House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was banks.


Governor GeneralPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Jay Aspin Conservative Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House today about Canada's proud tradition of constitutional monarchy. Unlike the separatist Bloc Québécois, our Conservative government appreciates the monarch's fundamental importance to our democratic governance.

Since our earliest days, we have looked to the Crown for inspiration. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight Canada's special relationship with the monarchy and its privileged role as a member of the Commonwealth.

The Queen has a unique relationship with Canada entirely separate from her role as Queen of the United Kingdom or of any of her other realms. Her Majesty personifies the state and the personal symbol of allegiance and unity for all Canadians.

Although many of her duties have been delegated to the Governor General, the Queen herself has a very personal involvement with Canada and with Canadians. Her service and dedication to our country is especially apparent in her support of the important of Canadian charities. The Queen's patronages include: the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Red Cross Society, the Royal Canadian Humane Association and Save The Children Canada.

The Queen also has a special relationship with the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces, acting as Colonel-in-Chief of various regiments, including the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, the King's Own Calgary Regiment, the Royal 22nd Regiment, the Governor General's Foot Guards, the Governor General's Horse Guards, the Canadian Grenadier Guards, the Régiment de la Chaudière, the Calgary Highlanders, the Royal New Brunswick Regiment, the 48th Highlanders of Canada, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, the Royal Canadian Air Force Auxiliary, the Canadian Forces Military Engineers Branch and the Air Reserve.

Although she resides in the United Kingdom, the Queen honours Canadian achievements. For example, she hosted the reception for Canadian achievers at Buckingham Palace in 2005.

Through regular visits to Canada, the Queen meets as many Canadians as possible in every region, community, culture and area of Canadian life, travelling to Canada over 20 times over the course of 60 years together with the Duke of Edinburgh.

She made her first visit as Princess Elizabeth in 1951, travelling 10,000 miles using every means of transport imaginable and attending a square dance at Rideau Hall. Since then, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh have visited all the provinces in Canada and have been witness to many historic occasions.

In 1957 the Queen officially opened the first session of the 23rd Parliament, becoming the first reigning Canadian monarch to read the Speech from the Throne.

In 1959 the Queen opened the new St. Lawrence Seaway with President Eisenhower and visited many remote districts never before seen by a reigning monarch. During that visit, the Queen undertook her first and only foreign visit as the Queen of Canada when she met President Eisenhower in Washington, D.C.

In 1967 Her Majesty celebrated the Centennial of Confederation with a visit to Expo in Montreal and while in Ottawa, she cut a nine metre high birthday cake right here on Parliament Hill.

The Queen has also been a welcomed presence at a number of important sporting occasions. She opened the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976 and officiated at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978 and in Victoria in 1994.

In 1977 the Queen shared her Silver Jubilee celebrations with Canada and in 1982 the Queen travelled to Ottawa for the patriation of the Canadian Constitution, a fundamental demonstration of how our constitutional monarchy has grown and adapted over time.

To mark her Golden Jubilee in 2002, the Queen toured Canada extensively, visiting British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and the National Capital Region, as well as making her first visit to the new territory of Nunavut.

On her last visit in 2005, the Queen described the warmth and affection she feels for Canada:

And as in all our visits down the years, whether watching a chuck wagon race at the Calgary Stampede or athletic prowess at the Montréal Olympics, whether listening to an Inuit song of greeting in Nunavut or the skirl of pipes in Nova Scotia, I have always felt not only welcome but at home in Canada.

All Canadians look forward to welcoming her back again this summer to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's accession to the throne as Queen of Canada and a time to celebrate our country's achievements.

The Jubilee year is also a time to reflect on our friendship with the Commonwealth, a voluntary organization of 54 independent countries united by their shared history.

Dedicated to the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multiculturalism and world peace, the Commonwealth also serves as a forum for a number of non-government organizations we know as the Commonwealth family.

Probably best known for the Commonwealth Games, an international sporting event frequently held at home in Canada, these organizations strengthen our shared culture through sports, literary heritage, politics and the law.

Indeed, our relationship with these countries is so privileged that we do not consider the Commonwealth countries to be foreign to one another, designating diplomatic missions between Commonwealth countries as high commissions rather than embassies.

Just a few weeks ago, Canadians celebrated Commonwealth Day, along with 2 billion people from all across the globe. The theme for 2012, Connecting Cultures, is about sharing our traditions and customs with one another.

In the words of our Governor General, David Johnston:

In a world where our means of communication have become lightning-fast, humanity must learn to see beyond borders and beneath the veneer of appearance to discover how much we truly have in common.

As head of the Commonwealth for over 55 years, the Queen personally reinforces the links by which the Commonwealth joins people together from around the world, filling an important symbolic and unifying role. Whether travelling overseas to meet citizens and their leaders, presiding at the opening of a sporting event or presenting her annual Christmas and Commonwealth Day messages, the Queen acts as a personal link and a human symbol of the Commonwealth as an international organization.

As Canadians, our democratic traditions define and unite us.

Unlike the separatist Bloc which seeks to play the tired politics of division at every turn, our Conservative government is proud of traditions, history, symbols, values and institutions which make our country great, all of which are embodied by the Canadian Crown.

God save the Queen.

Governor GeneralPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, after that last speech, I am not sure if we are here talking about the Queen and the monarchy or debating the motion that is presented to us about the Income Tax Act and the Governor General's salary. Either way, I am here to stand and speak in favour of Motion No. 313, which calls on the government to change the Income Tax Act so that the Governor General's salary becomes subject to the general tax regime.

Let us give some background to this motion. It is worth pointing out why the Governor General does not currently pay income tax. The tax exemption dates back to an old understanding that the British government was not able to tax the Crown. This tradition was passed on to the Commonwealth countries, such as Canada. However, in recent years this tradition has been challenged. In 1993, the Queen agreed to voluntarily opt in to the income tax regime in Britain. In 2001, the Australian governor general became subject to the Australian income tax regime. New Zealand followed suit just last year.

The private income of the Governor General, such as pension and income investments, is already subject to income tax. As such, the argument that the government should not tax the Governor General is tenuous at best. Similarly, the lieutenant-governors of all the provinces are subject to the Canadian income tax regime. As such, taxing the salary of the Governor General would meet national and international precedents.

I would like to take a quick opportunity here to pay tribute to the great work of our current Governor General, David Johnston. Mr. Johnston was born in my hometown of Sudbury. I know that people in Sudbury are very proud of Mr. Johnston's achievements. Prior to being named as the Governor General, Mr. Johnston served as the dean of the University of Western Ontario Law School, as the principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University, and then as the president of the University of Waterloo. Like many Sudburians, Mr. Johnston is a hockey fan. He is a very talented hockey player who captained the Harvard varsity hockey team and who was twice named to the all-American hockey team.

The Governor General has in recent weeks been a strong proponent for further investigating concussions in hockey. This is an issue very near and dear to my heart in my role as NDP sport critic. When great Canadian athletes, like Sidney Crosby, spend months on the sidelines and when sport headlines are dominated by who is not playing rather than who is, something is amiss. Sports concussions are a serious issue, not only for superstars, but for amateur and young athletes from coast to coast to coast. I am glad that inspiring Canadians like the Governor General are happy to go on the record about this important issue, which our government seems too happy to ignore.

The point I wish to make here is that it is not incompatible to hold positive views of the Governor General and to believe that his or her income should be subject to income tax. This is not about the Governor General, per se. Rather, at the heart of the matter, this is a question about fairness.

The revenue that the government would receive from taxing the Governor General's income, in terms of the federal budget, is very small. We know that taxing the Governor General's income is not an answer to paying down the government debt. However, what this revenue represents is worth far more than the dollar value. It represents making sure that all Canadians pay their fair share.

