Honourable senators, I would like to begin by acknowledging that I am joining you from the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people.
I rise today to speak briefly to Bill S-216. I feel a bit of déjà vu right now, as we have seen this exact bill before. I am pleased that Senator Omidvar has reintroduced it in the Senate. It is a very important tool that charities will be able to use to fulfill their goals of better communities and indeed a better world.
Colleagues, as I said the last time we saw this bill, the very fact we even need it is one proof of the outdated, complex and expensive rules and regulations charities face. As has been stated, the report from the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector pointed out this problem and many more. Why we continue to force charities to operate under outdated rules remains a mystery to me.
This bill will provide a significant step forward in helping the charitable sector chart a new course in the delivery of its services.
Bill S-216 amends the Income Tax Act to:
. . . permit 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.
I believe that this bill not only clarifies the rules around the use of resources, but also protects accountability and will surely enhance our trust in how charities will be able to operate under the changes proposed.
All of this being said, I believe you will find that this bill has our support and that we are now ready for the question.
Thank you, honourable senators.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition)
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Honourable senators, I rise today to speak briefly as critic for Bill S-216, formerly Bill S-222, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (use of resources), also known as the Effective and Accountable Charities Act.
Our leader, Senator Don Plett, was the critic of this bill in the last Parliament and commended Senator Omidvar for doing her work on this issue and for bringing this bill forward. In this new parliamentary session, Senator Omidvar reintroduced her Senate public bill and has already spoken very clearly to the importance of this bill; thus, I will keep my remarks brief like Senator Mercer, who was the chair of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector, a committee on which, along with Senator Omidvar, I had a chance to serve as well.
We heard first-hand from witnesses and organizations about the issues affecting charities across Canada. Our study brought to light many of the challenges faced by the charitable sector and highlighted key changes that need to be made.
Bill S-216 will do exactly that. It will amend the Income Tax Act to permit charities to provide their resources to a person who is not a qualified donee provided that they take reasonable steps to ensure that those resources are used exclusively for a charitable purpose.
I will quote from some very credible witnesses who were heard at the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance in the last Parliament. They said it best, as did Senators Omidvar and Mercer.
Terrance S. Carter, Managing Partner of Carters Professional Corporation, said:
. . . the amendments proposed in Bill S-222 would, one, lift an unnecessary burden from Canadian charities that have been hampered far too long by antiquated income tax provisions that are out of touch with reality and international standards; and two, would replace it with a regime of resource accountability that would allow charities to work with non-qualified donees, both internationally and domestically, in order to more effectively achieve their charitable purposes.
Bruce MacDonald, President and Chief Executive Officer of Imagine Canada, said:
This bill is another example of the need to evolve the regulatory and legislative framework in which social good takes place. . . . This is a common sense approach to improving the ability of charities to work in meaningful partnership with non-charities in a manner that ensures both accountability and transparency. . . .
In short, I strongly support Senator Omidvar’s bill and ask all honourable colleagues to approve speedy passage of this bill in our chamber so that a message can be sent to the House of Commons to bring us one step closer to bringing Canadian law governing the charitable sector into the 21st century.
Finally, in Senator Plett’s own words: This bill is long overdue. Thank you.