Mr. Speaker, on Friday, I was very pleased to be joined by leaders of Canada's tech community in Kitchener—Waterloo to announce Digital Canada 150, our government's digital policy framework going forward.
Here is what Chris O'Neill, the managing director of Google Canada, said: “This strategy will accelerate digital adoption and technological innovation among Canadian businesses which is essential to remain a global economic power”.
Mark Barrenechea, the president and CEO of Open Text, said: “Digital Canada 150 lays the foundation for a connected and competitive Canada”.
In the last campaign we said that we would deliver to Canadians an effective national digital policy. Digital Canada 150 has five pillars, 39 new initiatives, one national policy that will benefit 35 million Canadians in the digital age.
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by many of my constituents in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo.
The petition relates to the issue of the importance of responsible mining overseas.
Mr. Speaker, one week from today the world will be watching as Canada's best compete at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Kitchener—Waterloo will be well represented with five of our own going for gold. Kitchener-Waterloo Skating Club members Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch will be competing in the pairs figure skating event, while Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje will represent Canada in ice dancing and Kitchener native Jenna Blasman will be competing in the first-ever Olympic slopestyle event as a member of Canada's snowboard team.
I encourage all members and all Canadians to join me in cheering on our Olympic athletes as they make us proud in Sochi. Go, Canada, go.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to respond to the comments made by the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles regarding the federal government's support for the indirect costs of research.
Research excellence is essential to the success of our economy, our health, our society, and our security. That is why our government continues to invest in science, technology, and innovation. The numbers speak for themselves. Since 2006, our government has invested more than $9 billion in science, technology, and the growth of innovative firms, not to mention that Canada leads all G7 nations in R and D performed by universities and colleges as a percentage of GDP. This is thanks, in part, to successive and sustained investments in federal granting councils, including $37 million in budget 2013.
Our government recognizes that federally sponsored research undertaken at post-secondary institutions carries with it some associated indirect costs, which is why we provide support for these through the indirect costs program. For more than 10 years, this program has been successfully mitigating a portion of the institutional costs associated with granting council funded research, research that cannot be attributed to a specific project.
With an annual budget of $332 million, the indirect costs program assists universities, colleges, and their affiliated research hospitals in providing a cutting-edge environment for our world-class researchers. This enables them to pursue scientific advances that benefit our economy and improve the quality of life for our families.
To ensure that this program is meeting its objective of reinforcing research excellence and is adequately responding to the needs, budget 2013 announced a program review. The program review will be informed by input from the post-secondary education sector, including institutions, associations, and our provincial colleagues.
Our government continues to enhance support for research and innovation. Budget 2012 committed $500 million, for example, to the Canada Foundation for Innovation, an excellent organization, to support advanced infrastructure improvements at research institutes across Canada. We also continue to support highly skilled researchers through funding for the granting councils and support for scholarships, fellowships, and research chairs.
All of these investments are paying off. Despite being home to only half a per cent of the world's population, Canada produces 5% of our most frequently cited scientific papers. Additionally, we were the only G7 country that increased its output of scientific papers above the world average. We have enjoyed a net inflow of highly qualified research personnel between 1997 and 2010. I see that in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo.
In conclusion, our government recognizes that stakeholders from across the public and private sectors have a critical role to play in achieving our objectives, and we look forward to working with all involved to realize our collective goal of advancing Canada's scientific enterprise.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today in support of budget implementation act No. 2. This act would ensure that important provisions in budget 2013 would be implemented.
Before discussing the highlights of the bill, I want to mention the government's plan for balancing the budget and I also want to mention Canada's economic success. This government has an effective plan to balance the budget by 2015. It is a challenging task, but achievable. As with budget 2013, the bill would help the government to achieve financial sustainability.
World leaders, of course, are very interested in Canada as a result of our government's example and our economic success. Canada leads the G7 in job creation, in income growth and in keeping debt levels low. Canada is among the few countries in the world with an AAA credit rating.
The government's continued sound fiscal management will generate continued respect, but despite our strong financial performance, there are still challenges that we must face. The United States is experiencing ongoing difficulties. The European Union is continuing its long upward climb.
Last week's historic trade deal between Canada and the European Union shows our government's determination to seize international opportunities for Canada. The government must reduce its deficit so Canadians will be encouraged to do the same. We must practise what we preach.
The deficit was a justified response to the 2008-09 economic recession, but it must be temporary. By 2015, the government will balance the budget and will introduce legislation to encourage balanced budgets in the future. This will ensure that in normal economic times there will be concrete guidelines for returning to balance after any economic crisis.
With an aggressive debt to GDP target of 25% by the year 2021 and a plan in place, this government is on the right track. I am proud that the government, during and after the world's worst economic recession in almost 80 years, remains recognized around the world as an example for others to follow. I am very proud of the leadership of our Prime Minister and our Minister of Finance.
