Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing Act

An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Libby Davies  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

In committee (House), as of Sept. 30, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

The purpose of this enactment is to require the Minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to consult with the provincial ministers of the Crown responsible for municipal affairs and housing and with representatives of municipalities and Aboriginal communities in order to establish a national housing strategy.

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.

Votes

  • Nov. 24, 2010 Passed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for the purpose of reconsidering Clauses 3 and 4, or to add new clauses, with a view of clarifying the role of provinces, specifically Quebec, within the jurisdiction of the Bill.”.
  • Sept. 30, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

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

November 18th, 2010 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I consider it an honour and a responsibility to speak in support of Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians.

Our country has so much to be proud of. Canada ranks eighth on the United Nations development program's human development index, but sadly there remain many national issues completely unattended and unnoticed by the government, issues in desperate need of improvement and a meaningful commitment.

We need the government to begin to respect the intent of the veterans charter so that the brave men and women who fight for Canada receive the reparations and services they need and deserve. To do anything less diminishes the efforts and the unlimited risks that our veterans expose themselves to on our behalf.

Colonel Stogran believes that between 700 and 2,000 Canadian veterans are homeless, and this needs to change. I implore all members to vote for this legislation so that the very men and women who have defended our country do not have to sleep on its streets.

Canada has, in the last five years, become the single biggest recipient of international fossil awards and is now known as an environmental laggard. We and, more importantly, our children and grandchildren require that the government make a meaningful commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to reconstituting programs that encourage green building and renovations and to supporting renewable sources of energy for both environmental and economic benefits. When will the government understand that doing so will both create jobs and save our planet?

We require that the government begin to work for lower income Canadians who are left behind whenever the government cuts corporate taxes, like the $6 billion corporate tax cut planned for next year.

We need a national housing strategy, and we need that strategy to work for lower income and marginalized Canadians now.

Secure housing and early learning and child care are fundamental to eliminating poverty, and while the government abandoned the full early learning and child care strategy deployed by the previous Liberal government, it now has the opportunity to commit to an integral part of the equation, a national housing strategy.

There are gaping holes in our social safety net, through which the most vulnerable Canadians are falling. It is our responsibility as decision makers to close those holes and ensure that all Canadians receive the services they require: universal health care, food security, education and housing security.

The link between these is reduced crime rates, lower social and health care costs and higher productivity, proven time and time again in countries that deploy such strategies. We must demonstrate ourselves to be a compassionate country, committed to helping those in need for moral reasons and, frankly, for economic ones also.

We have an opportunity to pass Bill C-304, which will initiate a dialogue to create a national housing strategy. This will bring Canada closer to meeting its international obligations and will help to ensure that Canadians are protected from the affliction of homelessness and the overwhelming cost of housing.

A recent study on increased food bank use made the following statement:

The need for food banks is a result of our failure as a country to adequately address a number of social issues, including a changing job market, a lack of affordable housing and child care, and a social safety net that is ineffective.

It has been proven that passing this legislation would help to strategically increase the availability of adequate housing, so that marginalized Canadians' health is better protected and that crime is reduced, so that federal and sub-national governments' spending is focused on achieving a clear set of objectives to maximize the value of every dollar spent reducing homelessness, and to help alleviate the pressures on municipalities that are also overwhelmed by the delivery of so many publicly provided services.

My time on the Wellington and Guelph Housing Authority, working with Onward Willow, and on the Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination has affirmed my strong conviction that taking action to create affordable housing is, without question, one of the most effective ways to lift entire families out of poverty and into prosperity.

It is with this experience and these convictions in mind that I am extremely disappointed that Canada is the only G8 country without a national strategy to ensure its citizens have affordable and accessible housing. Housing is enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself [or herself] and of his [or her] family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care...

In 1976 Canada, as a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, committed itself to “make progress on fully realizing all economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to adequate housing” for all citizens.

Despite our clear commitment to providing housing for all Canadians, an astounding number of citizens either remain homeless or live in inadequate housing. More than 300,000 Canadians are homeless, approximately 3.3 million live in substandard housing and more than three-quarters of 1 million families live in overcrowded housing. These numbers predate the recession.

A recent study completed by the Canadian Payroll Association documents that approximately 59% of Canadian employees would “have trouble making ends meet” if their paycheque were delayed by only one week. This means that homelessness and inadequate housing could, should we experience further economic difficulties, be even more protracted, more catastrophic than it currently is.

This is but one reason we must pass this legislation and move toward a national housing strategy, built with all stakeholders' input to incorporate Canada's regional, cultural and economic diversity.

These numbers are staggering and the world is taking notice. On February 3, 2009, Canada was reviewed by the UN Human Rights Working Group. Given the state of housing in Canada, the working group, composed of 45 countries, actually felt compelled to make recommendations on how Canada could better meet its international obligations. In response to its recommendations, the government said the following:

Canada acknowledges that there are challenges and the Government of Canada commits to continuing to explore ways to enhance efforts to address poverty and housing issues, in collaboration with provinces and territories.

The intent of the government has been clearly stated. This is the perfect opportunity for it to join words with action, which it is typically so disinclined to do. Intent is not enough; it must be transformed into action. This means all of us in this House agreeing to create a national strategy and honouring the Canadian response to the working group's review. It means voting in favour of this legislation to create one.

Liberal Senator Eggleton and PC Senator Segal recently published a well-researched Senate report on poverty elimination, entitled “In From the Margins”. They are clear that fundamental to poverty elimination is the need to provide sustained and adequate funding for affordable housing through a national housing and homelessness strategy.

