An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment authorizes the Minister of Finance to make certain payments out of the annual surplus in excess of $2 billion in respect of the fiscal years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 for the purposes and in the aggregate amount specified. This enactment also provides that, for its purposes, the Governor in Council may authorize a minister to undertake a specified measure.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing Act
Private Members' Business

October 20th, 2010 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the budget allocation of $1.5 billion was very key in ensuring a distribution across the country that some housing could be built. I know in British Columbia the small number that we did see actually came from Bill C-48, as we so well remember.

One thing that we have to remember is that when we have those transfers, we also need to have transparency because it is sometimes very hard to track where that money went. So again, part of a national strategy is to ensure that there is accountability. People want to know that housing dollars are going to housing. They want to know that it is actually getting into local communities. This has been one of the problems we have had with the economic stimulus money that, as we have heard from the government, is meant to go to housing. However, it is very difficult to track where it is ending up and whether or not the housing is being built.

The key thing is we need an ongoing commitment. The $1.5 billion from that particular budget that the NDP was responsible for, we were very proud of that, but we want to see a program and a strategy that moves us forward in terms of a decade or more. We want to see a continuity in the housing supply and housing development, so that we do not fall into these deep crises in local communities where people end up not knowing where to go and what to do.

That is what we have to avoid. Bill C-48 was a good place to start. We have to now continue moving forward.

Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing Act
Private Members' Business

September 17th, 2009 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise in support of Bill C-304, an important piece of legislation brought forward by my NDP colleague, the member for Vancouver East.

Truthfully, at first I had not really fought my way on to the speakers list for this bill, not because I did not think it was absolutely vital for communities like my home town of Hamilton but, rather, because I could not see any way that this bill would not be passed unanimously by the House.

The bill simply calls for the development of a national housing strategy. It is a crucial first step in redressing the current piecemeal and inadequate system that has been in place since the Liberals cancelled the then existing national housing strategy in 1995.

The bill does not bind the government to specific measures. It does not outline an immediate spending plan. Private members' bills simply cannot do that. The bill just suggests that it is unacceptable for Canada to be the only major country in the world without a national housing strategy and that the need to develop one is immediate and urgent. Housing advocates, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and now even the UN are all calling on Canada to act.

Yet, as I listened to the debate on this bill before Easter, it became clear that the Conservatives are not even prepared to enter into the conversation. Speaking on behalf of the minister and therefore articulating the government line, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain said unequivocally, “I will not be supporting Bill C-304”. He went on to say that the bill would only serve to “severely restrict the ability of the government to adapt and continue to meet the housing needs of Canadians”.

Continue to meet? Is he kidding me? The government is clearly not meeting the housing needs of Canadians. Let me give the government a snapshot of what is happening in my home town of Hamilton.

As members will know, the threshold for affordability is paying no more than 30% of gross income for housing. That is the standard set out by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. If people pay more than that, they are in what is called core housing need.

In Hamilton, 90% of households with incomes of less than $10,000 exceed that threshold, 85% of households with incomes between $10,000 and $20,000 exceed the threshold, and in households with incomes between $20,000 and $30,000 75% still exceed it. Across Canada, that kind of housing insecurity is being experienced by three million households. These statistics clearly put a lie to the government's contention that it is meeting the housing needs of our country.

However, there are other data that support the urgent need for a national housing strategy. In Hamilton alone, the waiting list for social housing had 4,693 applicants this spring and it is growing. Of particular concern is the increase in the number of priority applicants, which includes women fleeing violence and applicants who are homeless. When the city of Hamilton issued its last report on homelessness, it noted that nearly 4,000 individuals stayed in homeless shelters in 2006.

Lest anyone in the House believes that this is a Hamilton problem rather than a national issue that must be addressed by the government, let me remind members of the words that Miloon Kothari, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, used to describe the housing situation in Canada. “Very disturbing”, “devastating impact” and “national crisis” were just some of the phrases he used when he presented his preliminary report.

That report confirmed that Canada desperately needs a national housing strategy. Canada needs to once again embark on a large scale building of social housing units across the country and, as the Special Rapporteur also noted, as part of that comprehensive national housing strategy particular funding must be directed to groups that have been forced to the margins, including women, seniors, youth, members of racialized communities, immigrants and groups with special needs.

That report should have been a call to action. Instead, it was just another in a long series of embarrassments for Canada on the international stage. Canada is the only major country in the industrialized world without a national housing strategy.

However, it is not too late to act. In fact, we are blessed by having housing advocates in this country who would be only too pleased to lend their expertise to such efforts. In Hamilton, I am thinking of people like Jeff Wingard from the Social Planning and Research Council and Tom Cooper from the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction. In Toronto, the Wellesley Institute and Michael Shapcott have also done incredible work on housing over the years. Expertise exists from coast to coast to coast and their help is just a phone call away.

Let us strike while the iron is hot. That is exactly what the bill before us is designed to do. It seeks to realign the government's approach to dealing with housing issues by mandating a national strategy for a national problem. It takes our current patchwork of programs and strengthens them, setting national standards, and calling for investment in not for profit housing, housing for the homeless, housing for those with special needs, and sustainable and green homes. It is about rights and dignity, and it is about time that we act.

For those who are not swayed by the argument that housing is a human right, let me take a minute to make the economic argument as well. Part of it is ably articulated by the Conservative Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. In speaking about the need to bring Canada out of the devastating recession in which we find ourselves, he said:

Step one...is to create jobs and to create them now. Because of the economic downturn, many people in the construction industry are out of work. Building and renovating homes is a powerful way to get the economy moving again because it puts those people to work quickly and because most of the materials and supplies that are involved in home construction are made right here in Canada.

Of course, he is absolutely right. However, rhetoric does not build residences, dollars do. Instead of investing in a comprehensive housing strategy, the Conservatives have cut their support for the few programs that still remained. In budget 2006, the Conservatives cut $200 million of the $1.5 billion that the NDP had secured in its amendment to the last Liberal budget through Bill C-48.

In May 2006, the Conservatives cut a further $770 million from the energuide program, which helped home owners retrofit their homes to save both money and the environment. In September 2006, the Conservatives cut $45 million in administration of CMHC programs. In December 2006, the Conservatives then took the axe to SCPI. Even when pressure from the public and the NDP forced them to reverse their decision on energuide in February 2007, the Conservatives never did restore the $550 million that was designated to help low-income families.

The government's entire record on housing is one of wilful neglect and abandonment. It has disgraced Canada on the international stage. More importantly, it has undermined the ability of Canadian families to survive this recession. A family under stress from job loss or underemployment should not have to face the additional challenges of finding suitable housing for themselves and their children. Children deserve the stability that comes from being safely housed.