The bill will deliver real solutions for Canadians and it reflects the goals of reducing the country's deficit and returning to balanced budgets. I want to highlight three aspects of the bill that I am particularly pleased with. I will elaborate on how the bill would support job creators, close tax loopholes and also respect taxpayer dollars.
Job creation is especially important to me as the representative for Kitchener Centre. BlackBerry, based in Kitchener—Waterloo, has suffered losses over the past couple of years and some of my constituents are on the hunt for jobs that match their highly talented skills. We enjoy some business incubators which support start-up companies and these include the renowned Communitech and also programs at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, world-class leading centres of education.
As Canada's small business week wraps up tomorrow, I am grateful to say that this bill would extend the hiring credit for small business. This would benefit 560,000 job creators across Canada, and hundreds of those job creators are in my region of Kitchener—Waterloo. With over one million jobs created since the depth of the global recession, this hiring credit would create even more places for the bright minds of Canada's future.
The bill would also freeze employment insurance rates for three years, leaving $660 million in the pockets of job creators and workers in 2014 alone. EI costs employees and employers hard-earned money. When I look at small businesses employing just two, three or four individuals, I see that this freeze will help owners to balance their books just as the government is balancing its books.
The government will also help the environment through the expansion of the accelerated capital cost allowance to include investments in clean energy generation. I was very pleased to see this. It adds to the government's existing investment for small business which is given through a small business financing program offered by Industry Canada and by loans offered by the Business Development Bank and by grants from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.
Achieving clean energy solutions is a priority. The challenge business owners face is to secure initial capital to develop those long-term solutions. Finding cost-efficient clean energy solutions is critically important for our future and developing those solutions takes extensive research.
As a long-time member of the environment committee, I am always looking for ways to ensure a sustainable future. Job creators will be encouraged to continue looking for clean energy generation through the accelerated capital cost allowance measure in this bill.
I am confident that Bill C-4 will benefit small businesses, start-ups and job creators in Kitchener Centre over the next number of years based on these new initiatives.
A second focus within this bill is closing tax loopholes and combatting tax evasion. I want to highlight the importance of these measures.
Hard-working taxpayers can be confident that the bill would ensure that everyone would pay their fair share of taxes. When everyone is paying their fair share, it keeps taxes low for Canadian families and creates incentives to invest in Canada.
The government will introduce new administrative monetary penalties and offences to deter the use, possession, sale and development of software designed to falsify records for the purpose of tax evasion.
Although this government will always keep taxes low, we insist that all citizens pay all of their required taxes. Heavier penalties will force wrongdoers to use proper software and pay what they owe.
The government will also close more tax loopholes related to money transfers to ensure that everyone pays their fair share. It has already introduced rules to prevent foreign affiliates from converting otherwise taxable surplus income into the form of loans. There is also an information reporting regime for tax avoidance transactions.
Finally, the government will extend in certain circumstances the time for the Canada Revenue Agency to reassess taxpayers who fail to report income from foreign property.
The third point that I will highlight are measures to respect taxpayer dollars through initiatives introduced in March, scheduled to be rolled out upon budget approval. For example, by modernizing the Canada student loans program with digital communication, the government will deliver efficient ways for students to pay down their debt quickly and to apply for loan approvals or extensions sooner.
Another timely measure in economic action plan 2013 are steps to prevent abuse of the temporary foreign worker program, abuses which concern my constituents. The program was created to fill acute labour needs when Canadians were not available. It was never intended to bring in temporary foreign workers to replace Canadian workers. The reforms brought forward in the spring budget stem from the government's ongoing review of this program.
The budget would increase the government's ability to revoke work permits, enabling immediate action against employers who did not comply with the rules. These changes would also require that employers using the temporary foreign workers program pay temporary foreign workers the prevailing wage for a job. These are common sense changes made to the program to remove unintended incentives to hire foreign workers. These reforms would ensure that Canadians would always be at the front of the hiring line.
Other measures will deliver important savings for Canadians. The fact is that many products needed to support families are consistently priced higher in Canada than in the United States. By removing tariffs on imported baby clothing and sports equipment, budget 2013 will ensure that difference is reduced.
We can all be pleased that budget implementation bill No. 2 delivers a solid plan for creating jobs and economic growth, all while keeping taxes low and still balancing the budget by 2015.
This bill is great news for my constituents in Kitchener Centre. I invite all members of the House to join me in supporting jobs, growth and long-term economic prosperity. I ask that members vote yes to this bill.
Mr. Speaker, it is great to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-56. I want to thank my colleagues from Durham, Vancouver South, York Centre, Kitchener—Waterloo and Don Valley West who also commented on the bill.
