MASSE IN THE HOUSE: Speaking on Bill to Create National Philanthropy Day November 15 Annually - Honours Local Philanthropists

Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Private Members' Business
[Private Members' Business]
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National Philanthropy Day Act
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, one important thing to recognize with respect to philanthropy is that some large generous donations have been provided by Canadians across the country, but our current tax structure actually reduces what people would get back at tax time because donations are tied to the income tax rates. We have actually reduced what people get back for a charitable donation.

I want to know if the member supports my private member's bill which would reverse that. It matches what we get as current political parties, and it is capped at a certain amount what political parties can give and then it returns to the existing amount.

For example, for the first $400 donation that a person gave to a political party, the person would get 75% of it back. I believe there should be the same type of system in place for when people give to the Girl Guides, the Boy Scouts, the United Way. I want to know if the hon. member supports that initiative.

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to debate Bill S-217 from Senator Grafstein, and I congratulate him on his work. He will be retiring from the Senate at the end of this year and this bill is certainly a significant achievement for him at the end of his career in the Senate.

It is important to talk about the date of November 15, being close to that of Remembrance Day, in the sense that our legions across the country have for generations provided generous donations for many causes and, in fact, have gone unsung in many respects as a national organization but also as individuals.

Therefore, we as New Democrats support the bill and we believe it is very important that it moves forward.

I can speak about this because I come from a not for profit sector. I worked at Community Living Mississauga, the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities and the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County. I can tell the House that those who are in need, whether they be the poor, persons with disabilities, seniors or other individuals who have been in a time of need, have been strengthened by the generous donations of the volunteers across the country and also those who donate money.

It is not just the people who give out the large sums of money who are often in the headlines. It is also those Canadians who scrape by but who provide generous donations on a regular basis. They perhaps do not get their names in the paper but they need to be recognized as a collective, as we are a very caring society from every city, town and village across the country. In fact, donations in 2007 ranged from around $10 billion in terms of contribution, which was a jump of 12%.
I come from the city of Windsor and Essex county that has had a 15% unemployment rate for a number of years and we have seen continued donations from those individuals. I think of those organizations and the workers who deserve credit. I think of the workers who are at a General Motors transmission plant in my riding. Despite the fact that they will be losing their jobs in a year from now and there is no replacement product, they have come up with hundreds and thousands of dollars in donations for the United Way. They continue to have that commitment to the communities.

I could not stand here today without recognizing some individuals who I think are important. It is an opportunity for us to recognize some of the local achievements that come from our region that bind us as a caring community. I know the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour earlier mentioned some people and I think it is important to add others. I think of Dr. Tayfour from my community, Claire and Anne Winterbottom, Bill and Rochele Tepperman, Tony Toldo and family, Mickey Soltz and family, Dr. Demers, Gerald Freed and family; Dr. Ismail and Khalida Peer, Dr. Boyd and Jane Boyd, the Woodall family, Dr. Lyanga and Scholastica, and the Taq Taq family. Those are all individuals who have made significant contributions to the Windsor and Essex county area and nationally as well. Some of them have been recognized with the Order of Canada, including Gerald Freed and the Freed family, for their generous donations on a regular basis to our community.

Historically we have also had the Joy family, the Walker family and the Budameir family that have made significant contributions.

Coming from a region that has been decimated by high unemployment, the loss of manufacturing jobs and environmental conditions that are very significant in terms of human health because we are in an industrialized zone and we are in the shadow of the United States, which causes extra pollutants and contaminants and further strains on our social system, I could be no more proud of those individuals and also rallying the thousands and thousands of Windsorites and Essex county people who have given their time and their donations to ensure we have the strength of a civil society that does not leave people behind.

Sadly, governments have not done enough, whether it be provincial or federal, to help the social service infrastructure and it has cost us. It has cost us, not only in needless human suffering and tragedy, but it has also cost us in terms of productivity as a society, and that needs to be reversed, especially during this time.