I believe in a progressive tax structure, as do all members of the official opposition. In my model of a progressive tax system there is no room for an individual to make $138,000 a year tax free.

This is not a new idea. Since the 35th Parliament convened in 1994, and following the Queen's opt-in to the British income tax system, a number of bills and motions dealing with this exact topic have been introduced in Parliament. However, neither the Liberal nor the Conservative government since that time has seen fit to implement the simple amendment to the Income Tax Act which would close the loophole.

Canada needs a progressive tax system. That has been undermined by both Liberals of the past and the Conservatives. Far too many breaks go to the well off and the influential. Unfortunately, I feel that this Thursday's budget will only continue this trend.

The government's failure to address the concerns of average, hard-working Canadians needs to be addressed. While this motion in itself will not change the government's misdirection, by passing this motion, Parliament can send a message to the government that it is time for an economic strategy that puts hard-working Canadian families first.

Ultimately, in my mind this motion is symbolic. It is a symbol that, during hard economic times, when Canadians are struggling to make ends meet, when young Canadians are finding it increasingly hard to find jobs, when big businesses are getting big tax breaks and families cannot get a break on their bills, we as parliamentarians are here for them and we will do something to help them.

We believe in a tax system that is fair and focused on improving equality and giving a break to people who deserve it, not to people with friends in the right places.

In December of last year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development released a report which stated that since the mid-1990s inequality in Canada has been on the rise.

Governor GeneralPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I regret to say I must interrupt the hon. member, but when this item reappears on the orders of the day, he will have four minutes left to complete his intervention.

The time provided for the consideration of this item of private members’ business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House will now proceed to the consideration of Bill S-201 under private members' business.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2012 / 6:30 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

moved that Bill S-201, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise this evening to introduce Bill S-201, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day.

This bill was sponsored in the other place by my good friend, Senator Terry Mercer. The senator proudly represents the north end of Halifax. He is very familiar with philanthropy and fundraising, having committed a good part of his life to fundraising as a profession. He has made numerous attempts to bring this legislation forward in the Senate. I am certainly pleased to play a minor role as a sponsor in the House.

I hope that all parties and all members will support this bill. I think it is a worthwhile initiative. This act would designate November 15, every year, as National Philanthropy Day.

Let me enumerate the purposes of this bill. First, it would increase public awareness of National Philanthropy Day, which is already celebrated, as a time to say thank you to those who give throughout the year. Second, it would focus public attention on the major accomplishments that are made possible because of contributions and because of people giving in a whole bunch of ways and in various amounts. All those philanthropic contributions are important.

Third, it would honour key local individuals and corporations for their philanthropic endeavours. Fourth, it would recognize local fundraisers and volunteers, thanking them for their time, talent and dedication. We can all think of lots of examples of the kinds of people who ought to be recognized on an ongoing basis for the wonderful contributions they make to volunteer and charitable organizations.

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 more involved as philanthropists, donors or volunteers.

The day would also be used to recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions that philanthropy has made to our lives, our communities and our country. We can all think of ways that we have benefited from people giving, financially supporting various organizations. If people played minor hockey, they probably had somebody sponsoring their sweaters. We certainly did when I was in minor hockey.

There are groups that give to so many things, such as the Lions Clubs and the Rotary. Many groups work hard year round to raise money so that they can support worthwhile initiatives in their communities. There are the hospital auxiliaries. There are many groups that ought to receive recognition and need our support.

First held in 1986, National Philanthropy Day celebrates the endless daily contributions of individuals and organizations across the world to countless causes and missions. Many of those causes are outside Canada. Many causes that Canadians support are international, particularly in the developing world.

Last year there were more than 100 National Philanthropy Day events and activities across North America with over 50,000 people taking part in those events. That is a significant day. I think this would help to make it even larger, making it official in Canada. Sixteen Canadian events honoured philanthropists and volunteers in most major Canadian cities.

As a society we need to rededicate ourselves to charitable giving, to philanthropy. Canadian giving has dropped for the last three years to about $7.8 billion in 2009, which is down from an all-time high of $8.5 billion in 2006, according to Statistics Canada. Even more significantly, the percentage of Canadians claiming charitable deductions on their tax returns has dropped from 24% in 2008 to 23% in 2009. That does not sound like a very big drop, but the impact in dollars is enormous. That leaves Canada with approximately 5.6 million donors.

As members who have connections to volunteer groups in our communities, we have all seen the dwindling ranks of volunteers and the challenges that many organizations have in getting and replacing volunteers. Volunteers serve a period of time and then move on, deciding to either take a break from that activity or go on to another organization.

The charitable sector in Canada has more than $100 billion in annual revenues. It possesses even more than that, of course, in its net assets. The charitable sector is approximately equal in size in this country to the economy of British Columbia.

We can just imagine an economic activity that large in this country and its importance and what an impact it has across this country in all our communities. If that is dwindling, it sure as heck needs our support. It sure needs us in this small way, through supporting the recognition of National Philanthropy Day, to say that this is important and that it is important to get behind giving in Canada and to recognize people who do that and who volunteer for activities.

Furthermore, the charitable sector in Canada is made up of more than 161,000 organizations with over 1.2 million paid staff and 6.5 million volunteers. That is another way it has a big economic impact in this country.

Both at home and around the globe, as I was saying earlier, Canadians are recognized for their generosity and compassion. We can be very proud of the many Canadians who go abroad and work, let alone the millions who volunteer here at home. I think we all continue to be inspired by the dedication of volunteers who give freely of their time to improve the lives of others because that is really what charitable giving and volunteering is all about.

Through Senator Mercer's persistence, dedication and hard work, the Senate passed the bill on several occasions. I hope this time it will have time to do this and that it will be passed by my colleagues in the House because every one of us is a beneficiary in some way or other of Canada's generous spirit of volunteerism.

This philanthropy is exemplified by organizations like Beacon House, a food bank in Sackville, Nova Scotia, that actually serves part of my riding and part of the riding of my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore. That food bank depends on the generosity of people who care about their friends, neighbours and primarily about people they have not even met and will not meet. They give support, whether they give at their Sunday church service or whether they give donations in cash, sometimes they will bring food but also cash.

It is valuable to note that often a food bank might be better off receiving cash as a donation because usually they can get food wholesale where we cannot and therefore they can get more food for the buck than we can if we spend it at the grocery store. However, the food bank will not say no , and people who decide they want to give food are to be thanked and recognized for that .

Larger organizations, like Feed Nova Scotia, formerly the Metro Food Bank, collects and distributes food to more than 150 food banks and meal programs across my province of Nova Scotia. It is an organization that thrives under the care and support of many Nova Scotians.

As well as corporations in Nova Scotia, Feed Nova Scotia sends me its annual report each year. I note the number of corporations that make donations in kind. Some of the food companies, like Sobeys and Loblaws and others, give massively on an annual basis in a way that I think should be recognized. That is an important part of getting the job done and ensuring that people who are going hungry are getting fed.

Nationwide, Canadians give more than two billion hours a year of their time to help others and two-thirds of all Canadians donate to charitable organizations each year. We need to encourage that and try to increase that.

It is in recognition of these immeasurable contributions that we look to recognize National Philanthropy Day every November.

I hope my hon. colleagues will support this excellent bill. I congratulate my colleague in the Senate, Senator Terry Mercer, for his efforts. I hope my colleagues from all parties will agree with this bill.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario


Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-201 which calls on the government to designate November 15 of every year as National Philanthropy Day.

As was mentioned by my colleague, it was celebrated for the first time in 1986 and, since then, has gained momentum across the continent. It has been adopted by many organizations as a day to reflect on their achievements and to honour and recognize those who contribute to their community.