I will agree with my colleagues from the NDP that this has been a very good debate tonight. It is an interesting debate on an interesting bill. Even though I do not serve on the industry committee, it has been—
Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Kitchener—Waterloo and as a member of the industry, science and technology committee, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise this evening to speak to Bill C-56, the combating counterfeit products act, at second reading.
The flow of counterfeit and pirated goods crossing our border is of mounting concern. Knock-off goods undermine the integrity of legitimate Canadian businesses and raise their costs. They deceive consumers and often put their health at risk. They siphon off tax revenue and fuel the growth of organized crime. For all of these reasons, I support Bill C-56, the combating counterfeit products act, which is one more step in our government's march toward a modern and strong intellectual property regime.
For my part today, I would like to look at how the proposed act would promote public safety by fighting serious and organized crime.
First, however, let me reflect on the nature of counterfeit and pirated products, why they are so hard to detect and why they have become such a pressing issue.
Modern counterfeiters operate in more subtle ways than they did in the past. They often remain out of sight, and their clandestine goods reach our borders unannounced and too often undetected. What is worse, their wares often make it all too easily onto the open market to be sold to often unsuspecting customers and consumers.
Counterfeit goods can take the form of consumer products such as clothes, appliances and toiletries—household items that we need to be safe—and even health products like medications that Canadians rely on for their families. Frankly, they can be anything that can be produced and distributed for profit.
Modern-day counterfeiters have an utter contempt for copyright and trademark laws, for the health and safety risks posed by unsafe or inferior products, for the lost tax revenue for our infrastructure and essential services, for the lost profits for intellectual property owners and for lost consumer confidence in the marketplace.
It is disturbing to note this criminal activity is also becoming more common. Between 2005 and 2012, the RCMP estimates that it investigated more than 4,500 cases of intellectual property crime in Canada. During that same period, the value of counterfeit products seized by the RCMP skyrocketed from $7.6 million to $38 million.
As high as these numbers are, they are only a drop in the ocean. Remember that $38 million represents the value of the seized products. How many other products manage to cross the border? How many more millions of dollars were lost? How many more consumers were put at risk?
One fact is clear: counterfeiting is on the rise not just in Canada, but around the world.
At least two House of Commons committees have published detailed reports confirming the growing threat posed by these goods, not only to the Canadian economy but also to health and to safety.
Many of our trading partners have already taken steps to strengthen their intellectual property enforcement regimes. We cannot afford for Canada to be at a disadvantage compared to our peers. We need a made-in-Canada solution that takes account of the key international developments in the fight against commercial counterfeiting.
For several years industry associations have been pushing for changes to Canada's intellectual property legislation. I am proud to say that Bill C-56 responds to demands for a modern approach to combat counterfeiting and piracy.
Once passed, the bill will help reduce the availability of counterfeit and pirated goods in Canada. In so doing, it would protect the integrity of our economy, support Canadian growth and jobs, and help protect Canadians from the health and safety risks posed by harmful counterfeit goods.
From a public safety perspective, a successful attack on counterfeit goods also means taking a lucrative source of revenue away from serious and organized crime. To that end, the bill would introduce new enforcement tools to strengthen Canada's existing intellectual property regime, both within Canada and at our borders. It would also bolster existing protections against commercial counterfeiting activities.
In this way we would be better equipped to prevent large shipments of counterfeit goods from entering Canada. By disrupting the distribution of illegitimate goods, we would make it more difficult for organized crime to make a profit.
Let us make no mistake: the collection and distribution of significant quantities of counterfeit products is not the random work of a few isolated individuals. The scope of the problem and the profit involved would suggest that organized crime is involved.
What is the attraction? Organized crime can take the profits from counterfeit goods to support any number of nefarious activities, from trafficking drugs to smuggling firearms. In other words, the profits from all these fake products are buying real drugs and real guns and threatening the safety of our streets and communities.
Our government stands firm in the fight against organized crime. The bill would give the RCMP new tools to combat the threat posed by counterfeit and pirated goods when serious and organized crime is believed to be involved.
At the same time, it would not be used at the border to search individual travellers who happen to possess counterfeit or pirated goods for their personal use. I will have more to say about the role of consumers in a few minutes, but first let me provide a more detailed overview of the proposed legislation.
It often takes years of hard work and significant investment to develop intellectual property, not to mention the huge effort to turn that property into a brand that consumers identify and trust. Counterfeit goods, then, do not simply result in lost sales for trademark and copyright owners: they also undermine hard-earned reputations and can put the very existence of businesses at risk.
The proposed legislation would help Canadian businesses protect their brands and works. Currently, if counterfeit trademark or copyright goods are sold in the marketplace, for example, the rightful owners could take legal action through civil courts. Specifically, they could ask for civil remedies for the manufacture, distribution and possession with intent to sell counterfeit goods, but how do the rightful owners stop these goods from entering the market in the first place?