Best practices research confirms that building assets, which include savings accounts, home ownership and stable rental housing, promote family stability, give people a stake in their communities, encourage political participation, enable families to plan for retirement, and pass resources on to future generations. Investing in a national housing strategy that focuses on a continuum of options, from social housing to affordable home ownership, will help families build for their future while ensuring prosperous communities.

I believe that is a goal that all Canadians would support. The road to reaching that goal begins with the adoption of the bill that is before us today. Bill C-304 mandates a national strategy for a national problem. It is about rights. It is about dignity. It is about investments. It is about jobs. It is about time.

Opposition Motion — Municipal Infrastructure
Business of Supply
Government Orders

February 26th, 2009 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the motion introduced by the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

I would like to thank the member for London—Fanshawe for agreeing to share her time with me.

The motion is essentially a way to address the failings of the budget implementation bill. It is really trying to send a message to the government.

Bill C-10, which is currently before the finance committee, simply does not go far enough to address our current economic crisis. Further, in the budget implementation bill the Conservatives have attached a series of ideological riders. They are trying to sneak through the back door a series of ideologically driven measures that have nothing to do with the stimulus package.

Hidden in this document of more than 500 pages are the Conservatives' proposals to take a woman's right to pay equity out of the human rights act. The bill would open up Canadian industry to more foreign ownership and would make it easier to go after students punitively. The budget fails to protect the vulnerable, fails to safeguard the jobs of today, and fails to create the jobs of tomorrow.

Today we have a Liberal motion to transfer money to municipalities via the gas tax and to transfer at least half of the proposed new infrastructure funding with no requirement that these funds be matched by the municipalities.

At the finance committee this week, New Democrats proposed amendments to Bill C-10. We proposed to strike the clause that proposes changes to the human rights act to prevent women from taking pay equity complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. We proposed to strike the provision that relaxes rules around environmental assessments under the Navigable Waters Act. We proposed to strike the provision that unilaterally tears up collective agreements signed by the government. We proposed to strike the provision that introduces punitive changes to student loans. We also proposed to strike the provision that weakens control on foreign companies taking over Canadian ones, and we tried to strike the clause that required other levels of government to match funds before they flow.

The motion does try to fix one problem with Bill C-10, and that is a laudable premise, despite the fact that the Liberals abstained from a vote in committee earlier this week that could have done essentially the same thing. They abstained when a vote of “yes” would have meant a majority and would have meant that there would not have been strings attached to infrastructure funding.

Our proposed amendments were practical proposals for change. Our amendment to address environmental assessments in particular under the Navigable Waters Act was a proposal that was demanded by the people of my riding.

Constituents have written to me in shock that the Conservative government would see environmental regulations as red tape to be cut through. One constituent, Joel Richard from Halifax, wrote to me and said:

When we protect public access to waterways in Canada, we are also protecting the natural environment of those waterways. We understand that it is important to initiate infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy. But we should not use that as an opportunity to dismantle safeguards put in place to protect Canada's environment.

It has been made abundantly clear in the House that the budget and its implementation bill use the economic upheaval we are facing to push through a tax on women, workers and students. New Democrats would like to see less of that brutal agenda and more of the funds that are needed to get Canadians back to work.

The budget is another very good example of the government's inability to develop strategies, strategies to address issues such as the economic crisis, climate change, or gang violence.

Today the Minister of Public Safety introduced another bill that lacks a real strategy. In their attempt to address gang violence, the Conservatives have introduced a bill that really does not do much.

New Democrats will support the bill. In fact, we call on the Conservative government to fast-track it. When it comes to tackling violent gang crime, New Democrats are calling on the Conservatives to move farther and faster.

We need a comprehensive federal anti-gang strategy, but the bill is not a strategy, much like the budget implementation bill. A comprehensive strategy must include not only tougher sentences but also more police officers on the street, improved witness protection, tougher laws to tackle proceeds of crime, modernization of the laws that cover surveillance and evidence-gathering, and a comprehensive plan for prevention to ensure our kids are diverted from gangs in the first place.

The people of my riding are used to New Democrats getting results for people, and we have continually done just that.

Back in 2005, New Democrats in this House were able to get Bill C-48 passed. That was the NDP budget bill. The leader of the NDP and the member for Winnipeg negotiated hard to get billions of dollars for infrastructure and housing investments. This meant real investments for Halifax transit and infrastructure.

The NDP's 2005 budget amendment meant around $85 million in new investments for Nova Scotia, including $26 million for transit, $29 million for university and college infrastructure, over $20 million for much-needed affordable housing, and almost $8 million for off-reserve aboriginal housing.

Very much as a result of the member for Toronto—Danforth's work when he was president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and then later the leader of the New Democratic Party, we saw a new funding model that allowed money to flow in a quicker and more equitable way. This gas tax formula was superior to the previous system of always requiring matched funds.

It is clear that New Democrats know how to work collaboratively and represent Canadians in Parliament for results.

Housing is an area of provincial and municipal jurisdiction that the federal government can assist via infrastructure funding.

Until the mid-1990s, Canada had been a world leader in developing cooperative and not-for-profit housing, but it has done very little since. The Liberal government of the day allowed affordable housing investments in this country to stall for a decade because of the requirement for provincial matching funds at a time when provincial coffers were bare, so it is welcome now to see that the Liberals have adopted the NDP approach as their own.

New Democrats enthusiastically support this motion. I would have preferred that the members over there would have agreed to try to amend the budget bill instead. That would have actually changed the funding models in reality. As I stated earlier, these same members blocked our amendments that would have done exactly what this motion calls for.

Unfortunately, even if it is passed, this motion will have no real effect on these funds flowing out now. We will continue to see a requirement for matching funds from municipalities and provinces already stretched to the limit, and we will continue to see a lack of private funding slowing down projects. This will lead to unacceptable delays.

Just last month, I held a press conference with builders and housing advocates to illustrate how investment in affordable housing can address a serious housing crisis in a city while at the same time acting as a powerful fiscal stimulant. This conference was held at a site purchased and ready for affordable housing units, but waiting for adequate funding.

We have seen record job losses across the country, and the sad irony is that many of those jobs were in the construction industry at a time when thousands are waiting for sustainable and affordable housing to be built.

At this press conference, I was joined by Carol Charlebois of the Metro Non-Profit Housing Association, who spoke eloquently about the poverty-alleviating effects of affordable housing, and by Peter Greer, from the carpenters' union, who addressed the creation of jobs that would come from this type of investment. Jennifer Corson was there from Solterre Design, and she spoke about the carbon-reducing benefits associated with building environmentally sustainable units. It is win-win-win.

We had hoped that the budget would at least have a plan for creating jobs and helping those in need through affordable housing investments, but instead we saw small investments with these onerous strings attached.

