Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time this afternoon with the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in support of our Conservative government's economic action plan 2013, as implemented through Bill C-60, the economic action plan 2013 act no. 1. This is a positive plan that would continue Canada's momentum in creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Many of the measures in Bill C-60 are aimed at strengthening our economy and ensuring a prosperous future for all Canadians.
However, our government also understands that a successful society also includes the capacity to respond to the needs of all Canadians, including the most vulnerable. That is why I am proud that our government is working so hard to support the charitable sector.
Charities play an important role in our communities. It is vital that we celebrate and support this excellent work. I have to say that I am constantly impressed by the remarkable work that all charities are doing, and I would like to commend them, especially their volunteers, for their commitment to improving the lives of others and contributing to our high quality of life.
In my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo, I have witnessed the collaboration and the commitment of our charities and volunteers who are determined to make a difference in our community. This has inspired me to focus many of my efforts on supporting the charitable sector. As a member of Parliament, I have been actively engaged and involved in advocating for charities, raising awareness of the important work they do in our communities and serving as their voice in Parliament.
In 2010, I tabled a motion in the House of Commons that triggered a finance committee study that reviewed the current tax system and considered changes that could motivate increased giving. By all accounts, this was a very worthwhile exercise. It brought together charitable organizations, experts and stakeholders, and generated a very comprehensive discussion about the challenges and opportunities faced by the sector. I would like to thank the finance committee members for their excellent work, as well as the witnesses who contributed their expertise and their suggestions.
The committee's report, tabled in the House last February, proposed several recommendations aimed at creating positive change in the sector, with a focus on tax incentives, transparency, reducing red tape for charitable organizations, and, of course, increasing public awareness.
Now with Bill C-60, our government is responding to the report's recommendations with the creation of the first-time donors super credit. This innovative new measure would increase the value of the charitable donations tax credit by 25% on eligible cash donations of up to $1,000 in any one taxation year if neither the taxpayer nor their spouse have claimed the credit since 2007.
This is a creative response to the challenge of growing the donor base in Canada, an issue that was brought forward during the committee study. The committee heard that there was a need to foster and promote a culture of giving and that tax incentives can play a role, both in increasing the number of new donors and in encouraging existing donors to give more. Studies have shown that 25% of donors provide almost 85% of all charitable donations. In other words, charities find themselves relying on a smaller number of people to make large gifts. Furthermore, the level of donations increases with age, and older Canadians tend to give more.
That is why I believe the first-time donors super credit would create new opportunities for supporting charities. It would significantly enhance the attractiveness of donating to a charity for young Canadians who are in a position to make donations for the first time, creating an immediate positive impact on the sector.
In fact, a survey recently conducted by BMO Harris Private Banking found that this initiative would go a long way toward achieving these objectives. Quoting from its press release, the survey found that nearly 70% of Canadians support the first-time donors super credit introduced in the federal budget. It goes on to say that 93% of Canadians feel the new credit would encourage more charitable giving or maintain current levels of support. Fifty per cent of young Canadians aged 18 to 34 said they would strongly consider contributing more to charities because of this new credit.
The charitable sector is also enthusiastic about this new initiative that will help to rejuvenate its donor base and encourage increased charitable giving. Imagine Canada, which had a proposal for a stretch tax credit, received a favourable response in the finance committee report subject to balancing the budget. It applauded the new super credit as a step in the right direction. It said in a press release, “This is a significant investment in our communities at a time of ongoing restraint”. This immediate and positive reaction is very encouraging, and it shows that a small change has the potential to make a big impact.
I also believe that the first-time donor super credit will provide an opportunity for charities to foster effective relationships between charities and a new generation of donors. By engaging young people and demonstrating the difference that their contributions can make in our communities, we will build a core of lifelong donors and enhance the long-term sustainability of our important charitable sector. This new initiative would also help to raise awareness of the tax benefits of donating to charities, which as I mentioned earlier was one of the core recommendations of the finance committee report.
This is already happening throughout Canada's charitable sector. In fact, I have seen a number of charities that are already highlighting the new super credit in their website communications for their fundraising campaigns in an effort to engage young people and first-time donors. This includes SicksKids Foundation, Easter Seals, and a number of smaller charities that are seizing the opportunity to inform their potential donors about the tax credits to which they may be entitled. All of these efforts are aimed at the overarching goal of long-term sustainability for the charitable sector.
