the House supported the intent of the bill. I thought it supported the principle of the bill. Certainly not everyone was in line. I know that in our caucus we had to educate some of the people from urban Canada. There were some comments made about members of my caucus who really did not support the bill and were concerned about the merits of the bill. I guess people who live in one of the bigger centres take for granted the fact that there is a professional firefighting service. When they go to bed at night, they believe there are professionals who are going to respond to the call.

What many of us in our caucus did was try to educate those people from the cities and show them that in rural communities this is not the way it is. The guys who respond to alarms in our communities are the same guys rotating tires at the local garage. They are the guys running cable and wiring houses. They are the guys and the women who are serving in any of the sectors of the economy, but when the pager goes off, they respond. These are the firefighters we have in so many of the rural communities. It is for these brave men and women that we stand here today. Hopefully we can get some support from the government on this bill.

In my own riding, I have 50 volunteer fire departments. I take any opportunity I can to go to an installation of officers or whatever the function might be in one of those fire departments. I have been to Inverness, Albert Bridge and Glace Bay. I was in Dominion last weekend, where Chief Hugh MacDonald brought seven new members into his department.

There is a consistency throughout these departments. We can see it. These firefighters consider themselves to be carrying the same weight as the professionals. They have the same responsibilities as professionals.

We place so many expectations on these men and women. There is an expectation that when the alarm and the pager go off, they are ready to respond, whether it is three o'clock in the morning or they are on the golf course with three of their friends. Whatever it might be, they are going to be there. There is that expectation.

There is the expectation that once they get to the scene of an accident or a fire they know exactly what to do. There is the expectation that they are as well trained as the professionals in the larger centres.

There is another expectation that sometimes we just see past and try to see through, and that is the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual expectation that we put on these individuals.

I have some friends who work with the Mira Road fire department, which has just acquired a new set of jaws of life. They did the fundraising and what had to be done to get this set of jaws of life and they did all the training involved.

Let us think about it. Let us say that two guys who are going about their business get the call. They respond to the call out on the highway bypass where there has been a head-on collision. They get out the jaws of life.

The expectation is that they respond to the call, know how to use the equipment that is there, go through the procedures and scrape a 17 year old kid off the dash of a car. We have an expectation that they are going to be able to leave that scene, deal with it emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and then go back to their day jobs. That is a very great expectation to put on volunteers.

I will put in my volunteer time, like most people in the House. Everybody has a volunteer background. I certainly spent enough time in the rinks across my riding coaching lacrosse, soccer and hockey over the last number of years. I hold in high regard those people who volunteer. That is what makes communities.

However, there is something different about these men and women we are discussing. They are the people who are running into the building when everybody else is running out. They deserve our respect. They deserve more than the average volunteer. They stand apart from every other volunteer. That is what this bill is all about.

They are not motivated in any way by financial reward. That is not what motivates somebody to join a volunteer fire department. They are motivated because they feel they can do something to help their community. They feel they are able to contribute to their community for the better.

I would hope that this small measure in some way would perhaps recruit, retain or reward those individuals who give of themselves on a regular basis over extended periods of time throughout their entire careers as volunteer firefighters.

I am disappointed with the actions of the government on this. I thought this was the time that the bill would proceed. I am sure that the member for Lethbridge is disappointed with this.

I hope the government can find its way to come through on this and support the bill. I know that the member for Lethbridge would be happy. I know that firefighters across this country, the men and women who volunteer from coast to coast, would be happy. I know that the people who hold them in such high respect in the rural communities of this country also would be very pleased.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I thank the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso. When we return to the study of Bill C-219, there will be two minutes left for him.

It being 2:30 p.m. the House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)