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Results: 1 - 15 of 33
View Albina Guarnieri Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, after 22 years, thank you for allowing me to take but a few moments to thank all members of this House, past and present, who have stood tall in their efforts to help a short person.
When I arrived here in 1988, I found an inspiring place where partisan rancour might boil in this chamber but the collegial spirit filled the halls.
I recall asking rather pointed questions of a minister, Perrin Beatty, then walking back to our offices in the West Block together talking about the issues of the day, family and life. It was rather like the old Warner Bros. cartoons with the wolf and the sheepdog, but I am not sure which of us was the sheepdog.
However, I have tried to maintain that view of this place ever since, and found many friends among the many parties.
I think most every one of us comes here with the willingness to raise the potential of Parliament to change the lives of people. I look back on my years here and just about every fond memory comes from the many occasions when members from all parties banded together to support a cause or a bill. Sound and fury often drowns the more tender tones of consensus that I have been privileged to experience over the years.
I remember being in Holland and witnessing the emotional connection that all four party leaders had for our veterans and their determination to make a difference in their lives.
As I take my leave, I feel the need to thank three Prime Ministers: Paul Martin for a huge leap of faith in allowing me to join his cabinet; Jean Chrétien for giving me the experience of the 1992 constitutional committee and for not throwing me out of the party for my sometimes contrary voting record; and finally, our current Prime Minister for giving the families of murder victims a measure of justice and peace through consecutive sentencing.
From now on I would thank all hon. members in advance for looking straight into the camera so that I can watch with a keen eye, miss everyone with a heavy heart and be thankful again for all the fond memories of my decades in this House.
View Albina Guarnieri Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-48. I commend the minister and the government for advancing a cause that I know has as much support among victims and Canadians as any bill we will address this session.
For decades, victims of crime have come to this House seeking the justice the Criminal Code has denied them. Sharon and Gary Rosenfeldt, Debbie Mahaffy, Theresa McCuaig, and Don Edwards have all been denied too long in their simple struggle for a measure of proportionality in sentencing. They came here bearing the memory of personal tragedy of the most brutal order and bearing witness to a justice system that was no less brutal regarding their right to justice.
The bill today could rightly be called a tribute to the courage and dedication of victims who rose above their personal suffering and sought to prevent others from suffering the same injustice. Regrettably, this bill does not come in time for Gary Rosenfeldt and other family members of victims who have died seeing neither justice for their children nor any change in the justice system that failed them.
Today, the Minister of Justice has renewed their hope.
Volume discounts for rapists and murderers is the law in Canada today. It is called concurrent sentencing. It cheapens life. The life of the second, the third, or the eleventh victim does not count in the sentencing equation. The lowest price is the law every day in our courts.
A family must still watch as courts hand down a conviction for the murder of their child, spouse, or parent, and then reel in the reality that not a single day will be served for that crime. Judges cannot be blamed as they have no latitude to impose consecutive sentences for serial killers. When a multiple murderer walks into court, it is justice that is handcuffed.
Fourteen years ago, I introduced a bill calling for an end to this bulk rate for murder. For the next four years, the issue was debated widely in the House, the Senate, and across the country. The effort drew the support of major victims groups, police associations, and eminent lawyers like Scott Newark and Gerry Chipeur. Members from all parties offered support, even attending Senate committee hearings. Among them were Chuck Cadman, John Reynolds and the current ministers of National Defence and Transport.
We learned in that journey that Parliament had what would be called “a democratic deficit”. We learned that average Canadians were a decade ahead of Parliament in their thinking. We learned that too many predators, released because of concurrent sentencing, had found new victims and spawned even more tragedy.
A decade ago in North Bay, Gregory Crick was found guilty of two murders. Mr. Crick had murdered Louis Gauthier back in April, 1996. A witness to that murder went to the police. Gregory Crick proceeded to murder that witness in retaliation. However, when he was finally sentenced, not one day could be added to Mr. Crick's parole ineligibility for the murder of that witness.
In the summer of 1999, there was one particular case where the Crown actually tried to delay sentencing in the hope that the changes I was pursuing in Parliament might be rapidly passed. It was the case of Adrian Kinkead, who was tried and convicted of the brutal murders of Marsha and Tammy Ottey in Scarborough, a process that took three and a half years. Mr. Kinkead was given a mandatory life sentence with no parole for 25 years. However, Mr. Kinkead was already under a life sentence with the same parole ineligibility after being convicted of a completely unrelated murder.
