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House of Commons Hansard #172 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-45.

Topics

Jobs and Growth, 2012Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, a government dealing with taxpayers' money and big issues has to make choices.

The member will note that we made a huge investment in the lakes north of Winnipeg because that became our government's priority. We have made an investment and commitment to clean up those lakes, which, long term, benefits me because I am upstream. The water that we are going to continue to send into those areas will be better and create a better quality of life for the people who live around those lakes.

Jobs and Growth, 2012Government Orders

October 30th, 2012 / 5:10 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, last spring, the Conservatives invoked closure to have the House vote on Bill C-38. The bill contained 425 pages and amended approximately 70 laws and regulations.

Many Canadians and media outlets decried this way of doing things. Even the National Post, generally considered a right-wing newspaper, called into question the Conservatives' approach. This fall, just a couple of months after Bill C-38 was passed, the Conservatives are at it again and have introduced yet another mammoth bill, Bill C-45.

Bill C–45 contains 445 pages and amends 60 Canadian laws. Together, these two bills contain approximately 870 pages and thousands of measures that are, in many instances, unrelated to each other.

I have an important question to ask my colleagues opposite: at what point does all this become undemocratic? Where will it all end? While they are at it, the Conservatives could very well convene Parliament only once per session and invoke closure to introduce and pass one single gigantic bill, and then shut down Parliament. Why not? This is a relevant question, if you look at it in the cold, hard light of day.

Canadians are wondering in whose name the Conservative party is acting when it garnered fewer than 40% of the vote. The Conservatives seem to forget that our parliamentary system is democratic, and should remain so, and that it attributes importance to public debate on proposed legislation, policies of public interest, and the conduct of the executive branch. This notion is crucial, and is part and parcel of democracy.

Democracy is not simply about the electoral process, it is an ongoing process. Once elections have been held, members have the duty and obligation to monitor the government's activities on behalf of all Canadians. They are duty bound and obliged to closely review all legislation that is introduced in Parliament and express varying points of view that must be voiced and defended in the public sphere.

If this is not possible, then I wonder what purpose the members we elect serve. What kind of democracy is it when the majority prevents elected opposition members of Parliament from doing their job? It is completely unacceptable that things would work this way in this Parliament. It is truly unacceptable.

If the government wants to govern autocratically, it should say so openly. The government should tell Canadians that it thinks that winning fewer than 40% of the popular vote entitles it to flout our democratic traditions. We will see how Canadians react to this. That is exactly what this government is doing.

The Conservatives are governing as if the most elementary rules of the democratic process did not exist. They are behaving like there is no need to be accountable to Canadians, and like they have no duty and obligation to be transparent. I believe—and I am choosing my words carefully—that the way the Conservatives are behaving is scandalous.

The Conservatives' actions demonstrate a flagrant lack of respect for our institutions and a democratic tradition that has existed in this country since its founding.

If Bill C-38 and Bill C-45 only made minor technical changes, it would be a different story. We could perhaps live with that. We are not necessarily against omnibus bills. It is possible to conceive of certain situations where they may be useful. For example, when it comes time to make minor technical amendments to certain pieces of legislation. But that is not what the Conservatives are proposing.

Bill C-38 was an attack on old age security, employment insurance, and federal health transfers, and plunged us back into the stone age in terms of environmental regulation.

Bill C-45 does the same thing. We completely oppose this bill at second reading. We believe that the bill further weakens environmental protections, guts the Navigable Waters Protection Act, amends the Canada Labour Code, and takes aim at public service pension plans.

Jobs and Growth, 2012Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

It being 5:15 p.m., pursuant to an order made Thursday, October 25, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill now before the House.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Jobs and Growth, 2012Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Jobs and Growth, 2012Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Jobs and Growth, 2012Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Jobs and Growth, 2012Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Jobs and Growth, 2012Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Jobs and Growth, 2012Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #486

Jobs and Growth, 2012Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-201, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There being no motions at report stage on this bill, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question of the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

moved that Bill S-201, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I would like members to stay in the chamber and enjoy the wonderful speeches I am sure they are going to hear this evening on this topic of Bill S-201, the national philanthropy day act. I am very happy to be speaking to this bill. I hope that during the speeches from members of other parties, they might indicate whether they would be agreeable to a motion for unanimous consent to have the bill passed at third reading today. I will not move that at the moment.