Our government has a strong record of taking action to support our charities, and since 2006 we have been steadily increasing the generosity of the charitable donations tax incentive. Budget 2006 introduced a complete exemption on the capital gains tax associated with the donation of publicly listed securities to public charities. It also extended the exemption of donations of ecologically sensitive land to public conservation charities. Budget 2007 extended the exemption for donations of publicly listed securities to private foundations. Budget 2010 further reformed the disbursement quota rules for charities, reducing administrative complexity to better enable charities to focus their time and resources on charitable activities.
As the member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo, I have been personally focusing many of my efforts on advocating for our charities with my first private member's motion that initiated the important charity study, and more recently my private member's bill, Bill C-458, which proposes to extend the tax deadline for charitable donations.
In conclusion, I am extremely pleased that our government is taking concrete action to support and sustain charitable organizations. As a result, I encourage all members to support all the important measures in Bill C-60, including the first-time donors tax credit that will benefit charities, donors and our society as a whole.
Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present today, which total 150 people from mainly the Kitchener—Waterloo area and about 16 people from British Columbia.
The petitioners ask that the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex selective pregnancy termination. They point out that 92% of Canadians believe that such a thing should be illegal. Millions of girls have been lost through this sex selective procedure, creating a global gender imbalance. Also, I noticed when I went through the petitions that about 60% of the petitioners are women.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to stand and address budget 2013. I will be sharing my time with the wonderful member for York Centre, a very hard-working member of our finance committee.
It is my pleasure to speak to budget 2013. At the outset, I will outline for observers some of the processes that occur with respect to the preparation of budgets.
As members of this place know, the finance committee, which I chair, starts its hearings going back even to the spring and summer prior to the presentation of the budget. We receive submissions. Typically we cut off submission dates in the summer and we prepare all those submissions for members; members then hear from witnesses from across the country in the fall. Last year, we heard about 800 submissions. The committee tried online submissions for the first time in its history; we received those submissions, and the members heard some oral testimony as well.
We present our report to Parliament in December of each year, so we presented our pre-budget report in December. The budget is typically presented in February or March of the following year. We then follow with two budget implementation acts, one that we expect this spring and one that will occur in the fall.
That is just to give people some context in terms of the actual budgetary process.
I highlight that because there are numerous recommendations that our committee suggested in December in the budget itself, and I will refer to them as I go through the positive aspects of this budget.
In terms of the overall budget plan, the government would continue its increase in transfers to the provinces for health care, education and social assistance. For health care, there would be 6% increases until 2017, and then it would be based on nominal GDP after 2017. It would increase support for provinces for education and social assistance at 3% per annum until 2017 as well.
With respect to transfers to persons, those would increase, as obviously more people are receiving seniors' benefits each and every year. Family benefits would also increase going forward. There is an excellent graph and accompanying figures in the budget that reflect that increase. In terms of transfers to provinces and to persons, these transfers would continue to increase, as they have since 2006.
The area of federal spending that the federal government more directly controls does not affect these areas. As members know, there was a program put in a place, a deficit reduction action plan, which examined about $70 billion of federal government spending, and it realized nearly 7% of savings, which is about 2% of what the federal government would spend over the course of the next few fiscal years.
That was very much based on a lot of the pre-budget recommendations we made. Recommendations numbers 2, 3 and 4 all asked us to maintain transfers for provinces and persons, to restrain our own federal government spending and to balance the budget in the medium term, which was echoed by many business groups and other organizations before the committee. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce strongly recommended that we continue to move toward a balanced budget in the medium term, so I am very pleased by that.
However, these organizations and other individuals before the committee also strongly recommended certain areas that did require investments and said that we ought to continue to make investments.
I will relay some of the stories, challenges and issues from my own riding of Edmonton—Leduc, including the southwest part of Edmonton, the city of Leduc, the town of Devon, the industrial heartland of Nisku south of Edmonton and the Edmonton International Airport. It is a very dynamic and diverse riding, but we have some very strong challenges.
The number one challenge that business people in that area raise with me is with respect to access to all types of labour, skilled and unskilled. I have taken visiting members of Parliament through my riding, especially through areas like Nisku where there are signs saying that if people are in one of six or seven listed professions, they should please stop in, because they need people.
I recall that when I took the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism into a company, Tenaris, in the riding, one of its shifts was not working. We asked why the shift was not up and running, and the plant manager simply said that the company did not have enough people to operate that shift, that if it had enough people the shift would be operating and the company would be producing more, paying more tax, supporting more services and employing more Canadians. They simply could not find enough people. That is on the skilled side.