The crown prosecutor in the case, Robert Clark, asked the judged to delay sentencing until a bill similar to the one before you today could be passed.
His stated intent was to permit the judge to extend the period of parole ineligibility to reflect these additional murders. That bill did pass the House of Commons and had the committed support of most of the Senate, but it was stalled in committee. Sixteen months passed without a final vote and an election was called.
There has been a decade of outrage since then. A year ago, on the eve of the first scheduled debate on the government's current bill, the murders of Julie Crocker and Paula Menendez have led to a first degree murder conviction. Then as now, the families would soon realize that only one murder could count in the sentence, that the murder of one of these women would not yield a single day in jail.
This injustice will continue every day that the bill is stalled in this place. Just weeks ago, Russell Williams was able to thank the inertia of Parliament for a future parole hearing. Families of victims were put through a graphic and unnecessary court spectacle so that the Crown and the police could put evidence on the record that could be seen by a parole board 25 years in the future. Those families will have to hope their health permits them to appear decades from now, time and time again, to object and argue against the release of Russell Williams. His case is not unique.
There are no special circumstances that make him different from other multiple murderers. He was a colonel and there are pictures and videos of his crimes that made his situation infamous. But make no mistake: just about every victim of a multiple murderer went through the same horror. It is only that the obscurity of their victimizer is more likely to allow him to be freed.
The statistical fact, as early as 1999, was that multiple murderers are released into the community, on average, just six years after they are eligible for parole, some within a year of their eligibility. So much for the exhausted notion that life is life and that multiple murderers never get out of jail. Most do.
Another absurd crutch is the myth that somehow multiple murderers are rehabilitated in jail, as if they have an addiction that can be easily treated.
Wendy Carroll, a real estate woman, survived having her throat slashed and being left for dead by two paroled multiple murderers just 10 minutes away from my own home. They had both been convicted of two murders. Both were on life sentences. And both were freed in Mississauga and tried to kill again.
Life only means life for the victims of these offenders. Some in the House may still spout the bizarre and unfounded contention that Canadians somehow approve of concurrent sentencing, that they view it as a way to be different from the United States, as if letting multiple murderers back on the street were an act of patriotism or an endorsement of Canadian culture.
In fact, 90% of Canadians polled by Pollara supported mandatory consecutive sentencing for multiple murderers, with none of the judicial discretion currently contained in the bill. So we remain with a system supported by less than 10% of Canadians.
Then there are the skewed parole statistics. Through some digging years ago, I discovered that Francis Roy was in those statistics as a successful parolee. He had murdered Alison Parrott while on parole after receiving a discounted concurrent sentence for raping two girls. But since he was not returned to custody until after his parole expired, he was just another statistical success story and an example of low levels of repeat offenders.
While criminal lawyers and a few senators still support concurrent sentencing, even our most notorious serial killers mock it. I had occasion to witness the obscene spectacle of Clifford Olson's section 745 hearing. It was a 1997 summer day in B.C., not far from where Olson had victimized 11 children. There Olson read out a letter from his lawyer advising him to admit to all his murders at once. This way, the lawyer indicated, Olson could take full advantage of concurrent sentencing. Olson mocked the court, saying, “They can't do nothing. They can only give me a concurrent sentence”.
To this day, Olson is right. The obstruction of Bill C-25 in the Senate in 2000 has allowed a decade of multiple murderers to similarly mock their victims and mock justice.
I encourage members to look past the usual opposition from the predator protection industry and pass this legislation without delay or obstruction. Perhaps then we can finally put an end to volume discounts that deny justice to victims, deny peace to their families and deny safety and security to Canadians.
View Albina Guarnieri Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, if the bill is about putting proportionality in sentencing when it comes to murder and the best support for victims is to get them justice and closure, endless parole hearings punish the families and releasing their offenders puts families at risk.
I am imploring all members in the House to put closure to this issue by advancing this issue speedily in committee.