I was also honoured last week to second the member for Vancouver East's bill to establish a national housing strategy. If passed by this House, this bill will bring all levels of government together to work to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for all Canadians. What we need is strong legislation to guarantee that money is turned into housing, so I hope all my colleagues here will support the member for Vancouver East's bill when it comes soon before the House.

In closing, I support this motion, but again wish that the members opposite had decided to do something about this just a little earlier.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

December 10th, 2007 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on the report stage amendment to Bill C-28 put forward by my colleague from Ottawa Centre, the one and only amendment. It calls upon the government and the House of Commons at this stage of debate to delete clause 181 of Bill C-28.

For those who have been following the debate over the last days in the House of Commons, clause 181 contemplates even deeper corporate tax cuts as an aspect of the economic statement.

The public should be aware that for the last decade or so, there has been a mantra, a theme, a motif, throughout the Liberal government for 13 years and now the Conservative government, that the cure to all Canada's evils is corporate tax cuts. If it is child poverty, we need corporate tax cuts. If we have potholes in our streets, we need corporate tax cuts. If we give more money to the Canadian business community, that will somehow translate into relief for health care ills, infrastructure and virtually everything of which we can think.

Those of us in the NDP have challenged that orthodoxy. We understand we need a competitive tax regime, but we believe we already have that. In fact, those of us who were asked to tighten our belts for the last 10 or 15 years through record surplus budgets have decided it is time to invest some of our hard-earned cash elsewhere. Some taxpayer dollars can go elsewhere other than its final state of repose in the deep pockets of a banker or somebody in the oil and gas industry.

We believe the deep corporate tax cuts contemplated in Bill C-28 would undermine the fiscal capacity of the government to address the many other legitimate priorities our country has. Simply put, it would take $190 billion of fiscal capacity away from the government and future governments, because God willing, the government may not last that long and perhaps another government will take its place. With a corporate tax structure, which would then be the lowest of developed nations, not in the middle of the pack, not in a competitive, on par basis, but the lowest, we believe we would lose the ability to address the many other pressing social deficits that have been created by years and years of what can only be described as an ideological crusade to eliminate taxes on business.

My father used to tell me that not long ago the tax system was structured in such a way that business tax would be about 50% of government's revenue and individual personal income tax would be approximately the other 50%. Systematically, incrementally, bit by bit, slowly over the last 20 or 30 years, that has changed dramatically. I do not know what it comes down to with these current, most recent changes, but the proportion was roughly 85% individual personal tax and 15% total revenue from corporate tax. That will be dramatically reduced even further. I can only surmise, given the relentless pressure to reduce and reduce, the ultimate goal would be corporations and businesses would pay no tax and all the tax burden would be shifted onto us.

In their race to the bottom, there has been a competition between the Liberals and the current Conservative government. The Conservative government said that it would reduce the corporate tax from 21.5% or 22% down to 18.5%. The immediate reaction from the leader of the official opposition was the Liberals would have gone even further. While that was pretty good, they could do better.

The Minister of Finance took him up on his challenge. If the Conservatives had carte blanche to cut in half and slash corporate taxes, they would take them up on that game of chicken and reduce it to 16.5% in 2011 and to 15% by 2012. That is way below the average of comparable developed nations. It is as if this in and of itself would be the answer to all the shortcomings and the social deficit and the spending that we all recognize is necessary.

There is a theory that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. When the economy is cooking, we all benefit. We have changed that cliché to “a rising tide raises all yachts”. It fails to lift a lot of the boats of the people I know and the boats of the people I represent.

I thank my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore for pointing this out. The only social spending that has occurred in the last 15 years, 13 years of Liberal rule and two years now of Conservative, has been when the NDP managed, through its balance of power, to stop contemplated corporate tax cuts put forward by the Liberal government of the day. We used our influence, traded our support, to the minority Liberal government in exchange for significant social spending in Bill C-48. We managed to interrupt another completely unnecessary and secretive gift to Bay Street.

The Liberals did not run on that. They certainly did not give Canadians a chance to have any say on whether another $4.8 billion would be dutifully shuffled to their friends in corporate Canada. Fortunately, we intervened and that resulted in $4.8 billion worth of social spending.

The Canadian public deserves to be made aware of this. Some of the social spending now announced by the Conservative government is money that was booked and earmarked two years ago in Bill C-48. The NDP used its balance of power in a minority government to trigger some much needed social spending in social housing, post-secondary education, transit and foreign aid, some of the shortfalls.

We were asked to tighten our belts for 10 surplus budgets in a row. The Liberals told us that the social spending we called for would come but they had to first take care of some necessary priorities, such as paying down the debt and massive corporate tax cuts to their buddies on Bay Street. It seems they always come first.

Without the NDP to provide a balance of power in a minority situation, the government will always come first. When a right wing corporate organization elects a right wing corporate government to serve its interests, it is not surprising then that budgets are crafted in such a way to benefit those right wing corporate interests and the rest of us are forgotten.

I represent the riding of Winnipeg Centre, which off and on, depending on what details are used by Statistics Canada, is the poorest riding in Canada. When the Liberals ruled the day and told us that we had to tighten our belts, they cut and hacked and slashed every social program by which we define ourselves as Canadians. Marginalized groups, low income groups, like in the riding I represent, suffered the most. Let me give one example.

When the Liberals cut back eligibility for UIC, or EI as it is called today, those cutbacks in my riding alone amounted to $20.8 million worth of income revenue. There was a similar amount in my colleague's riding of Winnipeg North and even more in some of the ridings in Atlantic Canada. This $20.8 million worth of income that came from the federal government into my low income community pushed more people off EI and on to welfare. That was like taking the payroll of a company with 2,000 employees out of my riding. It ripped federal government revenue out of the heart of my riding and put it into more tax cuts for corporations.

We have just about had it with this ideology. We will oppose, at every opportunity, these further gratuitous wheelbarrows full of money to corporate Canada. Every time the Conservatives are in charge of the budget, they give the money away. They squander their money.

The Conservatives are the most reckless, foolhardy, wasteful party in Canadian history, the way they shovel money to Bay Street with no expected return. It is like Jack and the Beanstalk, where Jack trades--

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

December 10th, 2007 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, again I am going back to the issue of the day, which is the big difference between those of us in the NDP and those in the Conservative and Liberal Parties.

We in the NDP believe in the collective. We believe that the government can be a source of good for Canadians across this country from coast to coast to coast. We also believe that the resources of this country should benefit Canadians. As well, we should be able to share our expertise and wealth with those around the world who are struggling for human rights and human dignity and also on the environment, education, health, et cetera.

