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Ontario Hansard - 19-February2015

SERVICE CLUBS


Mr. Jim Wilson: I move that, in the opinion of this House, the Minister of Finance should immediately move to have a standing committee investigate the legislative and regulatory barriers and burdens facing service clubs in Ontario who serve their respective communities and conduct ongoing community service which helps alleviate the demand for publicly-funded services.

The committee shall focus on the following topics: (1) financial audits; (2) restrictive regulations surrounding fundraising; (3) taxes and fees; and (4) declining membership.

That the committee shall have the authority to conduct province-wide hearings and undertake research, and generally shall have such powers and duties as are required to investigate the issue.

That the committee shall present an interim report to the House no later than September 1, 2015, and a final report no later than January 1, 2016.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.

Mr. Jim Wilson: I want to thank the overwhelming number of my colleagues that are here today. It's an important-

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Huge support.

Mr. Jim Wilson: Thanks, Lou. I know I'm going to get your support too.

We're here today, colleagues from all sides of the House, to talk about an important issue. It's an issue that I don't think has been given enough attention over the years. It's an issue that I would think this government, in particular, considering the amount of debt that they have, would be keen to address because of the vast benefit these organizations bring to our economy. The issue we're talking about, of course, is the important role service clubs play in communities across Ontario and the role the government can play to assist these clubs to maximize their full potential. A lot of people think service clubs have the same tax benefits and rules as registered charities. The fact of the matter is, for the most part, they don't. That's what I'm going to discuss now.

Centred around such mottos as "Service Above Self," Rotary; "We Serve," Lions; "Serving the Community's Greatest Need," Kin Canada; "Friend of Youth," the Optimists; "Serving the Children of the World," Kiwanis; and "We Share," Quota International, we can all agree that these service clubs and others bring vast benefits to our communities.

First and foremost, they are social clubs. They bring fellowship and fraternalism to their membership, which in turn strengthens the communities they serve. For young professionals or people who are new to a community, social clubs bring those people together to maximize a community's potential gain both socially and economically.

Second, beyond fellowship, these volunteer organizations serve the community need. Made up of people who live and breathe in the communities they serve, service club membership best understands their community's intrinsic values and needs, and fills the fiscal holes that government and other agencies can't. It's important to remember that the charitable work that these organizations do helps to alleviate financial burden on government coffers. Governments can't and shouldn't pay for everything.

In Ontario, the debt has become the highest in the country. The deficit is more than all other provinces combined. On top of this bleak fiscal reality, population projections are forecast to shift the province to an older age structure, which will certainly bring with it additional financial pressure. According to the Ministry of Finance, Ontario's senior population is expected to double over the next 25 years.

Ontario already spends 41% of the provincial budget on health care, and according to TD economists, this is projected to increase to 80% by 2030. It's unsustainable. To prepare for the future, we need to consider alternatives like fostering the working relationships we already have in our communities.

Service clubs relieve the financial burden while providing intrinsic social benefits to the communities they serve. They are a win-win, which is why it is so important that we as legislators make it as easy as possible for them to continue the good work they do in our communities.

I chose to do this motion on service clubs after I hosted a local round table in my riding last April. People from various organizations attended, and frankly, I was surprised to learn about the multitude of issues and challenges they deal with on an ongoing basis that hinder their everyday operations.

Immediately following the meeting, I wrote to the Minister of Finance to articulate as best I could the challenges identified. To date, my records show that I have not received a response, but to give the minister the benefit of the doubt-the issues are complex-I will presume that the government is still thoroughly investigating the matter. I'm also looking forward to hearing from members of the government side and the NDP, and hopefully we'll get some answers from the government today.

I brought that letter with me today, Mr. Speaker, as it identifies many of the challenges and issues that service clubs face; I'd like to read it into the record.

"April 25, 2014

"Dear Minister:

"I am writing to you today after meeting with local service clubs in my riding concerning a number of issues they have identified that are hindering operations. The main message that came out of the meeting was a concern with the cost of doing business as a result of increased regulations, taxes and fees. Let me briefly touch on each of these issues.

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"The first issue discussed was financial audits. If the service club earns more than $50,000 after expenses on a fundraiser they must pay $4,500 for an audit. If a service club earns less than $50,000, the audit is $450. As a result, service clubs limit their fundraising. Minister, forcing charities to pay nearly 10% of their profit on fees is ridiculous and I question why this $50,000 threshold is not higher and why they are being asked to pay such costly audits."