View Albina Guarnieri Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I highlighted in my speech a number of cases where having proportionality in sentencing would have provided some measure of justice for those victims.
I do not understand my hon. colleague from the Bloc, and I implore him to look at those cases I cited as examples. If we had had proportionality in sentencing, perhaps in the case of the Crick murder the witness would have been spared. In the case of the Ottey sisters, I recall viewing the obscene spectacle of the trial that subjected the families to further hardship, and the individual in question did not serve one additional day in jail. The cost of going through a trial and the cost to the victims was obscene, to say the least.
I implore the member to think about this. I am not playing politics with this bill. I implore members not to play politics with this bill. Fundamental justice should be above politics. Victims have waited far too long for such a small measure of justice.
View Albina Guarnieri Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member for his support over the years. Certainly my colleague has championed victims and victims' rights. He was very instrumental in helping this bill get to the Senate in 2000. I want to commend him for his hard work.
I certainly hope that this bill will go to committee and get a fair hearing. I will leave it to the government to further highlight the judicial discretion element of this bill.
I think it is imperative to give the judges discretion. Currently the judges have no discretion when it comes to multiple murderers. I recall a renowned judge from Nova Scotia. In my haste I did not bring the quote, but I recall that Justice MacKeigan said that a judge in giving a concurrent sentence is not doing his duty.
I thank the hon. member for his hard work in this endeavour.
View Albina Guarnieri Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is my fervent belief that there should not be disclaimers or fine print when it comes to the justice system. We should not have a judge proclaim himself or herself in court with one sentence and then suddenly find ourselves with a loophole and a way of circumventing what the judge has declared in court.
A judge hears the testimony, is there to witness the obscenity of the crime and is in a position to make a good determination about a fitting sentence.
View Albina Guarnieri Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, first let me thank members from all sides of the House who have added productively to the debate on this issue.
Bill C-470 seeks to add two ingredients to charity executive pay: reason and accountability. Salaries would have to be within reason, or the minister could take action in the interests of donors and taxpayers who often have no direct say on how their money is spent. Greater accountability will come with the disclosure of every charity's top five income earners and their salaries.
The government did make progress last year by requiring more detailed ranges of salaries, but no corporate CEO could get away with saying he just made over $350,000. Donors are paying the bill and deserve the names, positions and amounts, like any shareholder. Arguments for continued secrecy have largely withered over the past several weeks. It is simply not tenable for charities who rely on the faith and trust of donors to say they deserve salary secrecy that is unthinkable in either the government or corporate sector.
The promise of Bill C-470 is that donor awareness may be a cure for the high salaries and costs that are shrinking every donor dollar today. Bill C-470 also aims to add a measure of reason and restraint to charitable salaries. It does not seek to impose a hard cap, but simply to provide a long-overdue mechanism for the minister to restrain excessive compensation. The minister would retain the absolute discretion to act in the interests of both the cause and the donor community.
Diversionary concerns about the potential impact on the top salaries of professors and surgeons at universities and hospitals are not well founded, as most of these institutions have separate charitable foundations. For those that do intermingle operating and fundraising activities, the minister can make the obvious distinction.
Fewer than 1% of Canadians earn $250,000 a year. Charities rely on the generosity of the other 99% and need to justify the exorbitant pay of their fundraisers. When one executive was reported to have received millions of dollars in salary incentives and severance, the excuses poured in from charities: “We have to attract fundraising talent from the U.S.”; “We cannot find competent people who would work for under a quarter million a year”. Other organizations have even argued that young people will not go into charity work if they cannot make a lot of money. I wonder if I am alone in finding this somewhat ironic.
From 2000 to 2008, the number of donors in Canada was basically stagnant, growing by less than 1% annually. So the charitable sector is not attracting more donors. Total tax receipted donations grew by an average of only 5%, little better than the rate of inflation. So Canadians are donating more, but hardly enough to justify ballooning fundraising pay.
Published information with the CRA reveals even less connection between pay and performance. Without a single person reporting making over $250,000, one charity raises twice as much money at half the cost per dollar of the highest paying Toronto medical charity. So it is possible to run a charity without investment banker salaries. But exorbitant salaries are infectious and are spreading to charities great and small and even very small.
