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View Philip Lawrence Profile
moved that Bill S-216, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (use of resources of a registered charity), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great joy and pleasure to rise in this House to talk about a very important piece of legislation, Bill S-216.
I do, at the outset, want to talk about the budget implementation act, as well as the budget, because it claims to want to have the spirit of Bill S-216 within the budget and the eventual budget implementation act. Unfortunately, it has fallen a bit short. It is too prescriptive by nature, but as is my nature, I want to be positive. I am going to talk about Bill S-216 and the positives it has.
Perhaps members of the government are listening and they can look to amending the BIA to encourage and enlist some of the great, positive characteristics of Bill S-216, such as a focus and responsibility on accountability, transparency and support for our charitable sectors. Instead of depending on form, as the BIA currently does, why not focus on substance, as Bill S-216 does? I am an eternal optimist, and I am hoping members of the government will listen to my speech and hear some of the positive characteristics of Bill S-216, and perhaps amend the BIA to include some of those positive characteristics.
Before I get into the substance of my speech, I want to say a big thanks. This legislation, being Bill S-216, comes from the upper House, the Senate, and it is brought by Senator Ratna Omidvar. Senator Omidvar is a tremendous asset for Canada. She is working night and day, tirelessly, trying to help the people of Canada. Bill S-216 is the latest work product of her tireless efforts. I want to give a big tip of the cap to the senator for her fabulous work in helping charities and non-profits across Canada. I thank the senator for drafting this bill and allowing me to present it.
Let us get into the legislation and the context around it. Currently, the Income Tax Act is over 3,000 pages. Anyone who has heard my speeches before knows that I do believe it is due for an entire overhaul and review. In terms of the particular legislation that we are going to talk about, the Income Tax Act mentions that charities have to do their own work. It says, “carried on by the organization itself”. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. Obviously, we want to make sure that charities are accountable and responsible for their resources, because they get benefits from the Canadian taxpayer. When people write a cheque or make a deposit for a donation to a charity, and I just dated myself there by saying “cheque”, they get a receipt and the coffers of the Government of Canada are reduced.
The language of having their own activities is a challenge because it creates operational decision-making, not in the hands of a non-profit, but in a charity. Let me explain what that means. It talks about direction and control. Let us say a charity gives money to something called a non-qualified donee. No one outside of the charitable sector probably knows what a non-qualified donee means. It means anyone the charity is giving money to other than a charity itself. What this legislation says is that if, in fact, a charity wants to give resources to a non-profit organization, it has to have direction and operational control.
Let us put that into real terms. If a large charity, such as the Canadian Red Cross, wants to give proceeds to an organization, a non-profit, perhaps helping build schools in Haiti or something fabulous like that, it is subject to an incredible amount of legislation and bureaucracy, which makes it extremely difficult for those organizations to do work. This is in contrast to what happens around the world. It is actually referred to in international development circles as “the Canadian problem”. It inhibits and limits the ability of Canadian charities to do great work and to help folks around the world.
In contrast, other jurisdictions have taken a very different approach. While we want operational control in the domestic charity and are still putting form over substance, other jurisdictions look at it in a reasonable and rational way. Of course, they want those charitable dollars to go where they are supposed to go, to help people around the world or domestically, but they are focusing on substance, not just form and bureaucracy.
In the United States, for example, foundations can give grants to foreign entities, provided those foundations maintain what they call “expenditure responsibility.” In the United Kingdom, charities may transfer funds to foreign partners, provided those funds are used exclusively for the charitable purpose. Therefore, we can have pre-grant due diligence. To put this back into the example, instead of a Canadian charity basically having to take over a non-profit or an NGO around the world, meaning it has to approve the smallest of decisions, it could require a contract up front to make sure that the non-profit is legally required to stay within the charitable purpose. Then there is a certain due diligence. It is accountable, but there is no takeover.
Right now, Canadian charities are required to educate their project partners and stand in the position of telling this to their project partners. We can imagine a Canadian charity that wants to work or partner with a non-profit or an NGO around the world saying, “We want to help your organization, but to do so, you will have to be subordinate to us.” This consumes time and resources that could otherwise go directly to the charitable project. It also invites errors and increases the compliance risk to the Canadian charity. An overseas partner communicating with a charity from the granting program could create evidence for the CRA to question it as a non-qualified donee. In other words, in layman's terms, it creates more bureaucracy and paperwork, which takes away from what the charity is starting to do and what we want those charities to do, which is to help people in Canada and indeed around the world.
What does Bill S-216 do? It creates the concept of resource accountability. Once again, it is substance over form. We want to make sure that charities are partnering with non-profits and NGOs, both at home and around the world, in a transparent and accountable way, to ensure that the end-users, the recipients, are the beneficiaries of these great actions. Right now, unfortunately, way too many of those dollars are not going to vulnerable people across the world and in Canada. They are going to lawyers, accountants and professionals who are there to try to administer this, because currently our charitable structure for allowing partnerships, both internationally and at home, is way too bureaucratic. Bill S-216 has that resource accountability, rather than putting form over substance. There has to be that due diligence, that accountability and transparency, but instead of a morass of paperwork, instead of a takeover of Canadian charities and organizations, it allows a true partnership to occur.