When the Prime Minister announced the volunteer awards, he said, “Across Canada. volunteers are the backbone of community life”. However, Canadians do not just give at home. They also contribute abroad. Canadians have recently contributed to disaster relief in Japan, Haiti and East Africa. Canadians have volunteered in great numbers to assist those in need when they are called upon.

Volunteers need to be acknowledged and honoured for their work. National Philanthropy Day would be a moment when we could celebrate the acts of kindness and giving that Canadians have demonstrated in Canada as well as internationally. We should also be inspired by the words of our Governor General who, in a recent speech, said:

...I...urge people to...give what they can to a cause that is meaningful to them. And let us celebrate all those who contribute because they truly understand the philanthropic spirit of our country. After all, when people come together, extraordinary things happen.

Today I would also like to mention a group of people who we do not usually think of when we talk about philanthropy; those who give their time in the military reserve. There are 114 reserve units across Canada located in communities across this country. One such reservist is Major Kiss in my riding who just came back from a 13-month tour of duty in Afghanistan on Friday. He was welcomed back to our community by firefighters, the York Regional Police and hundreds of people who came to celebrate his safe return and what he has done for this country in Afghanistan. However, what makes this person even more special is that he is also a volunteer firefighter in the town of King, which is a very large geographical community. He gives of his time not only abroad but also right here in our community in King township. He is one of these special Canadians who understands how important it is to give back to our community.

Since the year 2000, there have been more than 4,000 primary reservists who have been deployed in the Canadian Forces operations in Afghanistan, Haiti and other international expeditionary operations. These are people who believe in Canada and in what Canada is doing at home and abroad.

In addition, reservists often help with or participate in cultural events, parades, festivals and other public events in communities across Canada. In a recent speech, the Prime Minister said:

...service in the reserves is a form of volunteerism, of giving, of giving back, of giving particularly to our country, and it is of the very highest order.

I also want to highlight another gentleman in my community by the name of Matthew Kerr. Matthew is a resident of my hometown of Stouffville. He is a hard-working family man and works very long hours every day but he still finds time in the evenings and on weekends to volunteer as an auxiliary police officer for the York Regional Police. This gentleman understands how important it is to give back to the community. We can see Mr. Kerr at festivals and parades. We can see him volunteering and keeping our community safe. He ensures that the events across our community and my riding are the best events and also contributing to what makes my community and others across this country such a great place to live and what makes our country such a spectacular place to be. He is like Major Kiss who just came back from Afghanistan. These are two individuals who understand that this country is a great place to live but that we also need to give back and that philanthropic spirit is not just what can be given in monetary resources but often what can be given back in terms of time. These are two individuals who have taken time away from their families to help make our community a better place to live, and I salute them.

This year, we should also consider recognizing another person who is an excellent example of someone who has dedicated her life to philanthropy, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, our head of state and Queen of Canada.

This year, Canadians join the celebrations of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee, 60 years of service to Canada and the world. In a speech given on her 21st birthday, she famously said:

I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great Imperial Commonwealth to which we all belong.

She has kept this promise to Canadians for over 60 years.

It is clear that Canada would not be the country it is today if it were not for volunteerism and philanthropy. Each year, millions of Canadians demonstrate the spirit of giving and the sense of caring can be found in all aspects of our society. We should be proud of our achievements as a country and as individuals. This bill would set aside just one day a year to recognize and honour those people who make Canada such a great place to live, people like Matthew Kerr and Stephen Kiss.

In November, I had the opportunity to participate in the president's banquet for the Markham Fair. This is a community fair that has been going on in my community for decades. At the president's banquet, there was something remarkable. One volunteer, a grandmother from my riding named Gerry Seeley, a survivor of cancer, was celebrating 45 years of volunteering at the Markham Fair in my riding. What was also remarkable was the amount of people who were celebrating. It was not only Ms. Seeley who was celebrating 45 years but there were volunteers who had served for 40 years, 30 years, 35 years, 20 years and 15 years. These are people who take time away from their families to volunteer in the community. We would not have such a spectacular community if we did not have volunteers like Gerry Seeley. In fact, it has become an important tradition for her entire family to give back to the community through the Markham Fair. I am extraordinarily proud of people who volunteer.

In a member's statement that I had the honour of giving before our last constituency week, I talked about the expansion of the Markham Stouffville Hospital and all of the people who have donated to make that hospital bigger and better. This Friday another event taking place in my community. People in my community, led by a gentleman by the name of Khalid Usman, will be coming together. When the hospital needed to be expanded, they made a pledge that they would raise $1 million to help with the construction and expansion of the Markham Stouffville Hospital. These people went into the community and asked everyday people in my riding to contribute to help expand the local hospital. I am told that they will not only be meeting their goal of $1 million for the local hospital but will actually be exceeding that goal and will have an extra contribution for other vital important community services.

Those are the types of people we are recognizing. We are recognizing people like Khalid Usman, the Seeleys, Matthew Kerr and Major Kiss, people who understand that it is extraordinarily important to give back to the community. What makes this country such a spectacular place to live is that we have individuals who work hard every day but still find time to give back to the community, like those people have.

I support the bill that is before us. I know all Canadians will look forward to the one day a year when we can actually single out all the people who have given so much to make our communities, our provinces and our country the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, I am thrilled to be up here once again today to speak to another private member's bill. This time I am pleased to speak to Bill S-201, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day, sponsored in this House by the member for Halifax West.

As a former executive director of the United Way in Sudbury, this is a subject that is very near and dear to my heart. Anything which encourages charitable donations is certainly praiseworthy in my mind.

In essence, the goal of this bill is indisputable. I believe that all members of the House as well as the majority of the Canadian public will be in strong support of the recognition of a national philanthropy day on November 15, which this bill proposes.

Before I delve into the merits of this legislation, let me provide some background and context.

This day was celebrated for the first time on November 15, 1986. Canada was the first country to officially recognize this day back in 2009 when the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage gave a statement in the House declaring that henceforth November 15 would be known as national philanthropy day in Canada.

Since then there have been six attempts in Parliament to formally enshrine November 15 as national philanthropy day. However, all six attempts have been stymied by prorogations and elections and unfortunately, the bill ultimately died on the order paper. I think it is safe to presume that this time, after some delay in Parliament, we will officially enshrine November 15 as national philanthropy day in Canada.

It is important to note that while merely 70% of Canadians made a charitable donation in the last 12 months, I truly believe that a national philanthropy day will heighten public awareness of the importance of charitable giving and will ultimately raise this figure to the point that nearly 100% of Canadians will be engaging in charitable activities on a regular basis.

With the majority of Canadians indicating they expect to give the same or more to charity in 2012 than the $487 average which was given in 2011, it appears that enshrining this day might have the effect of driving further charitable giving. I think this is a completely achievable goal.

If we take dollars and cents out of the equation, we would already find close to 100% penetration in the charitable sector as low income Canadians, who often cannot afford to give financial contributions, do indeed give their time to charitable organizations. I can think of many people who were unable to give financially but dedicated their blood, sweat and tears to the United Way Centraide Sudbury district when I was the executive director. It is these contributions which give rise to the claim that Canada is one of the most charitable countries in the world. I would like to recognize that my own community of Sudbury is the fourth most giving community in Canada. I am very proud of the people of Sudbury who always give of their heart.

Someone mentioned miners. When I was running the United Way over the last few years, the miners and steelworkers in the United Steelworkers Local 6500 with Inco, now Vale, were able to come up with a $1 million contribution through employee and employer contributions to the United Way. That $1 million helped to fund 64 programs in our community. It was a fantastic endeavour. Of course, by enshrining a day to encourage people to give we will only see more and more of this happening each and every day.

Historically, philanthropy has been vitally important to Canada. From organizations like the Shriners, to the Lions Club, to the hundreds of rotary clubs right across the country, of which I am a former member but unfortunately I had to resign, our nation has become what it is today through acts of passion, dedication and charity, which the individual members of these organizations have given to their communities and the country more broadly.

