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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was million.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for St. John's South—Mount Pearl (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act May 5th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-4, an act respecting not-for-profit corporations and certain other corporations.

The legislation has seen several incarnations since first being introduced by the Liberal government in 2004 and makes important modernizations to the regulations governing Canada's valuable not-for-profit sector. While provisions within this bill are modelled on those of the Canada Business Corporations Act, the creation of dedicated legislation governing Canada's voluntary sector will better respond to and address the needs of this country's charities, community organizations and other not-for-profit entities.

Canadians value volunteerism and charitable organizations. On average, each Canadian is a member of four non-profit or voluntary organizations and some 22 million people donated approximately $9 billion to such enterprises in 2004.

Among other things, Bill C-4 eases much of the regulatory burden on non-profit organizations in this country by allowing these organizations a heightened degree of flexibility in how they choose to operate. A major potential benefit under this new legislation enables non-profit corporations to hold meetings electronically as opposed to sometimes costly and less responsive face-to-face meetings currently required.

The new ability to file documents under Corporations Canada electronically may also serve to reduce strain by reducing paperwork and other regulatory burdens currently faced by non-profit entities. Given that the non-profit sector employs some two million people across the country working in some 160,000 not-for-profits, this flexibility to adapt bylaws based on the needs of the specific organization stands to benefit a significant portion of the population.

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to work with other members of the industry, science and technology committee to review this legislation and respond to some of the concerns put forth by stakeholders. Recognizing the importance of getting this long overdue legislative framework right for the nearly 19,000 federally incorporated not-for-profit organizations, it was necessary to ensure that those concerns were heard and addressed through our study of Bill C-4. In fact, a number of issues highlighted by witnesses appearing before the committee have been acted upon through amendments presented during a clause-by-clause review of the bill and have not been adopted and incorporated into this legislation.

Chief among the concerns raised by stakeholders, particularly by the Canadian Bar Association, was the need for clarity concerning important definitions within the legislation. The diversity of the non-profit sector in Canada is a great source of strength but it also poses challenges in balancing the needs of large organizations that solicit public funds with small sporting organizations or mutual aid societies for example, when it comes to setting a new legislative framework.

While there are few differences between how non-soliciting and soliciting corporations are treated under the act, there are rules governing the number of directors required, the filing of financial statements with government and agreements transferring powers within the organization. This is why I and other Liberal members of the committee made it a priority to ensure the distinction between soliciting and non-soliciting corporations was clearly and precisely laid out within the bill.

I am pleased the committee saw fit to adopt an amendment prescribing the test period for determining whether a not-for-profit corporation was soliciting to the corporation's most recent financial period. It was also vital to ensure newly minted soliciting corporations would have adequate time to make preparations for compliance with the more onerous regulations inherent in this classification.

As such, we brought forward a clarification ensuring the change in status would only take effect at the conclusion of the next ensuing annual meeting of the corporation. These changes would go a long way to ensuring non-profit corporations will be prepared for compliance should such a change in status occur.

A further issue of balance with this bill concerns the complexities of what I will call contingency sections of the act. The size and complexity of this bill are largely due to provisions contained in clauses 6 and 7 dealing with debt, trust indentures and receivership, which are situations that likely will never be faced by most of the non-profit organizations incorporated federally.

The inclusion of this complex regulatory road map fills in some of the gaps that currently exist but also enforces compliance on all non-profit corporations in the sector, whether they will ever need these provisions or not. This is a concern for me, as it seems to streamline a process for very few corporations at the expense of many smaller charities, community groups and foundations that will never require these clauses of the bill. The committee agreed that it would be better to offer clear direction to organizations that wished to proceed in this manner than to leave a further regulatory void.

Several organizations, including Imagine Canada, articulated concerns surrounding some rights of members being enshrined within the act itself as opposed to within individual bylaws or articles of non-profit corporations. Some stakeholders felt that the important issue of voting rights of members must be subject to periodic review and change as the mandate and nature of the organization changes, and should not be specified within the act itself.

Bill C-4 does require that each non-profit corporation determine what voting rights will exist for members but does not prescribe the mechanisms for doing so, and authorizes the creation of a class of non-voting members. Should a situation arise where fundamental changes to the corporation are possible, non-voting members would be given the right to vote under this legislation.