"Another problem is unnecessary regulations. At one time, service clubs were allowed to sell tickets out of province and over the phone. Today, regulations restrict these sales, leaving them unable to access the lucrative American market and other provinces. Service clubs also have problems with lottery licences as municipalities limit the number of licences issued at any given time. This inhibits them from working on more than one project.

"A third problem is taxes. Service clubs question why they have to pay so much in tax when they are a charity. For example, on a car raffle they have to pay close to $10,000 in taxes for that vehicle. They are also charged lottery licence fees costing up to $9,000. On top of this, service clubs that own their own building must pay property taxes. You can see how these taxes add up.

"A fourth problem is costs associated with being a volunteer. Directors of the club must have liability insurance. Members must assume the costs of volunteer police checks and many other items. Enticing membership is already a problem for a lot of these groups; the cost of living is making it hard for people to even volunteer. This is a big problem across Ontario.

"Another concern raised was the OLG's plan for a new casino in the community. The service clubs are concerned that this will take away from their profits. One suggestion was to create a revenue-sharing program, similar to what already exists in Alberta, where the service clubs provide volunteers in the casino and receive a small fraction of profits. I would appreciate it if you would find out more about this option.

"Minister, frankly I was surprised by the amount of issues these clubs identified. It's important to recognize that these are charities working hard to pay for a variety of projects within our communities. That said, I would appreciate it if you would review these problems and respond. In the meantime, I would ask that you advise what tax exemptions or assistance is available to help service clubs.

"Thank you for your attention and please accept my best wishes.

"Sincerely,

"Jim Wilson, MPP."

Mr. Speaker, following my decision to draft this motion that's before us today, I sent a letter and questionnaire to as many service clubs as I could from right across the province, and the response has been tremendous. Over 100 service clubs responded to the questionnaire, many of them representing several service clubs across the district or area. I think that reveals the extent of public interest for changes to be made.

In fact, one letter was from the Lions Club multiple district A, which represents Lions and Lions clubs across Ontario. The multiple district A governors' council held a special meeting to discuss this motion and passed the following resolution:

"That the governors' council hereby endorses and supports the resolution presented by Jim Wilson, MPP, Simcoe-Grey, requesting the Ontario Minister of Finance to immediately move to have a standing committee investigate the legislative and regulatory barriers and burdens facing service clubs in Ontario; and further, that council hereby authorizes the MDA secretary to forward said resolution to the Premier of Ontario, the interim leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, the leader of the New Democratic Party and the Ontario Minister of Finance."

Colleagues, I have brought photocopies of all of the responses and I'd like to bring them to Liberal and NDP representatives to use as a reference while working on this issue, and I do that in a non-partisan way.

The questionnaire asked five questions, but because many of the responses mimic the issues and challenges I already touched on in the letter I just read, in the time I have left, Mr. Speaker, I want to focus on the fifth question, "What changes could the provincial government make to better facilitate the outstanding work that you and other service clubs do?" That was the question. Here's a list of the grassroots suggestions directly from the service clubs.

In terms of regulations, the clubs suggested less administrative burden, particularly for clubs with a proven track record. Some of the clubs note that licensing reporting requirements are required at all levels of government for the same project.

Other clubs suggest implementing a simpler tax system that volunteers can easily navigate. One club noted that the tax department was even baffled by the complexity of the regulations.

The clubs suggest the government review the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp's dominance in Ontario's gaming industry and the pressure that it's putting on clubs. They note the provincial government is both the regulator, through the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, and the primary operator, through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp, often creating unnecessary red tape and duplication.

Clubs want more flexibility. One club described spending months to secure approval for a simple river race of logs and rubber turtles because the guidelines only allow rubber ducks. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission took months to approve the fundraiser. They noted that the approval process for that single application required the approval of the municipality, police, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment.

In terms of taxes and fees, the clubs suggest tax rebates for non-profit organizations, particularly on HST and property taxes, allowing the clubs to utilize a percentage of fundraising towards their administration.

Changes to insurance coverage: Many noted that they often need multiple policies to cover the same event. Service clubs suggest the province give municipalities the ability to grant property tax relief to non-profits, not just registered charities. Also suggested is a tax rebate on the HST. Finally, they would ask that the government make them aware of available grants and programs that might assist them in their daily work.

In terms of recruiting volunteers, service clubs suggest-and I would like to thank the Wasaga Beach Kinette Club for this suggestion-making membership fees tax-deductible or creating tax incentives for volunteers. Other service clubs asked for help with a campaign to promote volunteerism and membership drives.