However, also within our own country there are many who are veterans and widows of veterans, who have been promised certain things by the government and have been denied. As my colleagues used to say, there is no greater fraud than a promise that has been broken.

On June 28, 2005, when the current Prime Minister was then opposition leader, he promised Joyce Carter of Cape Breton that if the Conservatives formed the government they would immediately extend the VIP services for all widows and veterans of World War II and Korea. Twenty-two months later, there is still nothing.

Also, when the Prime Minister and the member for New Brunswick Southwest, who is now the Minister of Veterans Affairs, were in opposition, they said publicly in Gagetown and during the campaign in 2005 that they would look after and compensate all those victims of defoliant spraying in Gagetown from 1956 to 1984. “All” of them is what they said. They recently came out with a package that covers only those in 1966 and 1967, which is exactly what the Liberals had proposed beforehand.

The Conservatives in New Brunswick were elected on that promise and they broke that promise. It is unconscionable that a government that is like Scrooge McDuck, sitting on a pile of coins, loonies, toonies and cash, is not able to help those who served their country with such distinction and honour.

I recently toured the north. One of the most outrageous conditions people there are living with is extremely crowded housing. They simply do not have enough housing to go around. We talk about Arctic sovereignty, first nations rights and helping aboriginal people and improving their health, yet the government does very little, if anything, to solve the housing crisis of the far north.

It does not take a rocket scientist to understand this. After travelling to Resolute, Grise Fiord, Arctic Bay or Iqaluit and the other communities of the great territory of Nunavut, one understands that there is a terrific housing shortage going on. If the government is not going to help when it has billions and billions of dollars of surplus, when is it going to do so?

As I said earlier, a colleague of mine who just got back from Afghanistan said the mission in Afghanistan will not end until the final soldier who serves in that country passes away. What he meant by that was quite clear. A lot of the individuals coming back from Afghanistan are going to suffer from mental and physical disabilities. A lot of them are going to require long term care. They and their families are going to need that care for the rest of their lives. That is what he was referring to: the mission will continue in their lives. It is the same for people who lose loved ones in Afghanistan. For them, Remembrance Day is every day.

The government has billions of dollars for the mission in Afghanistan. We argued that point the other day. The reality is that it is not hesitant to spend money on the actual mission itself, but when the government is asked what contingency funds are put aside to help with the mental and physical disabilities the soldiers and their families may have down the road, the answer is zero.

I reiterate to the government: if it cannot do this now, when it has surpluses, when is it going to do it? I advise the government to make sure there is enough money put aside to ensure the proper care and treatment down the road of those brave men and women who serve their country.

Also, one of the greatest opportunities we have for economic development in this country is shipbuilding. The industry committee unanimously adopted a resolution that the accelerated capital allowance, or ACA, proposal should go from two years to five years, yet the government still has not done that. Those in the shipbuilding industry would like the same considerations that the government has been giving to the aerospace industry in Quebec for a long time.

We have approximately $20 billion worth of construction to do on naval replacement vessels, Coast Guard replacement vessels, ferries, the laker fleet, tugs, et cetera. We have five remaining shipyards in this country that could do that type of work.

I would encourage the government to ensure that the domestic procurement process enables those workers and those industries in those yards across the country, in Victoria, Vancouver, Port Welland, Lévis, Halifax, and Marystown in Newfoundland and Labrador,to have the opportunity for long term sustainable growth. That way, especially in Atlantic Canada, people would not have to go down the road to find work.

Those are some of the things the budget should be addressing.

Other issues, of course, are seniors and student debt.

We in Halifax have the privilege of being one of the education breadbaskets of Canada, but so many students who come to our schools get their education and leave with a massive debt. That cripples them in their opportunities down the road and they make choices that they normally would not like to make, such as having to move to the United States or other parts of Canada. We would like them to be able to work and find their livelihood right in Atlantic Canada, but saddling them with a massive debt is unconscionable.

We in the NDP were very proud to rewrite the last budget of the Liberals when they turned around, drafted Bill C-48, took away the corporate tax cuts and reinvested that in housing, public transit and student education. I was very pleased to see that the Premier of Nova Scotia just recently authorized a $400 rebate for students in our province.

These are some of the things the budget should be doing. I would be happy to answer any questions that members of the House of Commons may have.

Budget Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

December 10th, 2007 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I was very proud a couple of years ago to stand with the NDP caucus and amend the budget at that time to eliminate the corporate tax cuts and put that forward for the reinvestment of $4 billion in things such as public transit and housing. I will never forget the current Minister of Human Resources and the current Minister of National Defence ripping up Bill C-48, saying that this was fiscally irresponsible and was going to do damage to our nation.

And what did they do when they formed the government? The Minister of National Defence, as the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, was in Halifax giving out a cheque for public transit, money that the NDP fought for in the budget. The Conservatives can howl all they want, but the reality is that when banks and petroleum companies are making record profits under the current tax regime, giving them tax breaks is not the answer.

If we really want to give people a tax break, we can eliminate taxes on funerals and crematorium services. We can eliminate taxes on over the counter drugs. We can eliminate taxes, for example, on home heating essentials, as we are advocating in Nova Scotia. That is a good tax break. We also can help the poorest of the poor and stop taxing their disability pensions, for example. That is where good tax relief should go.

I have always believed in a one-third, one-third and one-third approach: one-third of the budget on debt relief, one-third on strategic tax incentives and one-third on social reinvestment. But those folks over there put the vast majority of it to the most profitable corporations.

What do we tell veterans and their widows? We cannot help them. What do we tell fishermen and their communities? We cannot help them. What do we tell the Inuit in the far north who are trying to get housing? We cannot help them. What do we tell students who are struggling under massive debts? We cannot help them. What do we tell parents with autistic children who are struggling to pay for the treatment the children require? We cannot help them.

It goes on and on. I remind the government about the children at Base Petawawa. When some of those kids whose fathers died in Afghanistan were having psychological problems, we asked a question in this House and the Minister of Health's response was that mental health issues are “a provincial responsibility”. What nonsense. They were kids from a military base who required assistance. Thank goodness for the report of Ontario ombudsman André Marin, who slammed both the Ontario government and the federal government. We are glad to see that there was an arrangement after that.

However, we should not have had to have a report. We should not need to have media influence in order to do the right thing. If the government has this kind of surplus, when is it going to invest in the people and communities of this country? My colleague from Toronto is absolutely correct, but it is not just Toronto that is struggling under a massive infrastructure debt. Halifax and others are as well. I will continue this right after question period, Mr. Speaker.

December 6th, 2007 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

Trevor Lewis Chair, National Association of Indigenous Institutes of Higher Learning

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank the committee for giving me the opportunity to address the issues we have.