According to Industry Canada officials, non-voting members will have the right to vote when, for example, their membership is to be exchanged to another class or their class rights are to be changed; the corporation intends to amalgamate with another corporation; the corporation intends to continue into another jurisdiction; the corporation intends to sell off all or substantially all of its assets; and, if the corporation intends to dissolve. It would seem that these situations would likely be rare. and this is again the case of building in a contingency to ensure appropriate procedures are set out for organizations to follow.

Some concerns surrounding the liability of officers and directors were raised during hearings on the legislation. Boards of directors and officers from many of Canada's charities, foundations and other non-profit entities are often composed of volunteers who dedicate their time to ensuring important causes are furthered to improve the lives of Canadians. At times, some organizations can find the recruitment of these volunteers to be a challenge, as it often means taking on a degree of personal liability and responsibility for the actions of the organization.

Bill C-4 introduces provisions for the due diligence defence for directors and officers, which satisfies many of the concerns raised by organizations intervening on behalf of the non-profit sector.

I am pleased to support Bill C-4, which comes after many years of work and review undertaken by industry officials, advocates in Canada's voluntary sector and the many organizations that made presentations on this legislation.

Not-for-profit organizations provide many of the services cherished by Canadians. Universities, colleges and hospitals across this country provide vital services to their communities and are general regional employers.

In 2003, the non-profit sector accounted for some $112 billion in revenue. Thousands of organizations are supported by over 12 million volunteers, fully 45% of the Canadian population aged 15 and older, who contributed an average of 168 hours each. This totalled 2 billion hours, the equivalent of more than 1 million full time jobs in 2004 alone. Truly, there is no end to the value this sector offers to Canadians.

As a new member of Parliament, it is a pleasure for me to have taken part in the study of this bill. It was impressive to see the balanced approach taken by my colleagues on the industry, science and technology committee in reviewing the legislation. I thank all of my colleagues for their hard work on this matter, for those who intervened and for those who made presentations during the committee hearings. I look forward to seeing this long overdue legislation become law.

Mount Pearl 2008 Citizen of the Year Award April 30th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, it is my great honour to rise today to congratulate the winner of and nominees for the Mount Pearl 2008 Citizen of the Year Award.

On April 19, 2009, at a ceremony I was fortunate enough to attend, the city recognized: Rosalind Pratt, the award winner, as well as nominees James Bulger, Shirley Ducey, Gary Martin and Gordon Seabright.

Their collective work encompasses numerous organizations in our community, including Mount Pearl soccer and hockey, the special Olympics provincial games, various youth activities, the Scouts and Girl Guides of Canada, the annual frosty festival and the Mount Pearl citizens crime prevention committee, to name a few.

I am proud to count these individuals among my constituents. Their volunteerism and that of many others in our community makes Mount Pearl such a wonderful place to live.

Employment Insurance April 28th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, in my riding we have two GM dealerships employing dozens of people. Yesterday's news from GM means these jobs are now uncertain. Today's EI numbers give little solace. A dire situation already exists for the unemployed, both those receiving benefits and those who do not qualify.

The government has failed the auto sector and is failing those needing EI. What does the government have to say to workers in my riding who are concerned about their jobs and concerned about even qualifying for employment insurance?

Search and Rescue April 27th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the safety of those who make their living on the sea is an ever-present concern and a personal priority for me.

The recent tragic loss of 17 lives in a helicopter crash en route to offshore oil operations off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador has returned the question of the need for a dedicated search and rescue unit to be located in St. John's, to the forefront of public awareness.

Recommendations made in the wake of the 1982 Ocean Ranger inquiry included the introduction of such a dedicated helicopter, fully equipped to search and rescue standards to be operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I ask the government to take action on the issue and begin by conducting a full review of the search and rescue coverage in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. A review is the appropriate first step to ensuring the continuous and comprehensive coverage needed is in place to safeguard those who work on the sea.

April 22nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I believe a number of people would disagree with the hon. member on whether or not CCFI is necessary and required in these economic times, especially when a centre facilitates, coordinates and assists small scale projects, 60 to 70 projects, and can leverage $5 for every $1 of investment.

I want to read some letters from a couple of supporters. George Joyce, the executive director of the Association of Seafood Producers of Newfoundland and Labrador, said:

CCFI is a leader in the business of solving problems for us and creating opportunities for the fishery. Why cut the funding when the centre is adding value?

Derek Butler of the Association of Seafood Producers said:

It would represent a loss to industry if they were not there, and we want to add our voice to that of others who are in support of renewed funding for them.

I would like to add the voice of another but, unfortunately, I am out of time.