PCL also has a huge centre in Nisku. It could use engineers, welders, boilermakers and all types of skilled trades. Hospitals, hotels and restaurants will say they need skilled and unskilled people. They are simply short-staffed.
One small business owner from the area with a restaurant chain and a drive-through service said at certain times he has to close down the drive-through, because people getting their lunch order would ask employees how much they were making an hour, and when they found out how much, they would give out business cards and say, “Call me tomorrow; we would like to hire you.”
This is the labour situation and the labour challenges we are finding in our area, which is why it is the number one issue raised with me. That is why I am very pleased by things like the Canada job grant, increased support for apprentices and acting on the disability report recommendations in the budget.
The reason I am such a big supporter of the Canada job grant is it actually engages employers and employees at a very direct level. A lot of the training done in the past by the provinces and the federal government has been valuable, but this is special in the sense that it engages employers and employees. It ensures that an employee is receiving training that will directly lead to a job and it matches employers and employees very directly. One of the common phrases used to describe our labour challenge today is “jobs without people and people without jobs”. That is a mismatch we have to address. That is exactly what the Canada job grant is trying to address.
I will refer again to our pre-budget report recommendations 8, 9 and 10 through 16, which all deal with the need to address this labour challenge and ways in which to do it. That is what this budget does.
Next is infrastructure. People often think a province like Alberta, which has seen relatively modest to strong growth over the last number of years, would not have a challenge with infrastructure. The reality is that we do, because when communities in southwest Edmonton or west Leduc or south Devon grow by 5% to 8% a year in the industrial sector, it puts a lot of challenges on our infrastructure.
The municipalities all asked for a long-term infrastructure plan. They worked with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, an excellent organization. The current President, Karen Leibovici, a city councillor from Edmonton, did an excellent job in negotiating with the government a 10-year plan in terms of addressing infrastructure needs going forward. Obviously this will start when the building Canada fund expires in 2014.
There are also things like renewing the P3 Canada fund, the new Canada building fund of $14 billion over 10 years, the community improvement fund at $32.2 billion over 10 years, and the gas fund tax payments and the GST rebate as well. With respect to the gas tax funding, municipalities say this is funding that they can count on and that they know is a certainty. They can then make investments and take out loans against the funding because they know it will be there. The fund can be used to access capital for the light rail transit developed in south Edmonton.
In relation to the P3 project, I am very pleased that there was a recent announcement on the light rail expansion in southeast Edmonton, in the constituency of the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont. It is a very large P3 project between PPP Canada and the City of Edmonton. Both organizations should be applauded for their work in making this happen.
With respect to housing, again based on recommendations 52 and 53 in our pre-budget report, the housing investments over a long-term period were very good as well.
In terms of investments in manufacturing, I am very pleased that we have continued the accelerated capital cost allowance for the manufacturing sector. I am personally very proud of that, as this was in an industry committee report that we produced in February 2007. The finance minister included it in the budget of March 2007, and it has continued since that time. I am very pleased because of the investments in there.
There are also the investments in post-secondary education, based on recommendations 28 and 30 in pre-budget consultations. There is support for the federal research granting councils, for the Canada Foundation for Innovation, by working with excellent organizations like the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, an excellent organization in terms of putting forward its recommendations for the budget.
The last point I will finish with is that we are following up on some of the recommendations we have been hearing at committee with respect to the charitable sector and encouraging Canadians to give more, following up on the member for Kitchener—Waterloo and all of his initiatives, and also with respect to increasing the ability of the Canada Revenue Agency to deal with tax evasion, something we are studying currently before the committee.
I encourage all members of this House to support the budget and I look forward to their questions.
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.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-458, which my Liberal colleagues and I will be supporting.
Bill C-458 proposes the establishment of a national charities week at the end of February, in order to showcase and celebrate the work of Canada's charitable organizations. Canada's broader not-for-profit sector is as diverse as Canada itself. Charities are wide-ranging in focus and in scope, working on issues as varied as medical research, children's rights and heritage preservation. From food banks to hospitals to synagogues to theatres, Canada's charities make a difference in communities across the country. They do great work and they deserve our support. They certainly have the country's support, for there is no doubt that Canadians are generous, compassionate and community-minded.
According to the 2010 Canada survey of giving, volunteering and participating, nearly half of Canadians aged 15 and over volunteer. All together, they give 2.1 billion hours of their time to charities and not-for-profits; 84% give financially, contributing an average of $446. People of all ages share in this effort, from youth, who are the most likely to volunteer, to seniors, who give more hours and more money than any other cohort.
