Mr. Speaker, as with my other colleagues in the House I am rising in support of Bill S-203, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day.
I am sure all my colleagues in the House share my support for the sentiments set forth in the preamble to the bill to recognize the Canadian spirit of giving and volunteerism.
Volunteerism builds strong communities. Encouraging and rewarding civic participation is important. We need to ensure that the incentives are fair and effective though for voluntary participation. Considerable time and energy is gifted daily by ordinary Canadians but not just to registered charities.
Let me share with the House a study conducted jointly by a number of government agencies, Statistics Canada and Volunteer Canada. The study was called Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating in 2007. The study found that almost 23 million Canadians, or 84% of the population aged 15 and over, made a financial donation to a charitable or non-profit organization in that year. During that same time, 12.5 million Canadians, or 46% of the population, volunteered their time through a group or organization.
Sad to say a more recent study has shown that since 2007 the donations by Canadians has dropped to 23% of the population. Apparently in 2007 Canadians donated a total of $10 billion, yet since 2007 a more recent study shows that the figure has dropped by $1 billion. It shows a concern in the populace. It shows that people are suffering in the economic recession but still being as generous as they possibly can.
Canadians volunteer to flood and clear community rinks, to coach children's soccer and hockey. Individuals freely volunteer their time fundraising for community facilities, for sports programs, for outings for the disabled and the elderly, for food banks, for breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, cancer treatments and support, and organizations such as Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign in Africa
There is a broad array of organizations supporting work and a broad array of Canadians giving their voluntary time and effort to support those who may be suffering or struggling, both in this country and abroad, and that is to be commended.
I am proud of my constituency of Edmonton--Strathcona's countless volunteer hours donated to deliver programs and to maintain community league facilities and programs. This is something unique about Alberta. We have for many decades had communities maintaining community leagues for the service of the children and families in the neighbourhoods. To their credit, volunteers with numerous community leagues have tackled fundraising and hands-on efforts to make their facilities more energy efficient and accessible.
Countless hours are donated by literally thousands of volunteers in my riding to deliver successful festivals such as the Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. The Silver Skate Festival, which is coming up soon and I welcome members to come to that activity, and the Ice on Whyte Festival, both festivals to try to make our winters liveable.
Philanthropy includes both the gifts of money or work for the benefit of others. There are numerous local, regional and national awards recognizing these philanthropic acts.
Just this past year, many members may have participated. CBC ran a competition to recognize and profile Canadian volunteer efforts at home and abroad. We can be very proud of the individuals who were focused in that program, both the ones that ultimately won and the ones who were showcased and nominated.
In Alberta, non-government organizations, including small groups and youth groups, are yearly honoured for their work for the environment by Emerald Awards. Among the highest accolades in this country are the Governor General Order of Canada Awards.
Rather than just a designated day however we should be taking concrete actions to encourage and reward these important contributions to society. As I noted earlier, unfortunately the amount of money donated and the time and effort put into volunteering is declining in the country for a variety of reasons. These kinds of efforts are critical, particularly in hard economic times and particularly when a lot of programs are being downloaded to municipalities and onward to volunteer organizations.
A number of proposals have been tabled recommending expanded tax credits, including donations in kind for services, materials or property. These donations are important and consideration should be given to recognizing, rewarding and encouraging this kind of generosity.
Those with charitable status obviously have a clear advantage over other volunteer organizations in raising funds. As it has become increasingly difficult to obtain this status, consideration should be given to offering other measures to reward donors to non-profit organizations that do not have the charitable status.
This is particularly critical as an increasing number of community services are being downloaded to volunteer groups. Concerns were raised this week in the House about cuts to federal support to small organizations helping immigrants. Last fall we heard continued pleas to restore federal support to aboriginal healing centres. Both of these organizations depend on a lot of volunteer effort but require basic resources to maintain and run their programs, to coordinate volunteers and to deliver those services.
In closing, it is important to keep front of mind that the majority who donate their time and resources to causes that are important to them do so out of an interest in helping those in need. They are not doing it to seek a tax deduction or any form of reward.
It is noteworthy that a recent study, and I notice that a colleague across the way mentioned this as well, shows increasingly it is Canadians with lower incomes who are donating more. As we look to the cutting of corporate taxes, perhaps we should be looking to corporations to make larger donations to the causes that many Canadians feel it is important to contribute to.
I support the passage of this bill intended to recognize the contribution by volunteering Canadians. However we can and must do more to incent and recognize this contribution to our economy, to safe, liveable communities and to quality of life for all Canadians.