Under current legislation, rights holders must first get a court order to have authorities detain suspicious goods at the border. The amount of specific information needed to obtain a court order can lead to delays that work to the advantage of criminals.
Bill C-56 would streamline this system, allowing trademark and copyright owners to submit a so-called request for assistance to the CBSA and provide information to help identify suspicious goods, thus assisting rights holders to seek civil remedies.
These officers in turn would share information about the detained goods with rights holders. Armed with this evidence, rights holders could then pursue the matter in the courts, as I mentioned a few minutes ago. This collaborative approach would help take the wind out of the sails of organized crime.
Of course, the bill supports the Canadian judiciary system for determining who has copyright and trademark rights, thereby protecting against abuse or misuse of these new border measures.
Rights holders would pay the costs associated with the detention of goods, and the proposed legislation would also contain safeguards for information sharing. Importers would also be notified if their shipments were detained and would have the right to inspect them.
Finally, if the system was being abused, the Canada Border Services Agency could remove a rights holder from that request for assistance process, so there are safeguards.
While the new act would introduce civil remedies, it would also strengthen our criminal law.
Currently the Criminal Code has limited offences relating to trademark fraud. The laws primarily target conduct related to forgery of a trademark; possessing instruments for forging a trademark; defacing, concealing or removing a trademark; and passing off wares or services as genuine, with intent to deceive.
These offences, however, do not go far enough. That is why the bill would make it an offence to sell, distribute, possess, import and export counterfeit goods for the purpose of trade. Offenders would be subject to fines and face possible jail time.
In addition, new criminal offences for possessing and exporting pirated goods for the purposes of trade would be added to the Copyright Act. That would allow the RCMP to seize counterfeit and pirated goods. These provisions were not proposed lightly, but considering that profits from such goods can end up in the hands of organized crime, we need to pursue and prosecute offenders more diligently. That is why the proposed legislation would provide new powers to investigate commercial counterfeiting.
Mr. Speaker, you will note now that I said “commercial counterfeiting”. The proposed legislation will not result in searches of travellers at the border who may possess counterfeit and pirated goods for their personal use—we know that consumers do not always know the origin of a product they acquire in good faith for personal use—nor will the government be pounding on the door of law-abiding citizens who may own knock-off DVDs.
The proposed new authorities to seize goods and prosecute are intended to be used against those who knowingly bring in counterfeit goods with the intent to sell, rent or distribute them in the marketplace. That said, I believe consumers play a role in the fight against counterfeit goods. Canadians are increasingly aware that commercial counterfeiting is not a victimless crime and that knock-off goods do hurt. They hurt intellectual property owners who lose hard-earned income. They hurt law-abiding Canadian taxpayers, as commercial counterfeiters do not pay their share. They hurt the entrepreneurial drive that stimulates innovation and fosters new economic growth. Most insidiously, they hurt innocent people through defective products that maim, injure and sometimes even kill.
In the end, Canadians pay a truly high price for the fake products commercial counterfeiters sell. By being smart consumers, all Canadians can help us combat the scourge of counterfeiting and piracy. In so doing, we can all do our part in the fight against serious and organized crime.
I would like to close by putting Bill C-56 into a larger legislative and policy context. This new act is part of this government's ongoing commitment, a commitment I have been very proud to be involved in, to strengthen protection for intellectual property and to ensure our communities are safe.
The bill would complement the Copyright Modernization Act that recently came into force. Together these two pieces of legislation would create a comprehensive approach to the protection of intellectual property rights. I want to reassure the House that Canada is committed to the efficient flow of legitimate goods across our border. We will work with all of our trading partners to ensure that our actions to enforce intellectual property rights do not themselves become barriers to legitimate trade. Our country so depends on the flow of trade.
Canada has always been a trading nation, and no more so than now, but for all the benefits brought by the global economy, there are associated risks. Faced with an escalating threat of counterfeit and pirated goods and in response to the calls for action from industry, the government has tabled this bill before the House. I believe Bill C-56 is fair and balanced legislation that helps us tackle the scourge of counterfeit and pirated products while protecting the rights and the interests of individual consumers, travellers and legitimate business.
By passing this bill, we not only protect industry, consumers and government revenue, but we can also make progress against serious and organized crime. For all these reasons, I urge all members of the House to join me in swift passage of the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I have one petition to table today. It is signed by constituents from my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo. The petition deals with the issue of cluster munitions.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of economic action plan 2013 and our government's budget implementation bill.
Even in the face of this global downturn, under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, Canada has led the world. Our net debt to GDP ratio is the lowest in the world. All the major credit agencies have affirmed Canada's AAA credit rating, and we have enjoyed the strongest job creation record in the G7. Canada has created more than 950,000 net new jobs since 2009, and 90% of those were full time and 80% in the private sector.