Canadians who give to charity can and should take advantage of the tax relief available to them. However, not all donors claim tax credits for their donations. At the moment, the most generous donors and the donors most likely to claim tax credits are those who give on a regular basis and who plan their giving in advance, which leads us to the crux of the bill.
To give one example, monthly donors to Girl Guides of Canada make sure they get income tax receipts. Those of us who buy and enjoy the cookies every spring and autumn do not. The number of people who give in this way is declining. By establishing a national charities week, however, we can work with the not-for-profit sector to encourage Canadians to practise planned giving and to make them more aware of charitable donation tax credits.
Bill C-458 also proposes amending the Income Tax Act so that taxpayers can claim a tax credit for gifts made during a calendar year and during the first 60 days of the following year. In effect, the deadline for eligible charitable donations would coincide with both the national charities week and the deadline for registered retirement savings plan contributions.
In their earlier submission to the Standing Committee on Finance, Mr. Drache and Mr. Aptowitzer made a similar proposal that suggested such a move. They said:
This would allow donors to make decisions when completely informed of their tax situation for the previous year. It would also allow charities and donors to focus on the tax aspects of giving and increase the opportunities for educating taxpayers on the tax incentive of donating.
During his testimony to committee on February 9, 2011, Mr. Aptowitzer stressed that moving the deadline to February would give charities the opportunity to campaign and to get donors to think about charitable giving in the tax context, which is something that the committee talked about as being a new thing for the tax code.
While it is true that Canadians associate the end of February with the tax preparation and the RRSP deadline, we should note that the parallel between RRSP contributions and charitable donations is not exact. They both reduce taxable income, but Canadians who contribute to an RRSP are also putting money toward their own retirement. Essentially, they are paying themselves. It is important that we bear that difference in mind and not assume that Canadians will start thinking about charitable giving in the same way that they think about their RRSPs. That said, there is no doubt that the considerable efforts made to educate Canadians about the tax aspects of RRSP contributions have led more people to contribute to their RRSPs and that making the same effort on behalf of charitable donations could have a decided impact.
There are certain issues that a committee study would need to address. In particular, we would need to hear from charities and non-profit organizations about how the proposed changes to the tax deadline might affect their fundraising strategies and annual cycles of donations. Currently, the tax deadline coincides with the end of the winter holiday giving season. Many charities base major fundraising campaigns around the December holidays. They are the experts on what works and what resources they have available and we should take our consultations with them very seriously.
It should also be noted that the fiscal impact of Bill C-458 is still unclear since it will be largely dependent on donor behaviour. At the moment, donation tax credits for individuals costs the federal treasury approximately $2.4 billion per year. If the bill's outreach measures are as successful as we hope they will be and more Canadians claim the charitable tax donation tax credit, that figure will rise. A committee study should include detailed modelling so that parliamentarians have an accurate idea of how much Bill C-458 would cost.
While it raises some questions that would need to be answered at the finance committee, Bill C-458 provides Canadians with an opportunity to celebrate their charitable sector and educate each other about charitable giving. I thank the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for introducing the bill and invite all members to join me and the Liberal Party in supporting it.
On the point of charitable giving, I personally am from the most charitable province of all, Newfoundland and Labrador. I do not mean to play favourites, but nonetheless it is a bragging point for a small province such as we are. I like to think that on all occasions we punch above our weight, certainly when it comes to charitable donations. Our volunteer base is incredibly large for our small communities. In my riding alone there are over 198 communities. There are well over 800 communities in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador alone. Many smaller remote communities in both areas, on the island and the mainland of Labrador, benefit from charitable donations, not just financially but also in volunteer hours spent at bake sales and dinners in these areas.
Our most treasured volunteer groups in the province would be the volunteer firefighters and the volunteer search and rescue. These people spend an incredible amount of hours involved in raising money, keeping our communities safe and in many ways allowing our communities to thrive. Our children have activities and get involved in their communities based on what inspires them, and what inspires them are the people who give hours to their community.
All of that would not be possible if it was not for the generosity of many individual Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Many companies and businesses give an incredible amount of money to their local communities, whether it be for local festivals or a fundraiser for a person who needs help for health reasons.
I have been to several fundraisers in my riding and throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, as my colleagues from Random—Burin—St. George's and Avalon can attest to. They have been to many fundraisers where certain people need help, whether it be for health reasons or to get somewhere for some sporting event. We do this all the time. It is inbred within us to give, as our children will give and our parents give. This bill is the type of measure that allows better contributions. It allows people and companies to give and financially plan better.
