Mr. Chair, members of the Standing Committee on Finance, I feel privileged to be invited here today. This is important work that you are undertaking, and it's notable that you have recognized the critical importance of emergency services volunteers, firefighters, ambulance attendants, and search and rescue personnel. Thank you for that.
For 30 years, Volunteer Canada has been the national voice for volunteerism. Our role at the national level is to promote and strengthen volunteerism so it remains a strong and vibrant force in our country. We develop programs that support volunteer involvement so that voluntary organizations on the ground and in communities can concentrate their efforts on their important missions. By accessing information and utilizing tools developed by Volunteer Canada, they know that their volunteer programs are well managed, the contribution of their volunteers is maximized, and the experience of volunteering for individual Canadians is the best it can be, so they continue to come back, and they continue to contribute to communities and to causes.
We also ensure that volunteering is considered and integrated in public policy dialogues, such as dialogues taking place today, to ensure that volunteerism is well understood and receives the support it deserves and needs.
Values related to volunteer involvement are strong in this country, with 45% of Canadians--approximately 12 million Canadians--contributing almost two billion hours of volunteer service each year, the equivalent of one million full-time jobs. But deeply concerning is that much comes from a few. Only 11% of Canadians contribute approximately 77% of the volunteer hours in this country. And more troubling still is that the 11% is made up primarily of older adults in the 65-plus age group.
If we do not find a way to engage older generations and future generations to ensure their contributions are maximized, volunteer involvement in Canada is at risk. And because volunteerism impacts absolutely every facet of our social fabric, our way of life, which we value so deeply, is also at risk.
Much of what we take for granted is delivered to us by volunteers: community health care; arts and heritage; environment; green space; minor sports; disaster relief, of course; fundraising; support for education; and social services. The work of volunteers is an essential service, but some work is more essential than others, and that's what brings us here today.
Let me start by saying that I absolutely support this bill that is up for discussion and consideration today, and I look forward to telling you why Volunteer Canada would support its implementation, but I also have some cautionary points.
I think most would agree that, broadly defined, a volunteer is someone who contributes their time of their own free will for the betterment of others, and does so without the expectation of financial remuneration.
There is a significant push for the voluntary sector to begin articulating volunteer involvement within an economic framework, both to articulate the cost savings of utilizing volunteers over paid staff, and to demonstrate impact through a social accounting model that integrates an organization's expanded reach or influence or results attained by volunteers. This is important, but it also necessitates consideration of the impact of articulating the economic value of volunteering in the longer term.
There is an entire foundation or ethos of volunteering that simply cannot be measured in numbers. How do you identify the dollar value of holding the hand of someone in a palliative care bed in their final days, or the sheer joy or renewed self-confidence of a young person with cerebral palsy who shoots his first basket after being coached for months by a volunteer? The fact that someone has been there because they wanted to be there and not because they are paid to be there is what volunteering is all about. You just can't measure that. And I worry that considering volunteering at times through an economic lens might lead to volunteering always being considered through an economic lens. The fundamental values of volunteer involvement need to be protected.
Economic incentives to volunteer also have the potential to impact the underlying concept of volunteerism. Tax incentives frequently benefit primarily those on the higher ends of the income scale. And further, there is little evidence that suggests we know definitively that this is an incentive. There are a number of unanswered questions regarding the real benefit or associated incentive of such an approach.
Does measuring volunteerism in economic terms detract from its inherent value and thereby diminish the importance of the underlying passion or qualitative component of volunteering? Do we know that providing an economic incentive such as a tax credit will result in increased engagement? Will individuals volunteering to the associated maximum number of hours then drop off? Will providing tax incentives for one cohort of volunteers have a detrimental effect on the engagement rates of other cohorts of volunteers who are not provided with such a benefit?
We also need to consider the administrative burden associated with the record-keeping and reporting necessary to ensure accountability of such a program, to ensure that we are not positively impacting volunteer involvement while negatively impacting our ability to manage those volunteers well.