Keith White from my riding, who's an honorary Lion and a Legion associate member, along with being a councillor in Essa township, suggests that better training on how to recruit and retain volunteers would benefit many clubs. He suggests simply collecting educational material now available and finding ways to disseminate it across the province.

Another idea was the creation of a provincial service club awards program like apparently they have in Saskatchewan.

I hope it's clear that there are a number of issues that need further examination. I anticipate that this is only the beginning of an in-depth discussion. My motion asks that the Minister of Finance move to have a standing committee investigate the legislative and regulatory barriers and burdens facing service clubs, and I hope the government will agree to do this today.

I welcome and encourage the support of all members. I realize that this is a complex issue. There are many departments of the government involved, but I think we should get moving on it. We need service clubs now more than ever as we face the challenging fiscal climate we find ourselves in in the province of Ontario.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Wayne Gates: Thank you for allowing me to rise and speak on the motion today. I'm happy to say that I support the motion to call on the Ministry of Finance to look into the complex regulations that surround our service clubs.

As we all know from our constituents, these clubs do great work in our communities. My office in Fort Erie is space that I rent from the Lions Club of Fort Erie, a group that's done excellent work for seniors in that town. Regardless of income barriers, the Lions Club of Fort Erie reaches out and engages the seniors in that community. I'm proud to say they've been welcome in my office with my staff, providing space for seniors to remain active and healthy, engage one another and engage the public in services. They are truly the hub of our communities.

I say all that without even mentioning their fundraisers, which I'm very glad to say I participate in. They cook some of the best food you can find in Ontario and raise money for good causes. If you are ever in my area, I highly recommend stopping at one of our Lions Club's fundraisers. You certainly won't be disappointed.

It's just not the Lions Club that has that kind of community spirit. Service clubs throughout my riding show the same passion. Take, for example, the Ridgeway Kinsmen. They started with a group of 12 members who themselves rebuilt their club and opened a new facility just a couple of weeks ago. I'm proud to say I was there for the club's opening in Ridgeway. They'll continue to have my support, including at their breakfast coming up this weekend.

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I'm honoured to speak highly of the Ridgeway Lions from my riding, people who do great work like my friends from Ridgeway, who carry out incredible outreach and put on equally fantastic fundraisers in my riding. I'm really blessed to have such an active and talented group putting on these fundraisers in Niagara.

These aren't the only service clubs that we should all admire. There are our great Legions across the province. We have a number in my riding. Each are as dedicated as the next. They teach proper respect for our veterans and are never afraid to give back to our communities. I'd like to personally commend the Niagara Falls branches-479, 396 and 51-130 in Fort Erie, 124 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and 230 in Ridgeway, for everything they give back to our veterans and to our community. They support those who fought for us, and we can do our part to support them here in this Legislature, and I'm glad to support them, and I'm sure everybody else here today is.

Mr. Speaker, this is the same of all the clubs: the Kinsmen, the Lions and the Kiwanis clubs, Mr. Wilson talked about the Rotary clubs-we all have Rotary clubs in our areas as well; again, in Niagara Falls, my riding. They're incredibly respected in our community, both by our constituents and by myself. I'm also glad for the Knights of Columbus as well. My brother-in-law is a member-Andrew Howcroft-and he does great work in the city of Niagara Falls.

These groups all have a mandate to give back to their communities and to make their hometowns and their cities a better place to live. They absolutely embody the spirit of giving back to where one comes from. In the past two years-and this is important for everybody to listen to-these groups have been punching well above their weight. Around the province, so many of these clubs and groups are being faced with declining membership. On top of planning for their work, they have to worry about membership and they have to navigate through these complex regulations at the federal and provincial levels.

We can help to remove some of this pressure by addressing these regulatory issues, especially at a time when these groups need our help. Budget cuts by this government and by the PCs before them have left a lot of people struggling to make ends meet. These groups have done an incredible job of filling in the cracks created by these cuts.

These groups have all facilitated and continue to see-and think about this, and this is important for service clubs. I know a lot of people aren't paying attention right now, but you should. These service clubs are facing hydro bills that are putting their entire clubs in jeopardy. We have to take a look at that and help them.

We need to make regulations for these service clubs so we can help with their fundraisers. We hear the same message everywhere we go. The hydro rates are putting these facilities in jeopardy. I know that we heard from Mr. Wilson, my colleague. He raised the very same thought of what is going on around hydro rates.

When they're out there working in our ridings, we should be working here. When they're in our ridings, we should be working here to support them in every way that we can.