Through our government's leadership and discipline, our fiscal program played a strong role in ensuring that Canada's economy stayed on the rails, moving forward. In fact, to quote an editorial from my local paper, the Waterloo Region Record:
Canada is doing better and should continue to do better than most other advanced industrial nations, thanks, in part, to the fiscal prudence....
—of the finance minister's budget.
Canada will continue to lead the world because the Canadian government has made the tough, responsible choices. It has made the choice to engage Canadians in a massive temporary stimulus program that kept our economy afloat and built world-class research and commercialization facilities and much-needed community assets and infrastructure: roads, bridges, water treatment facilities and community centres. It has made the choice to maintain our commitment to lowering taxes on individuals and businesses that ensures Canada is an excellent place to call home, to work, to build a business and to raise a family.
It is worth remembering that the average family of four is paying $3,200 less, thanks to our tax cuts. Our choice to remain on track for balancing the budget in fiscal 2015-16 is a statement of confidence, confidence in our businesses and workers that, as global markets recover, our entrepreneurs and highly skilled workforce will seize that opportunity, confidence that the prudence we practice today will earn our prosperity for years to come.
Canadians can be confident, confident in themselves, confident in this budget and confident in this government.
I want to focus, though, on the elements of budget 2013 that are most important to my home area of Waterloo Region. For those hon. members unfamiliar with the Waterloo Region, our community has a history of reinventing our economy to adapt with changing times. Our ability to reinvent ourselves has always hinged on our uniquely strong sense of community.
When there is an opportunity to be pursued, business, academia, government, labour and the community sector all work together to make it happen. The people of Waterloo Region do not look for handouts, but they welcome collaboration and support.
That is why I stand today in this House and state categorically that this budget presents great news for my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga and for all of Waterloo Region. Our region is one of the hardest hit by the shortage of skilled workers, from engineers to welders, which our government continues to address. Our government is committed to providing leadership in correcting this. We will support the use of apprentices in federally funded projects and long-term infrastructure programs. We will work in collaboration with the provinces and territories to standardize requirements for apprentices in the skilled trades.
We are expanding opportunities for new entrants to the job market to get the skills they need, and we are increasing supports for Canadians with disabilities. Also, we committed to the Canada job grant, which would provide funds to help Canadians get the skills they need for the in-demand jobs. One hundred and thirty thousand Canadians would be able to take advantage of this program each year, and the direct involvement of employers would ensure the training offered aligns with the skills Canadians need.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce called Canada's economic action plan 2013, “a significant step forward in the federal government's attack on Canada's skills challenge”.
However, it was not only business organizations offering praise. The Association of Canadian Community Colleges, the Canadian Building Trades and Engineers Canada all spoke highly of our approach to building the talent Canada needs, where it needs it.
Dr. John Tibbits, president of Conestoga College, noted that:
This budget clearly recognizes the important role that applied learning plays as a catalyst for job opportunity and innovation that will reinvigorate Canada's economy and put us on the path to a brighter future.
Even the Canadian Labour Congress called our plans around apprenticeships
“...a good first step in creating opportunities.”
It is not just a shortage of talent that is holding us back. Our high-tech industry faces a severe lack of venture capital.
High-potential companies in my riding, like Miovision Technologies and Clearpath Robotics, have shared the difficulties small companies face in finding the investment needed to take them to that next level. We live in a global economy and there is a very healthy entrepreneurial culture south of the border, and entrepreneurs there are very willing to purchase promising small enterprises. Too often they require that the companies' core team move to the U.S. to be closer to their funders, and the result is lost growth.
We need this amazing talent. We need these entrepreneurs to stay right here in Canada. As a government, we need these companies to stay here at home in Canada because we want the jobs they create to be created here, at home in Canada.
Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech, Waterloo Region's technology association, noted the significance of budget 2013 stating that the two key barriers to growth for tech companies are access to talent and access to capital. Budget 2013 takes aim at helping companies overcome both of these barriers. The additional resources for NRC-IRAP and the Business Development Bank of Canada would increase the availability of much needed capital for Canada's tech companies.
Communitech was also pleased to see our government support entrepreneurship by supporting business incubators, and I would like to share a bit about the impact a business incubator can have on economic growth.
Communitech offers a business incubator program to high tech start-ups. The Communitech Hub opened in 2009 as part of a five-year digital strategy. Both were supported by this government. We see the benefits when large, established companies donate to support services for start-ups. We see the impact that peer-to-peer training and mentorship can deliver to young companies. We see the synergies that result when aspiring entrepreneurs are able to access bleeding edge technologies like the 3D virtual environment.