Unfortunately, I do not have the time to name all of the organizations which do great charitable work right across the country. Needless to say, there are thousands who do great work but often do not receive the recognition they so rightfully deserve. I am glad to say that some of them this year will be getting a Queen's Jubilee Medal as well.

Although I cannot name each great organization individually given I only have 10 minutes to speak to the bill, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize some of the great donors who contribute so much in my riding of Sudbury: Gerry Lougheed, Jr.; Geoffrey Lougheed who just last week was awarded the Sacred Letters from Huntington University; Abbas Homayed; and the late great Dr. James Grassby, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago but would contribute at times $5,000 to specific organizations. He was a great leader in our community and he is sadly missed.

It is not just individuals who make important contributions to communities across the country. For instance, in my riding of Sudbury, mining giant Inco, which is now Vale, had a remarkable track record in terms of making charitable contributions which benefit the whole of northern Ontario. For instance, the Maison Vale Hospice provides valuable compassionate care to the families of terminally ill patients from right across northeastern Ontario. The contribution which the hospice makes to the community cannot be taken for granted. Truly, without the support of corporate contributions, we would not be able to continue to offer respite to patients and their loved ones.

I am very proud to say that I am the honorary chair of their “Wheels for Hospice”, a motorcycle ride that raises money every year for the hospice. It is something I am very proud to be involved with on a yearly basis.

Another noteworthy corporate contribution which merits applause is Bell Canada's “Let's Talk” campaign to raise awareness about mental health. In fact, the campaign is so well regarded that the Association of Fundraising Professionals will honour Bell Canada as this year's most exemplary philanthropic company with the 2012 Freeman Philanthropic Services Award for Outstanding Corporation. I would like to applaud the work of Bell Canada on this campaign. I also point out that this is just one example of how corporate charitable contributions are vitally important.

In conclusion, I truly hope that this bill will receive unanimous support in the House, as I truly believe that philanthropy helps Canadians. This bill would encourage Canadians to make more charitable donations, whether they be financial or otherwise. Truly, without the work of thousands of volunteers in our community, without the donations of literally thousands of people in each and every one of our communities, we would not have the great services that are offered in each and every one of our communities.

From coast to coast to coast, I tip my hat to, as I am sure every MP in this House does, and thank everyone who gives to charity, who gives of their time and their resources. We are a better country for it.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this bill put forward by my hon. colleague from Halifax.

I want to congratulate my colleague from Sudbury who gave a fantastic speech about the area of Sudbury and the charitable giving by the people there, all the way from the lowest contributor financially up to Vale which is involved in a hospice.

I want to talk about many things in national philanthropy day, what it means and the symbolism of it which is certainly grand for our country. A recent survey pointed out that Newfoundland and Labrador is once again the most giving province of any province in the country.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

An hon. member

Hear, hear!

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I thought that would get a rise out of my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl and apparently so. He is my biggest cheerleader during this speech.

I recently attended two events which, to say that I found them to be quite sad would be an understatement. Two people in my riding passed away. One was a gentleman named Dean Cross. He was from Lewisporte. He was a volunteer firefighter. All the volunteer firefighters were there, many from around the entire area. There were people wearing firefighter uniforms and others wearing hockey jerseys because of what he had given to minor hockey. There were people from the different organizations that he had been involved with, including the air cadets. People from the military were there. There were a lot of uniforms. It goes to show what it takes for one individual to make such a large impact on a community of that size, and not just that one community of Lewisporte, but the entire region. That was the service he provided and the time that he gave.

Prior to that I went to Glovertown for the funeral of Forbie Adams, who owned a construction company. He too was a giving individual to the entire region, not just in Glovertown. His entire family was there.

By saying this, we look to them as community leaders because of what they provided not just in the work that they had done and the hours that they had spent doing this, but also the money and donations that they provided. They did it for one very simple reason. They knew it takes a community to help them feel safe and feel good about their own communities.

For that reason, we create things like national philanthropy day. On November 15 we pause to think that if it was not for these people, where would rural Canada be? I speak only of rural Canada because I am from rural Canada. There are 195 communities in my riding in Newfoundland and Labrador.

If it were not for those individuals who give not only of their time, but also of their money, it would not be possible to have the service organizations, the volunteer firefighters, the volunteer search and rescue, and all of the organizations which we raise our families around because we love our communities.

This is just a token of our appreciation as parliamentarians to support this bill, and I am glad to hear we are supporting it.

National philanthropy day is the type of day we would encourage schools, community groups and individuals to become more aware of the impact of philanthropy and to get involved as a volunteer. The volunteerism that we have experienced around the country is quite phenomenal. As a result, our communities are that much stronger for it.

I want to say a great thank you to my colleague in the the other place, Senator Terry Mercer. I would like to quote from his speech, because I thought he summed it up quite well:

For most of my career, I have been a fundraiser for various organizations across a number of fields of interest and in various parts of the country. The joy of helping and working with others is very dear to me and it is something that I know is dear to all of you.... National Philanthropy Day occurs annually November 15, when we all pay tribute to hundreds of thousands of volunteers across Canada who make our lives better. Thousands of people, at hundreds of events across North America, participate in celebrations each year and it keeps growing.

Here is a final passage from his speech:

Again, the statistics bear out the impact of the voluntary sector. In Canada, over two billion volunteer hours are given, which is the equivalent of over one million full-time jobs. What better way to say thank you to those volunteers and those in the charitable sector than by having the federal government officially recognize, by enshrining it in the legislation, the tremendous impact this has on our society? I can think of no better way to say thank you.

We thank Senator Terry Mercer for doing this. He mentioned the volunteer hours spent and how governments save money, millions and millions of dollars each year saved by volunteer organizations like firefighters and search and rescue. The volunteer tax credit that the federal government is providing, along with things like this, does not go nearly as far as it should. We should be doing a lot more for these people.

As a matter of fact, I would even propose to the government that volunteer tax credits for firefighters should be extended to search and rescue volunteers as well, as a way of thanking them for the services they provide.

In closing, I want to say that when we consider what people have done in this country for organizations like this, we also have to remember that when we look at people who give money to these organizations, we see that they do this because they believe in the particular organization they are supporting. A lot of it comes down to our children, whether it is minor hockey or minor baseball or whether it is music programs or the Kiwanis Music Festival, which is happening this weekend in my riding. We give money in these situations because it is not only a way of saying thanks but also an investment for a better community.

The Kiwanis Music Festival is a prime example of people giving their money and time to watch our children illustrate to the world just how talented they are. It is a good way to build up our communities through the arts. It is a good way to build our communities through investing in our children so that they can have confidence. As I can say to anybody in this House who has children, they may feel nervous, slightly, when they get up to speak in this House, but there is no more nervous parent than one watching a child on stage about to perform. It is phenomenal. My heart has never raced as much as when I have seen this.

This stuff does not happen unless we encourage the people in our communities to give of their time and to give financially as well. National Philanthropy Day, what a way to say yes to our smallest and largest communities.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to talk about Bill S-201, which calls on the government to designate the 15th day of November of every year as National Philanthropy Day.

In October 2009, November 15 was declared National Philanthropy Day throughout Canada. In January 2011, the Prime Minister announced the creation of the Prime Minister's volunteer awards to honour the enormous contribution volunteers make across Canada.

The bill seeks to take this recognition one step further. It seeks the designation of Philanthropy Day by means of legislation.

Philanthropy certainly has many faces. Early usage of the word “philanthropy” related to the concept of concern for human welfare. Over time, we came to think of how philanthropy is shown in society, usually related to donations of money, of property, of volunteer labour to good causes or of individuals providing direct help to others. It shows itself in grand gestures and in small ways. It is both personal and collective and can be public or private.