As you can see, these groups represent some of the most caring aspects of our community. If they are caught up in red tape and complex regulations at the provincial and federal levels, then I think an appeal to the Minister of Finance to strike a committee to look into solving this is a good idea.

I'd also like to quickly stress how important volunteering is for those listening here today. These groups around the province are facing declining membership, as I mentioned. We need to encourage more volunteers, both young and old, to join these clubs and make sure their great work continues long into the future. These groups and clubs support our community, so let us support them.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member for Northumberland-Quinte West.

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Thank you-I was ready to say "Madam Speaker," but I'm late.

Let me first say I congratulate my friend from Simcoe-Grey for bringing forward this motion today. I think it's honourable that we think of people who give a lot of time to our communities.

A saying that I always say when I meet with volunteers or service clubs-I look at them and say, "Wow, what would our communities look like if you weren't here doing the work that you do?" That goes across all the service clubs and all the volunteers. Speaker, I think it's very, very important that we make sure the service clubs stay alive, and I know they have been struggling.

I'm a Rotarian, a Brighton Rotarian, for the last 14 or 15 years. When I joined the club, we had over 70 members for a small community of less than 1,000 people. We're down to about 30-some-odd now. The reality is that not all participate; they do come out to help. That goes across all the service clubs. We're part of district 7070 in Rotary, and they tell me that right across the region, which goes from Newmarket to Belleville, they are suffering. I'm sure it's the same across the province.

The motion outlines some of the stuff, as the member brought forward, that frankly is more of a federal jurisdiction. I think we should not just focus on what we can do here at Queen's Park within these walls, but also beyond with our federal cousins. So I think some pressure needs to be put there.

I would say to the member that, as we progress through this-and I know he's already started to give some good statistics today, some good examples of surveys that he sent out. Our club, by the way, has received one. I'm not sure if it has been responded to yet. But that is, I think, a good measure to try to get the message of what people really think out there. The interesting part about that is that when you task people to do something, that you ask for some information, if they take the time to fill those blanks, that is really worthwhile information; it's not just something that they want to speak about.

Speaker, in the few minutes that I have, I just want to touch on some of the good work that the service clubs-some of the service clubs, because I don't have enough time to do all. For example, coming up on March 14 and 15, Warkworth, a beautiful community north of the 401, is having its annual Maple Syrup Festival. For two days, I tell you, they draw 4,000 or 5,000 people. I normally end up helping for half a day to serve fresh maple syrup right off the tap and boiled right there, along with fresh pancakes. So I smell like a pancake for about a week after that, but it's worthwhile.

Interjection.


Mr. Lou Rinaldi: It's excellent.

That's a service club not affiliated to any national service club. They just do it to help their community.

The Kiwanis Club of Quinte West, of Trenton, have a one-day lunch just before Christmas to raise funds for the Salvation Army. Can you imagine: Over lunch, about 100 people raise over $100,000 for the Salvation Army. I'm not sure how else you could do this and help the Salvation Army do the good work that they do.

As I mentioned, we have Rotary Clubs in every community in the riding I represent, and they all do good work; for example, along with Bill Gates, who matches dollars that the clubs raise to eradicate polio. Speaker, we're almost there. If it wasn't for Rotary International and Bill Gates, we'd still be facing polio issues.

Mr. Speaker, we, once again, because I'm more familiar, for the last 14 or 15 years-we sponsor exchange students. We take in students from all over the world and also pay for students going out to other parts of the world. It's a program that's unbelievable, the benefit that these kids get from these exchanges.

I guess I'm trying to point out how valuable service clubs are in our communities, how valuable volunteers are.

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Once again, I cannot refrain from saying: What would our communities look like without service clubs, without volunteers? We need to encourage that, Speaker.

What the member is asking on this resolution, the best way to describe it-although we need to do everything we need to do, and I know he has already done a lot of work through his questionnaires, we're almost trying to kill a fly with a huge sledgehammer. I think we can do the same thing. I think he set a good example of how we can do that already, and I think maybe we need to support that kind of initiative. Frankly, in travelling the province, I think clubs will be able to give us that information. I know he has had a good response, and that's a good indication.

I would encourage the member to take that approach and bring it to the House here. Let's see if there are ways that make sense of how we can address the issues that he has brought forward, which are very, very valid.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Thank you, Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to this motion today from the member from Simcoe-Grey, my boss.

