When I was first running for Parliament, I was struck by the extent to which volunteerism is an important public policy issue. Canada depends on its volunteers to make Canada one of the best places in the world to live.
In fact, it is hard to overstate the importance of volunteers and voluntary organizations to our quality of life in Canada. Volunteerism is an essential ingredient of civil society. It plays an important role in social capital – a cohesive force that strengthens our society – and can save us all money by offering more efficient solutions to community problems. The value of volunteer activity is estimated at $14 billion annually.
Each and every day, volunteers give freely of their time, skills, creativity and energy for the benefit of others across the country. According to the 2000 National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, 6.5 million people – 27% of Canadians aged 15 and older – volunteered with one of over 160,000 charitable or non-profit organizations.
Unfortunately, there are signs that Canada’s volunteer force is eroding. Between 1997 and 2000, the total number of volunteers declined by 13%. This translates into a loss of almost 1 million volunteers over a three year period.
With this in my mind, and as more and more Canadians continue to face a time crunch, the former Liberal government began to act to involve volunteers from diverse communities and to increase the national participate rate. It created the Canada Volunteer Initiative (CVI) to support organizations like yours.
I was very disappointed when I learned that the current government is canceling the CVI and cutting funding for volunteerism. Members of the government have described the program as ‘wasteful’. I want you to know that I have spoken out against this harmful position.
Once elected in 2004, I asked myself what I could do to spur involvement in my community and I came up with the Ottawa South Volunteer Recognition Initiative. So again this year, I am pleased to recognize those that lend their time and energy to the success of volunteer organizations.