Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be joining the debate on this private member's bill from my colleague from Calgary Confederation.
Before I get into the contents of this private member's bill, I am just going to say that, from private conversations I have had with my colleague, this bill is really dedicated to Robert Sallows, a great activist for the Progressive Conservatives and for all Conservatives in Calgary, who passed away a few weeks ago. I know that the member who is proposing this bill was at his memorial service.
Robert was that guy in the room who just lifted up the entire room and made everything better. He brought volunteers from different factional sides of the Conservative Party together and just enjoyed being on a political campaign and meeting people. What many people did not know about Robert was that he was a double-lung transplant recipient. One would never know that, with the level of energy and dedication he had in political campaigns. This was his avenue of release, how he would meet people and make friends and make himself incredibly useful.
I will miss Robert greatly. I never got to know him as much as I would have liked to, but I know a great many activists in Calgary, from all political parties, who knew Robert. We will think of him very fondly for many years to come. As I said, this bill is dedicated to his memory, because he was a double-lung transplant recipient, and organ transplant issues are of concern, obviously, to the member from Calgary Confederation. In a previous life, as he mentioned, he was actually able to pass a private member's bill in the Alberta legislature to create the electronic Alberta organ donor registry. This is a continuation of his work to better that Alberta registry and to better all registries across Canada.
There is a Yiddish proverb that says, “Wisdom is more precious than pearls.” It speaks to how information is much more valuable than any type of earthly good. We know that our donation rates are low because people do not realize that they can sign up on these registries. Maybe people who would like to have never actually taken the time to, either online or by signing the back of a driver's licence, whatever way their provincial or territorial governments have determined they can make that choice.
I am an organ donor. I am registered in my province of Alberta, because we have made it easier in the province, thanks to the member for Calgary Confederation for making it possible to do that. I am one and my wife is one as well. Many others have chosen to do that.
We could raise the rates even further by passing this private member's bill to make it possible for members of the public to do a public service, to do a public good, by filling out their tax forms. We already have a box there for someone to be added to the national list of electors, which is not strictly a tax issue. I know that some members may have qualms about it being a jurisdictional problem to add on another box and have the information transferred. However, we would simply be asking the CRA to collect and then send on the information, just as it does with many other parts of the tax schedule it passes on to the provinces so that they know that individuals are filing their taxes, what they are filing for and if they are eligible for welfare benefits. Therefore, I think the jurisdictional question is easily solved. We would just be passing on information. We would not be creating a new national registry; we would be trying to empower provincial registries.
On the jurisdictional question, the member who is proposing this bill is a former member of the Alberta legislature. He also happens to be a former provincial cabinet minister. I would think that if there were issues of jurisdiction and protecting the jurisdiction of provincial or federal governments, that member, of all members, would know exactly where that fine line should rest.
The contents of the bill are quite simple, but they would achieve a great public good, which would be to allow members of the public to anonymously give of themselves. The day will come when each of us will pass away. That is something each of us knows, or should know. The moment we are born, we already have a foot set in the grave, and we will pass away. It is a great equalizer in life and gives us an opportunity to think about what type of life we want to have lived and what type of gift we want to give to others around us.
In this situation, we should make it simpler and easier for people to give of themselves, if they can and wish, to donate organs and tissues to others and for research via whatever method they would prefer.
Many provincial governments and territorial governments have already moved to make it simpler for people to donate. We want people to do it themselves, to make that choice themselves. It is a very personal choice and it should always remain a personal choice.
This bill meets a lot of my requirements for voting yes on private members' business, namely, whether it is reasonable and logical, and whether it empowers individuals to do more for the public. People giving of themselves in this situation is something that we can all agree is a good point in this bill.
As I mentioned before, the tax forms have a box that allow people to be added to the national list of electors. Maybe some members will be concerned about where we draw the line and what other types of information we could start adding and passing on to provincial governments or other bodies, such as Crown corporations. Where do we draw that fine line?
It should be up to this chamber to decide where that fine line should be drawn. Adding another box on the tax form, especially now with the advent and popularity of electronic tax filing, would be a good thing. We made it much simpler for people to file their taxes and join the national list of electors. If this bill passes to the next stage, through to the Senate, on to every other stage and gets royal assent, it will be easier for people to register with their provincial or territorial organ donor registries.
The advent of electronic tax filing makes it much easier for people to register, and that is a good thing. It gives people an opportunity. It prompts them to do something good for society. Again, as I said, it is a deeply personal choice, so we should leave it to the individual. However, at least once a year we would be asking people whether they wish to do this, yes or no, just as we do with the national list of electors.
People can change their minds. People can say yes, and then maybe five or 10 years down the line they can change their minds. Provincial registries typically make it quite simple, if people change their mind at some other point, to change their decision.
In my family's case, as members know, my kids suffer from a rare disease called Alport syndrome. I have mentioned this at committee and in the House. Someday the boys in my family will most definitely need a kidney transplant, because kidney failure is the end stage of the disease.
I have done the kidney march. I have volunteered for The Kidney Foundation. I have met many kidney donor recipients. In fact, one of them was a kidney marcher and a marathoner. He is on his second or third kidney now, and he is still faster than I am. He is still faster than almost every other person I have met who has done the kidney march.
These people lead incredible lives, but they could not do so without the generosity of others. In the case of kidneys, since we are born with two of them, people can give the gift of life by giving one, living the rest of their lives on the one they have. Unfortunately, though, we still rely on people who have passed away to have signed the back of their driver's licence or joined an electronic registry to give that gift of life.
For many of my constituents who have received a kidney or liver transplant, that gift of life is incredibly important to them. I have met Conservative staffers on Parliament Hill who have been recipients of organ donations. They could not live the lives they live today without that generous gift from someone else.
We should make it possible and easier for people to make the choice, and whether someone wishes to donate should always remain a choice. Everyone files a tax return. Even those who do not pay taxes have to file a tax return to qualify for many Government of Canada benefits, so all of us will file one eventually. Actually, many more people file taxes than get a driver's licence, and that is an important thing to remember. It is about giving more opportunity and giving more eyeball time to the question to be considered.
Many of us members spend quite a bit of time on our social media accounts trying to figure out how to reach our constituents, how to get them to answer questions and how to get them to tell us what is important to them. I think using the tax forms to offer people a choice as to whether they would like to be organ donors and tissue donors at the end of, or during, their lives is an incredible public good. It is an opportunity we are giving them. We should take it, and we should pass this private member's bill.