With respect to restraints, as we can imagine, there are specific communities where this could be even more challenging. I would point to indigenous communities. We all know about the troubled history the Canadian government has had with indigenous communities. The way the Income Tax Act works right now, if a foundation or a Canadian charity wants to work with an indigenous group or a first nation, it would have to put the indigenous group in a subordinate position. Given the history we have as a country, one can more than understand the issues that indigenous communities would have with that. This legislation would help vulnerable people and those in challenging situations, economic or otherwise, specifically indigenous peoples and members of the LGBTQ and BIPOC communities, as well as Canadian overseas charities.
There is nearly unanimous support for this legislation across the charitable sectors, and stakeholders have been very outspoken in talking to us.
I would like to give a specific example, if I could, with respect to a group and how the current state of the Income Tax Act is disadvantaging charities and non-profit organizations. This group is called MakeWay. Its shared platform provides operational support, governance and charitable expertise for change-makers so they have more time to do what they do best, which is, of course, to help people.
The Income Tax Act, the way it is currently structured, requires that MakeWay undertake only projects that are its own, as evidenced by its continued direction and control. Operationally, this means that all project teams are MakeWay Charitable Society employees or contractors; that MakeWay retains all ownership of work product; that all projects adhere to MakeWay policies and procedures; that MakeWay has to be a signatory to every legally binding document, which means that leases, contracts, funding agreements and proposals are all signed by the MakeWay shared platform director; and that MakeWay approves every press release and every social media post. To understand the legal direction and control it creates, if these non-profits want to go on Twitter to talk about something, they need to get approval from the Canadian charity. This may be worse than the Liberal Party, in terms of its control. That is a little bit of humour there.
Every single contract has to be approved. As a result, MakeWay Charitable Society holds all fiduciary, governance and human resource responsibilities, at its own liability and risk. We could understand the pressure and the barriers there. That is one significant example.
There is another great example. Tanya from Black Moms Connection came into my office, and I was so thoroughly impressed. To give a little of Black Moms Connection and Tanya's story, she saw that there was an issue, that there were some Black moms out there who were struggling to get by. She started a Facebook group that grew from 400 to 4,000 people. She recognized that in this community there was a tremendous need and vulnerability.
Tanya did not just sit around or write a letter; she got right into the action. She formed a non-profit. Since then, her online village has grown to almost 30,000. It has helped hundreds of Black families across Canada, from emergency grants to buy formula, to providing emergency support for rent and mortgages, providing COVID protection and providing financial literacy programs. She is responsible for helping literally thousands in the Black community come up through society, from clinging on to that first rung of the ladder of economic success. She is doing an absolutely tremendous job, working around the clock to help members of her community. I was so thoroughly impressed.
With the challenges in the way the Income Tax Act is currently structured, she cannot receive money, because it is overly burdensome for charities. Her funding streams are greatly restricted. This story is out there a thousand different times.
We need to have sensible legislation, like Bill S-216, which puts respect back to our charitable sectors so that we could empower them to do their great work, not limit them by needless bureaucracy. Let us put substance over form. Let us put right over wrong. Let us come together as a House and pass this legislation.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Madam Speaker, I believe all members of this House, no matter what political party they are affiliated with, identify with how important charities are and the incredible work of those who volunteer their time and others, whether executive assistants or directors. It is incredible work, not only here in Canada but around the world.
That is one of the reasons why, in the budget implementation bill, we see some action to try to improve and do more enabling. Could the member provide his thoughts, as precisely as he can, on how he believes this bill would complement or enhance what is being proposed in the budget implementation bill?
View Philip Lawrence Profile
Madam Speaker, I thank the government for its initial efforts. However, in multiple consultations with some of the leading stakeholders, their concerns are that the legislation is overly prescriptive. There are specific legislative requirements that will be extremely burdensome for organizations such as Black Moms Connection and others that simply do not have the infrastructure to respond to that. The resource accountability gives a broader term, and we can then put the rest of it in guidance, so we can have more flexibility and so we are not overwhelming small non-profits at the cost of their great work not being doing.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a very simple question.
First I would like to say that I am happy to see this bill back after a year. In addition to having had to face the pandemic in the past two years, non-profit and charitable organizations have been letting us know for decades that they need money to ensure the viability of community services. This bill is only the tip of the iceberg. These organizations exist because public services are inadequate.
Does my colleague agree that the budget planned to help the community after the pandemic should be enhanced by direct aid to our non-profit organizations?
View Philip Lawrence Profile
Madam Speaker, I would agree with the premise of the question that charities have been in a difficult situation because of COVID-19. There is certainly no doubt about it. I would also agree that we need to look at charitable law and the charitable sector in a greater context. I believe this is a great first step. One of the things the government could do that would not cost the taxpayers anything would be to enable a reduction of bureaucracy, which would allow charities to do more good work. If the question is whether charities have too few resources, then I agree with that.