I'm the chair for the national association, which is an organization established in early 2000 to support the recognition and resourcing of indigenous-controlled institutes of higher learning in Canada. There are currently just over 50 indigenous institutes across the country, impacting all aspects of lifelong learning, from advanced to undergraduate degrees, all the way down to elementary and secondary programs, and everything in between, including training.

Indigenous institutes continue to play an important role in the post-secondary system in Canada, not only for the students who access the services we provide, but also as significant economic drivers in the communities where they are located.

In a recent review by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, they released a report—in February, I think it was—that stated:

We cannot emphasize enough the established importance of these institutions and of Aboriginal programming for post-secondary learners. The successes of Aboriginal-controlled institutions should be acknowledged by government, supported and built upon. In our view, government’s objective should be to put in place measures that strengthen and promote the long-term viability of these key institutions for the future of Aboriginal post-secondary education.

This is just one recommendation in the report. When the Department of Indian Affairs responded, they failed to respond to this particular recommendation, which is, I guess, a bit concerning.

As well, as recently as early November, I attended a western universities round table organized by Lloyd Axworthy, where they were talking about providing access for aboriginal folks in universities. At the end of that round table session, they issued a press release that reinforces the recognition of the important role of first nations institutions and calls upon the federal government “to strengthen its support for Indigenous institutions of higher learning”.

So these are just two significant events in this past year that have continued to reinforce the things that have built aboriginal institutes in the country. Despite that support, we continue to be bounced around in the jurisdictional volleyball game. As I'm sure everyone is aware, post-secondary education is the responsibility of the provinces and Indians are the responsibility of the federal government, so the two never meet. We exist in the middle of somewhere, a no man's land.

I'll give you a real example of this. In 2005 the federal government introduced Bill C-48, which provided up to $1.5 billion to support training programs and enhanced access to post-secondary education to benefit, among others, aboriginal people. None of this funding found its way to the indigenous institutes across the country. The federal government told us the funding was transferred to the provinces, and more or less, they don't like to tell the province what to do with the funding they receive. The provinces stated that funding was only for publicly funded and supported institutions, so there again we're in the middle. We're neither.

I want to keep this as brief as possible. As a recommendation, if the federal government is looking for ways to invest the huge surpluses they have, I might suggest a low-risk investment in aboriginal post-secondary education to lift the 2% cap, in addition to increasing the funding that's available for post-secondary students. It will have very high dividends in the very near future when we see, over the next few years, baby boomers retire and a huge skill shortage that will exist in our country. So I see that as a very low-risk investment for the federal government. Indirectly, I might say, that particular investment also helps aboriginal institutions, because it's one of the ways in which, right now, some of our organizations are available to access small amounts of dollars through the Indian studies support program.

With that, I'd like to thank everyone for listening.

Thank you.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

November 30th, 2007 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by first saying that I have tremendous respect for the hon. member who just spoke, but she talked about the values that Canadians wish to have, such as investments in health, education, infrastructure and so on, yet her own government announced, and she said so in her speech, $100 billion worth of tax cuts in 2000.

We said the same things in 2000 that she says now. We said that many people were left behind, including autistic children and veterans, as well as the shipbuilding industries and everything else.

Yes, it is indeed important to ensure that taxes are done fairly and equitably right across the board. If reductions need to take place, they need to be done with a proper and thorough debate in the House of Commons.

I would like to give the member an opportunity to elaborate a bit more on this style of government we are seeing, with a government that turns around and gives a massive tax break to very profitable corporations, usually in the financial and the oil and gas sectors, corporations that are already making record profits under the current tax system.

Yet the government turns around, and except for a penny or two off a cup of coffee or whatever, average Canadians will not realize any major tax reduction at all in their taxes. Yet the very wealthy who run some of these corporations will realize the lion's share of these cuts.

Does the hon. member not think it appropriate that we should be investing in those people who are going to be left behind by the government, including farmers, fishermen, Inuit, first nations people, children with autism--I go back to that again and again--and families who are suffering? What about homelessness? What about infrastructure and so on? There are so many things the government can and should be investing in, but it simply has re-gifted many things that we in the NDP pushed for in Bill C-48 of the previous Parliament.

Why does the member think that the Conservative government and its Conservative members, who individually are really decent people, collectively seem to have lost their minds? They have gone blank. I would like to give the member a chance to elaborate a bit more and enunciate to us why the Conservatives would be so cold-hearted on many of the things I have just mentioned.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

November 30th, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Nova Scotia for the hard work he has done for children with autism and for veterans. Before I was elected to Parliament, I was a teacher and I was aware of the work my colleague did in advocating for the rights of autistic children who, sadly, are being ignored by the Conservative government.

My colleague asked what kind of government would decide it is more important to give money to corporations instead of investing in vulnerable people, children and veterans. I would respectfully suggest that it is a government that seems to be out of touch with communities across this land. It is a government that is out of touch with the people who need help.

Why is government here? Is government here to advocate on behalf of just big business, or is government here to help out communities, to help out the vulnerable, like autistic children?

This is a very important bill. It deals with the finances of the nation. When the Conservative Party was in opposition, it asked the then Liberal government to be upfront and truthful about the surplus and to have a debate in this place about how that surplus should be spent. Now as government, the Conservative Party is not doing that. It is not going to appoint a budgetary officer of Parliament to provide that information. It is irresponsible and hypocritical.

On the point that my colleague made about how we invest in people, I might add there are over 10,000 people right here in Ottawa, in the nation's capital, who are looking for affordable housing. They have been on a waiting list for a very long time. They are being ignored by this legislation. There is no money for them.

The government has said that it has invested in affordable housing. A point that should be made is that money was in Bill C-48, the amendments that the NDP made in 2005. That is the last investment we have seen in affordable housing. It is not good enough for the residents in Ottawa. It is not good enough for the people of Canada.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

October 17th, 2007 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his recitation. In fact a number of the items that he was mentioning, some of the spending that he was indicating actually came about by virtue of the NDP and its principles.

When the former government was intent on a major corporate tax cut, something it really had difficulty letting go of right up to the present day, and something supported by the current government at the time when the Conservatives sat in their chairs and did not stand up on a certain budget vote, what our party said was that the growing prosperity gap needed to be addressed. In a bill that became known as Bill C-48, funds for public transit, for affordable housing, for post-secondary education, for foreign aid and for protecting the wages of workers were provided.

It is interesting to see that hon. members from the Conservative Party and some ministers are presently travelling all over Canada making big announcements using the money our party gave them, yet they voted against the important Bill C-48.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Government Orders

April 23rd, 2007 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the total commitment to first nations, Métis and Inuit issues in this budget is $14 per head. That does not even scratch the surface in the appalling need that is illustrated out there. It is not lost on aboriginal leadership that we seem to be able to find billions of dollars at any time at the drop of a hat to buy more tanks or to buy submarines that do not even float, or sink, or whatever they are supposed to do.