That said, some acts of volunteerism are more essential than others, or are simply different. As such, a different approach may be required to address specific needs or issues. Again, in that regard I support this bill.
Most individuals who volunteer have the option of contributing their time when it's convenient for them or their families and it fits with their career demands. Obviously this is a key issue for emergency services volunteers. A fire or an avalanche does not wait until after 5 p.m. or until Saturday morning. The fact that these individuals make themselves available when their pagers sound, on the spot, regardless of where they are or what they're doing, means there's significant potential for their volunteer activity to impact their lives, their families, and their work, and that means economically. This needs to be considered and this needs to be supported through .
I cannot say it better than it has been said before in the context of these examinations: we ask a lot of someone whose job it is to run into a burning building when everyone else is running out. That's doubly true for those who do so as a volunteer. That needs to be taken into account, and this bill does that.
There is an economic barrier to volunteering. The degree of personal expenses contributed by those who volunteer for emergency services is significant. We are not asking for those expenses to be reimbursed--in fact, it would not likely be at all possible--but is certainly a step toward recognizing and compensating for at least a portion of that.
Volunteer recruitment and retention is a huge issue sector-wide. We need to consider the impact of volunteer contribution dropping off as a result of our older generation of volunteers retiring and as a result of a variety of other reasons. Our communities, our social fabric, our way of life would all look dramatically different, but again, the impact of recruitment challenges for emergency services volunteers is even more dramatic.
I was in Yellowknife recently, and I had the opportunity to speak with someone from an outlying community. He told me that they no longer had a volunteer fire department at all. They didn't have any volunteers willing to take on that role. I know you all know what that means. If can in any way ensure that this situation is mitigated, that people are motivated through this incentive to step up and volunteer for this vital role in their community--in even one community--the bill will have achieved its purpose and goal.
I spoke earlier of some cautionary notes. In conclusion, I want to say that those concerns are in no way insurmountable. In rolling this bill out, should it be passed, some carefully crafted messaging can present the unique and special context of volunteer involvement in emergency services as distinct from the broader volunteer cohort. Ensuring and providing at the implementation stages the necessary resources to manage the accountability and record-keeping will mean that this is not a further burden on an already burdened sector.
Volunteers are a vital and critical resource to our country and to our communities. They deserve to be recognized for the role they play in keeping our communities safe and healthy and vibrant. is an important and enormous opportunity for this government to demonstrate that support in a way that is real and tangible and meaningful to voluntary organizations and to the citizens of this country who are our volunteers.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
On behalf of the Canadian Red Cross, I wish to thank you for this invitation to appear before the Standing Committee on Finance.
My name is Conrad Sauvé. I am the Secretary General and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross. With me today is my colleague, Mr. Don Shropshire, National Director, Disaster Management Branch.
I wish to speak to you briefly about the mandate of the Canadian Red Cross before discussing Bill .
As you know, the Canadian Red Cross is a volunteer, humanitarian, non-profit organization with one single mission: to act as an auxiliary to the public authorities.
Thanks to the dedication and expertise of our thousands of volunteers, supported by our paid employees, we play an important role in activities related to emergency preparedness, mitigation, and recovery, in addition to response. The Canadian Red Cross acts as a bridge between government, civil society, and communities.
The emblems of the Red Cross and Red Crescent represent the most significant humanitarian movement in the world. It is made up of more than 100 million members and volunteers from 186 countries, and delivers programs and services related to emergency preparedness, development and recovery. Each year, the Canadian Red Cross sends more than 100 professional humanitarian workers abroad.
Today, I am here to state the support of the Canadian Red Cross for Bill C-219. This bill is a first step towards greater recognition and appreciate of volunteers who work with organizations such as ours to provide emergency social services and to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable. We support any initiative that seeks to support and reinforce the recognition, recruitment and retention of volunteers who make up the cornerstone of the Red Cross.
Nonetheless, we wish to share with you a few of our observations and recommendations concerning information that is either ambiguous or missing from this proposed legislation.