Michael Shapcott, director general of the Wellesley Institute, funding provider for multiple expert studies on housing and health, is clear: Canadians with homes are healthy Canadians, and healthy Canadians mean reduced health care costs. This is yet another reason that we need to pass this legislation.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, currently on the Hill advocating for municipalities, is also clear in its support for this legislation. FCM policy advisor Joshua Bates said in committee that:

Chronic homelessness and lack of affordable housing are not just social issues; they're core economic issues. They strain the limited resources of municipal governments and undermine the economic well-being of our cities, which are the engines of national economic growth, competitiveness, and productivity.

The United Nations, the Wellesley Institute, FCM and the Assembly of First Nations are but some of the bodies in support of this legislation, and from past statements of intent, so too it seems is the Government of Canada. Remember, the government has pledged to “enhance efforts to address poverty and housing issues, in collaboration with provinces and territories”. We need a national housing strategy to do so effectively.

It is not only imperative that we pass this legislation for compassionate reasons, to lift Canadians from poverty and to give the most vulnerable better lives. We must also introduce a national housing strategy so that our housing dollars are spent in the most effective way possible.

Therefore, I am appealing to all members today, on both compassionate and fiscally responsible grounds, to pass this legislation and begin the dialogue that will bring Canada closer to having a national housing strategy, which will bring our country into compliance with our international obligations and reduce poverty and crime through addressing Canada's housing crisis. Members' votes, simply put, amount to doing the right thing.

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

November 18th, 2010 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this important bill introduced by our NDP colleague from Vancouver East. This bill has been well received by the opposition parties and, in our opinion, is very necessary. It should also be well received by the Conservative government.

If we wish to be seen honouring our commitments as parliamentarians, and in light of the report on poverty tabled today, I believe we must take this opportunity to act on a measure that has a direct bearing on the issue of poverty.

I would remind members that the purpose of the bill is to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians—for all citizens of Canada and Quebec. I will come back to Quebec because it already has its own measures and initiatives. For some of these, it must share the jurisdiction, or at least the cost, with Canada.

It is fortuitous that the debate to send this bill to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for appropriate amendments coincides with the tabling of a report on poverty. The report is the result of three years' work by this committee, which included parliamentarians from every party in the House.

By the way, since my colleague from Sault Ste. Marie is present, I would like to highlight his hard work in initiating the study, and his dedication and effort in carrying out this project for his party. He encouraged us to work hard as well and we were pleased to be involved.

The results give hope to those living in inadequate housing. The report contains measures that reflect the opinions of the people we consulted across Canada. In three years, we travelled to every provincial capital and we heard from people who were familiar with the circumstances of those who are poorly housed.

There is a direct link between housing and poverty because we need to remember that, of all the burdens related to poverty, housing tops the list. There is no getting around it. If we do not take measures to ensure that housing is affordable for low-income earners, the cost of housing will inevitably take up the largest portion of their income.

There are people who spend 50% or even 60% of their income on housing. We have seen some people spend as much as 80% of their income on rent. Some even spend more than 80%.

It is widely acknowledged that once you spend more than 30% of your income on rent, you begin to slide down a slippery financial slope because the extra money you are putting towards rent has to be squeezed out of your budget for clothing, heating and food.

And that leads to the results we have found, notably in terms of food bank usage. In recent days, we have seen a number of situations where food banks have been short of food for months, trying to meet the needs of the people and families that are struggling to feed themselves.

Poverty has a new face these days. More and more working people are turning to food banks. On average, 13% to 14% of people who use food banks have a job. Surprisingly, when we look more closely at the figures by geographic region, we see that the largest percentage of working people who use food banks is in western Canada, in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The figure is as high as 17%. Why? Because it is not enough for people to have a decent income; they need to live in a region where the cost of living is reasonable compared to income levels. In regions where most workers have high incomes, the cost of living is also high.

More than 870,000 people use food banks every month. We should be concerned about that. That is more than the population of Ottawa. Imagine: more people than the whole population of Ottawa use food banks once a week. That is an alarming statistic. It should also tell us that something is wrong with the system.

Despite the fact that on November 15, 1989, the House of Commons unanimously voted in favour of eliminating child poverty by the year 2000, we are still in the same situation today, with a motion reiterated in November to achieve the same goal. What happened? Since 1991, there have been draconian cuts to a number of social safety net programs. One of these programs was social housing.

Typically in Canada, when a municipality or a region has a vacancy rate of less than 3%, we start to see serious problems with housing the least fortunate. With upward pressure on the cost of housing, the less fortunate can no longer afford the rent. We end up with people who are very poorly housed and large families in apartments with only three, four or five rooms and everything that entails.

In the riding of Chambly—Borduas that I have the honour of representing, there are 12 municipalities. Out of these 12 municipalities, 11 have a vacancy rate of less than 3%; 9 have a vacancy rate of less than 1%. Just imagine how that affects people with low incomes. They end up in very precarious situations because most of their income goes toward paying for housing. This is a major cause of poverty.

What caused this? From 1991 to 2001, for 10 years, the Canadian government stopped supporting social housing development.

Today we have an opportunity to remedy the situation. That is why I am calling on all my colleagues in the House to vote in favour of referring this bill to committee, in order to make the necessary amendments to have all hon. members vote for this bill.

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

November 18th, 2010 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to speak to the bill, in particular because we are at third reading of it and it has been a long journey. I was very lucky to follow the bill throughout its journey as it winded its way through the House.