View Niki Ashton Profile
Madam Speaker, I would like to hear the thoughts of my colleague on how Bill C-19 ought to be amended to better reflect what has been put forward in Bill S-216 and how important it is to make sure that good work can be done in this sector.
View Philip Lawrence Profile
Madam Speaker, I must say it is great that all the questions have been extremely respectful, and I look forward to working with all parties in the House to potentially amend the BIA. The overall theme of what I have heard from stakeholder after stakeholder from the charitable organizations is that it is far too prescriptive.
What does prescriptive mean? It means that there are two many written requirements. Often these situation require flexibility. Of course we want to make sure there is accountability and transparency, and that all parties are agreeing to helping within a validated charitable purpose, but we can do that through guidance as opposed to creating another morass of public paperwork that puts form over substance.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this particular issue. As I said in my question earlier, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever in my mind of the good work done by charities. After discussions with many of my colleagues within the Liberal caucus, and I am sure this is true of MPs on all sides belonging to all political parties, I can share endless examples of the good work and the deeds of charities not only here in Canada but also around the world.
If we were to look at it, what we would find is that Canadians on a per capita basis have to be one of the most generous groups of people in the world. I really believe that. I would like to cite a couple of examples. However, before I do that, I would like to recognize Bill S-216 and thank the senator for the fine work she has done in ensuring that it comes for debate in this chamber.
What we are debating today is in good part being discussed in one of our standing committees. The Prime Minister and the government recognized a while back that we wanted to make some modifications, believing that the charitable legislation in place for Revenue Canada for income tax is a fairly comprehensive system of taxation and the need for modifications in certain areas has been well demonstrated. During the pandemic, the Prime Minister, in particular, and other members of this chamber have talked about what we can learn from the pandemic so we can continue to build a better system. One of the things that has come out of that is the need to look at ways in which we can enable more power to our charitable organizations.
Today, Bill C-19, the budget implementation bill, happens to be in a committee, which provides opposition members and all members, through House leadership teams and their colleagues, the ability to contribute to the debate on how we can make some changes to the legislation that will better enable charities going forward. An opportunity for this has been made available for us because the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance brought forward a budget document through the budget implementation legislation. I would encourage members of all political stripes to contribute. As we have seen in the past, and as we will no doubt continue to see in the future, the government is open to changes and modifications to improve legislation. In fact, I understand some charitable organizations are having that dialogue now to see if there are ways in which we can improve it.
One of the charities I want to highlight concerns Ukraine. When Russia invaded Ukraine, the reaction around the world was fairly profound in the sense that Ukrainian solidarity, if I can put it that way, went well beyond the borders of Ukraine. In fact, Canada's population of Ukrainian heritage is estimated at over 1.3 million people. It captured the imagination of people from coast to coast to coast, even those who are not of Ukrainian heritage, in what we can do as a community here in Canada to support our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, the war heroes in Ukraine. We have organizations, such as the Ukrainian Canadian Congress or Canadian Red Cross, which have charitable tax receipts.
Canadians turn to those organizations by the thousands, and they have contributed millions of dollars. Those charitable organizations are providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine. In fact, the federal government matched funds for donations to the Red Cross. I think initially the cap was $10 million for matching donations, which was quickly used up, so we increased the cap to $30 million, and I believe it hit that also.
This demonstrates a couple of things for me, personally, as I know it does for my colleagues. One is that the fine work our charitable organizations is doing, in this case, for Ukrainian people in Ukraine and the bordering countries, where Ukrainians are fleeing for a safe haven, has absolutely been astounding. Arguably, it is second to very few others. That is one of the reasons Canadians have opened their hearts, wallets and purses, and that is done through charitable organizations.
I understand what the debate is today. What about those who want to be able to contribute? Staying on the topic of Ukraine, there is a new organization recently established in Manitoba called Manitoba Operation Blue Skies. My understanding is that it is 80 volunteers who have all come to the table in the last number of weeks, saying they want to participate and help the people who are looking to relocate and possibly come to Canada, at least for the short term and possibly even the long term.
Manitoba Operation Blue Skies does not have a charitable tax number, so it goes to the Canadian Ukrainian Institute Prosvita, an organization that has been there for many years and given a great deal of support in many different ways. Through the co-operation and indirect support of that organization, and there is a high sense of accountability, Prosvita is able to support Manitoba Operation Blue Skies in some of its initiatives. I do not think there is anyone inside this chamber who would not recognize the value of that.
The idea that there are organizations out there, and I use Ukraine as an example, but it is just one example of many, shows that there are a lot of people who want to do good work, whether here in Canada or internationally. They have demonstrated that, both financially and by providing resources.
The Canadian government does have a role to play, and we recognize that role. That is why it was so important that we incorporated the idea we are talking about today in the budget implementation bill, which will pass. With support, both from opposition members and from government members, the budget implementation bill, I believe, will pass.