Therefore, as a party we support the bill for all the reasons mentioned, such as the planning aspect and the end of year coinciding with RRSP contributions. I would advise the committee to consider how they would publicize this tax credit in order to take full advantage of it. Whether it is the biggest city or the smallest community, this definitely is of benefit to not only the small communities but the volunteers who give and make it worthwhile.
moved that Bill C-458, An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-458, an act respecting a national charities week and to amend the Income Tax Act.
Canada is known throughout the world as one of the best countries in which to live. One of the reasons for this reputation is our strong sense of social responsibility. We care about our fellow citizens and we work together to ensure that everyone can fulfill their potential and enjoy a high quality of life.
Charitable organizations put these core values into practice. They do valuable work in our communities, helping those in need and creating a strong, compassionate and inclusive society.
As the member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo, I have been working since first being elected in 2008 to foster valuable partnerships with the many charitable organizations in my community and across Canada. I have to say that I am constantly impressed by the remarkable work they are doing.
I commend them and all of their volunteers for their commitment to improving the lives of others and for contributing to the quality of life we enjoy here in Canada. However, I do recognize that charities face complex challenges, and adequate funding continues to be an overriding concern.
During the global recession, many organizations saw a drop in donations while demand for their services increased. Stats Canada reported a decline in donations of over 5% in both 2008 and 2009, and while the latest statistics show an increase as our economic recovery takes effect, the current level of donations is still below that of 2007.
With respect to the overall donor base in Canada, the 2010 Canadian survey of giving, volunteering and participating indicates that 25% of donors provide almost 85% of all charitable donations. In other words, charities find themselves relying on a small number of people to make large gifts, and older donors tend to give more.
People give for a variety of reasons. While compassion and altruism remain the primary motivation for charitable donations, 23% of Canadians cited the tax credit as an important factor. This is what motivated my private member's motion in the previous Parliament, which was passed unanimously by this House in 2011 and resulted in the finance committee study on tax incentives for charitable donations.
The finance committee study reviewed the current tax system and considered changes that could motivate increased giving. By all accounts, this was a very worthwhile exercise. The study brought together charitable organizations, experts and stakeholders and generated a comprehensive discussion about the challenges and opportunities faced by the sector.
I would like to thank the finance committee members for their excellent work, as well as the witnesses who contributed their expertise and suggestions.
I am pleased with the recommendations contained in the report, which focus on tax incentives, transparency, red tape reduction for charitable organizations and public awareness.
I am optimistic that this will lead to real action to benefit our charities and the donors who support them.
Building on the momentum of this committee study, I am pleased to now have the opportunity to advance an initiative that I believe will continue to raise awareness of Canada's charitable sector and lead to increased support.
During the committee study, I was intrigued with the proposal to extend the charitable tax donation deadline. It was suggested that this extension would make it easier for Canadians to donate to the causes that are truly important to them.
To ascertain the sector's response to such a measure, I held a round table with a number of charities in my riding and consulted with representatives from national charitable organizations. Many felt that this was a common sense idea with great potential. Based on this positive feedback, I proceeded with this initiative and tabled my bill on October 31, 2012.
My private member's bill, Bill C-458, proposes to extend the deadline for charitable donations by 60 days, so that eligible donations made up until March 1 may be claimed in the previous calendar year. In addition, my bill proposes to establish the last seven days of February as national charities week in Canada.
There are a number of reasons I believe this measure will lead to enhanced support for charitable organizations. The current deadline of December 31, as we know, falls during the busy holiday season. At this time, of course, Canadians are not usually focused on strategic financial planning.
Further, many charitable organizations are challenged to provide staff during this busy time in order to seize year-end donations and to process receipts. Then when tax time comes in February, people may realize that if they had made a charitable donation, they could have reduced their tax payable and maybe even received a tax refund. Of course, by then it is too late.
While many Canadians give generously during the holiday season for altruistic reasons, my proposal, I believe, would create a second season of giving in the first 60 days of the year, a period that many charities have told me does not typically see a high level of donation activity.
In addition, moving the deadline to the tax preparation season in February would provide a motivation to increase giving in order to maximize existing financial tax incentives. It would raise awareness of the charitable tax credit and encourage Canadians to give more prominent consideration to including charitable giving in their financial planning and tax preparation decisions.
My proposal would enable individuals to have a complete picture of their financial situation when considering charitable donations, the same as they currently do with the registered retirement savings plans, or RRSPs. This would benefit the many Canadians who are not salaried employees: small business owners, part-time workers, students and those whose income varies throughout the year.