When the bill was introduced by the member for Vancouver East, a tireless housing advocate for not only her own community but also for people across Canada, I was lucky enough to be the NDP housing critic. I have been there from the beginning. I have watched it grow and change in order to get it passed through the House of Commons and get it to that other place.

It has been really exciting to work with so many civil society organizations that have a vested interest in seeing the bill make its way through the House. They have engaged with us right from the beginning. They talked about amendments to the bill so we could make it even stronger than when it first started out.

I would like to single out, in particular, the work of Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, CERA. It was there from the beginning. It came up with great solutions to some of the legislative problems that we had with the bill. It really did such amazing work to make the bill so much stronger. I was very honoured to work with that organization.

A couple of other groups that I would like to single out are FRAPRU and the Evangelical Christian Fellowship. Both organizations did excellent work with us on the bill.

Therefore, we are at third reading in the second hour of debate. We are so close.

The support for the bill across Canada has been tremendous. Today the Federation of Canadian Municipalities was on the Hill meeting with parliamentarians today. I met with representatives of municipalities across Canada. The first thing they wanted was an update on Bill C-304. They wanted to know what they could do to help it get through the House. There is really strong support from FCM.

As well, I was welcomed to Mount Saint Vincent University to talk to the Sisters of Charity there. All it wanted to hear about was Bill C-304. That was the topic of conversation for the entire time. We had a great discussion about it. It was so relieved to hear that we were getting to third reading.

This weekend met with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Halifax. This bill as well as the bill introduced by my colleague from Sault Ste. Marie on poverty elimination were the two things it wanted to talk about. It understands how important both these bills are to Canadians.

Everywhere I go in my riding people actually know the number of the bill. They know Bill C-304. They know there is a call for a national housing strategy. People want updates when I am in my riding.

As well, this summer I was lucky enough to travel across Canada, doing a health tour. Housing was right up there as the number one issue. The support is tremendous. People support it because they understand the impact that the bill will have. They understand that it is a solution to homelessness, that it is a solution to precarious housing, that it is part of the solution for so many other things, that housing is linked inextricably to health outcomes, that if we expect to have a healthy population, there must be housing for people.

A report from the HUMA committee, entitled “Federal Poverty Reduction Plan: Working in Partnership Towards Reducing Poverty in Canada”, was introduced in the House yesterday. This is an incredible report. It talks about housing. It talks about the need for us to act when it comes to housing if we are to deal with poverty. It is about poverty. It is about women. It is about people with disabilities and newcomers. It is about our communities. Therefore, it is important that we talk about this in the House and that we are able to move the bill forward.

Homelessness and precarious housing hurts our communities. I have a copy of the Halifax report card on homelessness 2010. This is put together by the Community Action on Homelessness organization in Halifax. If we look at this report card, it has a really interesting chart, looking at homelessness numbers when it comes to Halifax and my community.

The Rebecca Cohn Auditorium is an auditorium where someone comes to do a performance, where the ballet performs when it comes to town, where there is theatre and music. There are 1,075 seats in the auditorium. It seats a fair number of people. I have been there. People looking around are impressed by the number of people sitting there.

The total number of firefighters in HRM is 1,100. There was a fire in May 2009 in my riding and the total number of Haligonians forced from their homes by that fire and others in the area was 1,200. That is a lot of people. It had a huge impact.

The total number of physicians working Halifax is 1,284. That is a lot of physicians. There is a major constituency in my riding. I talk to physicians all the time about the health care needs facing my community.

The total number of students at Citadel High School, one of the two high schools in my riding, a pretty big school, is 1,392. What does this all mean? These are big numbers I am talking about, but the total number of homeless individuals who use shelters in my riding of Halifax is 1,718.

I look around the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium and it looks like a pretty big audience. I talk to doctors because they are a pretty big constituency. There are more people who have used shelters in my riding than the other numbers and those people are literally homeless and have to go into the shelter system.

Housing is about so much more than people who are on the streets. Housing is about people who might have housing but are precariously housed. As members probably know, CMHC has set a guideline of spending no more than 30% of one's income on shelter. People who spend more than 30% of their income on shelter are at risk of homelessness. They are spending too great a portion of their income on shelter to be able to pay for the other things they need in life.

Currently in Nova Scotia people making minimum wage and working 40 hours a week would have to use 43% of their salaries just to rent the average bachelor apartment. This is in Halifax. An average bachelor apartment in Halifax is $638, if anyone can believe it. A one-bedroom apartment is $710 and a two-bedroom is $877.

Community Action on Homelessness prepared a really interesting chart. It looked at other professions, took the average income that people would make in certain professions and applied that against the average cost of an apartment in Halifax to see whether people could actually afford their housing when they were working. This chart is really interesting.

A lot of people in high school think they would like to be hairstylists. They go to school and pay tuition to become hairstylists. If we look at the wage of hairstylists on the chart, they cannot afford a bachelor, one bedroom, two bedroom or three-bedroom apartments costing only 30% of their income. Hairstylists in Halifax are precariously housed. How can they possibly afford to raise their kids if they are precariously housed?

The Community Action on Homelessness looked at cooks and it is the same thing. They cannot afford a bachelor apartment, one bedroom or two bedroom. It is the same thing for light duty cleaners.

People may think they need a bit more education in order to earn a little more money. Social service workers with average incomes can live in bachelor apartments. That would be about 30% of their income. They could deal with a one-bedroom apartment, but if they have kids, they cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to this. Nurses aides cannot afford it.