I think all of us in this House recognize the importance of service clubs and charitable groups in each and every community across the province. They fill meaningful roles and gaps within our social fabric and enrich our quality of life. In fact, without these clubs and groups, important services, projects, events and activities just wouldn't be there. That's why, when they speak, it's our job as legislators to listen, especially when they have such serious concerns as we're discussing here today.

We simply believe that the Minister of Finance needs to listen to these concerns, review them and take action. We want them to address them so that our service clubs and charities can continue to do the vital and necessary work they do, day in and day out, in our communities across Ontario.

I will quickly sum up-again, to repeat some of what the member from Simcoe-Grey said-the areas that not us, but the service clubs and the groups themselves have highlighted to us. These are the areas and issues of concern.

The financial audits: Forcing these charities to pay nearly 10% of their profits on fees is ridiculous. As you've heard, if a service club earns more than $50,000, after expenses, on a fundraiser, they must pay $4,500 for an audit, but below that, it's $450. It's a disincentive for these service clubs to fundraise. Surely we can come up with a better solution.

When I think of Nipissing University or Canadore College, and I look at the donor wall and I see all of the service clubs that have stepped up; when I walk into our new hospital in the city of North Bay and I see the donor plaque with the service clubs that have built rooms-in fact, wings in the hospital, wings in the university, wings in the college-and this money is all earned through their charitable donations-for the province to take their slice, to dip their beak in so generously, is ridiculous.

These unnecessary regulations are also a point. Why are we restricting service clubs from selling tickets out of the province and over the phone, and they're unable to access funds in the US and other provinces? Municipalities limit the number of lottery licences issued at a time, keeping them from working on more than one project. Again, these are areas where we can do better.

When you drive down Lakeshore Drive and come over the overpass in North Bay and you see this bridge that crosses, it was built by one of the service clubs. It's a trail that runs through our entire city. It's not built by the municipality; not built by the province; not built by the feds. It's built by the money from these service clubs that have fundraised-and funded these very important projects throughout our communities.

When you think about taxes, it's a wonder service clubs are able to undertake any of these fundraising ventures at all. When you hear that service clubs, on a car raffle, for instance, have to pay close to $10,000 in taxes for the vehicle, and then a lottery licence, costing them up to $9,000-throw in the property taxes for the clubs that own their own building, and what's left?

When I go down to the waterfront in North Bay, when I go to the waterfront in Callander, when I go to the waterfront in Chisholm, there are parks and beaches that are built by these charities. These are the most generous of groups. They work so hard. They run bingos, they have lotteries, they have fundraisers that raise nothing but money for other people to share.

Lastly, volunteer costs: The directors of a club must have liability insurance, and members must assume the cost of volunteer police checks, among other items. The cost of living makes it hard enough for those to volunteer. These other costs deter membership. Again, we here in the House simply have to do what the member for Simcoe-Grey is asking: We have to do better.

I should add that there is a valid concern, in communities where OLG is planning to locate casinos, about the impact this would have on the ability of charities to fundraise. Again, this is a question that needs to be addressed before any of these go forward, so that clubs can prepare, react and adjust to what they can contribute to their good work.

All we're asking, through this motion today, is for the minister to consider ways to address the hurdles facing our service clubs, our fundraising groups and our charitable groups across the province. They're vital, they're crucial, they're important and we can't do without them.

I'm proud to support this motion. I would urge members of this House to do likewise, and I thank you for this time to speak in this Legislature again.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mme France Gélinas: It is my pleasure to add to motion 16 on red tape review for service clubs.

Comme pour tous ceux qui ont parlé avant moi, c'est évident qu'il y a plusieurs clubs sociaux qui sont dans Nickel Belt. Aujourd'hui, je veux vous parler plus précisément du Club 50, un club qui est à Chelmsford, dans Nickel Belt, juste pour vous donner une idée des difficultés que l'on met sur les épaules. C'est un centre pour personnes âgées. En anglais on appelle ça un « elderly persons centre ». Ils reçoivent un petit peu de financement, 21 000 $ par année de financement, du ministère des personnes aînées. Et parce qu'ils reçoivent ça, ça ajoute à tout ce qu'ils ont besoin de faire.

Parce qu'ils font plus de 50 000 $ de revenus, ils devront charger la TPS. Bon, charger la TPS sur les locations de salles, c'est assez évident, et sur les consommations, parce qu'ils ont un bar, ça aussi, c'est assez évident.

Mais là, qu'est-ce que tu fais avec-ils ont des espèces de dîners communautaires et tout le monde donne cinq dollars, qui défraye une partie du prix du dîner, mais vraiment c'est un dîner communautaire. Est-ce qu'ils devront commencer à charger la taxe de vente harmonisée là-dessus?