However, if we try to raise the point of the appalling social conditions of first nations people and the incidence of poverty and neglect and the wasted opportunity of another generation of children not taking part fully in all that our society has to offer, people scream bloody murder that we are giving money away to the Indians again. This is an appalling contradiction.

I should remind my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, that the $300 million in the 2006 budget is money that the NDP negotiated and it was wrestled out of the Liberals in Bill C-48 to be spent on aboriginal housing. It was like pulling teeth.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

March 20th, 2007 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Gary Merasty Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is with honour and pride that I speak today to Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord, introduced by the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard who I am very honoured to have worked with in the past on this issue.

To begin, it is important to understand the context of the Kelowna accord. The Meadow Lake Progress, in its July 23, 2006 editorial, stated it best, “There is no underestimating the importance of the agreement”.

The Kelowna accord represents an historic consensus brought about by the commitment of the previous Liberal government to meaningfully engage and collaborate with first nations, Métis and Inuit leadership, along with the provincial and territorial governments, to address the challenges faced by aboriginal Canadians and by extension, Canada itself.

This effort, initiated by the member for LaSalle—Émard, was unprecedented. It signified a high-water mark in aboriginal state relations. Never before had the political leadership of our country committed to moving together, setting meaningful benchmarks and stable funding relationships.

This historic consensus remains intact. All first nations, Métis and Inuit leadership as well as the premiers remain steadfastly committed to the Kelowna accord. Only the Conservative government lacks the commitment needed to meet its goals.

The support for the Kelowna accord is also unanimous with the provincial political leadership in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Party, the NDP and the Saskatchewan Liberals are all resolutely in support of the Kelowna accord. In fact, the NDP government and the Saskatchewan Party opposition joined together in March 2006 to pass a unanimous motion in the Saskatchewan legislature, urging the federal Conservative government to fully implement the Kelowna accord. Saskatchewan has committed to the accord because it knows the potential of its aboriginal population and the opportunities it presents.

The first nation and Métis population is the fastest growing segment of the Saskatchewan population. By 2045, the aboriginal population is set to be a majority in the province of Saskatchewan. This emerging population is well poised to become the leaders of a prosperous new Saskatchewan, particularly with baby boomers retiring and the economy in Saskatchewan and the west heating up. However, investments and strategies are needed to be put in place for education, housing, health and economic development.

The Kelowna accord made those investments and allowed communities to design strategies to respond to their own unique challenges, something that is absolutely critical in giving and empowering the communities to come up with the solutions because this is from where the best solutions come. This is exactly what the Kelowna accord was designed to do. Moreover and more important, it set the stage for greater collaboration in the future, setting a road map for moving beyond the goals of Kelowna with a relationship based on mutual respect and recognition.

It is a disappointment that the Conservative government does not seem to understand the full opportunity to strengthen the economy in western Canada and engage first nations, Métis and Inuit people to their fullest capabilities.

The July 23 Meadow Lake Progress editorial also captured the risks of abandoning the accord stating:

The accord should have been honoured by [the Prime Minister's Conservative] government after its January election....If the Kelowna Accord is gone for good, it will be this nation’s aboriginals who will suffer the brunt of that decision.

There’s a lot riding on the Kelowna Accord, including the relationships between aboriginals and nonaboriginals—which will deteriorate if the agreement is not honoured...

To allow that relationship to deteriorate now, after it has been slowly evolving and improving over the last 50 years, would be a terrible betrayal of the progress that been made by the first nations, the Métis and the Inuit of our country who at the table with the prime minister and the premiers of our country.

This relationship has moved from first nations, Métis and Inuit being completely ignored by governments in the past to where they stood tall and demanded recognition, to a phase where mutual respect and collaboration became the norm. The Kelowna accord marked the culmination of this relationship building.

The Conservatives' refusal to implement the Kelowna accord and their inability to form any sort of replacement plan is a huge disappointment, particularly because they promised to honour the goals of it.

Unfortunately, the abandonment of the Kelowna accord is only one aspect of a general larger backward trend of Conservatives choosing to become increasingly confrontational, ignoring their fiduciary duty to first nations, Métis and Inuit people. With respect to being confrontational, the Conservatives have adopted a much more adversarial attitude in treaty negotiations and the recognition of aboriginal rights.

The Prime Minister and the Indian affairs minister made repeated attacks on aboriginal rights during treaty negotiations in British Columbia. These attacks began in July with the Prime Minister's letter to the Calgary Herald, in which he used inflammatory language in opposing so-called “race based” fisheries, which are actually “rights based” fisheries, and refused to acknowledge the Supreme Court's affirmation of aboriginal fishing rights.

This is not a race issue; it is a rights issue. I ask the Prime Minister not to focus on the colour of the skin of my people, but to focus on the rights that they have fought so hard their entire lives to advance in our country. Instead, his focus should be on his government's constitutional and fiduciary responsibility to the first nation, Inuit and Métis people of our country.

The Indian affairs minister has also been very insulting and inflammatory in his comments regarding aboriginal Canadians, showing incredible disrespect and refusing to honour his fiduciary duty to work for first nations, Métis and Inuit Canadians. The Indian affairs minister has been vocally attacking aboriginal funding levels and has been very misleading about the amount of money the federal government spends on aboriginal Canadians.

The finance minister has readily backed up him up, stating that $9.1 billion is the amount spent directly on aboriginal Canadians, but has failed to admit that a large part of that money is being spent on the administration across several departments. In INAC alone, the Treasury Board estimates that $600 million is spent on administrative costs, and INAC admits only 82% of the grants and contributions actually make it out.

The minister is also mixing up the entire amount going to Métis and Inuit as well as first nations and ignores the cuts that have occurred without consultation or notice. For instance, budget 2006 dedicated only $150 million in new money for “aboriginal investments” as $600 million for housing was already dedicated through Bill C-48 and passed by the previous Liberal government. However, spending cuts, totalling at least $220 million directly, were imposed on aboriginal programs, including health and languages funding. This means that first nations, Métis and Inuit actually lost $70 million in funding last year, not even including the terrible loss that the Kelowna accord represents.

Even more disappointing, the Indian affairs minister has made a bad situation worse by neglecting his fiduciary responsibilities. The Calgary Sun reported that a child and family welfare service executive in Calgary confirmed that INAC had been forced to redirect “non-core funding” such as those budgeted for child welfare to deal with the water crisis on reserves. Yet many communities are still under a boil water advisory and the minister has admitted he has failed in achieving his targets.