Mr. Chair, as the voluntary sector shifts in Canada, it is our view that Bill is a positive step that can be a real added value to volunteer recruitment and retention. While volunteers do not join an organization for the purpose of getting something financial in return, Bill demonstrates recognition for the real value of the work volunteers do within their communities.
At present governments at all levels depend heavily on the voluntary sector for emergency response expertise, specialized skills and resources, and an ability to quickly adapt and respond to emerging situations. It has capacities that the public authorities require in an event of an emergency, including the ability to mobilize volunteers, access local networks, and utilize acquired knowledge about the community. The sector also offers practical experience in logistics, communications, and event management.
In summary, the voluntary sector contributes not only its tangible human and physical resources, but also special means of activating them. Acknowledging the role of volunteers in emergency management means acknowledging the role and responsibility of well-prepared, proactive, and responsive communities.
No country—Canada included—can keep sufficient staff on standby, ready to respond when disaster strikes. That is where the important skills of the Canadian Red Cross volunteers come in. These volunteers are not traditional, and I join in what Ruth was saying earlier. By that I mean they are not the workers who set aside time each week to help a worthy cause. Rather, they are well-trained and on call to help at any moment's notice. This is what sets emergency response volunteers apart. Both government and non-government actors, including the full range of voluntary organizations, are key to enhancing emergency preparedness, response, and recovery capacities in Canada.
Therefore, we believe Bill is good, in that it acknowledges the work performed by some emergency service volunteers. It will be important for the committee to ensure that the interpretation of the bill takes into account the whole spectrum of volunteer work related to emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation activities. This would be well aligned and supportive of the government's priorities in promoting public emergency awareness and preparedness across the country.
Mr. Chair, allow me now to discuss specific sections of the bill and suggest some changes.
Clause 1 talks about the taxpayer performing volunteer service as an ambulance technician, a firefighter, or a person who assists in the search and rescue of individuals or in other emergency situations.
The Canadian Red Cross's strategic focus, operational capabilities, and resources make us one of the principal entities in the voluntary sector in emergency management. In fact, I would suggest that the Canadian Red Cross is currently a national asset working very closely with all public authorities through pre-signed agreements in emergency management.
We signed an MOU with the in 2006, which is indicative of a close and cooperative relationship with the federal government. Our MOU refers to enhanced collaboration in matters of emergency management, which includes activities related to emergency preparedness, mitigation, and recovery, in addition to response.
The Canadian Red Cross urges the committee to adopt a more inclusive and explicit definition of the type of volunteer service that a taxpayer could perform to be eligible for tax deduction. The type of volunteer service recognized should include all emergency phases: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
Under clause 2, proposed paragraph 60.03(3) states that volunteer services would include time spent in training and in carrying out any related duties requested by the municipality or the public authority.
We are pleased with and supportive of this recognition of the time and money that volunteers invest in training to be able to perform voluntary emergency services. However, we suggest that the phrase “any related other duties that are requested” be more explicit and specify duties related to emergency preparedness education and training.
One of the many responsibilities of the Government of Canada includes a coordination role in the provision of assistance to provinces other than the provision of financial assistance, conducting exercises, and providing education and training related to emergency management.
Evidence of several major disaster operations--the ice storm, the Saguenay, the Manitoba floods, SARS--indicates that it's critical to secure and mobilize the appropriate workforce and materials when facing a large disaster.
The Canadian Red Cross has an important place in Canada's emergency preparedness and response plan, and can and must make a vital contribution before, during, and after an emergency. We need to build this surge capacity to mobilize volunteers and civil society organizations so we can adequately respond to natural and man-made disasters that can change lives and entire communities in a moment's notice.
Proposed wording for clause 1 of the bill is included with our submission to the committee.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for your attention. I will be pleased to answer your questions.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and ladies and gentlemen of the standing committee. I am pleased to be here. Thank you for your time.
I arrived here late last night from Canada's most westerly domain, the Queen Charlotte Islands. I want to speak for a few moments on this subject.