Whichever way it is shown, philanthropy plays an important role in our country. It is at the heart of who we are as a nation. It is part of our identity and the core of our values. The spirit of giving of every type, from donating to volunteering, is central to the values of Canadians and is worthy of recognition. It defines our people and our country.

There is barely a part of our society that has not been touched by philanthropy at some point and in some way. Philanthropy has helped Canadians enjoy an enviable quality of life at home and it has helped construct our country's reputation as a caring, giving nation on the world stage.

One may wonder: Why volunteer? With so much going on in our everyday lives, at work, in our homes and in our country, why give so much to others? What makes us give of our time and of our hard-earned dollars?

The reasons are particular to each individual, but there is always a purpose. From it being a way to give back to the community, to sympathy for those in need or for those who are less fortunate, to simply wishing to make a difference in the world, reasons for volunteering are numerous and personal to each person.

Canadians have admirable values, which contribute greatly to our giving. Even in the most difficult economic times, Canadians are still ready to give their time, to give their money and to give of themselves.

In my own riding of Leeds—Grenville, I know people are involved in their communities, donating their time, donating their money and, most important, assisting in projects that are good for the community. They do it to improve the lives of everyone.

I would just like to mention a few of our more prominent donors. People like Don and Shirley Green, David and Anne Beatty, George Tackaberry, Gerry Tallmon and Dave Jones are just a few of those who give their money. However, there are thousands of others in my riding who give their time and their money to help make our community so much better.

Often, people believe that government can solve all the problems. However, communities are so much better when people step up and volunteer on their own. I have been a strong advocate of that in my riding, urging people, young people especially, to get involved in giving and volunteering. I am really happy to see that this bill is coming here to actually legislate National Philanthropy Day.

Taking a closer look at Canadians' philanthropic nature, it is interesting to note that this generosity comes across in all income groups. In 2007, Canadians with a higher household income made the highest average donation of $686. However, what is astounding is that those Canadians with annual household incomes of less than $20,000 also contributed at very high levels.

The generosity of Canadians is not only found across annual household incomes; it also crosses all age groups. In 2007, those aged 15 to 24 donated an average of $142 per person.

It is heartening to think that despite the fact that these young people are just starting out in life, they still find the means to give to their fellow citizens. The giving nature and dedication of our youth is an inspiration to us all.

Young people in our country have grown up with a strong awareness of world issues. Many have experienced tragedies such as September 11, the earthquake in Haiti and numerous other tragedies. These devastating events have instilled in youth a strong sense of empathy, understanding and also concern.

Now more than ever, children of all ages are involved in some sort of philanthropic activity. Take for instance the work of Darren Cole, 16. He was chosen as the top teen philanthropist of 2011 by Mackenzie Investments. He helped fill 10,000 backpacks with school supplies and sorted food at the local food bank. This inspiring young man has been helping those in need since he was just six years old.

In grade 9, Darren created TOPS for Teens to raise money for his school, and he created the group Kids Against Canadian Hunger to encourage schools to raise money for food banks. Darren took his efforts one step further by organizing a conference on the hunger problem in Canada to help raise awareness and funds for food banks.

He is a great example of the ability and determination the youth have to make a difference in the world, and it is up to us to foster and promote this great Canadian value.

It is clear that Canadians care and will continue to do so. As the Prime Minister said in his speech, volunteers need to be acknowledged and honoured for their work. This day will do just that.

Furthermore, a National Philanthropy Day will inspire Canadians to come together and, as His Excellency the Governor General said, make extraordinary things happen.

I admire the aims of this proposed legislation and ask members to join me in supporting that November 15 become known as National Philanthropy Day by means of legislation and to call attention to the actions of so many Canadians who have given of themselves.

For all of these reasons, I encourage and urge all my fellow hon. members of this House to support this important legislation that reflects Canadians values in such a positive way.

I appreciate the opportunity to rise on the bill and I look forward to its passing.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to add my voice to the unanimous support for Bill S-201, including the support of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and my colleagues from Sudbury and Halifax West.

Today we are exploring an idea that should meet with unanimous agreement across this House. It is an idea that seeks to properly recognize, honour and further encourage the important work of Canada's philanthropic sector and the millions of citizens who daily donate their time, energy and money, even now in times when all these precious resources are challenged.

In legislative terms, this bill is relatively simple. However, the core message it sends to volunteers and the organizations they support is long overdue. It is a message that simply says “Thank you, we hear you, we see you and appreciate your efforts”. Although it seems that we live in an age of cynicism, this is a message and an idea that can and must resonate far beyond the walls of this House. The impact that charitable work and philanthropy have had on our history, the crucial role they play in sustaining communities from coast to coast to coast, as well as the potential contribution they will make to our common future is an idea that is well worth recognizing.

A responsible government has an absolutely essential role in supporting the most vulnerable members of our society and it can do so in a number of critical ways: by providing social, economic and personal security, and a viable infrastructure and a sustainable environment. However, government cannot do it all. This is where the compassion and the passion of individuals to do for themselves and for others comes into play. Throughout our history, conscientious citizens have acted autonomously to address the imbalances and imperfections of their generation. It is those individuals who contributed to the building of our society, who contributed to the building of our social safety net, and who enfranchised women and those who were kept apart from the dominant mainstream culture. It is those who fought for civil rights for all. It is those who encouraged the most desperate to get back on their feet, and it is a legacy that lives on today. It lives on in the work of countless community groups, advocacy organizations and faith-based and cultural groups who enrich our communities daily. It lives on through the volunteer firefighters who risk everything simply because it is the right thing to do. It lives on when a church, a synagogue or mosque rallies to provide for its followers, and when a coach forfeit his or her weekend for the chill of a rink. It lives on when Canadians lead the world in per capita donations to earthquake-ravaged Haiti or tsunami-ravaged Japan.

The premise or idea of this bill brings to mind words from one of my heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said that philanthropy was commendable but must never give even the most generous philanthropist an excuse to overlook the circumstances of injustice that make philanthropy necessary. In these times, the circumstances that make philanthropy necessary are more evident. The gifts of time and financial support are getting harder to find, not because of cynicism but because those who would give have less to give.

With a budget looming on the horizon that potentially threatens the foundations of the social programs upon which so many people count for assistance, and similar austerity measures anticipated at the provincial and municipal levels, there is a real likelihood that an even more crushing weight will be assumed by volunteer organizations. Already we hear disturbing accounts of long lines at food banks or of over-strained shelters and declining access to social services for those fortunate enough to be employed.

As parliamentarians, we are by definition representatives of communities. Whatever small part of this nation we represent, each of us has surely come to know the everyday Canadian heroes and heroines this bill seeks to honour.

In my riding, Jeanne-Le Ber, I see the enormous contribution that volunteers involved in social causes that affect their communities make to our society every day.

There are hundreds of outstanding examples of social commitment among volunteers and the organizations they represent: the Regroupement Information Logement de Pointe Saint-Charles seeks to improve conditions in social housing and empower people to improve their living conditions; the Table de concertation Action-Gardien encourages groups and individuals to mobilize around social, political, economic and urban issues; the organization called J'apprends avec mon enfant works with young people to prevent them from dropping out of school and promote the joy of reading; the Réseau d'entraide de Verdun does food security work with disadvantaged people in the community; DESTA Black Youth Network offers mentoring for marginalized young adults in the areas of education, employment and personal growth; the Centre communautaire des femmes actives offers a full range of activities to break down isolation and develop greater autonomy among women in Saint-Henri and the surrounding neighbourhoods.

All these examples illustrate the tremendous work done every day by the organizations and activists in my community to combat poverty and promote a fairer and more just society.

