The Governor General is urging Canadians to spend more time and money on worthy causes to help build a better country.

In his annual New Year's message, David Johnston says Canadians are already generous with their time, talents and treasure, but notes that a new year is a new opportunity to enrich the country.

Johnston says people notice the spirit of generosity during the holiday season and ask themselves, "Why can't every day be so full of sharing?"  

"Indeed, ‘Why not?’" he says. "An everyday culture of giving is one of the defining features of successful societies everywhere. This has been the case throughout Canada’s past, but we cannot take it for granted."

Canadians, he says, are a nation of "barn raisers." More than 80 per cent make some kind of financial donation to a worthy cause every year and more than 12 million Canadians spend over two billion hours volunteering.

"By celebrating and encouraging volunteerism and philanthropy, by calling on that fundamental commitment from our fellow citizens, we build a smarter and more caring Canada, one barn at a time," Johnston says.

"Imagine a smarter, more caring Canada. A Canada where giving in all its forms — time, talent, altruism — become an even more integral part of our daily lives — a mainstream part of being Canadian."

Johnston has been the Queen's representative in Canada for a little more than a year. Before he was appointed Governor General, Johnston was president of the University of Waterloo and served on a number of provincial and federal committees and task forces, according to his official biography.

He was also the founding chair of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, and the first non-American chair of the Board of Overseers at Harvard University.

Johnston spent Dec. 22 to 25 visiting Canadian Forces deployed in Afghanistan and in Rome, following their mission in Libya.