One small foundation that pays more than $350,000 actually hiked salaries by 69% over the last five years while revenue dropped 33%. Thirty-six cents of every dollar raised is now lost to fundraising and administration, double the rate of only five years ago. Paying astronomical salaries does not always deliver astronomical results. Many sports leagues have adopted salary caps to respond to similar situations where competition was raising costs far faster than revenue.
In conclusion, Bill C-470 asks the House to take a small step in curbing a free-for-all with donor and taxpayer money. Parliament alone can take a stand to safeguard the sacrifice of donors by insisting that charities deliver more transparency and ultimately more charity.
View Albina Guarnieri Profile
Lib. (ON)
moved that Bill C-470, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (revocation of registration), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
View Albina Guarnieri Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the Speaker for his charitable ruling. I would also like to thank the member for Newton—North Delta for seconding Bill C-470, an act to bring more transparency and charity to our nation's charities.
Every year, Canadians dig deep into their pockets to contribute billions of dollars to some 85,000 registered charities. That is one charity for every 300 Canadians. Most of the donors are far from millionaire philanthropists. They choose to make a financial sacrifice for what they hope is a worthy cause. They choose to save less for their retirement, their own children's education or some other personal investment or expenditure because they believe their dollars will be put to a higher purpose: helping sick children, aiding the poor and curing disease.
It is the goodwill and trust of these donors that must be a priority for this Parliament. However, the donors are not alone in putting their trust in charities. In the most recent year, the taxpayers of Canada contributed almost $3 billion in federal tax credits, so every Canadian has an interest in how this money is spent.
Last year, the Toronto Star shocked donors and taxpayers with the revelation that the head of one of Canada's largest charities, the SickKids Foundation, took home $2.7 million in salary and severance in a single year. Money intended for sick children was instead building a private fortune because of the lack of legislation. However, he is not alone in making charity pay. Others of the same charity reported making $430,000 and $290,000. In fact, one out of every dozen staff members was making over $160,000 U.S. to raise funds by asking others to sacrifice.
I refer to U.S. dollars because the only reason this information is public is because the United States is years ahead in transparency and this charity was registered in the United States as well as in Canada. Canadian laws keep donors in the dark about where their money is going. We know that 2,147 individuals earn more than $120,000 a year at charities. We do not know how much more. We can suspect that it might be a lot. We can suspect that because the average salary at charities is $71,000 compared to only $51,000 in private business.
It might be that people working in call centres are making $70,000 a year. However, it is more likely that they are making near-minimum wage while executives are earning many hundreds of thousands and driving up the average. Why should we not know? Why should donors not know? Why should taxpayers not know?
Six years ago, the United States recognized that it too had a significant problem with salaries at charities. At that time, the internal revenue service announced a new enforcement effort to identify and halt abuses by tax-exempt organizations that pay excessive compensation and benefits to their officers and other insiders. At the time, the IRS said:
We are concerned that some charities and private foundations are abusing their tax-exempt status by paying exorbitant compensation to their officers and others.
That was 2004. Where are we in Canada? The Library of Parliament has to scrape together bits and pieces to get any picture at all as to how executives at charities are spending money and, particularly, how much they take home for themselves.
I will read to the House some of what little we know. Some of our charities spend money on dining club memberships, golf memberships, fitness memberships, business-class travel, so-called flexible expense account provisions and even scholarship programs for their own kids. It is reported that of those who receive benefits, there is an average of $6,000 in retirement benefits, $4,000 in fringe benefits, $4,000 in auto benefits and another $4,000 in health benefits.
That is what we know from only one charity in one thousand responding to a survey. It is also far beyond what most donors could even hope for themselves.
The Province of Ontario requires charities that receive direct money from the province to disclose salaries above $100,000. Even in this small category, the top salary was more than half a million dollars.
We know that Canadians and taxpayers are contributing billions every year. We hope that most of it is spent with frugality and purpose. We know that some of it is spent on luxury rather than on charity.
I believe that the Minister of National Revenue has the moral imperative to ensure that donors know exactly how their dollars are spent. Bill C-470 is a basic first step.
Years behind the United States, Bill C-470 would not deal with many of the practices that have grabbed attention in recent years. From fundraising organizations that get a $180 commission for signing up a donor, regardless of the amount contributed, or to other high-class fundraising techniques that cost more than 30¢ of every $1, all that is left up to the minister to explore.