They are the conscientious, compassionate and engaged citizens who when seeing someone in need are compelled to come to their aid. They make the fight their own. Seeing persistent injustice, they choose not to sit on their hands. They, acting as individuals, personify this nation's fundamental decency, and by extension they become ambassadors of the Canadian spirit. It is only right that we honour them, but we must go further. It is my hope that we do more to support and encourage those who give so much to their communities.

My friend from Halifax West deserves immense credit for his efforts. As such, I close by expressing my support for the bill on behalf of the many people and organizations in my riding and invite all of my hon. colleagues to do the same.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to speak this evening on the bill before the House of Commons to establish a national philanthropy day.

One of the outstanding qualities of Canadians is our willingness to extend our sense of purpose beyond our immediate families and friends and to engage the wider community. We do so to make our communities, provinces and, by extension, our country a better place. As well, honouring the contributions of millions of Canadians is an important function of Parliament.

It should be noted that there have been similar bills introduced that would have recognized the value of giving and volunteering. Unfortunately, those efforts were derailed due to multiple prorogations and two dissolutions of Parliament. At the start of the 41st Parliament last June, the Senate, under the leadership of Senator Terry Mercer from Nova Scotia, reintroduced this bill in support of national philanthropy day. I want to congratulate and thank Senator Mercer for reintroducing his bill and the hon. member for Halifax West for guiding it through the House of Commons.

Canadians may wonder why there is a need to designate November 15 of each year as a day to celebrate and acknowledge the efforts of Canadians who give of their time and money. It is simple. It is important that we recognize this activity so as to encourage its continuance and to set an example for others in the hope that more and more Canadians will give of themselves.

My colleague, Senator Mercer, when speaking in the Senate on this bill, captured quite well the purpose of this legislation. I realize that this quote has been read into the record already by my colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, but it bears repeating. I am quoting Senator Mercer, who stated:

—the statistics bear out the impact of the voluntary sector. In Canada, over two billion volunteer hours are given, which is the equivalent of over one million full-time jobs. What better way to say thank you to those volunteers and those in the charitable sector than by having the federal government officially recognize, by enshrining it in legislation, the tremendous impact this has on our society? I can think of no better way to say thank you.

I certainly agree with those sentiments.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to listen to an excellent speech given by our then newly installed Governor General, the right hon. David Johnston, a speech, I might add, that he gave in my home province of Prince Edward Island as part of the prestigious Symons Lecture on the state of Confederation. The Governor General spoke about philanthropy and volunteerism as a cornerstone of community life. He stated:

On October 1st, I delivered an installation speech entitled, “A Smart and Caring Nation: A Call to Service.”...

I outlined three pillars to achieve this vision: supporting families and children; reinforcing learning and innovation; and encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism.

This is the vision I suggest for 2014, and together we should ask, why not?

The Governor General went on to state that it would be his goal during his time as Governor General to highlight the value of family, education and the importance of philanthropy and volunteerism. He also took the opportunity to quote from Sir Winston Churchill, who said:

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Our Governor General gave a wonderful and inspiring speech that day to a large crowd at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.

Statistics Canada tells us that charity and philanthropic endeavours vary from province to province. The data indicate, and I am quite proud of this, that the people of Atlantic Canada are a generous lot. The top three provinces in terms of giving are Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

One of the benefits of speaking to this bill is the opportunity to highlight a few people, and there are many back home, who have done so much to support and help our community. These people have seen much success in life and in business, and have given much back in return.

I want to salute, in particular, the following people. Many of them have given generously to our educational institutions back on Prince Edward Island, the University of Prince Edward Island and Holland College and our major hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

I will start with Mary-Jean Irving and the Irving family, who have enjoyed substantial success with Master Packaging and Indian River Farms. They are very generous donors. In addition, Robert Irving, who although not an Islander, has employed thousands of Islanders through Cavendish Farms and is extremely generous in giving back to the community.

Danny and Martie Murphy have been tremendous donors, especially to children through the Oak Acres Children's Camp and also the Alzheimer Society. They have a big, beautiful home in Stanhope that they open to the community for numerous and sundry fundraising events, true pillars in our community.

The late Harry MacLauchlan and his wife Marjorie are veritable institutions within the province of Prince Edward Island. Harry MacLauchlan, during his life, would greet people, regardless of the weather, the conditions and his spirit, in the same manner with “It's a great day.” It could be 20 below with the wind chill and blowing a gale and if Harry saw anyone, he would say “Great day”. That was the way he carried himself through life and he always gave back to his community. He was an extremely generous donor. The hockey rink at the University of Prince Edward Island bears his name and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital would not be what it is but for Harry MacLauchlan.

Fred and Shirley Hyndman show their passionate support of history, heritage, the university and the hospital.

One of my former law partners, Alan Scales and his good wife, Patsy, along with his brother David and Doris Scales, have forever been generous donors in my community of Charlottetown.

Canadians are generous and compassionate people. We founded and built a country based on the idea of shared responsibility and shared prosperity. Not all Canadians benefit from our collective and individual success. For far too many Canadians, life can be difficult. For them, poverty is a sad reality passed from generation to generation.

The role of government in this regard is to provide equality of opportunity to give a hand up, not a hand out. We do this so all Canadians might share in our prosperity and live and raise their families with a sense of dignity. The role of civil society, of volunteerism and of philanthropy is to complement those efforts. Philanthropy and volunteerism do make a difference in the lives of people.

In closing, I once again want to thank my Liberal colleagues in the Senate and in the House for introducing and moving this important legislation through Parliament.

National Philanthropy Day ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:30 p.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, last December I asked the government why Canada was totally abdicating its leadership responsibilities on climate change on the world stage.

Perhaps tonight we will receive an answer rather than yet another rehashing of the government's talking points: its version of the history of Kyoto; it being proud of its negligent record on climate change; its supposed plan, just in the final stages of writing new regulations for coal-fired electricity and merely beginning consultations with the oil sands, cement, gas and steel industries; its attack on two past Liberal leaders; and its approach of “balance and real action”.

Let me be clear. Mere wordsmithing and attacks will not cover up the government's failure with respect to climate change such as cutting greenhouse gas reduction targets by 90%, meeting only 25% of its new target and withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol.

Now that I have addressed the government's tired talking points, let me address what matters fundamentally.

For many of the world's poorest countries, climate change is not an academic, esoteric debate but rather a pressing reality faced every day. In Bangladesh, for example, rising sea levels threaten farmland and water supply, despite the fact that its population of 160 million emits less greenhouse gases than Manhattan. In the future, a one metre sea level rise will submerge one-fifth of the land mass and displace 20 million people.

The reality is that climate change affects poor countries disproportionately and threatens energy, food, health, livelihoods and water. In total, it threatens human security. If human security was being threatened by war, countries would rise to the challenge to protect the vulnerable. Why not then with sea level rise?

Perhaps it is because some developed countries have removed humanity and human rights from the discussion. Instead, they focus on whether climate change is real or not, how much of the burden they should bear and what the economic costs are to their respective governments.

The truth is that the intergovernmental panel on climate change confirmed over 15 years ago that “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”. Despite this, governments continue to find and give voice to the perhaps 5% of scientists who are deniers so as to delay real and meaningful investment.

This postponement tactic is in stark contrast to the world's response to the thinning of the ozone in the 1980s. After the Antarctic ozone hole was identified, a few short years later the world's countries agreed to a global agreement.

Clearly, it should be unacceptable to the use the term “burden” when discussing the suffering of our fellow citizens around the world and surely we do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past when the world stood by in the face of atrocities by failing to adequately respond.

In terms of financing climate mitigation and adaptation, the benefits of strong, early action on climate change dramatically outweigh the costs. For example, it has been estimated that to stabilize emissions at manageable levels would cost about 1% of global gross domestic product, but that not to act would cost at least 5% now and forever.