We will see some changes, and we are going to see changes because members on all sides of this House recognize the true value and contributions made by the charitable organizations that are rooted here in Canada. Those who want to support those organizations want to be able to continue to play a vital, critical role, not only here in Canada, but also throughout the world.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-216, which seeks to amend the Income Tax Act.
I will begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill, which eases the fiscal framework for non-profit organizations, or NPOs. For the benefit of those listening in today, I will say that the bill relaxes certain fiscal measures for charitable organizations. Essentially, it amends the Income Tax Act to allow charities to provide their resources to a person who is not a qualified donee, provided that they take reasonable steps to ensure those resources are used exclusively for a charitable purpose.
This will enable them to enter into fairer and more effective partnerships with non-charitable organizations while maintaining accountability and transparency. Introduced a year ago, Bill S-216 is meant to resolve certain issues charities face within the current tax framework. I sincerely hope that it will be passed to help service providers in need.
Before I was elected in 2019, I worked for several years at the Corporation de développement communautaire des Hautes-Laurentides, an umbrella organization for most non-profits in the Antoine-Laurentides RCM. Many of them called themselves charities, non-profit organizations or social economy organizations, but they all had a common goal: to improve the quality of life of the less fortunate. Unfortunately, depending on their sources of income from fundraisers, donations or grants, they were concerned about the quality of their own services because of a shortage of workers. These organizations are obviously also affected by the labour shortage.
I witnessed a situation where an NPO needed a full-time employee simply to fill out applications for assistance for various programs and to report and ensure accountability, which I think is a little counterproductive when the real needs are on the intervention and response front. These organizations are constantly required to review their services. As I mentioned earlier, we need to remember that the services provided by these NPOs are offered precisely because public services are inadequate. That makes them invaluable.
As long as poverty exists, as long as governments fail to invest enough in our more vulnerable citizens, and as long as these invaluable responders are committed to helping the most vulnerable under conditions that are far from competitive, we will need to help them.
The management of the crisis made these organizations even more vulnerable. The demand for additional services increased during the pandemic, and NPOs had a very difficult time handling the situation. Their own volunteers were impacted by the lockdowns. I am thinking in particular of people aged 70 and over who had to isolate rather than provide community services. More than 73% of organizations saw their number of volunteers drop. I was there with them every week, at crisis cell meetings on Zoom. I am very grateful for Zoom, which enabled me to watch them perform miracles with so few resources. I would like to thank them. They played a key role in raising awareness about the harmful effects of the measures put in place for certain groups people and in pointing out the blind spots in the government’s response to the crisis.
The role of these organizations, which was already essential, become even more important during the pandemic. According to the Réseau québécois de l’action communautaire autonome, or RQ-ACA, three-quarters of all community organizations in Quebec witnessed a significant increase in the need for psychological support and assistance, basic needs such as food and housing, and the need for referral to other resources.
It is difficult for me to hear from my former colleagues in the Quebec network of community development corporations that no fewer than 3,000 organizations are facing this challenge. Workers in the sector are on the verge of burnout. A vast majority of these organizations are beset by fatigue and burnout, like all of us, with the few resources they have. Three-quarters of these organizations are still having trouble retaining staff right now, while four out of five have difficulty filling vacant positions. The needs have not changed, people are still obviously vulnerable.
We can agree that non-profit organizations, or NPOs, are an extremely important component of our social safety net. Governments must support them and facilitate their work, while ensuring they are accountable. That is what I was saying earlier. I extend my sincerest gratitude to these organizations, in particular those in the riding of Laurentides—Labelle. I thank them for their kindness, their generosity and their love.
I would like to point out that, by the end of 2020, barely half of these organizations had been able to obtain public financial assistance. While several of them benefited from programs, this bill will help ease the administrative burden caused by the programs’ complexity, as I alluded to earlier.
I must mention that, fortunately, certain programs were implemented, such as the Canada emergency wage subsidy. There are also sources of funding such as emergency federal support for organizations working with the homeless and the emergency community support fund available through the United Way, the Red Cross and community foundations.
However, according to survey data from the Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques, by late 2020, half of these organizations had not received any of the subsidies intended to support the economy during the first wave.
Having seen and experienced the challenges of poverty from the inside, before I became a member of Parliament, I can say that our organizations have difficulty getting funding because their mission requires their workers to fill out forms and ensure accountability. All of the motions introduced in the House to ease, better define or facilitate mutual financial assistance among organizations will be gratefully welcomed by us.
Lastly, I would like to take a moment to explain to people what Bill S-216 is. It seeks to modify the definitions of “charitable activities” and to remove the requirement that activities must be related to the charitable organization’s purpose, allowing an organization to transfer funds to other organizations not recognized as charities. This is a much more flexible framework, and we are pleased with it. In order to ensure accountability, the bill requires that a charitable organization show reasonable diligence with respect to the organizations it plans to collaborate with.
In short, the Bloc Québécois believes that this modernization of the current framework will facilitate the work of NPOs, which can then provide their services more efficiently. Ultimately, Bill S-216 could make it possible to support more people in need.