Bill C-470 would require charities to disclose the salaries of its five highest paid employees. In addition, a charity could be deregistered by the Minister of National Revenue if it pays any employee more than $250,000 in a single year. The threshold of $250,000 is more than a minister or a deputy minister earns to run a federal department. More important, it is about five times what the average donor earns.
At present, the revocation of a charity that violates the requirements of the Income Tax Act is at the discretion of the minister. Bill C-470 would not reduce that ministerial discretion. It would simply add to the existing grounds available to the minister.
An effective date of 2011 is included in the legislation so that charities would have time to adjust.
Bill C-470 would give the minister a much needed additional tool in the interests of the millions of Canadians who donate billions of dollars to charities every year.
Bill C-470 would also give charities a powerful incentive to maintain the trust of their donors while giving the minister the responsibility, the capacity and the discretion to respond to breaches of that trust.
I will respond to some of the usual resistance we can expect from those who do not wish to disclose and others who may want to maintain the luxury to which they have become accustomed.
First, on disclosure. Governments across Canada are forcing disclosure of top salaries of all those who rely on the taxpayer for their income. It does not matter whether one is the chief executive of a crown corporation or a transit worker with a lot of overtime, the person could find his or her name and income published. The principle is clear. If people take home taxpayer money, they cannot hide how much. As Canadian charities distribute almost $3 billion a year in tax credits, taxpayers have every right to know whether the salaries they are subsidizing are excessive.
Even more important, however, is the individual sacrifice of the donor. Publicly-traded corporations need to disclose their top salaries to the public. Why should donors not be told how much the top five employees at their chosen charity make? What is the excuse for that secrecy?
Perhaps a donor may decide that his or her money is better spent on charities that take less home for themselves. Charities that are really in it for the cause would benefit at the expense of charities that operate like a business, marketing a cause like it was a COLA, and being richly rewarded for every dime that comes in.
We all know people who have visited the offices of some charities and looked at the marble and grandeur and said that they do not need our money. All Canadians should have the same right to compare and direct their generosity to where it is most frugally managed.
One can only expect a hail of complaints and cries of impending doom from charities that pay more than $.25 million. They will say they need that money to attract top fundraising talent, people who know how to market a charitable cause.
I would submit that they will not because all 85,000 Canadian charities will be under the same rules competing for the same donor dollar. Therefore, charities would not need to keep upping the ante to keep the top people from going down the street because the charity down the street would have the same cap. The result would be that more money would end up where the donor actually intended it to go, not in the paycheques of executives but in the programs that the charity is there to serve.
Filings in the United States indicate that some very large Canadian charities are run by people earning very reasonable salaries. The CNIB, United Way and World Vision all reported top salaries far less than the $250,000 limit proposed in Bill C-470. Clearly, it is not necessary to pay people exorbitant sums to attract talent. However, we have an obligation to assure Canadian donors that whenever they donate to charity their dollars are not siphoned into luxury lifestyles.
This bill also aims to replace doubt and cynicism about the management of charities with the confidence that the personal financial sacrifice of donors is managed by people who are paid well but no so well as to make a mockery of the concept of charity.
Bill C-470 is about charity, transparency and respect for the generosity and sacrifice of millions of Canadian donors.
View Albina Guarnieri Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to delving into those very issues more fully in the standing committee. In the moments we have today, perhaps I can share how our counterparts in the United States are reacting to the million dollar salaries.
Last week, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the finance committee, said, “The question is whether or not a very top-heavy organization might be siphoning off federal dollars that should be going to help kids...”. He was reacting to a $1 million payout package to the head of the Boys & Girls Clubs. He knew that was how much was paid because it is not a secret like it is in Canada.
The bill we are debating today would add and bring some transparency north of the border and give the minister the power to revoke any charity where $250,000 is not a big enough paycheque. I would say that would put us in sync with our neighbours south of the border.
View Albina Guarnieri Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member makes the point that I made in my speech. Many of the provinces are ahead of the federal government when it comes to disclosure of how charities are dealt with. I welcome any suggestions from the hon. member and I encourage him to bring his comments forward in committee so they can be more fully explored.
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