These meagre amounts in new spending for this year are an even bigger insult. They do not address population growth or inflation rates. They ignore the scope of housing, water, child welfare and health funding concerns evident in the first nations, Métis and Inuit communities. They do not make up for literacy and youth employment program cuts that had been made.

This budget is from a finance minister who is on record saying too much health money was being spent on aboriginal Canadians, who are not real people, and from an Indian affairs minister who is on record for saying that they already receive an awful lot of money. This is gutter politics. This time of confrontation has served no one and threatens to have terrible effects on the communities of our country.

The opportunities are still there, though. We encourage the government to respect and implement the Kelowna accord as it passes the House tomorrow night, as I am confident it will. However, regardless of the Conservatives' commitment to the Kelowna accord, the agreement still lives on as a goal and achievement. More than the funding, more than the benchmarks, the Kelowna accord represents a historic time when first nations, Métis and Inuit were respected and empowered to take leadership on behalf of their communities.

Doug Cuthand, a respected columnist for The StarPhoenix, wrote:

The great failure of Indian policy in Canada has been that other people have been making all of the decisions and deciding what is best for us. Politicians, Indian agents, pundits, missionaries and other various do-gooders have all done their share of thinking for us.

Over 30 years ago our leaders stood tall and fought for their rights in various court arenas throughout the country. They fight again today, using the best skills they have at their disposal, to move forward and respect what the Kelowna accord represented.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

March 20th, 2007 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the discussion on the budget.

The Conservatives wonder why we cannot support the budget. They say that it is a budget for the middle class, for workers, for everyone. Yet, when we look at the Conservative budget that was presented yesterday, there is absolutely nothing for affordable housing. There is absolutely nothing to reduce poverty in Canada.

We realize today that there is still poverty in Canada. The Conservatives cannot say that there is not a problem. Transfers to the provinces can help people on welfare. There are single people who are living on $268 a month. For example, in New Brunswick, a person with a disability receives $468 a month. How can a disabled person live on an amount like that?

Under the Conservative budget they are ready to give $9 billion in tax reductions to big corporations. Oil companies are among those large corporations. How many Canadians are happy to know each day, as they put gas in their vehicle, that gas costs them more than $1 a litre? Oil companies will again be able to save money on their taxes while the people who are putting gas in their vehicles are paying high prices. That is taxpayer money.

The Conservative government allocated $8 billion for post-secondary education. Students asked for $2.2 billion in support. Since 1991-92, the cost to students has risen by 153%. Last week, I was in Fredericton and I met with the post-secondary students association, which asked us to support their demands.

The government claims that it is paying down debt and balancing the budget, but in reality it has shifted the debt to future generations. They say they want to pay off the debt so that future generations are not stuck with it. But what is the government doing? It has downloaded it to the students. However, those students are not just anyone; they are not strangers. They are our children. These are the young people who will be the leaders of our country one day. They are the ones who will be working to build up our country. And, what are we doing? We are paralyzing them financially. This budget will not help them because their costs will increase.

In addition, there is absolutely nothing for a home care program, nothing for long-term care. One of our colleagues said earlier in the House that hospital beds are filled with people who have long-term illnesses and who could be in nursing homes. But there is no money in the budget for that, absolutely no money for that.

The Conservative government says that thanks to income tax reductions, young people will be able to claim up to $310 per year. It will amount to about $310. They can claim $2,000, which will mean an income tax reduction of $310.

We are talking about $310 per year for child care. This is an area in which the government has slashed spending. We had asked for a national child care program, because at present it can cost parents as much as $500 or $600 a month. In Quebec, it may be $35 a week, but look at what is happening in the other provinces in the country. This government is the one that slashed funding, that refused to create national child care centres. Talk to those people to see whether they agree.

As for increasing the minimum wage to $10 as proposed, this is about working people, about poverty. Some people have to have three jobs to get by, because they are working for minimum wage at $6 or $7 an hour.

There would be something in this budget if the government were proposing a bill to raise the minimum wage.

In terms of the economic development of Atlantic Canada and the ACOA, there is absolutely no surplus to help small and medium-sized businesses to establish and create jobs in Atlantic Canada, for example, as is the case in northern Ontario or western Canada. There is absolutely nothing to help rural regions. There is nothing for anyone but the big companies: $9 billion.

I cannot avoid talking about the $51 billion surplus in the EI fund when there is absolutely nothing for working people in Canada who are losing their jobs and absolutely nothing to change the system under which only 32% of women and 38% of men are eligible for employment insurance. There is a $51 billion surplus.

There is a surprise that I cannot avoid talking about. I was disappointed to learn that the Bloc Québécois was going to support this, when there is absolutely nothing in it for workers who have lost their jobs, and absolutely nothing for employment insurance.

I recall Bill C-48, which the NDP had negotiated with the minority Liberal government. We had agreement for $4.6 billion: $1.6 billion was allocated to post-secondary education; $1.5 billion was allocated to affordable housing; $900 million was earmarked for infrastructure in cities and municipalities; $500 million was being given to countries in need; and $100 million was to be used to protect employees' wages in bankruptcies.

The Bloc Québécois voted against Bill C-48, which was good for ordinary people. Today, it is going to vote with the Conservatives, when there is no change to employment insurance. This is the second time that the Bloc members have told us that we are the ones who have abandoned working men and women. They have had two opportunities to do the right thing, but they voted with a right-wing government that is not committed to helping working men and women or to social programs.

The Conservatives cut the court challenges program on September 25, 2006; they cut funding to Status of Women, and they cut funding for literacy programs.

Today the Bloc is going to support a government that made all these cuts and has done absolutely nothing, as I said, for working people and employment insurance. The Bloc accused us of being in bed with the Conservatives. I would say that they are in the hot tub with the Conservatives and having a fine old time. It is a disgrace.

Some say today that the Conservatives gave Jean Charest money for the elections in Quebec, where there will be a tax cut. Jean Charest announced it on television. There will be a $700 million tax cut. But when people go to the hospital in Quebec, they are stuck in the hallways because there are no available beds and services.

Mario Dumont said that he wanted to privatize health care in Quebec. Is that what he will do with the billions of dollars being sent to Quebec? We hope not.

We could have had programs to help Quebec and all the provinces in Canada. I do not know what has become of the Bloc members when they unite with a right-wing government that is the furthest to the right we have ever seen and that makes cuts in ways we have never seen before.

I saw it happen. I was in the House yesterday. When it became apparent that the Bloc would support the Conservatives, almost all the Bloc members were virtually hiding their heads beneath their desks. They were so ashamed. I know them well, my friends in the Bloc, I know them very well and I know that they are uncomfortable. They do not feel very good. They feel terrible.