View Niki Ashton Profile
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House to speak to Bill S-216, an important bill supporting the good work in the charitable sector.
I will begin by expressing what we have seen over the last few years, particularly during this pandemic, and how important the work of so many has been, including the many who have gone above and beyond in the charitable sector in our communities to support people in this very difficult time. We saw during this pandemic that many were forced to turn to food banks and soup kitchens and needed help during this crisis. We know that thanks to the volunteering and contributions of many, Canadian charities across various sectors were able to step up.
I recognize the important work that has been done in northern Manitoba and across the country during this very difficult time. Many charities in our communities share values, such as the importance of community, justice and partnership, and the sense of solidarity that is critical to us moving forward during times of crisis.
I also want to talk about how the government, especially over the last two or more decades, has turned to charities to take over the work that government should be doing. The government should be foremost responsible for the social well-being of all in our country. It is clear that government must be doing its part to ensure the collective good, rather than overly relying on charities to do its work. The reality is that inequality in Canada has increased over the last number of years in significant ways. Instead of the government stepping in to address that shocking inequality and the rise in inequality, it has often turned to philanthropy and the charitable sector to try to fill in the gaps, and that is not okay.
The charitable sector cannot and should not replace the government's social mission. It should have effective tools to be able to accomplish its work. The charitable sector should not be seen as the solution to government programs, particularly government programs targeted at closing the inequality gap in our country. If social justice were fully realized through effective government policies, particularly at the national level, we would not need to rely on charities to do the critical work of feeding people, clothing people and supporting people who are on the margins. Charity is relied on by government and is not a substitute for social justice policy.
As Paul Taylor, a great activist in Toronto fighting back against food insecurity, has said, “The most effective remedy for food insecurity is also the simplest: provide people with income to purchase food”. This shows clearly that the federal government is not doing enough for people. Food banks, for example, are helping so many, not because food is unavailable in many communities, but because poverty is so high in so many places that people cannot afford to get the food they need. We must recognize that food is a right, not a privilege, and beyond food security, social well-being is also a right, not a privilege.
Because of inadequate social assistance rates provided by governments and because our social safety net has been cut and privatized, many more people in Canada in recent decades have been pushed into poverty, forced to choose between dangerous housing conditions and homelessness and between paying basic bills and the groceries they need. As we have seen during the pandemic and now with the rise in inflation and the increased cost of living, the reality is that people are suffering and families are crying out for help.
While charities help and do important work, we cannot rely on them to replace our collective responsibility in government. It is the federal government that should be stepping in to eradicate poverty in our country and close the growing inequality gap here in Canada.
The solution is clear: Give more to those who have less. I urge the government to take responsibility for helping those in greatest need and to help the most vulnerable with direct support. We saw that take place during the pandemic. I am proud of the work that we did in the NDP to push the government to invest in CERB and to expand supports to students, to seniors and to people living with disabilities. Unfortunately, those supports were only temporary. The reality is that Canadians are suffering and need direct income support now.
I want to acknowledge the important work of my colleague, the member for Winnipeg Centre, who has pushed for a guaranteed livable income, and the support of many in this regard. I also want to acknowledge the important work of many in pushing for tax fairness and recognizing that the richest among us in our country are not paying their fair share. The rich and corporations ought to be paying their fair share so that money can be reinvested in the social programs that are necessary to close the growing inequality gap in our country.
Let us turn to the charitable sector as well. It has been clear, in consultations undertaken by the government and the House of Commons, that charities are subjected to outdated, restrictive and onerous rules. Their funds come from donations that are tax-deductible. However, as the rules are now, charities can spend their charitable dollars only on activities that they undertake themselves. In short, a charity must maintain a “direction and control” role in the activities carried out on its behalf and in the use of its resources by the intermediary.
These restrictions were implemented during the 1950s to ensure that these tax deductions were not diverted to other means than the charitable ones, but it is necessary to recognize that the “own activities” requirement is inefficient and unrealistic. Canadian charities must expend significant time and money to provide their direction and control requirements when they deal with what are known as non-qualified donees.
As a result, charities do not have flexibility. They have limited resources to fulfill their missions, and they are restricted in entering partnerships with other non-profits as a result. As a consequence, charities cannot fully focus on the essential mission that they have defined for themselves.
Bill S-216 addresses these shortcomings. It is a step forward in reforming the charitable sector and it should significantly improve the legislative framework for public and social well-being. It would give charities the flexibility they need on how they can enter into partnership to accomplish their charitable purpose.
Bill S-216 would eliminate the “direction and control” requirement, which would allow charities to transfer their resources to non-qualified donees as long as required measures are taken to ensure that these resources will be used only to fulfill a charitable purpose. This includes the collection of information on the identity, experience and activities of third party recipients before providing resources.
We believe that this bill can address the challenges that the charitable sector is facing. I want to acknowledge those who have come forward to support this proactive solution.