It is not just about people who are literally homeless. This is about people who are paying too much for their housing. We need a national housing strategy. We need it for the health and well-being of our communities. We need it for our constituents, neighbours, family and friends. That is who we are representing with this bill.

Therefore, I urge all of my colleagues in the House across party lines to support this private member's bill because this could change everything when it comes to homelessness and housing in Canada.

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

November 18th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to this bill that we in the NDP are proud to present. I thank my colleagues for the work they have done to move this critical bill forward at a time when Canada needs it so much.

Why do we need a national housing strategy? We need a national housing strategy because three million Canadian family households live in insecurity. They pay more than 30% of their income toward housing.

Furthermore, Canada is the only major country in the world without a national housing strategy. It has fallen behind most countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in its level of investment in affordable housing. Canada has one of the smallest social housing sectors among developed countries. Fewer Canadians qualify for the high cost of home ownership. In essence, the government has systematically pulled away from the critical and basic need for housing.

Recognized internationally, Canada is falling behind other countries around the world that are truly showing leadership on something as basic as housing. This has a particular impact on communities across the country where the state of housing and security varies across our country.

Earlier this afternoon I had the opportunity to speak with municipal councillors who are part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. They spoke about the five key issues, one of which was the need for a national housing strategy. These councillors were from rural areas, urban areas and metropolitan areas and they all spoke about that need.

As the member of Parliament for Churchill, I am honoured to represent a diverse number of communities, all of which have a specific housing need.

I would like to begin with possibly the most egregious state of housing that exists in our country and that is the one that exists in first nations communities. First nations, who have the fastest growing populations and the highest number of young people, have the greatest need for housing. The federal government has systematically underfunded bands and first nations when it comes to providing the most basic need, which is housing.

I have visited far too many houses on first nations that are overcrowded. I remember a house in Pukatawagan that had 21 people staying in it. The house was built below standard in the first place and is now engulfed with mould. Its infrastructure is falling apart at a much quicker level. Houses in first nations communities often do not meet the needs of northern climates, which makes people vulernable to sickness and, as a result of overcrowding, leads to all sorts of social instability and social tension.

Every time I go door to door in first nations communities across my riding, whether it is Nelson House, Norway House, Sagkeeng, St. Theresa Point or Pukatawagan, all 33 first nations that I have the honour of representing have raised the r critical need for housing. I have spoken in the House in the last few days about the third world state of housing in first nations communities that no Canadian across the country should have to put up with in a country as wealthy as ours.

There is also the need for affordable housing for low income people and students in the communities we represent.

Communities across Canada hope to provide educational opportunities and training opportunities for people in first nations communities and Métis communities but some of these communities have no affordable housing. Rental rates are completely beyond what many can afford. This is often a deterrent to their ability to access education, to access a way of furthering themselves and contributing to their community, to our economy and to our country. That is a shame.

By having a federal government that works with the provinces and communities to ensure affordable housing, these people would be able to become greater participants and greater contributors to our country moving forward.

Seniors housing is also a major concern and another area where we need a national housing strategy. I represent communities where increasingly people stay and retire. People want to be with their families but they have no seniors housing available to them.

The federal government has been negligent. We saw under the previous Liberal governments that they cut back the role the federal government ought to play when it comes to housing. This has left seniors in the cold, seniors who have built up our country, built our communities and now are often working with so little as a result of the government's failure to support them through OAS, GIS and the increasing instability of many of their pension plans. Housing is increasingly difficult for them to find at an affordable level and to meet their needs as seniors.

I also want to speak to the failure of the federal government, not only to act when it comes to housing but to act in terms of supporting communities, supporting their need to have a job, to contribute, to be able to afford their mortgages, to rent their homes and to survive. Nowhere is that more critical than what we are facing right now in my home community of Thompson, a community that over the last few years has been working hard to contribute to the profits of what was previously Inco and now Vale.

Yesterday we heard that Vale will be cutting 600 jobs in our community. We are fighting to not let this happen. We are calling on the federal government to be at the table, to ensure that people in my community do not lose their jobs, because what that means, and we hear their voices on the ground, is that our housing prices are going down, that people are going to leave and that people will no longer be able to contribute to their economy, whether it is by buying a home, renting or contributing to our businesses. Business owners will not be able to survive. Service providers will not be able to survive. A community that is a quintessential Canadian community, one that is like so many communities across our country, will become weaker and devastated.

All of this is because our federal government, to this point, has failed to stand and say that it has a role to play, to stand up for Canadian communities like Thompson, to stand up for local economies, to stand up for local economies, to stand up and ensure that Canadians are able to contribute and that Canadians who are part of contributing to a profitable economy are given that chance.

As the MP for Churchill, I have been appalled by the responses by the Minister of Industry in this House who talked about the benefits of the deal that was put forward by Vale. While other communities of this country are benefiting by that announcement, my community is not. When Thompson is not, when our part of Manitoba and our province is not benefiting, then Vale's commitment to Canada of a net benefit is a false commitment. That is why we demand that the federal government stand up to Vale and save our jobs. It should be part of the solution. It must recognize that as a national government, it has a role to play in housing, a role to play in supporting our municipalities and a role to play in working with first nations.

Year after year, the government steps away from that role. It is stepping away from its basic responsibility to look out for the well-being of Canadians. As it steps away from that role, we see our quality of life diminish and our jobs and our livelihoods being threatened.