Instead of repeating talking points tonight, perhaps the parliamentary secretary will answer the world's most vulnerable countries that are suffering now.

7:35 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta


Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we just had a great environment committee meeting to discuss the development of a national conservation plan. I commend her for her commitment to these issues, but there are some things I want to talk about tonight and clarify some of the points she made.

First, she talked about the concept of abdication of responsibility. In fact, in the past, during the Liberal government's tenure, greenhouse gas emissions in our country rose by almost 30% over some of the Kyoto targets. Perhaps she could answer how many megatonnes of carbon emissions the Liberal government put into the atmosphere through its inaction on climate change.

This is so important because it is the same concept, when we look at international agreements, to ensure that we have a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. When the Kyoto protocol was ratified, it included less than 30% of the major greenhouse gas emitters. Now that figure is considerably less. Maybe she could answer how many megatonnes are released into the atmosphere because major emitters like Brazil, India and China are not party to that agreement.

By contrast, our government stands for the creation of an international agreement which sees all major emitters coming to the table under international binding targets and stringent reporting mechanisms. This will ensure real action in the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions in contrast to her party's inaction in this area and unfortunate mismanagement.

The other thing I am curious to understand from her is this. She talked about the need for climate change adaptation, yet she and her party voted against our budgetary measures designed to support a transition to the climate change adaptation research into the field. She often talks in the House of Commons about the need to support scientists, yet these very fundamental budgetary measures to support research and action in this area are voted against by the Liberal Party. It is quite unfortunate.

By contrast, our government has a real action-focused plan. It is one that understands the need to both balance economic growth and environmental stewardship. We are approaching our greenhouse gas emissions targets in a very fundamental action-focused way by looking at regulations on a sector-by-sector approach.

We understand that the transportation sector is one which is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions. We have started with regulations in that area. We are currently looking at the electricity sector, but I would note that Canada's electricity sector is one of the cleanest in the world, with over 75% of our electricity generated by non-carbon emitting sources. However, even in that we are looking at ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a regulatory approach and we are looking at other regulations in other areas as well.

We are doing this in consultation with industry groups, affected stakeholders, communities and academia because our government understands both the need for action and the need to implement it, but also to do it in such a way that it does not detrimentally impact our economy.

We are proud of this balanced approach. It is something that we are hearing from Canadians. They understand the need for jobs and economic growth and to balance that within a strong environmental stewardship plan. We feel very strongly that the sector-by-sector regulatory approach takes that action.

Therefore, in the spirit of the good discussions that we had this afternoon in the environment committee, I would ask the member to look at the real action plan that we have, to get behind it and support some of our budgetary measures in these important areas.

7:40 p.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, we had a plan which would get us 80% of the way to meeting Kyoto targets. The Conservative government killed that plan. As for adaptation, the government is now cutting the climate adaptation and impacts research group of which many of its scientists share part of the Nobel Prize.

We must refocus the climate change debate on humanity, human rights, climate justice and the personal rather than the anonymous faceless other. The most vulnerable countries understand that 2015 is already too late, that urgent action and a commitment to protect are required.

Canada's strong foreign service should be funnelling back climate change information to the government from their respective postings and should be inviting representatives of the government to witness climate change in their countries. The children of Bangladesh on the streets invite the government to taste climate change. It is salty, they explain, because salt water is already inundating their water supplies.

7:40 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is so unfortunate that my colleague opposite talks about cuts to climate change adaptation when her party does not even support the budgetary measures we put in place to fund these. I certainly hope she will support these in the future rather than talk about false cuts.

I also implore her one last time to get on board with our government's strong action-focused plan and the sector-by-sector regulatory approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to pursue an international binding agreement where all major emitters come to the table.

7:40 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past December, I asked the Minister of State for Seniors a question about seniors' poverty in Canada. She said:

Seniors' poverty is something all Canadians should be concerned about.

Well, I agree. Yet a month later, her leader, the Prime Minister made an announcement in Davos, suggesting that changes to the OAS will involve either cuts or a change in age eligibility, or both, and that these cuts were coming down the pipe pretty soon. Along with the GIS, the OAS is our pension program to prevent seniors' poverty in Canada. Any cuts to it are cuts to benefits for the very poor. I am really unsure why the government wants to ask the poorest Canadians to take on the brunt of the planned budget cuts.

This money, OAS and GIS, is immediately reinvested into the economy. Seniors do not sit on their money. They spend it, every penny of it. Their spending helps create jobs and boosts our economy.

Clearly, the money to invest in OAS is readily available. The Parliamentary Budget Officer and the OECD have told us this very clearly. We have the money to lift seniors out of poverty in the present, and the money to address additional expenses the government will face in the future as our population continues to age.

Instead of investing in Canada, the Conservatives have chosen to saddle the treasury and Canadians with corporate tax giveaways that will not guarantee a single job.

The government's talking points suggest that income and pension splitting will help alleviate poverty for seniors. It is not true. Pension splitting benefits only those lucky enough to have adequate pension, not unattached Canadians nor the seniors who rely on the OAS and GIS to make ends meet. The government also trumpets the recent increase to the GIS, but the sad fact remains: it was less than half the amount needed to truly raise every senior out of poverty.

The billions of dollars trumpeted by the government in investment in affordable housing is actually $1.4 billion in total for the entire country. That is not enough. That number is a combination of federal, provincial and territorial money, not the total spending of the federal program. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that this money will even be spent. Provinces have to match the federal dollars. If they do not initiate the project, the housing will not be built.

The government's arguments do not make sense. This frightens me because it leads in exactly the wrong direction.

Seniors represent one of the fastest growing populations in Canada today. The number of seniors in Canada is projected to increase from 4.2 million in 2005 to 9.8 million by 2036. With so many seniors retiring in the coming years, we need a social safety net in place that will prevent dramatic increases in poverty. We need investment in seniors, investment in affordable and appropriate housing, long-term care, home care and pharmacare. This will boost our economy and save money in the long term while it protects our seniors.

I want to repeat my question from December, and I hope that the member is able to give a better answer than before.

There is an elderly couple in Toronto. She has asthma and bronchitis. He has Parkinson's. They can barely make ends meet. In fact, they just won a contest because of the depth of their needs. However, there are no winners here. Three hundred thousand seniors live in poverty. The government offers no help. Seniors should not have to turn to a contest just to keep their heads above water.

When will the government stop ignoring seniors and actually start helping them?

7:45 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario


Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for London—Fanshawe for raising the important issue of supporting seniors, something we as a government strongly believe in.

Canadians can be rightfully proud of the achievements we have made together as a country, bringing down the incidents of low income among seniors. From 1980 to 2009, we have seen those rates drop from 20% to 5%.

Seniors are more than a demographic element or statistic. They are neighbours, mentors, friends, family members and trusted colleagues, like Isobel and Bill McDougall, in my home of Creemore, or Dr. Jack Crawford, in Collingwood. These are fellow Canadians, and their valuable contributions have helped to build a stronger Canada.

Our government is committed to ensuring seniors have the highest possible quality of life. Through budget 2011, we introduced a new guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit to help the most vulnerable of those seniors. The change represents the largest increase in GIS for the lowest income seniors in a quarter century. The new measure is further improving the financial security of more than 680,000 seniors across Canada.

We increased the GIS in 2006 and in 2007, for a total of 7% over and above the regular indexation, while also introducing automatic renewals for seniors.

In budget 2008, we increased the GIS earnings exemption from $500 to $3,500 to allow working low-income seniors to earn extra money while they are working.

We have also provided $2.3 billion annually in additional tax relief to seniors and pensioners, achieving this through pension income splitting, as well as increasing the age credit.

Our government has been working hard to reinforce sustainability of our retirement income programs, as well as enhancing seniors' quality of life, not just today but in ways that will be sustainable for Canadian seniors in the future. These are mutually inclusive goals, and both of these goals must be met.

