OTTAWA — Liberal and NDP MPs killed a bill Wednesday that sought to give Canadians who donate to registered charities the same generous tax credits as those who give to political parties receive.
Conservative MP Ted Falk's Bill C-239, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable gifts), was voted down by a vote of 209 to 103.
In a statement, Falk pointed the finger directly at the Liberals, saying the large number of government MPs who had voted against his bill ensured its demise.
Conservative MP Ted Falk rises in the House of Commons Wednesday April 20, 2016 in Ottawa. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
"Apparently many still believe that feeding politicians is more important than feeding the hungry," he wrote.
"The long-standing belief of Liberals that they are entitled to their entitlements is apparently still alive and well," he added. "They have placed their own entitlement attitude in front of the best interests of the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the sick. For them to continue to support such an unfair system is self-serving and simply wrong."
Eight Liberal MPs, three New Democrats and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May did vote in favour of sending Falk's bill to committee for further study.
May tweeted that she was disappointed to see the bill defeated.
The Liberal government and the NDP, however, argued that the measure would cost the treasury upwards of $1.7 billion dollars and end up helping primarily the wealthy.
In the Commons Tuesday, François-Philippe Champagne, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance, said the government recognized the "spirit and good intentions" of the bill but that it would not support the proposed legislation because it could end up increasing the cost of the charitable tax credit by nearly 68 per cent.
The federal government already provides approximately $3 billion a year in assistance for charitable donations, Champagne said.
"Charitable donations are already very generous in Canada," he said.
NDP critic says bill would benefit the wealthy
Unlike the tax credit for political contributions, which is designed to give generous tax assistance for small contributions and levels off tax assistance as donation amounts rise, Champagne said, the charitable tax credit is far more generous for those who make large donations. "The higher the donation amount, the higher the tax credit," he said.
A $400 donation to a political party currently generates a 75 per cent federal tax credit, or $300 reduction. That same $400 donation to a charity generates a federal credit of $88 — 15 per cent for the first $200 and 29 per cent credit on the other $200.
NDP finance critic Guy Caron said Falk's bill would disproportionately benefit those with high incomes because they are in a "much better position" to donate.
"Donations would no longer be made solely to satisfy charitable impulses, but for tax planning purposes," he said in a speech Tuesday.
"Apparently many still believe that feeding politicians is more important than feeding the hungry."
— Tory MP Ted Falk
Caron said he was concerned the wealthy could avoid paying taxes and even make a "net gain" by combining a new more generous federal tax credit with current provincial tax credits for charitable giving.
"People would come out on top because the amount of the tax credit would be higher than that of the charitable donation."
Conservative MPs argued the opposite.
John Nater, the MP for the Ontario riding of Perth–Wellington, suggested people don't donate because they can't afford it and they should be encouraged to give more.
In 2013, when the Conservative government introduced the first-time donor tax credit, Nater said, it saw an increase of almost 100,000 Canadians donating that year.
Under Falk's bill, donating $200 to the Canadian Cancer Society or the Alzheimer Society would provide an average Canadian with a tax credit of about $150, rather than $30, he said.
"I believe that every member of the House would agree that we as the Canadian Parliament should reward those who donate to charitable causes."
Moreover, he suggested Canadians would be surprised to discover that the tax treatment of charitable donations is so different from political donations.
"It does not reflect our values as Canadians," he said.
Lessons from Fort McMurray
Alberta Yellowhead MP Jim Eglinski pointed to the flood of donations from Canadians to help those affected by the Fort McMurray fires. People had opened their wallets, donated money, food, rations, gas, he said.
"Canadians give. Maybe we can give back a little bit, and this is what the bill would do."
Despite the recent boost in Alberta, Eglinski said charitable donations had dropped by approximately 33 per cent over the past 25 years.
"Charities are suffering, and they need that money to operate," he said.
Statistics Canada figures suggest the total value of donations has gone up but that the number of Canadian tax filers claiming a donation has dropped over the past two decades, from 29.5 per cent in 1990 to 21.4 per cent in 2014. The median donation in 2014 was $280.
Tory MP Jim Eglinski addresses the House of Commons, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014 in Ottawa. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
In his speech Tuesday before the vote, Falk said he was thankful for the cross-party support and he hoped his bill could foster a culture of generosity from coast to coast.
"Every day, every night, right across Canada, tragedies happen. Folks lose their jobs, illness attacks, families are broken, and people's lives are shattered," he said.
But the good news is that charities are there to provide food for the hungry, beds for the homeless, help for the hurting, support for the aging, and hope for the sick.
"Where would we all be without charities?" he asked.
Charities do more than crisis intervention, he added, saying they help advance scientific research, promote education and care for the environment.
"The aim of the bill is to strengthen charities and encourage Canadians to engage with and promote charities," he said.
"This is not a bill for rich people. It would hardly benefit rich people or those who are making big donations. It is a bill that, for the most part, would help the middle class. That is something the government has said it is all about, helping the middle class, and that is what this bill is about."
These NDP and Liberal MPs supported sending Ted Falk's bill to committee for study:
- Hamilton Centre NDP MP David Christopherson
- Nanaimo–Ladysmith NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson
- Burnaby South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart
- Beaches–East York Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith
- Mississauga–Erin Mills Liberal MP Iqra Khalid
- Don Valley West Liberal MP Robert Oliphant
- West Nova Liberal MP Colin Fraser
- Central Nova Liberal MP Sean Fraser
- South Shore–St. Margaret's Liberal MP Bernadette Jordan
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