Just so you know, I am a volunteer.
The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary is a non-profit organization made up of 4,200 volunteers across Canada. The auxiliary has been in existence since 1978, providing assistance to the Coast Guard and Transport Canada with search and rescue and safe boating programs now for 30 years. In 2007 alone, our members conducted a total of 1,829 search and rescue missions at the request of the Canadian Joint Rescue Coordination Centres.
Since its inception, members of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary have responded to over 48,000 maritime search and rescue incidents. Every year, about 25% of all marine search and rescue incidents in Canada are handled by the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers. In addition to these tasks, the auxiliary also maintains an emphasis on training its members, who took part in most of 1,600 search and rescue exercises last year alone.
Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary members donate not only their time, but also volunteer 1,200 privately owned vessels to the Government of Canada for search and rescue purposes. These vessels are expensive to own and operate, especially with rising fuel costs. Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary members are only reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses associated with an actual rescue, and receive no assistance in purchasing vessels or equipment. The resources made available to the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada are considerable, and the contribution of our volunteers is significant. We accumulated around 115,000 volunteer hours last year alone.
Among numerous recognitions, the Coast Guard Auxiliary received the 1997 award of excellence for outstanding contribution to transportation in Canada. In 1998 and 2006, our chief executive officers at the time were presented with the outstanding search and rescue achievement award by the National Search and Rescue Secretariat.
The auxiliary operates these search and rescue units with an annual allocation of $4.9 million from the contribution agreements signed by the Canadian Coast Guard. In terms of cost-effectiveness, a report produced in 2003 by the audit and evaluation directorate at Fisheries and Oceans Canada concluded that for each dollar invested in the auxiliary, the Canadian Coast Guard has access to $37 of service. That is, for every $1 expended there are cost savings of $37 to the Government of Canada.
Since 2001, the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary has been making representations to the Minister of Finance in order to address the inequity of the current Income Tax Act. We wrote several letters to Minister Paul Martin and Minister John Manley, and I have to say that the replies we got were very disappointing.
The current legislation allows emergency service volunteers to apply for a $1,000 exemption if they receive a payment of $1,000 as compensation from a public authority. When our volunteers, who do not get that compensation, spend their own money to purchase equipment such as floatation suits, helmets, distress flares, and strobe lights in order to ensure their own safety, they are not allowed to claim the exemption. Ironically, only a volunteer who is provided with money to buy safety equipment can claim that deduction. As it stands now, the Income Tax Act is penalizing our volunteers and discouraging people from joining a rescue organization such as the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary.
In its current state, the act is unfair to the volunteer component of the national search and rescue system. Search and rescue volunteers who scour the ground when a plane goes down, search the bush when a child goes missing, or brave storms and gale-force winds to rescue a distressed mariner, receive no tax breaks for the inevitable out-of-pocket expenses they engage to conduct their volunteer lifesaving tasks.
We strongly believe that Bill will address and fix the inequity of the current Income Tax Act and provide a much-needed incentive for Canadians to volunteer and join search and rescue organizations such as the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada, and the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, all volunteer associations.
The legislation will ensure that those who do not receive honorariums from a government, municipality, or other public authority, and yet provide the same type of service, are also given a form of compensation.
Businesses receive tax breaks for entertaining clients, watching professional athletes from corporate boxes, while sports teams receive tax benefits. Yet volunteers who are prepared to slog through muskeg, brave blizzards, and go to sea in winter storms when others stay in safe harbours receive no tax breaks.
Are any Canadians more deserving of tax breaks than the search and rescue volunteers? I don't think so. So why do certain paid volunteers get a $1,000 tax deduction, while unpaid yet totally committed search and rescue volunteers get nothing? This is inconsistent and discriminatory to true volunteers.
The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary is fully supportive of Bill .
If you have any questions I'll be happy to take them.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, for inviting us to appear.
We're here to speak in support of Bill , and in particular we'd like to support the principle of recognizing and rewarding the dedication of volunteer emergency workers.