How do we see all of these very positive changes? Let us measure the impact against its five-year plan, just three years into that plan: 800 new digital media and mobile technology companies, eight times the forecast; 1,600 new jobs in start-up companies, 80% of the five-year goal; $350 million in equity investments, more than triple the five-year goal.
As a result of this holistic approach to business development offered by the Hub, 83% of start-ups in the Communitech network are still in business after five years. That is almost double the industry average. These are the keys to a prosperous community.
Speaking of prosperous communities, I must mention how pleased the communities that make up Kitchener—Conestoga were with this budget's commitment to renewing our infrastructure, a $53 billion program in predictable infrastructure funding. This 10-year program would be the largest and longest federal commitment to infrastructure in Canadian history.
Its components include a $14 billion renewal of the building Canada fund to support major economic infrastructure projects; a five-year plan to continue building infrastructure projects through innovative public-private partnerships, P3s; and more than $32 billion in enhanced gas tax fund payments to provide predictable, application-free funding to municipalities.
This long-term, predictable funding is something our municipal partners have been requesting for years.
Also, while keeping on track for a return to surplus, we would invest new money to help move vulnerable Canadians off the streets, out of shelters and into stable housing, and invest directly in affordable housing.
For my home region of Waterloo, it is estimated that the gas tax fund improvements alone would channel an additional $126 million to our local municipalities.
Grant Whittington, the chief administrative officer of Wilmot Township, sent me a note shortly after the budget, stating that he felt “the budget was well done and provided long-term financial support for municipal support for municipal infrastructure”. He concluded by noting that “The indexing of the Gas Tax Funding Program is very appreciated”.
Kitchener city councillor Berry Vrbanovic, also the past president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, agreed, stating that “The Federal Government has delivered to municipalities with this budget”.
The FCM was even more effusive with its praise:
We applaud the government for choosing to continue moving our communities forward even as it meets its immediate fiscal challenges....
...it will spur growth and job creation while laying the foundation for a more competitive economy.
From engineers to educational institutions, from big business to small business to organized labour, from our communities and our newspapers, we are hearing the same thing, that the budget is good news for Canada.
I look forward to seeing Bill C-60, the economic action plan, passed and implemented quickly. Our communities need the funds to renew their infrastructure. Our unemployed need the training opportunities. Our businesses need the talent.
I ask all hon. members to support Bill C-60, which would make it easier for families to adopt a child and provide a healthy, nurturing environment; easier for charities to attract new donors, as proposed by my friend, the hon. member for Kitchener—Waterloo; easier for businesses to grow and innovate to create new jobs and better-paying jobs; easier to support the development and expansion of palliative care services for those who so desperately need them.
I am proud of this budget. I am proud of how Canadians have persevered through this time of economic adversity. I am confident in Canadians. The government shares that confidence. This budget and this bill reflect that confidence. I ask all hon. members to join me in supporting Bill C-60.
I invite the hon. member for Kitchener—Waterloo for his five-minute right of reply.
Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely thrilled to be standing here today because I truly believe in Bill C-458. This is an important proposal before us today. It is intended to help Canadians across the country when they are involved in charities. We truly do have a commitment to help donors and ensure that they get the benefits that have been put forward by this government.
What would this proposal do?
This proposal would establish the last seven days of February each year as national charities week, and it would extend the deadline for individuals claiming charitable gifts for tax purposes from December 31 of a taxation year to 60 days after that day to match the deadline for contributions to registered retirement savings plans.
It is my sincere hope that members on both sides will set aside all of their talking points and listen to what is being said here. There is a member here in this House who has worked extremely hard on this bill, and I would hope that members, particularly from the NDP, will listen to the benefits the bill would provide to charities and donors.
Let me begin by saying that my hon. colleague for Kitchener—Waterloo has spent an awful lot of tireless effort advocating for charities and charitable organizations throughout his time here in Parliament. I have worked alongside this member and I am so proud to see the work that he has done.
He is in the House right now, and he is a humble fellow. However, I want to take this opportunity to thank him, not only on behalf of the government but on behalf of all Canadians, because they have seen his tireless efforts and appreciate everything that he does and continues to do so that charities can benefit from the best that we have here in Parliament. In fact, he is one of the best that I have the pleasure to work with.
The member also put forward another motion, Motion No. 559, which called for the Standing Committee on Finance to study tax incentives for charitable donations. That motion was supported, thankfully, by all parties in the House. As a member of the finance committee, I am pleased to report that after extensive consultations, we have presented the government with a comprehensive report that we can all be proud of.
To the member's credit, the recommendations of that report are clearly reflected in the most recent budget economic action plan 2013 in the form of an important initiative that I will speak about at great length later on.
With respect to the member's current bill, let me quote a recent editorial in the National Post praising the legislation before us today, noting that:
Too often of late, private members' 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....
First, I would like to tell the House that the Conservative government proudly salutes the volunteers who contribute to charities established to improve the quality of life of people who need help.