Let us be clear: The federal government has failed to meet charitable organizations' needs with what has been proposed in Bill C-19. We believe that Bill S-216 is a step in the right direction. Let us also be clear that the government's work must remain primary, and we must catch up on the gaps we have created that are pushing so many Canadians through the cracks. It is up to the government to act to address inequality and end poverty in our country.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to be able to speak in support of Bill S-216, a bill that would do away with the direction and control requirements currently in Canadian charities law.
As I speak to this bill, I would like to recognize the excellent work of the sponsor in this place, the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South, and also to recognize the great work of Senator Omidvar, who has put this bill forward in the other place and championed it multiple times. I was very pleased to see at the beginning of this Parliament how the Senate worked very quickly to get a number of private members' bills that had already passed in the last Parliament quickly into this House, so that we could move them forward. I was very pleased to see the work of Senator Omidvar and the whole Senate, as well as my colleague in this place, on this important issue.
Direction and control requirements: What are we talking about? Canadians, I think, are familiar with the concept of charitable status, the fact that organizations that have been identified and qualified as charities have certain privileges in terms of being able to issue tax receipts. We broadly recognize that it is in the public interest to provide charitable status to organizations that are doing charitable work to try to support the most vulnerable, to try to support international development and to provide various kinds of services to individuals.
I see great value in charitable work, not only because of the benefits that are provided to communities through the provision of that charitable service but also through the way in which charitable organizations draw individuals into the provision of those services directly, that they create a bond within communities between those who are working to provide services and those who are benefiting from the services that are provided.
The government has to have rules around who qualifies for charitable status and who does not. That much is fairly obvious, but the government should seek to make these rules as reasonable and accessible as possible, and to minimize red tape in the application of these rules. I was very proud of the fact that, while in government, the Conservatives had a strategy around reducing red tape in the private sector. We recognized that for private business, red tape was a major impediment, and we worked to measure and reduce the overall level of red tape.
Canada needs an intentional red tape reduction strategy for not-for-profit organizations as well. We need to recognize that not-for-profit organizations that are partnering with the government, trying to access government funding, provide services or simply benefit from charitable status, often have similar concerns about the level of red tape they face and how it limits their ability to do good work, helping to strengthen and fortify our communities.
Direction and control is one example of the kind of onerous red tape that charitable organizations have to deal with. I know the member who is putting forward this bill came to it as the shadow minister for revenue for our party in the last Parliament. My point in accessing this was as the shadow minister for international development. Direction and control, in particular, is a major concern for international development organizations.
How does direction and control work? It is simply the requirement that charitable organizations have direction and control over charitable activities, that they cannot dispense money to other organizations that are not charitable organizations if the activity that is under that provision is not fully under the direction and control of that organization. It creates administrative challenges when different organizations are trying to partner together to do good work that is clearly aligned with the charitable purpose of the organization that is doing the work, because it requires the charitable organization to be fully directing and controlling that activity. That creates administrative challenges. In particular, though, it is an issue in international development or when charitable organizations are trying to work with vulnerable communities.
The best practices in international development are really focused on empowerment. It is not about having donor countries controlling the activity that is happening in another country. Rather, it is about that donor coming alongside, partnering with but seeking to support, empower and give control to the organization that is on the ground, the people who are responsible for their own development. Too often, the discourse around international development has been about the external saviour coming in and providing the solutions, when, in reality, we should be thinking in terms of people in developing countries, those who are in the act of trying to strengthen their position economically and in other ways. They are the heroes of the story. Those who are coming alongside to help and support are merely providing an assist, a supporting function, for the central role held by the people who are involved in the struggle to pursue their own development.
When we have policies like direction and control, which say the control has to be in the hands of a Canadian charitable organization, this perpetuates a kind of colonial structure around development, whereby the control cannot be with people on the ground; the control is with the external organization providing assistance. A problem in international development is something that I have heard repeatedly from Canadian international development sectors, who say they want to see us address the issue of direction and control.
However, it is not just a problem with international development. We can think of this as being a particular problem with charitable organizations that are partnering with minority communities, indigenous communities and others. The requirement for direction and control is also colonial in that context, because it requires that the charitable organization be directing and controlling in some sense the work of organizations that may be coming from communities themselves. Unless those communities have an actual organization that has charitable status, their ability to take control of the process is limited. There is an administrative problem, but in particular, in this sense, there is a problem with the colonial message that is sent through the structures in place in terms of direction and control.
We have been working on this issue for a number of years. I have asked questions on it in the House. I have raised the issue, and many other members have done the same. One of the points of frustration is that we talk about the importance of charities, but there does not seem to be a home in government for charities. We do not have a minister responsible for charities, so when these questions come up there is sometimes a bit of back and forth. There is the engagement of the international development, revenue and finance departments, but we do not have a real hub in government for charitable activities.
