Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today and speak to Bill C-239, the fairness in charitable gifts act.
I want to give a special thanks to the member for Provencher for bringing forward this important piece of legislation. It is a good bill and it is an important bill for Canadian charities. I personally am exceptionally proud to be the seconder of this piece of legislation and will be voting in favour of this private member's bill.
To begin it is important to review what the bill would do. Donations that are made to a charitable cause would receive similar tax treatment as donations made to political parties.
I firmly believe that Canadians are generous people. They give freely and willingly of their hard-earned dollars to support charitable causes in which they believe. With these donations, charities and charitable causes do exceptionally good work locally in our communities, across the country, and globally.
From time to time here in the House during statements by members, we have the opportunity to highlight some of the great charitable work done by charities in our ridings. I was proud to highlight the work of Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Wellington a couple of months ago and the hard work that they do to serve young people in our communities.
As a member of Parliament for a great riding, I often receive invitations to a number of charitable events supporting a number of different research funding opportunities, whether it is for research into deadly diseases or opportunities to help combat and raise awareness of violence against women.
Just last month I was driving through the small town of Monkton, Ontario, in the north part of Perth County, and I came across a group of three young kids hosting a lemonade stand. They were raising funds for the Canadian Red Cross to help those who had been displaced by the wildfires in Fort McMurray. That is the type of charitable giving and charitable opportunity that I want to see expanded across our country.
In the same vein, I was pleased to learn that the grade 2 class of Ms. Inglis-Eickmeier at Central Perth Elementary School in my riding were raising funds for the Canadian Red Cross and for those who had been displaced by the wildfires. They hosted a bake sale, but just raising that money alone was not enough for them. They wanted to do more, so they took to social media. Using the hashtag #KidsHelpYMM, they issued a challenge to neighbouring schools across the region to do their part as well to help raise funds for this important cause.
In Stratford, the House of Blessing, which was founded by Florence and Norman Kehl more than 33 years ago, helps to provide food, shelter, and clothing to those in need. They founded it on the simple motto and simple purpose “to serve those who are hurting and in need”.
We have so many great organizations and charitable causes in all of our ridings and it is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to support them in any way we can. They struggle to raise funds, yet they persevere.
I have heard from a number of constituents across my riding in support of the bill. One constituent from Arthur in the Township of Wellington North wrote, "I kindly ask you to consider supporting this bill as it will be beneficial for many charities in Canada”. Another constituent in St. Marys wrote, “I want to let you know that I am in favour of this bill. Charities rely on donors and I believe that this will encourage more people to donate”. From Mount Forest a constituent wrote, “I urge you, as my member of Parliament, to help all charities with your support of this bill”. The bill has support among the constituents of Perth—Wellington, and members will find that the bill has support across Canada.
Often when we ask people why they do not donate, the challenge is that they cannot afford it. The bill would encourage those people to donate for the first time and encourage those who already donate to donate more. It would increase the size of tax credits available and make it more affordable for those who want to donate more.
Canadians would be surprised when they learn that the tax treatment of charitable donations is so different from that of political donations. It does not reflect our values as Canadians. Canadians do not believe that funding political parties should be more important and more lucrative than funding charitable causes.
Bill C-239 is an important step forward in supporting the many great charitable causes in Canada and making the Income Tax Act more fair. By increasing the value of tax credits given to Canadians for charitable donations, the House would be doing tremendous good for our country.
Raising the value of tax credits for charitable donations would have several benefits. First, it would lower taxes for Canadians who choose to donate their hard-earned money to support charitable causes. I believe that every member of the House would agree that we as the Canadian Parliament should reward those who donate to charitable causes.
Second, it would increase the likelihood that Canadians would donate to charities. We have seen how this has worked in the past. In 2013, our former Conservative government introduced the first-time donors tax credit. In that year we saw an increase of almost 100,000 Canadians donating to registered charities for the first time in six years.
Third, increasing the size of tax credits for charitable donations would make it more affordable for Canadians who already donate. Here is a simple example. Donating $200 to a charitable cause such as the Canadian Cancer Society or the Alzheimer Society would provide an average Canadian with a tax credit of about $30. Under this new bill, that same donation would receive about $150 tax credit. Donors could now donate that difference of $120 to the same charitable cause or to other charitable causes as they might see fit. It would give more benefits to Canadians in their donations.
This leads me to my fourth point. The bill would increase donation revenues for charitable organizations and charitable causes and enable them to further the good work they do in all of our communities.
Charitable organizations are an incredibly effective and efficient way to deliver help to those in need. In my own experience, I have often found that charities are more efficient in delivering services than is government.
Governments ought not always be the default source of services to Canadians. Governments should provide services when the private sector and non-profit sector have challenges in doing so. The recent example of the Fort McMurray wildfires shows the way in which we as a country and the government relied on charitable causes like the Red Cross to help deliver services to those in that region.
The bill would enable charities to provide more services to more Canadians and more people in need. The fairness in charitable gifts act is good for charities, it is good for donors, and it is good for government, and it will fix an unfair double standard in the Income Tax Act. My colleague from Provencher put it best: feeding a politician should not be more important than feeding a family.
I am extremely proud to support the bill.