In fact, Canadians who plan their charitable giving tend to give more. According to the 2007 Canadian survey of giving, volunteering and participating, fewer than 20% of donors plan their charitable donations. However, those who do plan their donations give an average of almost $800 annually, compared to $350 for those who do not plan in advance.
Other studies have shown that people who build charity into their financial plans are much less likely to decrease their level of giving during an economic downturn. The finance committee's report on tax incentives for charitable giving emphasized the need to raise public awareness in order to promote increased giving and I believe this is what my bill would help to achieve.
It would also contribute to creating a culture of giving among Canadians that will support and sustain the charitable sector over the long term so that charitable organizations can continue their valuable work in our communities. To further underscore the importance of Canada's charitable sector, national charities week would present charitable organizations with the opportunity to highlight their work and tell their stories, and for all Canadians to celebrate their achievements. Canadians demonstrate their generosity when they see how their donations make a difference in the lives of others.
Since introducing my bill last fall, I have received a great deal of positive feedback from across the country, from individual Canadians, charitable organizations, many of my colleagues and the media. For example, an editorial in my local newspaper, the Waterloo Region Record, stated:
Braid’s bill strikes us as a non-partisan, common sense proposal that deserves support across the political spectrum. It should be passed.
An editorial in the National Post observed the following:
This is a small change, but a significant one. It will ease the burden on charities, and individuals, by providing a little end-of-year breathing room for those who would like to donate but find that the cut-off date has passed before they are able to.
One of my constituents stated, “As a person who works in leadership in a charitable organization, and sits on the Boards of several others, I think this makes very good sense and I appreciate it”. A second constituent wrote to me and said, “After a lifetime as a tax practitioner and also having a close association with charitable organizations, I think you have identified a simple solution to increasing charitable giving among Canadians. Well done”. Lastly, another constituent wrote, “Bravo! ...I do wish I had thought of that, as a lifelong professional fund raiser, now retired. If there is any way that I can help you in your endeavour, please do contact me”.
Twitter, that great litmus test of public opinion, gave a great deal of positive encouragement to my initiative, including a tweet that said, “Could be a fascinating game changer for charities to raise funds”.
However, as with any new initiative, the bill has also raised some concerns regarding its implementation. For this reason, it is important that the bill receive a full examination at committee to ensure, as I believe, that the advantages will far outweigh any potential perceived disadvantages.
As a government, we need to further enhance our partnerships with charities to seek their input and expertise and to further promote the important role that charities play in our society. As members of Parliament, all of us in the House are here to work for the greater good and are striving to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve. I encourage all members to support my bill, which will further support our charities and help them to fulfill our shared goal of building a better society.
Mr. Speaker, teaching a young child to read is one of the most important and one of the most rewarding things we can do as parents and as a society.
Early childhood literacy not only provides an essential foundation for individual lifelong learning and success, it also prepares our future workforce to compete in the knowledge economy and enhances the quality of life for all citizens.
Ensuring that all young people can learn to read is the goal of Strong Start, an organization in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo. Strong Start delivers an effective program that builds initial reading skills and enables children of all backgrounds and capabilities to succeed in a school setting.
Please join me in congratulating the staff and volunteers of Strong Start for their commitment to early literacy and for making a difference in the lives of families in our community.
Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to see someone from my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo featured prominently on the national stage. Today Tom Jenkins presented his report, “Canada First: Leveraging Defence Procurement Through Key Industrial Capabilities”.
Could the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women please update the House on what this report means for our important defence and security industries in Canada?
Mr. Chair, that is a question that I am pleased to have the opportunity to answer and one that is really a patently unfair notion with respect to our government.
I am the vice-chair of the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association, and I know a bit about our government's commitment to Africa. We were the first G8 country to fulfill our commitment to double aid to Africa. That is leadership.
I mentioned earlier the Prime Minister's initiative on child and maternal health, which benefits primarily women and children in Africa. We have untied food aid, which is a particularly significant initiative.
Let me briefly explain one important initiative that pertains to my own riding of Kitchener—Waterloo, to which our government provided strong support. Through the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the next Einstein initiative has the goal of finding the next Einstein in Africa.
Supporting Africans, helping Africans find the solutions they need to their own challenges, that is leadership.
Mr. Speaker, the BlackBerry is back. I am proud to have BlackBerry headquartered in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo. The company is our region's largest employer and corporate supporter.
I am also proud to be the first member of Parliament with the coveted new BlackBerry 10 in my hands.
