Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise on behalf of the people of Timmins--James Bay who elected me to come here and bring their concerns and review the legislation that we deal with at different times.
I am proud to rise today on Motion No. 559 on the question of working with charities and encouraging the ability of people to give to charities, and getting that to the finance committee.
It is certainly an issue that we should bring forward in the finance committee. There will be a number of questions about the efficacy of the approach that is being suggested, but if we hear witnesses and we work with all four parties, we could actually move toward a better role for charities.
I think of my riding of Timmins--James Bay and some of the phenomenal work that goes on. I would like to begin by talking about the Lord's Kitchen, which is still in the basement of old Nativity Church, although the parish has moved over to St. Antoine's. Some might say the Lord's Kitchen Society is a charity, but to me it is a community centre where seniors and young aboriginal kids come, where families come for weekly dinners. It is one of the most welcoming environments I have seen.
I think of Ed Ligocki in South Porcupine who has been running the Good Samaritan Inn for 10 years, and the amazing work the inn does in dealing with the homeless.
Homelessness is not just an issue in urban centres. We see it in the north and of course we see it in frightening numbers in our aboriginal communities. We see that level of grassroots charitable work, but we have it at a number of levels that shows the complexity of charitable giving in this country, for example, the work that is done by the Literacy Council of South Temiskaming. We see it with groups such as the Timmins highland dancers who are raising money this week for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The Cochrane Temiskaming Children's Treatment Centre does amazing work with its integrated services for the northern children program.
All across the vast region of Timmins--James Bay there are people who are volunteering and who are doing so much of the work that needs to be done in order to make civil society a truly humane society, where people who are falling through the cracks are cared for. We see it with the support for arts in our area. We see it for the cultural organizations in our area. We want to encourage that people are able to continue giving money.
When I look at this motion, one of the questions I have is that perhaps a more efficient way of dealing with charities is to clear up what actually should be a charity and what should not be. There are many groups competing for charities and some of them perhaps should not be able to get charitable donations. If we cleared that up, there might be a better pool of money for the groups that are legitimate charities.
One of the groups that I think of right off the top of course is the Fraser Institute. The Fraser Institute claims that it is there to represent the free market. Of course, the Fraser Institute attacks all manner of public institutions, yet it does so under the guise of being a charity. I look at where the institute gets its money from.
It is very disturbing that Exxon Mobil, the oil company, could funnel money through the Fraser Institute to do so-called studies on climate change. We know what kind of climate change studies the Fraser Institute has come up with. The Fraser Institute has attacked the Kyoto protocol. Here is a quote:
The climate change activists are exaggerating the certainty in the linkage between human action and climate change.
The institute is bought and paid for by Exxon Mobil, and I certainly would not want to have any more sweetheart deals for Exxon Mobil being able to funnel money to the Fraser Institute.
Another group that gives money to the Fraser Institute is big tobacco, Rothmans and Phillip Morris. We see how the Fraser Institute, working as a front for big tobacco, led the fight supposedly for freedom against all manner of bylaws when it came to smoking bylaws in this country. We know how brutal the deaths from passive smoke have been for the waitresses and the people who have worked in the service industry, yet there was the Fraser Institute pocketing money from Rothmans and then going out and being interviewed on radio and television as somehow a disinterested third party just giving its opinion.
I do not have a problem with these right-wing think tanks. What I have a problem with is they use charitable donations in order to take money from corporations to basically subvert good public process.
When I look at a group like the Fraser Institute and its pals at Rothmans, Philip Morris and big oil, I certainly do not want them to get another dime through charitable giving. It undermines the phenomenal work that legitimate charities do.
I suggest for my hon. colleague that perhaps if we cleaned out the bad apples who are misusing charitable numbers for political purposes, then we would be able to ensure that the money goes to organizations such as the hearing society and the society for the blind, which do phenomenal work. The money that goes to them is so vital and important. I think of groups like the seizure and brain injury group in Timmins, which has done amazing work with little resources. If it did not have that charitable status, it would be unable to carry on that work.
I think of the groups all through Timiskaming that are dealing with the food banks. For example, the Cochrane Food Bank in our region is a centre for distribution of food throughout the north. It helps support the food banks in Iroquois Falls, Timmins, Englehart, New Liskeard and Kirkland Lake. These people volunteer their time day after day. If we go into the Cochrane Food Bank on any given day, we will see numerous volunteers. They are doing phenomenal work.
If there is a way we can, through the finance committee, look at aiding groups like the Cochrane Food Bank, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Seizure and Brain Injury Centre of Timmins through changing the tax measures, the New Democratic Party and I would certainly be interested.
However, we believe we need to close the loopholes so the bad apples, who are misusing charities on behalf of big oil, big tobacco and basically acting as a front for everything the neo-con Conservative spills on the Canadian public on any given day, cannot hide behind charities. They should have to go out and compete in the marketplace with their bogus ideas.
If Rothmans want to give money to fronts like the Fraser Institute to help groups like the Conservative Party, they should have to go out and compete for that dollar for dollar. There should be no incentive for this kind of money through the back pocket.
It is a slap in the face to the volunteers and the people who do such good work and the people who give with their hearts day after day, without thinking of the personal gain, unlike our friends at Rothmans, or at the Fraser Institute, or in the big oil industry who give money to the Fraser Institute and expect charitable money back and charitable breaks for usurping and subverting public process.