I am very proud to sponsor this bill in the House of Commons and to offer my congratulations to Senator Mercer, who initiated this piece of legislation. He has committed a good portion of his life to various charitable efforts. The good senator has touched a lot of lives over the years in Toronto, Halifax and Mount Uniacke, where he now resides. He has lived in all those places over the years.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to colleagues from the government benches and the opposition benches of the NDP for their generous support of the bill and what it is trying to accomplish.

The all-party support we have seen for Bill S-201 shows the commitment of all sides of the House for the establishment of National Philanthropy Day.

We should all give our thanks to the countless volunteers who make Canada the most caring country in the world.

I am very pleased that the bill was reported back to the House by committee without amendments. I am pleased to hear about the strong level of support it received at committee and about the stories others in this place have shared, here and in committee. They are members who share a commitment to helping others through a wide range of fundraising efforts. I know that many members are involved in charitable efforts across the country.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage said, this bill is about more than Canadians helping Canadians, although it is certainly about that. It also recognizes that we step up when help is needed around the globe. Just look, for example, at the recent disaster relief efforts in Haiti, Japan, and East Africa. I am sure that there are Canadians involved along the eastern seaboard of the United States where they have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. We hope the devastation from that storm is finished or is about to be finished.

This act would designate the 15th day of November each year as National Philanthropy Day.

Let me recap the purpose of the bill. First of all, it would increase public awareness of National Philanthropy Day as a time to thank those who give throughout the year. Second, it would focus public attention on the major accomplishments made possible through philanthropic contributions. Third, it would honour key local individuals and corporations for their philanthropic endeavours. Fourth, it would recognize local fundraisers and volunteers, which is really important, and thank them for their time, their talent and their dedication, which is so critical in our society.

This type of nationally recognized day would encourage schools, community groups and individuals to become more aware of the impact of philanthropy and to get involved themselves as volunteers or donors.

Some organizations are having a tough time these days. Some of their volunteers are getting a bit older and have decided that they have given their time and are going to do something else now or take a break from their volunteering. Some organizations are having a difficult time getting new volunteers.

It is really important that we find ways to encourage Canadians to give the time they have. Most Canadians are very busy. They have busy lives, often with young families. They are running them off to soccer and hockey and so on. We need to encourage people to take part in volunteering activities.

This day would also be used to recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions philanthropy has made to our lives, to our communities, and of course, to our country.

My colleague from Sudbury knows about this, as the former executive director of the United Way in Sudbury. He was right when he said earlier in debate on the bill that he believes that National Philanthropy Day will heighten public awareness of the importance of charitable giving and volunteerism. It will also move us towards having nearly 100% of Canadians getting involved and getting engaged in charitable activities on a regular basis. Those are worthwhile goals he alluded to.

The first National Philanthropy Day was held in 1986 to celebrate the endless daily contributions individuals and organizations across the country and across the world make to countless causes and missions.

This year, more than 100 National Philanthropy Day events and activities are taking place across North America. Over 50,000 people are taking part.

Sixteen Canadian events honour philanthropists and volunteers in most major Canadian cities.

When Senator Mercer testified at the heritage committee of the House, on October 16, he pointed out that recent research revealed that the troubles we have with the economy have negatively impacted charitable giving. In difficult times, it becomes tougher.

A lot of Canadians have a history of digging a little deeper in tough times. It is just that fewer Canadians have had the ability, perhaps, to dig as deep during an economic slowdown.

As Senator Mercer said:

The number of Canadians giving to charities has stagnated, and donation levels are not rising in response to the increase in the need for the services that charities provide.

That is why he believes it is so important to recognize people who so generously give of their time, their energy and their resources.