Volunteers are remarkable, altruistic Canadians who have an impact on people's lives, and who do so without any hope of reward. They give of their time and energy because they are concerned for the less fortunate.
Canadians should be proud to know that Canada is one of the countries with the most charities and non-profit organizations.
According to estimates, there are more than 160,000 charities and non-profit organizations, and their goal is to help solve our country's greatest social problems.
In addition, ordinary Canadians know very well that the charitable sector plays an essential role in society and provides invaluable services to the most vulnerable individuals, thanks to generous financial support for their important work.
According to Statistics Canada, more than 5.7 million Canadians made donations totalling nearly $8.5 billion to registered charities in 2011. They also receive assistance through the tax system in the form of a personal tax credit and a corporate tax deduction for charitable donations.
In fact, federal government tax assistance for charitable donations exceeded $2.9 billion in 2012. Canadian tax incentives for charitable donations are among the most generous in the world.
Our Conservative government fully supports the charitable sector. In fact, we have taken numerous steps to enhance support for such organizations since 2006, including exempting donations of publicly listed securities to charities from capital gains tax, reforming the disbursement quota rules for charities, reducing their administrative complexity to better able charities to focus their time and resources on charitable activities, introducing integrity measures to combat fraud and abuse in the charitable sector and, lastly, enhancing public transparency and accountability to ensure that charities devote their resources to charitable and not political activities.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, following the finance committee's report on charitable donation tax incentives, a direct response to another initiative by the member for Kitchener—Waterloo, economic action plan 2013 proposes a new temporary first-time donor super credit, designed to encourage new donors to give to charity. The FDSC, which is the first time donor super credit, will increase the value of the federal charitable donations tax credit by 25 percentage points if neither the taxpayer nor his or her spouse has claimed the credit since 2007.
The FDSC will apply on up to $1,000 in cash donations claimed in any one taxation year from 2013 to 2017. This new credit 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. Helping to rejuvenate and expand the charitable sector's donor base will have an immediate impact in supporting the sector. This is great news.
It is clear that our government and the member for Kitchener—Waterloo are hard at work to ensure that charities have the help they need to do what they do best. Let me take a moment to remind my hon. colleagues of the member's outstanding reputation in this regard.
Imagine Canada, the leading umbrella organization representing Canadian charities, has praised his willingness to consult with charities on new ideas, stating:
[The member for Kitchener—Waterloo] 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 would agree with that assessment and will join our Conservative government in sending this bill to the finance committee for the hearing it so richly deserves. Let the champion, the member for Kitchener—Waterloo, present this bill so that we can further assist charities across the country to ensure that their good work is being done.
Lastly, I want to say why it is important to support this proposal at second reading so that it can be studied in greater detail.
We realize the bill’s aims are clear and noble. By supporting it at second reading, we can conduct a thorough examination, reflecting contributions by parliamentarians, charities and other stakeholders, and thus report on the status of some important issues. For example, if the deadline is changed from December 31 to March 1, how much will donations increase, and what is the estimated cost of this measure?
The study of Bill C-458 will also be an opportunity for charities to indicate whether they are concerned about the reduced time limit for issuing tax receipts to last-minute donors. Charities currently have approximately six to eight weeks after the end of the year to issue receipts to donors. It is quite logical to believe that, if the time limit for making charitable donations is extended by two months, the organizations will have to make administrative adjustments to reflect the new deadline.
In saying all of that, I look forward to and count on the support of the members on both sides of the House so we can get this bill to the finance committee to do the important study that is required. We want to hear from charities and organizations that have no other interest except helping those who are most vulnerable. Let us give them a chance to speak, and we will do what we can to ensure that they have the assistance of this government, as we have demonstrated in the past, so they can benefit from the generosity of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-458.
Before I begin, I want to thank the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for his tireless work on behalf of his constituents since his arrival in Parliament in 2008. The member has done considerable work as the vice-chair of the government operations and estimates committee and as a member of the industry, science and technology committee. He is one of the hardest working MPs that I have come to know. He has demonstrated commitment through a lifetime of volunteer work, having sat out a year of his schooling to volunteer with aboriginal communities in northwest Ontario and abroad in India. In more recent years, he has worked hard on behalf of the United Way. The hard work has won the member praise from across the aisle as a respected advocate for charities across the country.
In addition, I would like to take a moment to recognize that member's outstanding parliamentary record as a champion of the charitable sector. The Globe and Mail recently noted, “as a backbench MP, [the member for Kitchener--Waterloo] has carved out a niche of expertise and influence on the charities file”.
In 2010, he sponsored Motion No. 559, which called for the Standing Committee on Finance to study tax incentives for charitable donations, which was passed by the House with unanimous consent. This motion played a crucial role in the development of economic action plan 2013 and, as a result, the committee heard important evidence demonstrating the need for the government to foster and promote a culture of giving.
