Law making isn’t easy
One of the major roles for Members of Parliament is to draft laws that impact all Canadians. The reality is that these laws come from a mix of politics and require a thorough understanding of the implications of what is being proposed. Let me explain.
A recent example was Bill C-223, An Act to establish the Canadian Organ Donor Registry, which proposed to coordinate and promote organ donations throughout Canada. This is a critical issue for some of my constituents and has my full support. Had Bill C-223 been approved at second reading, the next step was for it to be sent to the Standing Committee for Health for discussion and improvement. However, before it could get that far, it was voted down by the Liberal majority. Bill C-223 was proposed by a Conservative Member of Parliament, and similar bills have been proposed by the NDP in past Parliaments. Politics?
Another bill, C-239, provided an example of a situation in which understanding the details is critical to creating good public policy. Bill C-239, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable gifts), proposed to increase the tax deduction an individual is entitled to when they make a donation to a registered charity. I have been a volunteer with, and a donor to, many charitable organizations, so from a political perspective, how could I not support this bill?
As the old saying goes, the devil truly is in the details. The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), which undertakes independent analysis of the financial implications of proposed legislation, found that the implementation of Bill C-239 would cost the federal government $1.7 billion in 2016 and $1.9 billion in 2020. This raises the important question: Which social programs could be cut to make up for the loss in revenue?
The PBO also found that taxpayers who make more than $91,000 in taxable income would benefit the most from Bill C-239, since the only proposed constraint on giving was a donation ceiling of 75% of net income. In short, while implementing this bill would potentially help some charities that have wealthy donors, it would likely not be helpful to charities that rely on donations from the average Canadian, would be very costly to the federal treasury while mainly benefiting the wealthiest taxpayers, and could result in government withdrawal of important services to Canadians.
In the end, Bill C-239 was not supported by a majority of the Members of Parliament. I would like to see government find alternatives to help fund the amazing work being done in our communities by charities – without reducing the scope of the government’s delivery of services to the people of Kootenay– Columbia.
As you can see, law making is not easy, and nothing illustrates that better than Bill C-14, Medical Assistance in Dying. I will update you on it in a separate article once we see where it goes over the next two weeks.
– Wayne Stetski (NDP) is Member of Parliament Kootenay–Columbia