He said: Mr. Speaker, I would like members to stay in the chamber and enjoy the wonderful speeches I am sure they are going to hear this evening on this topic of Bill S-201, the national philanthropy day act. I am very happy to be speaking to this bill. I hope that during the speeches from members of other parties, they might indicate whether they would be agreeable to a motion for unanimous consent to have the bill passed at third reading today. I will not move that at the moment.
I am very proud to sponsor this bill in the House of Commons and to offer my congratulations to Senator Mercer, who initiated this piece of legislation. He has committed a good portion of his life to various charitable efforts. The good senator has touched a lot of lives over the years in Toronto, Halifax and Mount Uniacke, where he now resides. He has lived in all those places over the years.
I also owe a debt of gratitude to colleagues from the government benches and the opposition benches of the NDP for their generous support of the bill and what it is trying to accomplish.
The all-party support we have seen for Bill S-201 shows the commitment of all sides of the House for the establishment of National Philanthropy Day.
We should all give our thanks to the countless volunteers who make Canada the most caring country in the world.
I am very pleased that the bill was reported back to the House by committee without amendments. I am pleased to hear about the strong level of support it received at committee and about the stories others in this place have shared, here and in committee. They are members who share a commitment to helping others through a wide range of fundraising efforts. I know that many members are involved in charitable efforts across the country.
As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage said, this bill is about more than Canadians helping Canadians, although it is certainly about that. It also recognizes that we step up when help is needed around the globe. Just look, for example, at the recent disaster relief efforts in Haiti, Japan, and East Africa. I am sure that there are Canadians involved along the eastern seaboard of the United States where they have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. We hope the devastation from that storm is finished or is about to be finished.
This act would designate the 15th day of November each year as National Philanthropy Day.
Let me recap the purpose of the bill. First of all, it would increase public awareness of National Philanthropy Day as a time to thank those who give throughout the year. Second, it would focus public attention on the major accomplishments made possible through philanthropic contributions. Third, it would honour key local individuals and corporations for their philanthropic endeavours. Fourth, it would recognize local fundraisers and volunteers, which is really important, and thank them for their time, their talent and their dedication, which is so critical in our society.
This type of nationally recognized day would encourage schools, community groups and individuals to become more aware of the impact of philanthropy and to get involved themselves as volunteers or donors.
Some organizations are having a tough time these days. Some of their volunteers are getting a bit older and have decided that they have given their time and are going to do something else now or take a break from their volunteering. Some organizations are having a difficult time getting new volunteers.
It is really important that we find ways to encourage Canadians to give the time they have. Most Canadians are very busy. They have busy lives, often with young families. They are running them off to soccer and hockey and so on. We need to encourage people to take part in volunteering activities.
This day would also be used to recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions philanthropy has made to our lives, to our communities, and of course, to our country.
My colleague from Sudbury knows about this, as the former executive director of the United Way in Sudbury. He was right when he said earlier in debate on the bill that he believes that National Philanthropy Day will heighten public awareness of the importance of charitable giving and volunteerism. It will also move us towards having nearly 100% of Canadians getting involved and getting engaged in charitable activities on a regular basis. Those are worthwhile goals he alluded to.
The first National Philanthropy Day was held in 1986 to celebrate the endless daily contributions individuals and organizations across the country and across the world make to countless causes and missions.
This year, more than 100 National Philanthropy Day events and activities are taking place across North America. Over 50,000 people are taking part.
Sixteen Canadian events honour philanthropists and volunteers in most major Canadian cities.
When Senator Mercer testified at the heritage committee of the House, on October 16, he pointed out that recent research revealed that the troubles we have with the economy have negatively impacted charitable giving. In difficult times, it becomes tougher.
A lot of Canadians have a history of digging a little deeper in tough times. It is just that fewer Canadians have had the ability, perhaps, to dig as deep during an economic slowdown.
As Senator Mercer said:
The number of Canadians giving to charities has stagnated, and donation levels are not rising in response to the increase in the need for the services that charities provide.
That is why he believes it is so important to recognize people who so generously give of their time, their energy and their resources.
Canadian giving has dropped for the last three years, according to Statistics Canada. The charitable sector, however, has over $100 billion in annual revenue. It is made up of more than 161,000 organizations in Canada. The numbers involved here are incredible. There are over a million paid staff and over six million volunteers. That is a huge chunk of this country's population. It is a remarkable number.
Both at home and around the globe, Canadians are recognized for their generosity and compassion. As members of Parliament, we all continue to be inspired by the dedication of volunteers who give freely of their time to improve the lives of others.
Through Senator Mercer's persistence, dedication and hard work, the Senate has passed the bill on several occasions in the past. However, it has always been sidetracked for one reason or another, whether it was elections or what have you. I hope that this time it will be passed by my colleagues in this House and given royal assent by our Governor General.
Every one of us is a beneficiary of Canada's generous spirit of volunteerism. I think of the ways I benefited as a young person, as a child, from hockey coaches, soccer coaches and teachers who went out of their way to give extra time to help out. I probably needed lots of extra time.
We can all think of ways we have benefited over the years. Today I benefit from the fact that my son has people in scouts. He is in Venturers now. Leaders in scouting and Venturers make contributions to my family with their great work.
The philanthropy I am speaking of is exemplified by organizations such as Beacon House, a food bank that serves the Bedford-Sackville area, part of which is in my riding, and Phoenix House, in Halifax.
My colleagues across the way are anxious to have the question asked, I think. I am getting a good sign about possible unanimous consent.
Large organizations such as Feed Nova Scotia, which collects and distributes food to over 150 food banks and meal programs, thrive under the caring spirit of Nova Scotians.
Nationwide, Canadians give more than two billion hours of their time a year to help others. Two-thirds of all Canadians donate to charitable organizations each year.
As members of Parliament, we know about the thousands of groups that do tremendous work in our towns, our villages and our cities. I know that all colleagues here are most generous with support for these groups. They have shown their support for Bill S-201.
It is in recognition of these immeasurable contributions that we look to recognize National Philanthropy Day every year, and with their support, we are about to see that happen.