As I think you know, FCM represents 1,600 municipalities from coast to coast to coast that represent just about 90% of the Canadian population, and our board of directors formally supports the principles of this bill.
I do want to pass on the regrets of our new president, the mayor of Sherbrooke, Mr. Jean Perrault, as well as our CEO, Brock Carlton, who otherwise would have liked to be here today but for the short notice.
I also want to note that Brian Linklater, who represents the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, is actually in the audience today observing. He did not receive an invitation to speak today, I note, owing to the short notice. He has said that he'd be willing to answer questions if that would be of interest to the committee.
I'd like to begin my presentation by saying that emergency services are responsible for protecting, as you know, the lives and property of a significant percentage of Canadians. In fact, 91% of fire departments in Canada are served exclusively by volunteer firefighters and officers. Virtually all communities of less than 10,000 are served by volunteer fire departments, and most communities of less than 50,000 have a blended service. Indeed, actually the city we're in right now has volunteer firefighters protecting its rural areas. So this is a very widespread activity. Communities such as the town of Drayton Valley, for example, in the chair's riding, are served by volunteer firefighters.
In rural and remote communities, these volunteers are truly the backbone of front-line response. However, many volunteer services, including fire departments, are facing severe challenges related to recruiting and retaining the personnel required to protect their community. Without measures to encourage volunteering, municipalities will be forced to either reduce protection, as I believe Ruth had an anecdote there, or increase the burden on already overextended ratepayers. That's where we believe Bill can help.
While we support Bill in principle, we are interested in ensuring that the additional administrative burden upon rural municipalities in particular is minimized to the greatest extent possible. That's certainly one of the purposes for which we're here today, to ensure that we're not adding expense or diverting scarce resources, in particular from Canada's smallest municipalities, to meet the recording and reporting needs that are noted in this bill. It would certainly undermine the intent of this bill if municipalities were forced to take on an undue administrative burden.
That said, as you'll see in the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs pre-budget submission—I believe it was in 2007—that responded to the 10 points of this committee from its last appearance, record-keeping in volunteer fire departments is actually already very substantial. So in terms of responding to that particular issue, from this committee's previous look at this bill, that is not as much of an issue.
As I think you know, all municipalities, especially rural communities, are already stretched beyond their fiscal capacity. Out of every tax dollar collected, the federal government and provincial governments take 92¢. That leaves just 8¢ of every tax dollar for municipal governments. At the same time, municipal governments are also delivering a growing range of programs and services that far exceed their original mandate, including emergency preparedness and security. As was highlighted in our recent report on policing costs that was released just a few weeks ago, public security, which includes police and fire services, accounts for nearly 20% of municipal operating budgets. That's the single largest budget item. Fire and police protection is the fastest-growing area of municipal spending.
By using volunteer fire departments, many communities across Canada, especially those represented on this committee, are able to provide fire emergency protection in a financially sustainable way. In fact, in many of those cases, without volunteer fire services, as Ruth pointed out, those types of services would either have to be reduced or cancelled, or rate increases to payers of property tax would be very substantial.
In addition, as has been noted by all witnesses today, volunteer emergency workers risk their own safety to protect the lives, property, and businesses of others in their community and are forgoing income of their own. Without these brave individuals, ratepayers would be forced to pay an even higher rate for the cost for protective services.
FCM is willing to work with this committee and the federal government, especially the finance department, CRA, and other stakeholders, to ensure the successful implementation of Bill —in particular, the administrative requirements.
I think the message you want to leave is that by working together, Canada's smaller communities and the Government of Canada can promote and retain front-line emergency workers in Canada's communities, and by doing that help support the sustainability of rural, remote, and northern Canada, which is certainly a prime interest of FCM as an organization and, I know, of all of Parliament. We see this as part of a larger partnership between the federal government and municipalities across Canada.
I should actually mention—and again, I mentioned it in my presentation—that the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs made a very good submission in 2007, I believe, and Brian can correct me on that, I'm sure. They spoke specifically to that.