Released last week, in a splash around the world, the new operating system has received rave reviews. RIM invented the Smartphone and, once again, BlackBerry is transforming the industry. This is Canadian innovation at its best.
Some have suggested that there may be an element of national pride at stake here, perhaps not unlike a gold medal hockey game. Well, it is sudden death overtime and BlackBerry just put the puck in the net.
Mr. Speaker, what an unexpected compliment from the member for Kitchener—Waterloo.
On behalf of my colleague, the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs , I am pleased to announce that our government has launched an important tool to help Canadians make informed decisions when they travel abroad. Our new travel.gc.ca website is more efficient and effective than ever, a one-stop shop where Canadians will find the key information to keep themselves safe beyond our borders.
Our government cares about our citizens abroad and we encourage Canadians to be smart, safe travellers and to read up and register on travel.gc.ca.
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition that has been certified by the clerk. It has been signed by a number of residents in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo and others across the Waterloo region.
The petition expresses a concern, which I certainly share, regarding the devastating impacts of HIV-AIDS in developing countries, particularly in Africa. The petition calls upon the government to reform Canada's access to medicines regime and to make the regime more workable.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to highlight the Oktoberfest celebration that begins tomorrow in Waterloo region.
Our region benefits greatly from strong German-Canadian roots, and Kitchener, previously known as Berlin, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
German-Canadians were pioneers in the founding of Kitchener—Waterloo and played a significant role in shaping the economic, social and cultural fabric of our community.
We are also proud to host the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany, which both increases tourism and provides over $1.5 million for local charities.
I invite all Canadians to visit Kitchener—Waterloo for this exciting festival to celebrate German history and heritage and share in the traditional food, music and entertainment.
I know all members of the House will join me in thanking German-Canadians for their ongoing contributions to Canadian society.
Mr. Speaker, our government has made historic investments in science and technology to create jobs, strengthen our economy and improve the quality of life for all Canadians. This commitment has created very positive results in Kitchener—Waterloo and has made Canada a world leader in science and innovation and a destination of choice for the brightest international researchers.
Could the minister of state please update us, once again, on Canada's progress in these important areas?
Mr. Speaker, I have a number of petitions that I would like present, including from Richmond Hill. Hundreds of constituents have asked Parliament to vote in favour of Motion No. 312 to look at when human life begins.
I also have more petitions from Ajax—Pickering on the same motion. The petitioners ask Parliament to consider looking at the 400-year-old definition of human life.
The final petition is from Kitchener—Waterloo on a similar front. The petitioners ask Parliament to vote in favour of Motion No. 312.
Mr. Speaker, I have tremendous respect for some of the things the member said about volunteers, because as we all know, they are some of the greatest Canadians in doing some tremendously important work in our country. However, I do have some concerns about the bill.
The NDP has been known to repeatedly promise Canadians some extravagant things. It insists on saying it is going to build this, start that program, focus on giving this group a tax credit and so on. However, to be very frank and honest, this would grow government. It would cost Canadians more money. Taxpayers pay for these things.
Therefore, when I asked the member where he got the $800 million cost figure he provided, I was quite surprised at his response, because I did not expect him to be defensive. I inquired because Canadians want to know how we are going to pay for this. I am going to continue to ask the member to consider putting forward exactly where those numbers came from.
As my NDP colleague said, this would cost $800 million. However, he did not want to say where he got that number or who reviewed and confirmed the cost estimate. Since this would involve considerable new spending, did the NDP determine where the money would come from? What tax do they plan to increase? What program do they plan to make cuts to?
Again, I am saying this with tremendous respect because I too feel that volunteers have done a number of things to ensure that the country goes forward and succeeds.
I would like to applaud and thank all volunteers for the hard work they do right across Canada. We all know someone in our community who has done some remarkable things. They have given time selflessly to improve the quality of life for those in need and they do it without expectation of reward or any kind of recognition but because they care and want to make a difference in their communities. This is what drives them. I thank them, on behalf of the government, for all that they do.
As writer Erma Bombeck once remarked “Volunteers are...[those] who reflect...compassion, unselfish caring, patience and just plain love for one another”.
Currently, Canada has one of the largest charitable and non-profit sectors in the world, with more than 160,000 charities and non-profit organizations helping those in need from coast to coast to coast. Our Conservative government stands right behind those charities with special tax support, considered to be among the most generous in the world. This includes the charitable donations tax credit, which encourages Canadians to support those great organizations. In fact, federal tax support for Canada's charities is nearly $3 billion each and every year.