Canadian giving has dropped for the last three years, according to Statistics Canada. The charitable sector, however, has over $100 billion in annual revenue. It is made up of more than 161,000 organizations in Canada. The numbers involved here are incredible. There are over a million paid staff and over six million volunteers. That is a huge chunk of this country's population. It is a remarkable number.

Both at home and around the globe, Canadians are recognized for their generosity and compassion. As members of Parliament, we all continue to be inspired by the dedication of volunteers who give freely of their time to improve the lives of others.

Through Senator Mercer's persistence, dedication and hard work, the Senate has passed the bill on several occasions in the past. However, it has always been sidetracked for one reason or another, whether it was elections or what have you. I hope that this time it will be passed by my colleagues in this House and given royal assent by our Governor General.

Every one of us is a beneficiary of Canada's generous spirit of volunteerism. I think of the ways I benefited as a young person, as a child, from hockey coaches, soccer coaches and teachers who went out of their way to give extra time to help out. I probably needed lots of extra time.

We can all think of ways we have benefited over the years. Today I benefit from the fact that my son has people in scouts. He is in Venturers now. Leaders in scouting and Venturers make contributions to my family with their great work.

The philanthropy I am speaking of is exemplified by organizations such as Beacon House, a food bank that serves the Bedford-Sackville area, part of which is in my riding, and Phoenix House, in Halifax.

My colleagues across the way are anxious to have the question asked, I think. I am getting a good sign about possible unanimous consent.

Large organizations such as Feed Nova Scotia, which collects and distributes food to over 150 food banks and meal programs, thrive under the caring spirit of Nova Scotians.

Nationwide, Canadians give more than two billion hours of their time a year to help others. Two-thirds of all Canadians donate to charitable organizations each year.

As members of Parliament, we know about the thousands of groups that do tremendous work in our towns, our villages and our cities. I know that all colleagues here are most generous with support for these groups. They have shown their support for Bill S-201.

It is in recognition of these immeasurable contributions that we look to recognize National Philanthropy Day every year, and with their support, we are about to see that happen.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose NDP Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, our position is also clear: the NDP supports the senator's bill. That said, an official day of philanthropy is not enough; it is merely a first step.

In my colleague's opinion, apart from simply declaring an official day of philanthropy, what concrete measures should be taken to help organizations and volunteers?

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, who is also my neighbour in the Confederation building.

I agree that other measures are needed. We talked about a tax credit for certain volunteers. There are various ways we can help organizations that make significant contributions to our communities.

This bill is about a national philanthropy day, and that is important. As my hon. colleague knows, it is up to the government to decide on spending. All we can do for now is create a philanthropy day to indicate that it is very important to recognize people who donate their time or money to good causes.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member for Halifax West that we ought to be celebrating volunteerism every day of the year. However, it is a great idea to have one day a year to celebrate it officially through a national philanthropy day, which is the inspiration of good Senator Mercer, of the other place. It is a great idea. I think we can all agree on that.

Would the hon. member agree, as well, that we should also find ways to strengthen support for volunteers? We have moved forward in certain ways with, for instance, tax credits for volunteer emergency service workers, such as volunteer firefighters. Would it be helpful to make those tax credits refundable such that low-income firefighters would benefit as well? Is that one of the ideas we should be considering as a House?

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague and friend from the neighbouring riding of Kings—Hants, where Senator Mercer resides. I know that he was not rising just to solidify that vote in the next election. He already has that, but his point is well taken. It would be a positive move if the existing tax credit for firefighters, for example, were extended so that it was refundable, because at the moment, people who are low income would not receive it. That would be a very positive move.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's presentation quite attentively. For a nation of 34 million people, we are a nation of givers. Our nation was built on the backs of volunteers. It might be interesting to note that there are over 13 million volunteers in this country.

I am standing in support of the member's bill. I applaud him for taking the time to put this together and bring it to the House. It highlights the importance of saying a big thank you to the many volunteers who make Canada, and its communities, the country it is.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is, of course, the time for questions and comments, and that was a very appropriate comment. I am grateful for the House's support for this legislation and for all the comments we have heard.