Même chose : il y a des groupes de leurs membres qui se réunissent pour jouer aux « darts », pour jouer aux cartes, pour passer le temps, faire des activités, et eux, ils vont chacun payer un petit montant pour se réunir au club. Est-ce que le club devra commencer à charger la TPS là-dessus? À un moment donné ça devient tellement difficile à comprendre qu'ils finissent par dépenser des sommes d'argent faramineuses qui n'ont rien à faire avec les buts du club. Les buts du club, c'est de s'assurer que les personnes aînées restent engagées dans leur communauté, ont la possibilité de passer de bons moments ensemble et demeurent actives.

Mais là, tu regardes : ils doivent faire faire une vérification générale. Le vérificateur charge 9 000 $. Ça, 9 000 $, pour un club qui reçoit 21 000 $ du ministère, c'est beaucoup d'argent. Non seulement qu'ils ont tout ça à faire, mais avec le nouveau projet de loi que l'on a passé, le projet de loi pour les corporations à but non-lucratif-cette affaire-là a 210 pages d'épaisseur. Là, eux autres ont reçu ça, les 210 pages. Ils l'ont imprimé. Ils ont commencé à lire ça, puis là ils se sont dit : « On s'en va tous. Peux-tu me dire ce que ça veut dire? »

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Pourquoi est-ce que le gouvernement n'a pas mis en place un mécanisme pour aider les clubs? Ça, c'est un gros club, mais j'ai des petits clubs aussi dans Nickel Belt, le club à Azilda, le club à Hanmer, le club à Gogama. Il y en a qui sont très petits.

Là, quand ils reçoivent ça, un projet de loi avec toutes ces explications et qui est long de 210 pages, êtes-vous surpris, monsieur le Président, qu'ils aient de la misère à recruter des membres? Êtes-vous surpris qu'ils aient de la misère à recruter un président ou une présidente? Quand tu vois toutes les responsabilités qu'on a mises sur ces petits clubs-là-les clubs, tout ce qu'ils veulent faire, c'est du bien. Puis là, on leur met un paquet de règlements, un par-dessus l'autre, qui sont difficiles à comprendre.

Donc eux, ils ont été obligés d'embaucher un avocat pour leur expliquer comment ils devraient s'assurer qu'ils sont conformes à la loi. Ils n'ont pas l'argent pour payer un avocat. Ils se sont mis ensemble. Un groupe de clubs de la région se sont mis ensemble. La FARFO s'en est mêlée pour essayer de les aider. Mais lorsque le gouvernement fait des nouvelles lois comme ça, pourquoi est-ce qu'on ne prend pas le temps de donner les outils nécessaires pour que les clubs à but non lucratif ne soient pas obligés de payer des vérificateurs, des frais d'avocat, de consultants, de ci et de ça?

La proposition qui a été faite par le Parti conservateur a du bon sens. Prenons le temps de les écouter, prenons le temps de voir ce qu'on pourrait faire de mieux, parce que ces clubs-là, quand ils voient arriver des piles de règlements de 210 pages, ils perdent leur exécutif, ils perdent leurs membres, puis c'est la communauté en entier qui perd.

Merci, monsieur le Président.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member for Trinity-Spadina.

Mr. Han Dong: Thank you, Speaker.

Mrs. Cristina Martins: Happy New Year.

Mr. Han Dong: Happy New Year to you, too. Happy New Year to all.

I'm very pleased to have this opportunity to discuss this very important bill. First of all, I would like to say to the member from Simcoe-Grey that this is a fantastic bill, and I look forward to supporting it. It's a very important bill.

But I also want to point something out. The member mentioned that he sent correspondence to the Minister of Finance and didn't hear back from him. In fact, there was a response, to Mr. Wilson's attention. I would like to take this opportunity to read it into the record, and I'll walk across after, to give him the hard copy.

"Dear Mr. Wilson:

"Thank you for your letter regarding issues identified by local service clubs in your riding. I apologize for the delay in responding.

"With respect to your concerns regarding a new casino in a local community, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is modernizing gaming in Ontario to optimize revenue from its gaming assets in a responsible manner. OLG's modernization plan was designed to maximize the commercial viability of land-based gaming across the province, and ensure the success of each gaming site while balancing social factors such as responsible gaming. When fully implemented, the OLG modernization plan will increase net revenues to the province by approximately $1 billion annually. These revenues will be used to fund vital public services that Ontarians depend on, such as health care and education.