That is an issue that needs to be addressed as well. To have a broader strategy around reducing red tape for charitable organizations, we need a structure within government that is a hub for policy and strategy around promoting and empowering charitable organizations and addressing the challenges they face. Notwithstanding those issues, we were very pleased to see that the government at least took a step in the last budget, which actually mentioned Bill S-216 and acknowledged the problem with direction and control. The foreign affairs committee in the last Parliament unanimously endorsed a direct recommendation asking the government to do away with the direction and control requirements and replace them with a new accountability structure. The foreign affairs committee specifically used the word “colonial” to describe the existing requirements.
Finally, for the first time in this budget, we have acknowledgement by the government that yes, we do have a problem with direction and control, and it has to be remedied. The budget said that the remedy the government would put forward would be in the spirit of Bill S-216, but there continues to be concern about that language, the spirit of S-216 instead of the text of S-216. Effectively, the text of S-216, in terms of replacing direction and control with an alternative accountability framework, was built up through extensive engagement and consultation with the charitable sector. It involves a strong structure of accountability whereby charities are accountable for the activities they fund but do not have to provide that direction and control.
There are continuing concerns among many in the charitable sector about the approach being taken by the government. They say the government has acknowledged the problem, but they ask whether it has actually brought forward the solution we need to see and whether it is prepared to solve the problem. To do so could and should have involved the full adoption of the text of Bill S-216 into the budget implementation act. We did not see that, so there continue to be concerns about whether the new framework will introduce a substantial level of red tape, so that we are replacing one flawed framework with another flawed framework.
The debate on Bill S-216 will continue and, in the absence of complete action by the government, the bill can and should go forward. I am hopeful that the government will take further steps from the budget, recognize that the charitable sector needs to be continuously consulted throughout this process, recognize that there is more work to do to ensure that not just the spirit but the letter and the fullest of the ideas that are present in S-216 are reflected in government policy going forward in order to empower charitable organizations, and address these problems of residual colonialism in our charitable laws.
View Carol Hughes Profile
The time provided for the consideration of Private Members’ Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.
View Jean-Denis Garon Profile
View Jean-Denis Garon Profile
2022-05-16 12:02
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased today to share my time with my hon. colleague from Longueuil—Saint‑Hubert.
When I was asked to come to the House today to talk about Quebec's political weight, I wondered if I would be here for 10 minutes, because it is so simple; we take Quebec's weight and we maintain it. On reflection, though, I thought that if it had not been understood by now, I might have more to say than I thought in the end.
I thought I would use a bit of an educational approach. Let us go back in time to 2006. That year, the Harper government recognized Quebec as a nation in the House. After that, however, not much happened until 2021, except for the decrease in health transfers.
Last June, the House passed a motion that gave Quebec the right to amend its constitution to enshrine in it that Quebec is a nation and that its only official language is French. This meant that the Quebec nation, as well as its history and specificity, were once again recognized.
However, recognizing a nation means recognizing that it has the right to express itself in the House of Commons. It means walking the talk. The House cannot recognize a nation the way it recognizes that it is a nice day outside, that it is a beautiful Monday and that it is humid. When the House recognizes a nation, it has to act accordingly.
Now the government has introduced Bill C-14. At first, I thought that there was hope and that this bill seemed to be a step in the right direction. Still, it is a bill seeking to protect Quebec that was introduced by the Liberals and that may be supported by the NDP, so based on my experience, I had some doubts.
I opened Bill C‑14, and I read that it would guarantee Quebec a certain number of seats, specifically 78, compared to the 77 seats provided for in the last electoral boundary readjustment, which reduced the number of seats for Quebec.
I would like to mention that, without the repeated interventions of the Bloc Québécois, we would not be debating this in the House today. The Liberal government would not have woken up one morning and decided that it was going to protect Quebec's weight. It took the Bloc Québécois to convince it to take a step in that direction.
The problem with Bill C‑14 is that it states an intention, but does nothing to accomplish it. It does not meet its own objective.
Let us continue the lesson. March 2 was a Bloc opposition day. The government knows we use these days wisely. That day, by a vote of 261 to 66, which is decidedly not a close result, since almost everyone voted in favour, apart from a certain pocket of resistance, the House adopted a motion saying the following:
That, in the opinion of the House:
(a) any scenario for redrawing the federal electoral map that would result in Quebec losing one or more electoral districts or that would reduce Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons must be rejected;
I want to point out that number of seats and political weight are not the same thing. The motion also states that the formula for apportioning seats in the House must be amended in accordance with the spirit of the motion, which was adopted by the vast majority of duly elected members.
However, we have before us a bill that does not achieve this goal. The bill does not protect Quebec's political weight because it protects the number of seats, not the proportion of seats reserved for Quebec.
I figured that either the government was acting in bad faith or it did not understand what the word “proportion” meant. My colleague from Beauport—Limoilou used to be an elementary school teacher, so I called her to ask what grade kids start learning fractions and division. She told me that it was usually in grade 3, but if the members of Parliament went to a good school, they might have learned about fractions in grade 2. I do not know whether the government is acting in bad faith or whether it does not understand.