In fact, volunteer fire departments already have very, very extensive record keeping because of legal liability issues, and human resource issues as well, because of workers' compensation claims, for instance. Unfortunately, firefighters get hurt fairly frequently, and even if they are volunteers, they are covered by the WCB or WSIB, whatever province they are in.
In terms of streamlining it, this is really an implementation issue rather than a policy or legislative issue, but I think the key would be to ensure that the record keeping is able to draw on existing data already collected for things like workers' compensation, and the data required by legal reporting requirements.
My understanding from consultations with the CAFC is that the data are already there. We just need to make sure the record keeping or the reporting is done in a way that we're drawing on existing data. It really does sound like the data are already there.
Thank you all for coming today. And thank you for volunteering your time and thanks to those volunteers you represent.
I have a number of questions. Just so you have two pieces of background information on me, I was a councillor for a municipality--Burlington, which now has 160,000 people in it--that has a composite fire force. And there are issues between the career firefighters and the volunteer firefighters. Being on the council side, I have some understanding of what some of those issues are.
The other piece you should know is that I also was involved with a children's charity that looked after physically disabled kids. We had lots of volunteers who did respite care on weekends for parents with physically disabled kids, and often the kids had other issues, such as developmental disabilities. It was a tremendous amount of work, and it didn't save any lives, to be frank with you, but it probably saved some families, some marriages, and some other things that are very important.
So the first issue I want to discuss is that I haven't made up my mind on this, to be perfectly frank with you, because I have some difficulty with our representing a certain segment or type of volunteers.
Ms. MacKenzie, you mentioned the training and everything they go through. But from your organization's point of view, are we not playing favourites here at the Government of Canada in terms of picking and choosing which volunteers are more deserving of a tax credit than others?
You used some examples on which I might agree with you. Coaching your local kids hockey team might not be as dangerous or as taxing, but there are other volunteer activities in this country that are very taxing on individuals and on families. Are we not running the danger, as a federal government, of picking and choosing one type of volunteer over another?
It's actually quite interesting. Often I sit at this table on the agriculture committee with my honourable colleague from Malpeque, whose bill this is, so it's a pleasure for me to speak about it and ask some questions. I did speak on it on February 1.
I'm going to throw out some comments and then maybe some questions and get some feedback from you folks.
I'm looking at this from the side, and it seems to me that this is really a good-news bill. There's nothing partisan here, and it just requires some political will to make it happen and to try to simplify it. I understand what Mike is saying. When you look at “other volunteers” in the definition, maybe as a government we just have to decide what our criteria are, stand by them, and accept the consequences--make that cut and decide that these are people who risk their lives often. They react to disasters.
The fact I learned listening to you, Mr. Dunderdale--that for each dollar expended, there's a $37 saving to the government and to the taxpayer--is huge. It's huge. Because these people are risking their lives and helping people, we're actually saving money.
Mr. Buda, we know that FCM has talked about the downloading of senior government services to the municipalities, that often they can't cope with the cost, and that our volunteers are picking up the slack.
I don't quite understand, as I mentioned in my speech in February, it has taken.... It was put before Parliament six years ago, and reintroduced, and we're still talking about it and waiting for another extension. I just don't understand why we don't get this done. I would like your comments on that.
I'd like to close my brief comments with some feedback I've had from my riding in British Columbia from just one person. He's Mr. Munro Pickering, who is with the Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Services. He said:
||I'm writing regarding the proposed tax incentives for volunteers in Canada. I have been a volunteer firefighter for 20-plus years and a search and rescue member and manager for 20 years. Many members spend a large sum of money on equipment they use in these endeavours
--and you mentioned, sir, that you have volunteers who use their privately owned vessels for this--
||and are on call 24/7. Also, much time is spent fundraising, whereas this time would be better spent training. Any tax deferments or incentives would be gratefully appreciated and will lead to more members to provide the services needed.