April 22nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation is facing imminent closure due to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency's decision to not renew funding to the centre. This centre has been a catalyst for research and innovation in the fisheries and aquaculture sector for nearly 20 years and has been responsible for many of the successful innovations that have occurred in this industry over that time period.

The ACOA minister stated in the House of Commons that the centre was no longer necessary and that industry had outgrown it. However, in recent weeks there has been an outcry against ACOA's decision to not renew this funding. These voices come from industry groups throughout Atlantic Canada, including harvesters, processors and aquaculture interests, from the academic research community and Liberal, Conservative and NDP members of Parliament alike.

Of particular note is the fact that the four Atlantic premiers have endorsed the need for the continuation of the centre. How is it that the ACOA minister can say that CCFI is no longer necessary when organizations so largely and widely support this group?

The 20-year success of this centre speaks for itself. CCFI has emerged as a centre for excellence for fisheries and aquaculture research and development and has brought tremendous value to the industry and the academic community throughout the region.

In the last six years alone, CCFI has managed more than 280 projects throughout Atlantic Canada at a total value of approximately $30 million. During this time, CCFI has achieved a leverage rate of approximately 1:5. Therefore, for every $1 the centre commits to a project, it leverages approximately $5 from other sources. This is a tremendous return on investment.

It is also important to note that nearly 50% of the centre's current leverage support comes directly from industry, which is a testament to the relevance of the organization. These projects have resulted in significant economic benefit throughout the entire Atlantic region, from resource development initiatives to improvements in energy efficiency, to new safety technologies in the harvesting sector, as well as advancements in the aquaculture sector.

There is no doubt that without the funding and facilitative support of CCFI to jump-start these projects, much of this highly valued research would not be completed. Let there be no doubt that cessation of the centre's mandate will leave a major void in fisheries and aquaculture innovation throughout Atlantic Canada.

For the ACOA minister to suggest that this void can be filled through the Atlantic innovation fund is highly misleading. AIF funding may provide support to a few large scale fisheries and aquaculture research projects each year but many will only benefit a couple of companies.

It is important to stress here that industry largely does not have the time nor the resources to pursue these large scale, high risk commercialization projects. By comparison, CCFI will take $1 million a year to fund 50 to 60 to 70 projects, leveraging $5 million to $6 million and providing real benefits to the entire Atlantic region. This is the kind of support that industry requires in this current economic climate: industry-driven industrial research and development that solves existing industry problems and leads to new commercialization activities and opportunities.

I would ask the minister responsible for ACOA why research in the fishing and aquaculture industry, which is the economic backbone of much of Atlantic Canada, being cut by the government now when it is needed most?

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency April 20th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation in St. John's has a 20 year record of success in research and development. The centre has support from industry, academia and all levels of government in Atlantic Canada, yet the current federal government will not renew its funding.

I ask the minister responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador this. Why is the government refusing to recognize the importance of this essential research and development network for the fisheries and aquaculture of Atlantic Canada?

The Economy April 3rd, 2009

Action would be better than words, Mr. Speaker.

Last week, Parliament passed a motion calling on the government to provide a list by April 3 of the departments and programs likely to access the $3 billion in extraordinary spending. Today is April 3 and the government has had time to provide a plan showing how this spending will help our recovery and save jobs.

Is the real reason the government cannot account for this spending that it is making it up as it goes along?

The Economy April 3rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the government still cannot report any progress in striking deals with provinces or cities for matching funds required to deliver the full economic stimulus package that was announced more than two months ago.

Today we are hearing again about steep job losses in the United States and Canada is not far behind. The Conservatives are sitting on their hands while thousands of Canadian jobs are at risk.

Why is the money still not flowing? Why are the Conservatives stalling on jobs for Canadians?

Jessica Campaign April 3rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the Jessica Campaign was started by the family of Jessica Holman-Price, who was killed in 2005 by a Montreal city snow removal truck.

The goal of the Jessica Campaign is to increase road safety by fitting side guards or under-run protection devices to all vehicles in higher weight categories. This will offer unprotected road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists, protection against the risk of falling under the sides of such vehicles.

Research has indicated that actions such as the use of under-run protection devices and education campaigns can improve safety. While there is legislation in some European countries for these protection devices, no such legislation exists in Canada at this point.

Newfoundland and Labrador has recognized the value of this safety measure and is installing side guards on its new fleet of snow removal equipment.

I ask the House to recognize the life-saving potential of under-run protection devices and move to ensure their use.