Most important, the committee learned that tax incentives had a crucial role to play in increasing the number of new donors. That is why in economic action plan 2013 the government has introduced the first-time donor's super credit. Thanks to the hard work of the member for Kitchener—Waterloo, our government continues to build on a strong record of support for the charitable sector.
The first-time donor's super credit would significantly enhance the attractiveness of donating to a charity for young Canadians who would be in a position to make donations for the very first time and would have an immediate impact in supporting the charitable sector.
The Bank of Montreal surveyed 1,000 people about the first-time donor's super credit, and roughly half of those between the ages of 18 and 34 said that they would contribute more to charities because of this special tax break. Overall, the survey found that 70% supported the first-time donor's super credit.
Not only that, but charities across the country have welcomed this new credit. Katharine Schmidt from Food Banks Canada had this to say:
The super credit will provide an enticing opportunity for more Canadians to donate to their local food bank if they haven't already done so. Food banks across the country continue to struggle to raise enough money to keep their doors open. We believe this credit is a step in the right direction to provide food banks with a new tool with which to seek out new donors.
Furthermore, the new super credit would be a valuable tool for the arts. Camilla Holland, the advocacy chair for the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres lauded the government on its commitment to work with the charitable sector in providing charitable giving incentives. Miss Holland said that the new super credit was “welcome strides towards growing donors and levels of giving for... theatre companies of all sizes”.
This super credit would also help the health care sector raise funds for research and innovation. I would note that the Canadian Multiple Sclerosis Society had this to say about the super credit:
We are also very pleased to see the commitment to strengthen the capacity of the Canadian charitable sector...I'd like to provide a few illustrations of how these measures will help the MS Society of Canada and the people we serve....We are also encouraged by the recognition in Economic Action Plan 2013 to foster and promote a culture of giving in Canada. The introduction of a new, temporary First-Time Donor's Super Credit for first-time claimants of the Charitable Donations Tax Credit will encourage all young Canadians to donate to charity.
However, more broadly, the introduction of the first-time donor's super credit will achieve its intended purpose by helping charitable organizations raise considerable amounts of funds from new donors.
Marcel Lauzière, president and CEO of Imagine Canada, had the following to say about the government's new super credit:
Imagine Canada...is very pleased that today's federal budget includes a First-Time Donor's Super Credit to encourage more Canadians to give to charity, and a commitment by the federal government to work with the charitable sector and with Imagine Canada to encourage more donations by a greater number of Canadians....The Super Credit will help us make real progress...generating up to $110 million a year from new donors for causes that Canadians hold dear. This is a significant investment in our communities at a time of ongoing restraint....We are pleased at the government's commitment to work with Imagine Canada and the charitable sector to encourage more Canadians to give more.
This super credit would supplement the existing charitable donations tax credit with an additional 25% tax credit for a first time donor on up to $1,000 of donations. Overall, this incentive would expand and rejuvenate the charitable sector's donor base and would provide an estimated $25 million in annual tax relief.
Since 2006, our Conservative government has lowered taxes on Canadians more than 150 times, including lowering the GST from 7% to 5%. In doing so, we have reduced the overall federal tax burden on Canadians to the lowest point in over 50 years. We have also introduced the tax-free savings account to help Canadians save more of their hard-earned money. On this side of the House, we understand that lowering taxes leaves more money in the pockets of Canadians, giving them greater flexibility to donate to charity.
Our government wholeheartedly supports the intent of Bill C-458 and I applaud the noble efforts my hon. colleague has made to aid charities in their important work. Indeed, this bill has the potential to encourage young Canadians on a path of sustained charitable donations throughout their lives. A strong culture of charitable donations empowers these organizations to make an even bigger impact in communities across the country.
Our government is committed to returning to balanced budgets before the next election and we will do so by building on the solid foundations of our economic action plan, which has served Canadians well.
With respect to Bill C-458, we encourage all members to support the referral of the bill to committee where it can be further examined.
In closing, I would like to quote a recent Waterloo Region Record editorial, which praised the legislation before us today. It noted:
[The member for Kitchener Waterloo's] bill strikes us as a non-partisan, common sense proposal that deserves support across the political spectrum. It should be passed.
I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment and thank the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for his work. I encourage all members to vote to give the bill the hearing it so rightly deserves.
Mr. Speaker, every day, Canadian charities are working tirelessly to help those in need. Nobody knows this better than the member for Kitchener—Waterloo, one of Parliament's biggest advocates for charities. Indeed, the member initiated a landmark study by the finance committee to examine ways to provide even more support for charitable organizations.
Could the Minister of State (Finance) please update the House on the government's latest action to help Canadian charities?
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.
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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