"It is important to note that the government will not impose a gaming facility on a municipality that does not support one. A decision regarding the location of a gaming site will depend on an OLG business case that reflects municipal support and demonstrates the commercial viability of a gaming site in a particular location and region.

"Every year, the provincial budget outlines how gaming proceeds are allocated. The 2014 Ontario budget indicates that in 2013-14, gaming proceeds provided to the province by the OLG are to be spent in the following ways:

"-about $1.75 billion to support the operation of hospitals;

"-$115 million to the Ontario Trillium Foundation"-actually, many of the associations in my riding are enjoying the support of that foundation;

"-$10 million to Ontario amateur sports;

"-$119 million for other general government priorities, including horse racing; and

"-$39 million for problem gambling and related programs.

"OLG's support for the Trillium Foundation and amateur sports is an effective revenue-share program that benefits charitable and not-for-profit organizations.

"With respect to the municipal charity licences, that is the responsibility of the AGCO, an agency under the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG). I have taken the liberty of copying my colleague the Honourable Madeleine Meilleur, Attorney General, so she is aware of the concerns you have raised.

"Your comments on the financial audits and the HST that service clubs must pay on the purchase of a vehicle for a car raffle are the responsibility of the federal Minister of Finance, the Honourable Joe Oliver. Accordingly, you may wish to direct your comments on that issue to" the minister responsible for that file.

"With respect to your concerns about property taxes, special provision is made under the property tax system for non-profit service clubs. Under Ontario regulation 282/98 (a regulation made under the Assessment Act), land that is owned and occupied by a non-profit service organization is taxed at the residential rate, rather than the commercial rate that would otherwise be applicable (commercial properties are typically taxed at a higher rate than residential properties).

"As well, under the Municipal Act, 2001, and the City of Toronto Act, 2006, municipalities have the option to provide property tax rebates to charities and non-profit organizations, based on parameters determined by the municipalities (there is a minimum rebate requirement for qualifying organizations, and there are optional rebate provisions at the discretion of municipalities). You may wish to speak to your local municipal office to determine whether specific non-profit service organizations are eligible for a property tax rebate.

"Thank you again for writing."

I took that opportunity to read this letter because I do think it responds to some of the concerns that the member raised.

I want to say that service clubs are extremely important in my riding as well. Today, I went to the Wong Association to see how many people they've helped over 100 years. I look forward to supporting this bill and further debating this bill as it goes through the legislative process.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate.

Ms. Laurie Scott: I'm quite pleased today to speak on this very important issue that has been brought up by our interim leader, the member from Simcoe-Grey: "That, in the opinion of this House, the Minister of Finance should immediately move to have a standing committee investigate the legislative and regulatory barriers and burdens facing service clubs in Ontario...."

A lot has been said already today. Service clubs in our communities are certainly the backbone for the work that they do in our communities. We all know that they've played a long, vital role across the province. They strengthen our communities. Young people join them. I know the Rotary Club sponsors young people to go to different countries for a year. In fact, the MP who is representing Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock now did that Rotary exchange and continues to go out to speak of the merits of that program. These young people and people in general-they gain both socially and economically.

I think there's nothing better than service clubs which are made up of members of communities to best understand the needs of their communities. They also fill the fiscal holes that government and other agencies can't fill and maybe shouldn't fill. In rural Ontario, with our smaller communities, there's nothing truer said than that.

A lot of problems have been highlighted. I will give you a few examples, if I could. For example, the Rotary Club of Haliburton wanted to give funds for a band shell to be built-they got some Trillium money, too-to assist for a band shell in the park. But the park was owned municipally. So they couldn't use their proceeds from lottery tickets for that; they had to have another venue to try and fundraise money separately-again, you can only ask the community so much-for a specific project.

I know that there are many, many Rotary clubs that I have in the area and I have at least a dozen Lions Clubs. Since I've been an MPP, and you're out to these events more, you notice that their membership is declining. It's hard to get volunteers, and as the cost of living goes up, it really costs to volunteer out there.

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I want to bring up that these service clubs-there are no administrative dollars. They all pay for their service clubs through memberships in their organizations. We ask a lot of them and we should not be throwing up more barriers to them. When the member from Simcoe-Grey brought this up as a motion, I thought it should be done as soon as possible.

It is complex. I'm going to highlight a few of the problems. For example, in the lottery-if you make a certain amount of money, the cost of your audit has gone from $450-if you make less than $50,000-to up to $4,500 to get an audit done.

