Politics

1st private member's bill seeks to boost charitable donations as House returns

The 30 MPs who drew the top slots in the lottery for private members' business are set to bend the ear of the House on an issue of their choice. The first five bills and motions up this week range from tax treatment of charitable donations to a national organ donor registry.

MPs to debate anti-scab rules, penalties for drunk drivers, Barbados shell companies and organ donor registry

Conservative Ted Falk, left, drew the first spot for private member's business in the 42nd Parliament and is advocating fairer tax treatment for charitable donations. His caucus colleague Steven Blaney, centre, will see his drunk driving penalties bill debated third on Wednesday, while Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger's bill to change the lyrics of O Canada won't be up until next month. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The 30 MPs who drew the top slots in the lottery for private members' business are set to starting bending the ear of the House of Commons this spring.

Any MP who is not a minister or a parliamentary secretary can introduce a private member's business to raise awareness and effect change on something important to him or her.

But with hundreds of bills and motions proposed in each Parliament, it's impossible to debate them all. 

After each election, a lottery decides whose business is debated first, with one hour allocated each sitting day. Thirty bills or motions are scheduled at a time, replenished as things are voted down or passed.

By June, MPs will have debated a wide range of issues, from alcohol duties to firearms definitions to maternity leaves.

Subject to change, here's what's on the order paper this week:

Monday: C-239, Fairness in Charitable Gifts Act

Mantioba Conservative MP Ted Falk doesn't like that there's an imbalance in how different types of donations are treated at tax time: federal tax credits for political contributions far exceed federal tax credits for charitable donations.

If Parliament agrees, the new federal tax credits for charitable gifts would be:

  • 75% credit for total donations under $400 (a $400 donation would now only cost $100.)
  • 50% credit for donations from $400-$750 ($750 donation would now only cost $275.)
  • 33.3% federal tax credit for donated amounts beyond $750.

Falk hopes the enhanced credits will strengthen charities and motivate Canadians to give. "Feeding politicians should never be more important than feeding the hungry," his office said in a statement.

Tuesday: C-234, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers)

Rookie NDP MP Karine Trudel, a former postal union activist from Jonquière, Que., is fronting the second bill up for debate, characterized by leader Tom Mulcair last January as one of the New Democrats' "first opposition bills."

Trudel's bill would implement federally rules already in place in Quebec and B.C., making it an offence for employers governed by the Canada Labour Code to hire replacement workers.

"When employers hire scabs during a strike or lockout, it's unfair to workers and undermines their right to bargain collectively," said Trudel in a release. Unions, unsurprisingly, are keen to see this bill pass.

Wednesday: C-226, The Impaired Driving Act

Former Conservative cabinet minister Steven Blaney's choice harkens back to the tough-on-crime legislation that characterized Stephen Harper's government. His bill would give courts greater discretion in handing down harsher sentences for impaired driving:

  • The maximum sentence for impaired driving causing bodily harm would increase from 10 to 14 years.
  • Repeat offenders would face a one-year prison sentence for a second offence, and a two-year sentence for a third offence.
  • For impaired driving causing death, sentences would vary from five to 25 years.
  • When more than one life is lost, justices could apply consecutive sentences.

Blaney's bill was seconded by caucus colleague Mark Warawa, who had a similar bill in the last Parliament.

Thursday: M-42, Closing a Barbados tax loophole 

After last week's Panama Papers revelations, rookie Bloc Québécois MP Gabriel Ste-Marie's choice to debate a motion on offshore shell companies may be even more relevant than when he tabled it earlier this winter.

The motion calls on the government to "end to the widespread tax avoidance practised by many shell companies set up in Barbados by Canadian companies" by amending the Income Tax Act to specify "no business that is entitled to a special tax benefit conferred by Barbados... shall be exempt from taxation because of a tax treaty."

Friday: C-223, Canadian Organ Donor Registry Act

New Conservative MP Ziad Aboultaif from Edmonton has a personal story driving his choice of bill. His now-23-year old son was born with a rare genetic liver condition and has required three liver transplants and some sixty operations so far in his young life.

Aboultiaf's bill calls for more collaboration and co-operation across Canada to create a national organ donor registry and bring together Canada's current patchwork of organ donation services, said to be excellent in some places but poor in others.

Canada lags behind countries such as the U.S. on the statistics for life-saving organ donations.

Later this spring: gender-neutral O Canada?

It's expected to take until early June to give each of the bills and motions in the first round its first hour of debate.

Next week, Windsor, Ont. NDP MP Brian Masse's sports-betting bill, will provide a bit of deja-vu: his former colleague Joe Comartin nearly got the same bill passed before it died on the order paper when the election was called last year.

In early May, two bills in particular are worth watching.

On May 2, Conservative Cathy Wagantall's C-225. which would allow for stiffer penalties when a pregnant woman is harmed by violence, sparks a debate over what legal rights should be afforded to unborn children.

On May 6, Mauril Bélanger's bill to make the lyrics of O Canada gender-neutral, replacing "all thy sons command" with "all of us command," is a chance for the veteran Liberal MP, diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease late last year and now speaking only with the assistance of a voice generator, to leave his mark.

About the Author

Janyce McGregor

Parliamentary Bureau

Janyce McGregor has covered Canadian politics for CBC News since 2001. Send news tips to: Janyce.McGregor@cbc.ca

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