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.