This all needs to be seen in context. Why should we not support the Conservative budget? Because there is nothing for the middle class, nothing for seniors and nothing for people who are ill here in Canada. That is why we will not be supporting the Conservative budget.

February 26th, 2007 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Sheila Fraser

—that was subject to a special bill, Bill C-48, which received parliamentary approval. Those expenses were recorded in the Public Accounts of Canada—once we knew what the surplus was, of course, and then it was recorded. But there was parliamentary approval. We would not have permitted the recognition of an expenditure if Parliament hadn't given approval.

And we'll have to see, with the latest announcement, if approval is given before the end of the year or before we sign off on the financial statement.

Opposition Motion—National Anti-poverty Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

February 20th, 2007 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in the debate on the NDP's motion today. I would also like to thank all of my colleagues who have talked about this motion today, especially the member for Sault Ste. Marie. For months now, even years, he has been travelling across Canada, visiting every region to learn more about poverty that has taken root over the years—poverty that is totally unacceptable.

The opposition motion was tabled by the NDP member for Sault Ste. Marie; hats off to him. The motion reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, there is a growing prosperity gap in Canada that is making it harder for working and middle-class families to make ends meet and sees more and more Canadians, including women, children, seniors, aboriginal people and people with disabilities, slipping into poverty and therefore calls on the government, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, to implement a national anti-poverty strategy beginning with the reinstatement of the federal minimum wage to be initially set at $10 per hour.

It says quite clearly, “in cooperation with the provinces”. I have trouble understanding the Bloc Québécois' argument that this falls under provincial jurisdiction. It says “in cooperation with the provinces”. Please. I do not see how the Bloc Québécois can go back to the workers of Quebec and explain that it voted against a motion because it claims a federal body cannot raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour to try to help poor people in this country, our workers.

I will not waste all of my time on that issue. It will be up to Quebeckers to judge the Bloc on its position when the Bloc votes against the NDP's motion this evening. This measure will not eliminate poverty, but it will help fight it.

Today, when men and women earning minimum wage cash their paycheques on Fridays, they have to go to food banks to get enough to make ends meet. This is happening in our country, which is supposedly one of the best countries in the world.

A while ago, the Liberal government, with the help of the Conservatives, made deep cuts to employment insurance. Now, 800,000 people do not qualify for employment insurance and 1.2 million children go hungry and live in poverty in our country. That is totally unacceptable.

In Toronto, people are sleeping on cardboard boxes in front of city hall. This had never been seen in the past. Today, in big cities like East Vancouver or Montreal, people are having to beg in order to get food. In a country like ours, this is unacceptable.

The member for Nanaimo—Cowichan spoke about the aboriginal people, for example. Is poverty among the aboriginal people acceptable here, in Canada? Is this acceptable? I say it is not. It is shameful.

We see the Conservatives defending the corporations or companies that do not pay their employees. They do not talk about the company presidents, for example, who draw salaries worth tens of millions of dollars a year. As of January 15, they will have received more in salary than what the poor in Canada make in an entire year. No one talks about that.

I am proud of the NDP. During the reign of the former Liberal minority government, it secured $1.6 billion for affordable housing, to give people a chance to have a roof over their heads. I was proud of that. In Bill C-48, $1.5 billion was provided to give students a chance to survive. Poor people were trying to send their children to university and were not able to do it because it put them $40,000 in debt. That is what it costs them. At the time, the Liberal government applied their bankruptcy over 10 years. They were treated like second-class citizens. And yet if a big corporation tells the government that it is going bankrupt overnight, there is no problem. It hides its money somewhere else, in other countries, some here, some there, and then it decides to declare bankruptcy. For those corporations, that is fine. But we, collectively, cannot help our families.

I know that welfare is a matter under provincial jurisdiction.

When the government cut employment insurance, it sent people directly onto welfare. The rate of people receiving welfare has risen everywhere in Canada. I think that as leaders and legislators we have a responsibility to provide the tools so that people can get out of poverty. For a country like ours, as rich as ours, not to be able to feed its schoolchildren is shameful.

Take employment insurance as an example. The government has passed laws that create poverty rather than stemming it. That is what the government has done.

When we proposed measures in the House to change the Employment Insurance Act so that workers who lose their jobs could receive employment insurance, the Liberals and Conservatives were against those changes. That is what has led to poverty.

People in my riding call me and say, “Mr. Godin, I do not even have money to pay for the oil to put in my furnace,” or “Sir, I do not even have money to pay for wood to heat with. My children and I have to live in a house where it is cold and we are freezing”. This is shameful.

I am proud of the NDP motion. This evening, I would like to see who will vote against this motion. I am anxious to see who will vote against the idea of being able to help a worker to earn $10 an hour in our country.

The government boasts that the unemployment rate has declined and that there are more people working. In fact, there may be more people working but some of them are forced to hold three jobs in order to make ends meet.

Some people are forced to work in a restaurant during the day, to work in a second restaurant at night and to work in a third restaurant on the weekend in order to get by. Often, it is women who are the poorest. They are frequently single mothers. Look at the percentages and look at the studies that have been done in Canada. We are not helping the people who live on social welfare.

There should be transfers to the provinces, especially when we see that the government has billions and billions of surplus dollars in its coffers. I repeat, there are billions and billions of dollars.

The transfer of funds to the provinces would enable poor people to get off the street, to find affordable housing. What kind of society do we have? On the one hand, each week the government sends its ministers travelling to other countries of the world to tell everybody what a great country we have in Canada. On the other hand, we are not even able to look after our aboriginal people, nor are we able to take care of the poor people who live on the street. We are not able to look after the children who go to school on an empty stomach because they did not have even a glass of milk for breakfast. It is shameful. This evening, I defy anyone in this House to vote against a motion that seeks to prevent poverty in our country.

In the period when Ed Broadbent was a member of Parliament, in 1989, Parliament was unanimous in its desire to eliminate poverty within 10 years. However, instead of being eliminated, poverty has doubled.

Instead of helping to eliminate poverty, they have created it by making cuts to employment insurance. Then, they tried to make us believe that people were lazy slackers who did not want to work. That is not the case. It is because their jobs have been eliminated. Workers have lost their jobs in textiles and the fishery. Paper mills have closed their doors. Sawmills have shut down. That is what is happening in our country. That is how we have created poverty.

To be eligible for employment insurance, a worker must have accumulated 910 hours. Many women work 20 hours per week. In spite of that, they are not eligible for employment insurance. In addition, processing employment insurance applications takes 45 days. During that time, how do you think those people are supposed to live?

In conclusion, I ask this House of Commons and all political parties to vote in favour of this motion, for all Canadians and also for Quebeckers. The Bloc Québécois is ready to vote against this motion. I ask the Bloc to vote with us in solidarity with all workers.