This is unacceptable. and that is why we are calling on the federal government to support this housing bill, but most of all to support the idea that it needs to take leadership in ensuring that Canadians are better off.

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

November 18th, 2010 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in private members' hour.

Bill C-304 is currently being referred back to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for the purpose of reconsidering clauses 3 and 4 and to add new clauses with a view to clarifying the role of the provinces, specifically Quebec, within the jurisdiction of the bill. That is the mechanics of what is happening with the bill at the current moment.

There is an interesting history with regard to social housing in this country. From a Manitoba point of view, up until the NDP was elected under Premier Ed Schreyer in 1969, there was really very little, if any, social housing in the province or in the city of Winnipeg. The government of the day started an immediate program of building social housing.

I believe from 1969 on the housing was cost-shared 50:50 with the federal government. Pierre Trudeau was the prime minister at the time when the Liberals were in power. We certainly took advantage in a big way by developing social housing. In one of our provincial constituencies. which had, I believe, about 10,000 residents, land was fairly inexpensive in that area and I believe we were in the process or had already developed by 1973 perhaps a dozen senior citizens buildings in that particular area.

We followed that up with a number of multi-storey townhouse types of construction as well. Initially the buildings were pretty much all bachelor suits and they were very high, 10 to 12 storey buildings, which all stand today. However, it is interesting how, when the demand was satisfied by 1977, the NDP lost the election and the Conservatives, under Sterling Lyon, won and everything stopped. It was just night and day. There was not one development started under the four year Sterling Lyon government, which was, by the way, one of the reasons that his government only lasted four years, I believe he was the only premier in Manitoba history to survive only one term.

Interestingly enough, one of the last programs that the Schreyer government initiated, building projects, was at 5355 Stadacona in my riding. While we approved it before we left office in 1977, it was 1986 by the time we had our ribbon-cutting ceremony. I was there to cut the ribbon for the opening of that building. By that point in time, that was one of the first buildings to have one bedroom and some two bedroom suites. We were finding the demand shifting over to those types of suites. People wanted to move out of the downtown area where the buildings were all bachelor suites and move into the one bedroom apartments.

What we have had over the last 10 years or so are a number of the bachelor suites being taken up by people with addictions and newcomers to the country who need short term housing.

That is an example of what a government with commitment can actually do. The NDP government of Ed Schreyer took on the problem full force. The construction cranes were everywhere. It is true that the federal government was putting up half of the funds, but to us it seemed almost unlimited activity. This took care of a huge demand where people were moving into the city from farms and retiring. Seniors, who were living in substandard housing, were also looking for places

However, because the demand seemed to be satisfied, as we know, the federal government got out. Surprisingly, it was the Liberal government that got out of the funding in 1993, according to my chart. We have seen very little activity since.

Of the buildings that we built in 1970 to 1973, many are now deteriorating. They need renovations. Where it had been unheard of, we now have constant bed bug problems being documented in the housing. A lot of repair work has to be done.

The effect of the federal government getting into social housing is that it provides an even application across the country. That is why we have a country in the first place, to provide similar services across it. When the federal government takes itself out of a program like social housing, then it is basically the old laissez-faire system of survival of the fittest.

I hate to pick on my neighbours two doors over, but the province of Alberta has been known as a province that has money. My colleague says, “...used to have money”. One would say that social housing should not be a problem for Alberta because it is a very rich province and can build the buildings. However, a province that does not have the resources is pretty much stuck, not being able to do much to solve the problem. That is why fundamentally this country needs a national housing strategy.

Another reason we do not have and will not have a strategy as long as we have Conservatives running the government, and to a lesser extent the Liberals, is that they philosophically disagree with the whole idea. The approach of those parties is private sector. If there are bucks to be made for the private sector, that is the way we have to proceed. The real estate and construction industries have somehow convinced the successive governments to leave that market to the private sector.

In a number of years past there was a program where the government was going to provide subsidies to people. However once again, it was going to be private entrepreneurs who would be building the buildings and renting them out with a view to making money.

As long as we have that Conservative mentality that somehow free enterprise is going to solve all of our problems with the old trickle-down economic theories, we are never going to see the national housing strategy that we should have in this country.

Clearly, before that happens, we are going to have to see a major change in the political structure in this country with the removal of the Conservative government and the election of a more progressive government. Or, we may have a situation develop out of desperation, and in the need to continue its political longevity, we may see some deal as we did with the Martin Liberals where we were able to get a billion or two for social housing. However, that is a piecemeal approach for a long-term problem.

I have a lot more to say about this issue, but I guess I do not have time.

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

October 20th, 2010 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak at third reading stage of Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians.

There has been tremendous support for this bill right across the country. Yesterday on Parliament Hill many folks came out with their red tents. They were taking part in a campaign organized by the red tent campaign to end homelessness in Canada. Rallies were held yesterday in Halifax, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, and right across the country. The reason was because people know that there is a housing crisis in this country, whether in large cities or smaller communities.

Anybody involved in the housing business, average people on the street, will tell us about people they know who are homeless. They will tell us about families they know who are paying 50% or 60% of their income in rent. They cannot find an affordable place to live. They will tell us about people who are threatened with eviction.

About three million Canadians live in what we call housing insecurity. One of the reasons we have this predicament is because we do not have a national strategy and a national framework around affordable housing in this country.

Canada has had a history of good housing programs, but many of those programs have been lost. I do not want to go into the history of that today because we do not have time.