Challenges lie ahead. The number of Canadians over the age of 65 will double in the next two decades. That means that the number of old age security pension beneficiaries is expected to grow from 4.7 million to more than 9.3 million in 2030. While today there are four workers for every person over 65, by 2030 there will be only two to one. A smaller number of working taxpayers will be supporting a much larger number of OAS recipients.

Will they be able to carry this load? Is it fair to them? That is the question, and one must be upfront and deal with this important issue now. This has to be done in a responsible way that gives everyone time to plan and adjust.

7:45 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the member did not hear a single word I said. It is just the same old rhetoric and the same misinformation.

I have been travelling across the country, listening to what seniors have to say, and they have lots to say. They are not impressed with the Conservatives. They want their pensions protected. They want to retire in dignity, and they want their children to have a chance at the dignified retirement that they wish for themselves. They do not like the path the government is taking.

Investing in our seniors is smart, economically sensible and humane and has everything to do with how we should behave and nothing to do with what the government is perpetrating on the seniors of Canada.

7:50 p.m.


Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for London—Fanshawe should know that this year Canadians will receive close to $72 billion in benefits through the Canada pension plan, as well as the old age security programs and the GIS. It is true that these benefits do not come automatically. Older Canadians have to apply for them. That is why we have taken steps to inform Canadians about their eligibility for these benefits through the application process.

Through HRSDC and Service Canada, our government uses direct mail, information campaigns and partnerships with community organizations to reach out to seniors to tell them about their eligibility for OAS and GIS. Some of these efforts are aimed at seniors who are particularly hard to reach. These could include people who live in remote areas, immigrants, aboriginal seniors, seniors with disabilities or those who do not speak either English or French.

More than 600,000 application forms are issued to Canadian seniors not yet receiving CPP or OAS to encourage them to apply. Every year, mail-outs of thousands of pre-filled applications to people who qualify for the GIS are completed. Most GIS recipients only need to apply once and then it will happen automatically for their renewal. We are making great efforts in order to make sure low-income seniors are informed about their benefits.

7:50 p.m.


Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in this House this evening, but I am not pleased with the subject that we have to discuss. It is of great concern to me and it is of great concern to the people of eastern Canada, the Gaspé and the Atlantic region.

On March 1, I asked the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans a question concerning fleet separation and owner-operator policies, looking at the massive input that this has to our economy in Atlantic Canada. All I wanted the minister to do was to assure us that he would ensure that these policies remained in place, that the fishermen remained independent and that they would be able to own their own fleets.

The minister basically said he was going to consult with fishermen or had consulted with fishermen. I have travelled for the last number of weeks and I have not met many fishermen who have been consulted.

The owner-operator policy was put in place by the Hon. Roméo LeBlanc, the greatest minister of fisheries that this House has ever seen. He understood what owner-operator and fleet separation policies were all about. Fleet separation just means that one cannot own the fleet and process the product. It means that one does not own everything. It means one does not have control of everything in the sea and everything on the land.

Owner-operator means, simply, that one owns the boat and goes out and fishes.

That is the basic livelihood, that is what keeps our small communities in Atlantic Canada and the Gaspé in Quebec alive. If they were to lose this, it would be quite devastating.

In the last number of weeks, I have travelled across Atlantic Canada. My good friend, the member for Papineau, who happens to be the son of one of the greatest prime ministers in this country who was the prime minister with the Hon. Roméo LeBlanc, met with a number of fisheries groups. He also met with the fisheries policy dialogue in Chelsea, Quebec. They have the same concerns as all the fishermen I had met across Atlantic Canada. Their concern is that they have something that is quite valuable, that is going to be more valuable, and that the government could take it from the fishermen, take it from the communities, and give it to the corporate sector.

He also met with the professional fisheries alliance in Quebec. It also was very concerned.

The minister spoke about young people not being involved in the fishery. I met with fisheries groups in a number of different places in Newfoundland. There were people in the room who were yelling, young men and young women. Sure, there were also some white heads. It was the same in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I met with a lot of fisheries groups.

Last Sunday, I attended the MFU's annual meeting. Though some members talked of the MFU supporting looking at this, the MFU made it quite clear that it fully opposed discussing the owner-operator and fleet separation policies. This is not on the table for it to discuss. It does not feel that the government should take from the fishermen and give to the corporate sector.

I only hope that the parliamentary secretary, for whom I have respect, will confirm that these policies will remain in place.

7:55 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.


Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot of opinions with respect DFO's policies in recent days, some from my hon. friend from Cardigan. I am not here to say whether I agree or disagree with these policies but to say that we need to be able to have a discussion about these things. I am not alone in this position. In the words of the respected host of The Fisheries Broadcast in Newfoundland, John Furlong, it is time to have “Discussion without fear of recrimination”.

We have heard a broad spectrum of views and many people have expressed how important it is to understand the origins of these policies. My colleague has mentioned this as well, but allow me to provide a bit more background on both the owner operator and fleet separation policies to which he has referred.

The fleet separation policy was introduced in the Atlantic inshore fishery in the 1970s. Basically, it states that corporations and processing companies may not be issued new fishing licences. Originally, the purpose was to separate the harvesting sector from the processing sector to help prevent any one group from controlling the supply chain. The owner operator policy was introduced in the 1980s to address an imbalance that emerged from the fleet separation policy. This policy requires licence holders to be onboard the vessel to personally fish the licence. It was designed to support the individually operated inshore fleet.

These policies have evolved over time in response to specific requests. Many rules have been adapted over time to allow for exemptions. This has led to regional variations that complicate the administrative process and may create unfair advantages. Thus across the country we can find these policies displayed in many different ways. In British Columbia, for example, neither of these policies are in place. However, in Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, a fisherman can get a 120-day exemption from the owner operator policy, allowing someone else to operate his vessel. Perhaps he is sick during that period. In the Maritimes region, the exemption only permits 30 days. As another example, in some cases processors were providing capital to harvesters in order to secure a supply of fish, and in some cases trust agreements did indeed put the control and decisions in the hands of the processors.

As a result of all these changes, another policy was introduced in 2007 to preserve the independence of inshore harvesters and strengthen the owner operator and fleet separation policies. Last year, the fleet separation policy was further amended to allow wholly owned corporations to hold fishing licences. Accordingly, these policies have developed and evolved over the years.

Typically with every rule and policy that has been adopted over time, exemptions have had to be adopted to provide the flexibility that harvesters need to manage their business. Therefore, to be clear, our review is not focused solely on the owner operator and fleet separation policies, though we recognize their importance to many harvesters in the Atlantic. These policies and others are complex and need to be considered in today's context to see if they remain effective in the face of fluctuating resources and changing market conditions. The purpose of our current work is not to arbitrarily remove or support policies but to see where there are unnecessary complexities and inefficiencies that exist, and to identify barriers to improved economic prosperity for fishers. I hope the hon. member would agree with that goal.

It is for these reasons that we went out to speak with Canadians with an open mind to hear their views on what works and what does not. Now we are going to consider the feedback we received, through in-depth and objective analysis, which will allow us to better understand the issues.

8 p.m.


Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed with what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans had to say. Consulting, I would think, means talking to people. It means talking to people in the industry.

I have travelled all through Atlantic Canada. My colleague from Papineau travelled through the Gaspé and Quebec. None of them have talked to anyone in government, but it is funny because the corporate sector knows all about this. The corporate sector knows very well that the inshore fishermen in eastern Canada have something valuable and the corporate sector wants it, and I am fearful that the government is going to give it to them.

Why would they destroy the economy? I have had the privilege to work for 23 years in the riding of Cardigan to help provide economic development. Why in one swoop would they destroy the economic development of the whole east coast of Canada? Why?