I began listening to the Minister of Finance, thinking she must understand, because she has talked about the debt-to-GDP ratio, saying that she does not want to reduce debt, but rather the debt-to-GDP ratio. She understands that there are two components to a ratio. The Minister of Finance understands that. The same applies to per capita GDP: The ratio of per capita wealth can differ based on wealth and the number of people.
It is the same when the NDP talks about fuel-efficient vehicles. What they care about is how much fuel a vehicle uses to travel 100 kilometres, which provides its fuel efficiency. The NDP understands that concept when it comes to winning votes in their riding and for their base, but not when it comes to the issue of Quebec's weight.
When they are talking about hourly wages, the NDP does not tell people to earn $5 an hour and work 70 hours a week. They say that what is important is the wages that a person earns for each hour worked. The NDP understands ratios, logic, elementary school concepts. With this bill, however, all of a sudden, the NDP members have forgotten what they learned in elementary school. They say that Quebec's political weight is not calculated as a given number of seats divided by a total number of seats, but simply as the numerator, the number of seats. I have trouble understanding that.
I see the hon. member for Winnipeg North. The Liberals know how much I appreciate them and their intelligence. Since I cannot believe that they do not understand, I figure they may just be doing half a job. I will give them an even more concrete example.
The number of seats for Quebec rose from 65 in 1867 to 73 in 1947, to 75 in 1976, to 78 in 2015. The number of seats increased, which is a good thing. During that time, however, the size of the House of Commons also increased, and the percentage of seats belonging to Quebec dropped from 36% to 28.6% to 26.6% to 24.9% to 23.1%.
My colleagues can surely see that the number of seats is irrelevant if the size of the House of Commons is increasing. This shows that the bill does not achieve its goal and that it does not live up to its title.
There are special clauses that provide some protection for the weight of the provinces. I have here the Canada Elections Act, and I see that New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have a senatorial clause. Nova Scotia also has a grandfather clause, as does Manitoba. Even Newfoundland and Labrador has a grandfather clause, after deciding very late in the game to become a member of the federation, and after three referendums that yielded three different answers to the question.
It is therefore not unheard of for the government to protect the political weight of a nation. Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon have constitutional protection. We are not reinventing the wheel.
This is the government's idea of protecting Quebec. The same thing always happens, and the Liberal members say nothing. Maybe they are too busy protesting Bill 96 to have time to think about this bill.
The federal government's idea of protecting Quebec is to introduce a law on bilingualism that gives equal weight to English and French in Quebec. We know that when given the option, companies choose English. It is the same thing with Roxham Road. Quebec is told no. It is the same thing for health transfers. The federal government is unreliable. We cannot depend on it.
Our seniors needed money before the election. They got a $500 cheque before the election. However, when it comes time to protect our seniors after the election, what do they get? They get zero, zip, nada, just a pretty graph in the budget that shows that they are not doing so bad. They are drowning in inflation, but all the government will say is that it hopes they know how to swim. The Liberals are unreliable when it comes time to protect Quebec in any way whatsoever.
It is the same story with the Synergie Mirabel seniors' home project in my riding. Sixty people with diminishing abilities are waiting for the Minister of Transport to give them the right to housing. We are still awaiting an answer. The Liberals are still mucking about.
When it comes time to protect Quebec, the federal government is always unreliable. The Liberals' and the federal government's efforts to protect Quebec make me think of a saying: Put a fox in charge of the henhouse and you'll have chicken for dinner every time.
Well, we will not allow ourselves to end up on the dinner table. Quebec's history in the federation is a history of declining political power. That is enshrined in this bill, which is incomplete and does not do what it is supposed to. Quebec needs 25% of the seats in the House, but that is only a temporary measure.
What we ultimately want is for Quebec, as a nation, to have the right to all the tools that a nation should have. Once Quebec is independent, it will have 100% of the seats and will not be reduced to crossing the border to beg Ottawa for scraps.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Madam Speaker, listening the member reminded me of a discussion that was held in the Prairies a number of years ago when I had a western separatist tell me that western Canada should leave the rest of Canada.
I believe we have a healthy federation with people who understand the true value of a united Canada in all regions of our country. The legislation we have before us today is there to protect the interests of the people of Quebec, just as other changes have taken place for the other provinces the member made reference to in his comments.
At times there is a need for constitutional changes, as we have seen in the past with other changes, whether they were in the territories, P.E.I. or Nova Scotia, and adjustments have been made to ensure regional interests. That is, in fact, what is happening today. We are seeing a minimum number of seats established for the province of Quebec, and that is a good thing.
View Jean-Denis Garon Profile
View Jean-Denis Garon Profile
2022-05-16 12:13
Madam Speaker, what a Monday. Only the member for Winnipeg North could tell us that the federation is healthy and he hangs out with separatists. I find that hilarious.
He voted to recognize the nation. It is not my fault that the Quebec nation belongs to Quebec and that the Canadian nation decided to have nine provinces. There are other places where nations are recognized, such as the UN General Assembly, where each one has a seat, but I can understand him not liking that. That may be why Canada has not been able to get a seat on the UN Security Council.
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