I also want to note that there are solutions. Nationally I think of Mr. Lazarides from RIM who has donated so much money for sciences and for the advancement of those kinds of solutions for our communities and societies. I think also of the Lewis Foundation with Stephen Lewis who has shown that Canada on the international stage is a nation that cares and actually wears the face of humanity every day trying to make a difference for those who are suffering from AIDS, tuberculosis and other types of diseases. It is important to note that if we did not have that footprint in the world, Canada would be seen much differently than it is today. That is why they need to be recognized. This day, November 15, will provide that opportunity.

I think of the collective groups. I mentioned our legions and the collectivity they have actually performed and punched above their weight in terms of contributions.

I can also think about individuals like Gary Parent from the CAW. He was the Windsor and District Labour Council president who just retired. He has been recognized provincially but I believe he should be recognized nationally for his generous commitment to ensuring people are supported in the community and for his understanding that there is an obligation and interest in the workplace for social justice matters outside in the community to advance the cause of the human race and also of Canada. That is the kind of Canada that I believe in and want to pass on to my children.
Some issues are challenging the government, as well as issues surrounding philanthropy and charitable giving. Because the income tax laws are tied to the charitable laws right now, successive Liberal and Conservative governments have allowed this policy to reduce what one gets back at tax time for a charitable donation.

Why that policy is still in place is beyond me and it needs to be halted. We need to encourage more Canadians to give. It has already been noted that more than half of donors would give more to charities if they could get more back at tax time. It is amazing in terms of what we could do. It needs to be recognized that there are 161,000 not for profit and voluntary organizations in Canada that contribute billions of dollars annually to the economy and employ millions of people across our country who provide services that governments often will not, cannot or should not provide. These organizations come from the community and provide a philosophical basis that is very important in solving problems, whether it be literacy, such as Raise-a-Reader in Windsor, Ontario, from the Windsor Star, or national issues such as cancer and the local issues associated with that.

It is important to note that we can change the laws in this country and I proposed a bill that would do that. It would change the charitable giving returns to an individual. I understand that we cannot do this without a limit. I have proposed a law that would mirror political parties in terms of giving to a charitable organization. I tried to get unanimous consent for it in the House but it was denied by the other parties. I do not understand why, especially given that we seem to have money available during this time of economic crisis.

As things currently stand, lowering the general corporate tax to 15% by 2012 will cost the government $86 billion. That is money out the door that will not connect to the community in any significant degree. I have proposed that charitable organizations that get money from the federal government would mirror political parties. If people give $400 to a political party, they would get 75% of that back at tax time. That goes at a threshold that reduces over the duration but one can give out up to $1,100. I have proposed that we do the same thing for charities and that would provide an economic stimulus to that sector, which has seen its donations reduced by the government over time because of its tie to the income tax law. At the same time, successive governments have been reducing corporate tax cuts.

The estimated cost of this bill would be less than $1 billion. When one thinks about what the government has been doing in terms of financial management and where we could be spending the money, it would virtually go back into our communities. With Canadians already identifying that they would give 50% more back, think about what the churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, registered faith organizations and others like the United Way could do with those resources right now to address the social problems that are escalating because of the current economic fiscal crisis.

I do not understand why the government does not do this. The voluntary sector is a very important hub in the Canadian economy, as well as in our productivity as citizens as we deal with everything from addiction to family, children and seniors issues. That is why my bill should be passed in the House of Commons and it is one that could even be phased in over time if the government does not want to provide the resources right away.

It would not be a direct loss of net revenue. People would be taking those funds and giving back to charities, creating jobs and providing solutions and preventive actions that are necessary to ensure youth do not fall into crime and that seniors get the proper support in their communities so they do not need to be in the hospital. This would ensure a continued contribution by individuals.

I hope the government wakes up to that and delivers a responsible recourse to the voluntary and charitable organizations in this country that have been long forgotten.