However, we all recognize that it is always possible to do more to help our charities accomplish their work. That is why, since 2006, the Conservative government has been providing increased support to charities through special tax assistance measures and tax incentives.
I am referring specifically to the elimination of the capital gains tax on donations of publicly listed securities to charities and private foundations; the elimination of the capital gains tax on donations of ecologically sensitive lands to public conservation charities; the reform of the disbursement quota to reduce the administrative burden on charities and allow them to devote their time and energy to helping people in need; and the crackdown on certain unscrupulous people who take advantage of the charitable sector.
I am pleased to say that all these measures have helped charities across Canada and the volunteers that support them by increasing the donations made to their noble causes.
In fact, the elimination of the capital gains tax on donations of securities has been tremendously successful. For example, the United Way of Toronto alone estimates it receives tens of millions of dollars a year because of this change. It has declared that “The tax benefits are certainly having a very big benefit on local charitable organizations”.
Owen Charters of CanadaHelps, an online fundraising portal for charities, has also noted, “We've been quite surprised by the popularity. It was small steps at the beginning, but it has really grown”.
Nevertheless, even with all of these positive steps to help charities, we know that more could still be done.
That is why shortly after the 2011 election our Conservative government asked the House of Commons finance committee to undertake an open public study to find out from Canadians directly the best way we could further increase charitable donations.
I should note that the inspiration for that study and the government's request was Motion No. 559 by the member for Kitchener—Waterloo, a motion that was adopted by Parliament in March 2011. I thank my colleague from Kitchener—Waterloo for all he has done and continues to do in support of the charitable sector here in Canada. Rest assured that charities and volunteers could have no better or stronger advocate in their corner than Parliament and our member himself.
The finance committee, which I am a member of, has been vigorously undertaking that task since January of this year. We have already had dozens of meetings and received submissions from over 50 charitable groups as well as Canadian volunteers from all across the country.
Throughout the hearings and in reviewing the submissions, we have heard a range of proposals from charities and volunteers about what we can do to further support Canada's charitable sector. I must note they have all been very appreciative of the measures this Conservative government has put forward since 2006. They were disappointed that the NDP did not support many of them.
None of these charities or volunteers have let it be known that the proposal presented today by the NDP would constitute an effective way for them to help people in need. In fact, this came up only once during the review by the Standing Committee on Finance. The reason for this is obvious if we examine the NDP's proposal a little more closely. This proposal raises serious issues and concerns. It would be very costly, extremely difficult to control and it is not clear if it would be worth it. It would also impose a large administrative burden on charities and volunteers.
Before I talk more about these concerns, I would like to clearly inform Canadians that volunteers are already receiving special tax treatment to support their efforts. More specifically, volunteers receive a tax exemption on the reimbursement of their expenses, which means that any costs incurred by volunteers, including travel costs, can be completely reimbursed on a tax-free basis. Thus, if people have to travel on behalf of a charity, they can be reimbursed for their expenses—mileage, gas, meals and other costs—and that reimbursement will not be taxed.
The NDP's proposal raises many concerns.
First, it would increase the administrative burden on charities by requiring each charity and non-profit that believes it deals primarily with vulnerable populations to precisely track the number of hours and to keep records of such travel.
Second, it would require government officials to subjectively determine what constitutes a vulnerable population and determine on a case-by-case basis if each of Canada's 85,000 registered charities serves that subjectively determined group, and then determine whether or not each qualifies for the special tax break. That would be a radical departure from the existing practice of treating all registered charities objectively.
Third, the cost would be significant.
These are just a few of the preoccupations the bill raises. I would encourage the member across the way to think about those preoccupations of Canadians as he moves forward, and to perhaps address some of the concerns so that we might better understand how his party intends to pay for this without raising taxes and without further damaging the process.
Mr. Speaker, I have with me a number of petitions today from my riding of Kitchener Centre. Almost 150 more people are asking the House of Commons to reject any law that says some human beings are not human and thereby to endorse the principle that every human being in Canada has equal worth and dignity.
To similar effect, I have petitions from the riding of Macleod, Alberta, with 50 signatures; from Whitby—Oshawa, with dozens of signatures; from Kitchener—Waterloo, with another 50 signatures; from Durham, with 78 signatures. Of these signatures, half seem to be from men and half from women.
I have a petition from a riding in Scarborough to the same effect and a petition from the riding of London North Centre with over 100 signatures.
I could go on, but I will stop at that point.
The electoral district of Kitchener--Waterloo (Ontario) has a population of 126,742 with 97,511 registered voters and 250 polling divisions.
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