Suffice it to say that the efforts that we have made have been piecemeal. Even the money in the last budget that was related to the recession was only one time stimulus money for housing and that money is not getting into the local communities. There has been a real vacuum in this country. There has been a social deficit around a housing plan. People understand that.

This bill is very straightforward and clear. It calls on the federal government, in partnership with the provinces, the territories, first nations, municipalities and stakeholders, to develop a strategy that could take us forward and move us into a situation where we have a real plan with objectives, targets, outcomes, and deliverables. That is why so many people have signed on in support of this bill.

The list of organizations that are supporting this bill is really quite phenomenal. The organizations are non-partisan and are located across the country. The list includes: ACORN Canada, Amnesty International Canada, Assembly of First Nations, Campaign 2000, Canada Without Poverty, Canadian AIDS Society, Canadian Association of Social Workers, Canadian Federation of University Women, Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, Citizens for Public Justice, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, National Aboriginal Housing Association, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Social Rights Advocacy Centre, Wellesley Institute, and YWCA.

These are national organizations and they represent millions of people in this country. These organizations have signed on to support this bill because they know that work needs to be done. They know that the federal government needs to take a leadership role in bringing the partners together in developing a plan.

I am proud that in my own community in Vancouver East, where this began, key organizations like Pivot Legal Society and the Citywide Housing Coalition did a lot of organizing to support this bill. I want to thank those individuals who have worked so hard to bring this bill now to third reading in the House.

I would also like to thank my colleagues in the House from the Bloc, the Liberal Party, and there have even been some Conservatives who have supported the bill. The support across the House, across parties, is a reflection of the work that has been done at the grassroots. Right across the country there has been tremendous campaigns to contact members of Parliament to let them know about the bill and the work that needs to be done.

I am very hopeful that this broad support will continue for the bill. I would like to thank the members who have supported the bill and say that we can move this forward. We can realize an achievable plan. We can get the federal government to work with the partners across the country to truly develop a national strategy that builds on the success that we have had in provinces.

The province of Quebec has a tremendous housing program. It can build on the success that we have had in local communities because many municipalities have done tremendous work in providing affordable housing. However, we will not get where we need to be unless we have the federal government showing that political leadership.

I have seen letters from the government saying, “Do not worry. We are doing what needs to be done”. Unfortunately, that is not the case. All of these organizations recognize that is not the case, otherwise they would not be supporting the bill.

I want to suggest to members today that we can move the bill forward. We can adopt the kind of strategy that we need and we can say that housing is a fundamental right. We can say that wherever we live in this country, we should have access to safe, appropriate, and affordable housing. No Canadian should be on the street destitute. No Canadians, no families, should worry about whether they can pay the rent, whether they will be evicted, or whether they are living in substandard housing that they cannot get upgraded. To me, this is just such a basic issue and it is the reason I ran in 1997, to bring forward the issue of the need for leadership from the federal government on housing.

Let us build on the programs that we used to have. Let us build on the success story that Canada was with social housing, co-op housing, and special needs housing. We did have tremendous programs. The bill does not actually create those programs. The bill creates the debate, the discourse, and the plan, led by the federal government in partnership with provinces and territories, first nations and municipalities to actually develop that strategy.

This is a very basic thing we need to take on, so again, I want to thank members for their support. We are now at a very critical point in the bill. It has gone through second reading. It has gone through committee. We heard great witnesses. We made some changes to the bill and we are now at third reading.

Let us recognize the support that it has. Let us listen to our constituents. Let us listen to the people who are on the front line every day, dealing with people who are in desperate situations and do not know where they will go. Let us listen to the people who are trying to find that affordable housing for families in large cities as well as in smaller communities.

We have a responsibility to do the right thing. The bill is not rocket science. It is not earth shattering. It is very straightforward. It is very clear. It is calling on the federal government to work in a way that is delivering a mandate for those fundamental human needs.

I am very pleased that we are here debating Bill C-304 and look forward to what I hope will be ongoing support from the members of the House to make the bill a reality.

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

October 20th, 2010 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for the work she has done on the bill. I know she would acknowledge that members of the Liberal Party have been supportive of it and have helped to steer it through. I specifically reference the member for Parkdale—High Park who put in a number of serious amendments.

However, I want to ask her for a comment. One of the big issues in the fight against poverty and homelessness is the question of the cost of poverty and the cost of homelessness. I will reference a study that the hon. member would be familiar with which was commissioned by the British Columbia government in 2001. It is cited in the Senate report “In from the Margins: A call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness”. It stated:

The study concluded, based on the experience of study participants, that costs for services for those who were homeless at the time of the study was 33% higher than for those who had been homeless but were then housed.

In other words, this is good economics as well as good social justice, and I wonder if she might just comment on that.

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

October 20th, 2010 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is entirely right and that study in British Columbia showed the economics of what is before us. I would also like to reiterate my thanks to the members of the Liberal Party who have supported the bill, both in committee and in other ways. I know they have had a keen interest to move the bill forward. I am very appreciative of that as I know many of the organizations are.

The fact is there has been so much research that has been done on housing issues to show what the astounding cost is of homelessness, both in terms of the impact on individuals, their lives and families, and local communities, but also the impact economically. The report the member cites from B.C. and others across the country show us that the cost of not housing people properly is enormous both socially and economically. This is something that we should pay attention to.

I have another report from SPARC B.C. and the CCPA B.C. office that shows that in B.C. alone there are more than 13,000 people on the waiting list. There are about 11,000 people who are absolutely homeless. The numbers are just staggering when we go community by community and it is a growing problem. We can look at this through the lens of human compassion. We can look at it through the lens of human rights. We can look at it through the lens of an economic cost. On all three counts it is clear that we need to do something much more and move forward on the bill.

