Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-458, a private member's bill introduced by my friend and colleague, the member for Kitchener—Waterloo. I will support this bill at second reading and I hope all members on both sides of the House do the same. It has certainly received some positive support in the speeches I have heard thus far, which I also appreciate.
As the member for Kitchener—Waterloo pointed out, the bill would establish the last seven days of February as national charities week and would extend the tax deadline to claim charitable donations from December 31 to the end of March, matching the deadline for RRSP contributions. The member's objective is obviously quite noble, seeking to encourage a greater number of Canadians to give more generously to charities, supporting these organizations in their valuable work both in Canada and around the world. As chair of the finance committee, I hope and fully expect that Bill C-458 will be supported by all parties and I look forward to further discussion and analysis of this proposal, including hearing from the member and from a wide range of groups in the charitable sector.
However, before I speak directly to the legislation before the House today, I will take an opportunity, as his colleague, to recognize the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for his truly outstanding record in support of the charitable sector since first being elected in 2008. In 2010, he sponsored Motion No. 559, which called for the Standing Committee on Finance to study tax incentives for charitable donations, a motion that was supported by all parties. Having a colleague supported by all parties is quite unique in the House. I am very happy to report that after extensive work last year and into early this year, the finance committee completed that important study, and I encourage all parliamentarians and Canadians to view that study.
As chair of the committee, I can tell the House that we heard important evidence showing the need for the government to help foster and promote a culture of giving. Not only that, but we learned that tax incentives had a definite role to play in increasing the number of new donors and encouraging existing donors to give even more. I am pleased to report that the committee's study brought attention to the importance of charitable giving. I am confident it will help inform the government's further action to support charities.
With this outcome, we can all agree that the member's contributions to date have truly been invaluable. His reputation in this regard is well known. Imagine Canada, the leading umbrella organization representing Canadian charities, has praised the member's willingness to consult with it on new ideas, saying, “[The member] has been and continues to be a real champion for the charitable sector...He demonstrates a sound understanding of the issues we’re facing”. I am sure my colleagues on both sides of the House will agree with that assessment and will join our government in sending the bill to the finance committee for the hearing that it deserves.
In supporting this proposal to committee, a proposal which was raised during the previous study which I mentioned, we can ensure that it will be carefully considered by both parliamentarians and charities alike. At committee, we can answer the questions that have been raised by members during this debate today. We can conduct a thorough examination of the bill.
An important consideration is how this proposal will be effective in encouraging Canadians to increase their donations. A study at the finance committee will help us to determine to what degree a later deadline for annual contributions will impact donations and at what cost. We will also hear from charities about the potential impact of a March 1 deadline on their ability to deliver important services to Canadians.
Currently, organizations have about six to eight weeks following the end of the year to get tax receipts to donors for early filing. If the deadline were to be moved 12 weeks later, charities would obviously have to make the necessary administrative adjustments. However, the most important reason for members to vote to send the bill to committee is that charities could share their views on this important bill and on this topic.
On the larger issues of charities, which I want to address and which some other members have spoken about today, I emphasize that our Conservative government fully supports the important work of charities to improve the lives of Canadians who rely on their support. Each and every day, selfless and remarkable volunteers make a difference in lives all across the country without expecting anything in return. In fact, there are over 160,000 Canadian charities and non-profit organizations that support worthwhile causes in our communities. That is an amazing number, of which all members should be proud.
That is why our government is committed to the charitable sector and we have continuously strengthened that commitment, including successive actions to improve tax incentives for donations. I will remind members of a few of these actions.
Budget 2006 exempted gifts of publicly listed securities from capital gains tax and extended that exemption to donations of ecologically sensitive land to public conservation charities.
Budget 2008 extended the exemption to certain donations of exchangeable shares.
Budget 2010 significantly reformed the disbursement quota rules for charities, reducing administrative complexity and better enabling charities to focus their time and resources on their charitable activities.
Budgets 2011 and 2012 introduced important integrity measures to ensure transparency and accountability for charities designed to combat fraud and abuse in the charitable sector, helping to increase the confidence of Canadians that their hard-earned dollars would be used exactly in the spirit that they were intended.
Our government wholeheartedly supports the intent of Bill C-458, and I applaud the selfless efforts by my hon. colleague to better support charities in carrying out their important work. Indeed, the bill has the potential to encourage Canadians to give more generously to charities than ever before, empowering these organizations to make an even bigger difference in communities across our country.
Nevertheless, it is vital that my colleagues on the finance committee and all parliamentarians have an opportunity to examine the bill in greater detail to ensure charities have an opportunity to share their perspective on this unique and very exciting proposal.
I would like to quote from a recent National Post editorial that praised the legislation before us today, noting that:
Too often of late, private member’s bills have served explicitly partisan ends. [The member for Kitchener—Waterloo's] Bill C-458, however, seeks to improve the lot of needy citizens simply by adjusting a bureaucratic formality. This is the sort of effort we’d like to see more of in parliament...
Speaking as someone who has been in this chamber for over 12 years, the member for Kitchener—Waterloo serves as an example for all of us in terms of how we can have an impact on a policy process, how we can have an impact on the budgets that are presented in the House of Commons and how we can truly improve the lives of Canadians from coast to coast.
I am therefore very proud to support the bill at second reading. I hope we can study it at the finance committee as soon as possible. I encourage all members on both sides of the House to support it.