You know, it just seems logical. I can go on and on, but I won't. I don't quite understand why it's taking so long. I'd like your comments on that and on anything else that I have said.
Maybe we can just go around the table. I'll stop.
Mr. Sauvé, do you have any comments to make?
Thank you to our witnesses.
I want to share a little bit of personal experience, as did Mr. Wallace. I think we all, around this table, tend to be volunteers. I guess I have to raise the issue that this doesn't apply to everyone, so you start picking and choosing who is critical to making this country run, who is critical to protecting Canadians.
On my farm, for example, there was one year I attended, I think, six fires. I'm not a fireman; I'm not trained to be a fireman. But I have my own firefighting equipment. I got there before the fire trucks. That's part of being a neighbour.
I would average, with the different associations I belong to, somewhere between 80 and 100 days of volunteering in a year--not in life-threatening situations at all. But how do we pick who gets a tax credit for what they do? Then do we start putting a value on their contribution? Is it those who help disabled children? Is it those who help kids learn how to play hockey? There are some fundamental questions that, to me, just aren't answered here.
But I do want to get some questions answered on the cost of this. We're hearing some estimates of how many people this would or wouldn't impact.
Mr. Gingras, how closely has this been costed? Has the department looked at it? We're hearing $65 million as the estimate. Could it be higher? Could it be lower? Do we have a solid estimate of the number?
Mr. Gingras, according to your interpretation of this bill, the first deductible $1,000 or $2,000 replaces what already exists, that is a lack of income. In fact, an employer does not provide any proof that the first $1,000 was actually earned. Yet, the bill clearly states that “section 60 of the Income Tax Act is amended by... adding the following...” A $1,000 exemption is added if a taxpayer has, during that fiscal year, worked between 100 and 200 hours, and a $2,000 exemption is added if a taxpayer has worked 200 hours.
The interpretation of the Library of Parliament is in keeping with the same logic: “Bill would amend the Income Tax Act providing for emergency service volunteers to deduct $1,000...” Therefore, according to the interpretation of the library, the volunteer who has donated hours of work has the right to deduct $1,000 if he or she has served 100 hours, or $2,000 if he or she has served 200 hours.
The interpretation of the Library of Parliament seems to contradict your interpretation somewhat. To my mind, the first $1,000 is not taxable since the employer does not pay it. A person who has worked 100 hours can deduct $1,000. The total deduction could actually go as high as $3,000.
Okay. Thank you. I hope that's clear, because that obviously gets into a whole different realm of questioning.
As a former city councillor, I listened to this with a great deal of interest, because one of the dilemmas that we faced in the city of St. Catharines a number of years ago was that we had a full-time fire department and we also had a volunteer fire department. And one of the issues that the full-time department had with the volunteer department was with respect to training, with respect to the ability to perform their duties, all of the types of things that the full-time employees went to school for or trained for or were educated to or obviously had on-hand and on-site training. And there has always been this argument, or at least the presentation, certainly by some, that the act of volunteering in this circumstance was simply that; it wasn't at all to try to take the place or remove the abilities of full-time workers to do their jobs.
What happened in our municipality is that we ended up moving to a full-time system. We didn't have volunteers any more. And there were two reasons for that. The first was the constant pressure on the volunteers to prove that they were performing at the same level as the full-time firefighters were, even though they were on a volunteer basis.
The second was a more interesting proposal, and that was that certainly the full-time firefighters believed that it would serve them better to have more employees, a larger group to be able to perform their duties better. And the City of St. Catharines made the determination that they would invest into that area and ended up hiring all full-time employees versus any volunteers whatsoever.
And despite how I certainly appreciate the bill and what it stands for in terms of recognition, it seems to perhaps allow for a future where municipalities will end up doing a very similar thing that the City of St. Catharines did, and that is to not have volunteers, to move towards a full-time service. Because once you break the ice and start to pay or at least start to offer a credit, you go down a road where municipalities may not be able to stop themselves from being able to do this.
I don't know if any of you have any comments on that.