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

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

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Vancouver East has done a phenomenal job of bringing this forward. Hopefully the bill will receive the support of all four corners of the House.

However, I want to get back to the issue around the CCPA report and the modest amount of B.C. social housing that has been constructed more recently. Now of course as the member knows from Vancouver East virtually all of the funding for social housing in British Columbia over the last few years came from the famous NDP budget of 2005 federally where the tax cuts were rolled back and rolled into housing funding that eventually went through to the B.C. Liberal government and created housing units including in my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster.

I want to ask the member for Vancouver East to what extent she thinks the NDP budget of 2005 helped to address at least in a small part, this massive deficit of good quality accessible housing in the country?

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

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

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, today we are discussing Bill C-304, the NDP's bill for a national housing strategy.

It has been reviewed by committee and returned to the House with amendments, but it remains a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation.

The amendments proposed by the committee do nothing to alleviate the government's concerns with the bill.

The NDP members have gone to quite a bit of trouble to craft a bill just so. In fact, they had to take great care to ensure the bill did not run afoul of the rules of royal recommendation and they succeeded, barely.

They had to take all that care because they know as well as anyone that actual implementation of their national housing strategy will cost billions upon billions of extra dollars every year.

As the Speaker has ruled, this bill may go forward if it has sufficient support, but it is certainly not without cost. So, we will not indulge the opposition with that bold fiction. The truth is that the bill would cost us quite a lot and I think far too much.

Our country is still recovering from the recent recession. What it certainly does not need at this time is coalition-driven spending and tax increases, which is what would result with the passing of this bill. This is something they cannot deny.

It seems every time the opposition members speak, they are calling for billions in more spending and more tax increases.

To say they have some big ticket items in their policy hopper would grossly underestimate the price of those other items. As I said earlier, this bill is no different.

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

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

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, it seems that the member across the way would like to debate whether or not people who commit violent offences on innocent civilians should go to jail.

I would be happy to debate with him why violent criminals should be behind bars and not on the streets of Canada, but I do not think that is what we are debating here right now. However, I will take him on that debate any time he wants. In fact, I will go to his own riding and debate it with him if he likes. I have no problem with standing up for justice. The member can heckle me if he wants. I am just going to continue talking about why this piece of legislation is as wrong-headed as virtually everything else we see coming from the NDP.

This bill calls for billions of dollars to be plucked out of thin air, magically--that is NDP math--and spent at the direction of the federal government in the area of fundamentally provincial jurisdiction. It would be interesting to see what the Bloc does with a bill that steps blindly into the provincial jurisdiction.

It is mind-boggling. Where do the NDP members think they are going to find the money if it is not in higher taxes? Governments do not have money. All they have is what they tax from Canadians. The NDP members do not understand that. We do not have the ability to create money. We do not have a magic money tree that we can get money from. The NDP members have a special mathematician who works with them who does wonders, I suppose.

They want to create a new bureaucracy but how do they think the federal bureaucracy can be as aware, as knowledgeable and as responsive as provincial and territorial governments that already work closely with us? Why do they think Ottawa knows better than our local, provincial and territorial governments and more than our local stakeholders, the people on the ground who understand the issues well?

Even further, why do they think the government in general is the only solution? Why do they insist on one size fits all solutions? Fundamentally, the answers to these questions come down to ideology. The left-wing, tax and spend, money is no object ideology of the NDP often, and frankly really often, is supported in Parliament by the Liberals and the leftist Bloc, the coalition. That is their ideology. That is what is behind this bill: higher taxes and more spending is the only solution.

This bill, through the implementation of its strategy, would require billions in increased taxes, which is no different from any of their other proposals. In fact, I am not even sure the opposition members have any idea exactly how much the bill would actually cost, and they certainly do not know how to pay for it, apart from unspecified need for higher taxes.

I do not think they particularly care that the money needs to come from somewhere and that that somewhere is the pockets of hard-working Canadians. The price tag for their ideology and for the bill is, in this case, unaffordable.

They live in a bubble. Do they not watch the news and see the difficult decisions that governments are making right now? They continue to bring irresponsible, uncosted bills before Parliament and suggest that it is somehow responsible. It is not responsible. They bring forward uncosted bills that impact the Canadian books to the tune of billions of dollars of new spending and suggest that they are there to help people. The outcome of this would be less employment, fewer jobs, less opportunity, more people homeless and higher taxes. That would be the outcome. They do not understand economics.

Mr. Speaker, their heckling is really quite encouraging, so I would ask that you not do anything to curb the NDP's heckles because I am really quite enjoying it.

We can and do debate the merits and wisdom of policy choices. What I am talking about is a pure spending aspect, especially given the financial circumstances of the global economy and of the Canadian economy. The spending envisioned by the implementation of this bill cannot reasonably be seen as anything but reckless.

The coalition may not care about sane financial policy, but our government does. We simply cannot afford to start throwing billions of dollars around without a care. That is what this bill is instructing us to do.

It is remarkable. I am not that old, but I have been around a little while and I can say that right now there is a significant number of affordable housing projects going on from coast to coast to coast. That is because this government made it a priority to invest in affordable housing, to renew the housing stock, build new units, invest from one community to another from coast to coast in each and every territory and province, and to invest in aboriginal housing on and off reserve. We have made these investments.

