Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, Madeleine Nadeau, a very important person in my life, is no longer with us. When she was alive, she gave her time and money. Her calling, her spiritual belief, was to help the community and her family, including me, her grandson. She always dreamed that I would end up here. I hope that she is looking down on me today because it is to her that I dedicate this bill, which is incredibly important to me.
I am also lucky enough to have a son with extraordinary grandparents, both on my side and on his mother's. They are philanthropists and volunteers. They actively help the community every day by listening, making suggestions or taking part in organizations, which they have a direct impact on.
We are at a turning point. A link must be made between what existed in the past and what must exist in the future. One thing has been been consistent throughout time. Human beings have always had this spark in them, a spark that is so small yet so immense that they are able to accomplish many things. Human beings have found themselves in situations of crisis, in dark moments in our history. But human beings have pulled together, built our nation and managed to move mountains, just by working together, by listening and thinking about others.
It was natural for me today to debate a bill designed to help volunteers. Every day, we give them a pat on the back, say congratulations and tell them we are glad they are there, but we never talk about serious measures for their future.
There have been some bad apples over the course of history. As a member of Parliament, I meet people. I see that they have less and less confidence in politics at all levels. Yet, they are very generous. They are prepared to be philanthropic by sharing their ideas, knowledge, time and money with community organizations across the country. This is what allows us to progress.
We are living in the information age. Our needs grow with our knowledge. We are trying to resolve a host of problems pertaining to the environment and health. There are always people who find the courage to create organizations to solve problems and mobilize society so that concrete measures are taken to help people and solve problems. We must protect this spark and have vision.
We often talk about the economy, but when a society does not work together to implement social measures, we cannot talk about a good economy. If we want to progress, if we want the government to evolve, we must talk about community relations, where there are volunteers, where this spark lives in everyone and where we can progress together.
If the government had to take over for all the volunteers in the country, it would cost billions of dollars. My bill will cost $800 million. It simply seeks to recognize the efforts of volunteers. It is a first step, but we must not stop there. We must go even further.
The Madeleine Nadeau bill is important to me. When I met with various groups and volunteers in certain regions of the country, I told them to take that the bill belongs to them and that it is non-partisan. It is a necessity. Everyone, at all levels, needs people who are willing to lend a helping hand. We need to help each other.
Some of my friends have gone through difficult times and received help from generous people in their community and organizations. These days, when it comes to services, we are just a number to the government. Furthermore, services for citizens are being reduced. However, no matter what kind of government services are needed, there is always an organization present. We can count on these people, who do not ask for a red cent, who are present, listen, are sincere, care for us and are there to help us. We cannot go on giving them just a pat on the back.
With respect to international policy, things are becoming increasingly difficult around the world. Not just here, but everywhere. Things are looking increasingly bleak.
The good thing is that people realize it. They are not fooled. The people are mobilizing. People are deciding to roll up their sleeves, to work, to move forward and to get results.
I have had many opportunities in my riding to work for a full day with volunteers. I participated in Fin à la faim and the March for Life. Today, the youth of Saint-Sulpice were taking action.
They were not asking for any money, they asked absolutely nothing of the community; they wanted to give back.
They walked around their community wearing t-shirts with “30 km/h” on them to make people aware that young people are concerned and want things to improve.
We must take a stance that will move us forward in a tangible way and make for a better future. A bill is one step and a committee is one step. We must ask ourselves whether we have a vision and a strategy for the next government. Will we develop partnerships with organizations, volunteers, philanthropists and community organizations?
Honestly, based on what I have seen thus far, these organizations are most often the ones that speak most honestly and transparently. They are the ones that show an interest and a desire to help, that make sacrifices every day, and that pay out of their own pockets to volunteer and get direct results, helping the community and society grow.
The government cannot simply encourage them and say well done. It must tell them sincerely that we are fortunate to have them.
In cases of floods and crises, who takes action? We give money and vote on bills, but who takes direct action? It is the volunteers and organizations. They are the ones who make a difference and who will build our future. That is the only way possible. We must develop this vision and strategy together.
Once again, the Madeleine Nadeau bill is a first step. I am asking all of my colleagues not to hesitate and to make this cause their own.
I will say this in English and I will be very clear about this: Charity work is not just something for which we give a pat on the back. Our nation is built on it. If we are to move forward in the new millennium, we should stop talking about technology. It will be based on human beings. It will be based on relationships we have among ourselves. The only way we can move forward is if we ask for direct, concrete action and stop talking, because contrary to certain things, sometimes we do not talk enough and we do not listen enough. In this case, it has been going on for generations. We know this to be true.
We must, at all costs, with the sparkle we all have inside us, defend it, build on it, make it grow and say that it is a vision we have as a nation.
We must build our nation on a vision of helping one another. As I think of my son, I have always wondered where we are heading and what our national vision is.
Well, here is one. Helping each other and the giving of oneself are two of our most shining social values. This is true on all levels: on a spiritual level—all religious groups have been doing it for ever—as well as on a community level, through mutual assistance, sharing and cooperatives. That is where we are now.
This bill is not perfect and it cannot solve every problem. But it is a first step in a great journey forward to a beautiful future.
You may laugh, but I am from the Star Trek generation, those for whom money is not important. What is important is intellect, action, exploration, in a word, giving the best of ourselves.
We need to help each other. We have reached the point where we must stop dreaming about it; we must believe in it. Each day, our community shows us how and points us in the right direction.
I am still very honoured to be able to walk among my fellow citizens every day, to be with them, to be humble, to listen to them with humility—you cannot be too humble—and to see what is possible and where life may take us.
We must listen to solutions and put them into action. That is what volunteers do. They act without even asking for anything in return.
I have had the opportunity to meet and sit down with volunteers. What they tell me is not right. Though they are prepared to spread their love to those around them and give their heart and soul for each and every one, they are no longer financially able to do so, because they have to pay for their transportation, to get to where they need to go.
We are creating a bill that helps those people and that recognizes what they do; a bill that tells them that we are there for them and we support them, that we are ready to work with them and that we are ready to build our society with them, that we are listening to them, that they have our ear; a bill that tells them that we are going to do more than that now, we are going to take action.
I am very honoured to be here today.