I know that when clubs want to enhance their own structures-for example, curling clubs or Legions-their lottery monies cannot be put back into their aging buildings. I know that in Woodville, for example, the curling club needs a new ice plant but the money from a raffle cannot be used for that purpose. Legions face the same dilemma, and we know that our Legions are aging.

There is the opportunity to be able to sell tickets online to different provinces and different countries. We can look at that. Insurance was brought up, the cost of insurance for them; a simpler tax system they can navigate; and just more flexibility in general to have fundraising events that can then be used to further help their communities.

We could talk a long time about this, and I'm out of time. I just wanted to say to the member for Simcoe-Grey: Well done. We'll be supporting this and look forward to the government's action.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound.

Mr. Bill Walker: I'd also like to commend Jim Wilson, our interim leader, for doing this and picking up the torch and really bringing an issue that's big in all of our communities.

Volunteers build a better society. They serve their neighbours, their communities, their regions, their province and their country. Service clubs, Legions and all charitable organizations raise money for such things as hospital equipment, such as an MRI, to rejuvenate cenotaphs to support those valued veterans of Our Majesty's forces, and to help families afford access to lifesaving drugs. In other words, they help to fill the gaps left by government.

As the MPP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, I hear first-hand accounts all the time about these challenges and barriers they face in regard to financial audits, taxation, regulations and declining membership. Not long after I got elected, a fellow by the name of Terry Julian from Lion's Head, Ontario, on behalf of the hospital auxiliary, came to me and raised a very similar issue. I wrote a letter to the Minister of Finance at that time and, to be honest, I got nothing of any kind of interest to pick up the torch and change this. It was similar to that letter: "There are all kinds of plans; we're going to do better." It's not enough.

We have small-town groups and organizations that are doing this. In this case, Lion's Head, a community of 500 people, and the hospital auxiliary for many, many years, raised funds for that hospital and all kinds of good initiatives across the community. They're raising $500 because $500 is the cap for penny tables. The OLG then warned the auxiliary volunteers to stop fundraising too much money. That means going over the $500 raffle cap for their local hospital. It's ludicrous. The $500 cap was set in 1970 in the days long before we had to do the type of fundraising we have to for our hospitals, and all charitable organizations out there do the same thing.

Did anyone in government, especially when we brought it to their attention, ever consider updating these regulations to promote and permit these organizations that are so valuable in our communities to continue?

Mr. Speaker, the current regulation and red tape cannot remain status quo. What is happening is that I have people coming to my office saying, "If they're going to keep putting us through this, if they're going to take away our ability to truly be helpful and take my energy and passion, then I'm going to walk away," because they're not going to go through all of this.

I congratulate Terry Julian, the auxiliary and all of the volunteers. I want to ensure that we change this regulation to allow all of our charitable sector to be able to do things in the current day to continue to support the communities that we so richly need and value.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): I thank everyone for their comments.

I now recognize the member for Simcoe-Grey.


Mr. Jim Wilson: I want to thank all the members who appear to be supporting this resolution and I call upon the government, if it does pass today, to please implement it. Please set up a committee so that we can begin the discussion on how we can better help service clubs.

Again, the impact of new casinos on the profits of service clubs, financial audits: The minister in his letter suggested he'd take that up with the federal government. It's also something we should deal with in the committee, though, and if we got a strong resolution from the committee to do something about it, that would help pressure the federal government, but I will take the minister up on his suggestion.

HST; the need for rebates; property taxes; selling tickets out of province and over the phone, as they used to be able to do, so they could expand their ticket sales into bigger markets; taxes paid when holding a car raffle; charges amounting to thousands of dollars for lottery licences; costs associated with being a volunteer; the cost of insurance; the taxes they pay on the prize for those lotteries, often a car-the list goes on and on.

It's probably best summarized by Bill Roskar from the Kinsmen Club of Stayner when he noted that relaxing some of the red tape and tax implications would make his club's operations easier and result in members being able to concentrate on fundraising rather than administration. He suggests that the satisfaction of being part of a social club is being able to give back to the community, and a lessened administrative burden would help to attract more volunteers. Well said, Bill, and thank you for those comments and for filling out the questionnaire.

The fact of the matter is that there's a lot we can do. I think the best way to do it is through an all-party committee. One of the technicalities in this resolution is that the opposition doesn't control the agenda at committees, so I need the Minister of Finance, a minister over there or somebody in the government to make sure we can put this before a committee and study the issue on an all-party basis. I ask that we do that.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): We'll take the vote at the end of regular business.

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