The one remarkable consistency is that the movers of this bill, the irresponsible economists of the NDP that I am listening to right now, they are the ones who voted against all those measures. Any affordable housing that is being built, any improvement to the housing stock, the people who are being lifted out of poverty, the jobs that have been protected, the special measures in EI, all of these things that have been done, that have guided the Canadian economy through unprecedented difficulties--in fact, we have not seen a downturn like this since the 1930s--this government moved to protect them and the NDP voted against all of that, including the measures for homelessness.

There is a new YWCA shelter in Peterborough that protects vulnerable women. It got funding from some of these programs. Let us remember that the NDP voted against it.

Then those members stand in this House and suggest that their ideology is quite different from ours and they want to help people. We have been there to help people, and we have done so in a financially responsible way.

The fact is federal support for housing is very robust. Our support is multi-pronged and our current system respects the jurisdiction, different needs and circumstances of our provinces and territories, something this irresponsible NDP bill would not do.

I talked earlier about how their own inflexible ideology causes problems. When all they want is more spending and more programs, they drown out reality. They drown out innovations that could be much more effective than simply more money, more programs, more taxes, more government and—

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

October 20th, 2010 / 7 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is remarkable that when we talk about financial irresponsibility and tax-and-spend, which is something I think they would be proud of, judging by the bills they bring in, when it is pointed out how financially irresponsible and wrong-headed the NDP is, they get all excited. They do not like being called on it.

The reality is there is no magic money tree in Ottawa. The NDP believes that there is, that we can create money out of thin air or they would not bring irresponsible bills like this to the House. Similarly, when they call for more spending and more programs, they distract Canadians from clear thinking. This certainly hurts more than it helps.

The opposition's solution is this bill, a new layer of bureaucracy and taxes and spending. It would take the form of direct cash transfers and incentives and building more spending and more programs, but they ignore the fact that one of the best ways to increase the amount of money that Canadians have in their pockets for themselves and their families is action through the tax system.

Lower taxes increase take-home income. Our government has brought in tax measures to help people who need it, the working income tax benefit, WITB. Mr. Speaker, it is regrettable that my time is coming to a close, because I have so many things to talk about that our government has done.

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

October 20th, 2010 / 7 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-304. The Liberal Party has supported Bill C-304 from the beginning.

Like many private members' bills, the bill has had issues and challenges. I am very pleased that the Liberal Party has strengthened the bill. I want to commend the work of a number of Liberals on the committee. I have been at the committee and we have been very supportive. I want to commend my colleague from Parkdale—High Park who has brought forward amendments to this bill that make this bill more applicable to persons with disabilities, that bring not for profits to the table in a stronger way, that set targets and standards and take into account strengthened environmental needs of affordable social housing in the country.

This is a way that we have worked to make sure that this bill is even better, but we support the bill. We want this bill to pass. We think this bill is important. Contrary to what the parliamentary secretary was implying, we think this is a very strong bill from an economic point of view.

This bill does not require a royal recommendation. It is about having a housing strategy and governments would make choices about what would be included in a housing strategy. There are recommendations in this bill, but first and foremost, it says that we should have some kind of a national strategy on affordable housing. I think most people would agree with that. Certainly the people in the not for profit community, many economists, many social scientists, people from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, who have become more and more involved in the need for affordable housing, would echo the sentiment that this is a bill that has real potential to make a difference in Canada.

I want to speak about the need for affordable housing. I referenced earlier a Senate report. My colleague from Sault Ste. Marie in the NDP, my colleague from Chambly—Borduas in the Bloc and others on the government side who have been part of an anti-poverty strategy would know some of this, but the Senate released a report on poverty and homelessness in December. The House of Commons has a report that is ready to go, but as it is only in draft form, I will not quote from that. I will, however, quote from the Senate report.

The Senate report opens a section on homelessness by saying:

The most visible sign of the failure of our income security and housing systems and programs to meet the basic needs of individuals and families is homelessness. By definition, homelessness is difficult to measure, but witness after witness reported increases in demand for shelters and food banks, even among those who are employed.

It goes on to reference a specific study in British Columbia, but it is echoed by other studies across the country. I will quote again:

The study concluded, based on the experience of participants, that costs for services for those who were homeless at the time of the study was 33% higher than for those who had been homeless but were then housed.

In other words, it costs money to have people homeless. It is a classic lose-lose situation.

My colleague from Yukon gave me a very good report the other day from the Wellesley Institute. I want to quote from its introduction:

People's ability to find, and afford, good quality housing is crucial to their overall health and wellbeing and is a telling index of the state of a country's social infrastructure.

I do not think anything could be more true than that. There are a lot of people who need more affordable housing who could benefit from a national housing strategy. One of the groups that would most benefit is people with disabilities.

In April or May, a press release came out from the Council of Canadians With Disabilities, from Marie White, the national chairperson. She is one of the great advocates in this country on social issues, not just on people with disabilities but on many other things as well. She calls on all parties to support Bill C-304:

Adequate housing is essential to the well being of persons with disabilities.... Canadians with disabilities disproportionately live in poverty and finding affordable housing is a huge challenge.

One of the great advocates for disability issues in this country is Steve Estey, who lives in my community of Dartmouth. He was a negotiator when Canada went to the United Nations to work on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. If he were here today, Steve would point out to us how important it is to recognize our international obligations to people with disabilities, the part of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities regarding the right to housing, and the important need that we have to provide that housing to people with disabilities.

There is another issue that I want to mention briefly. People are concerned about housing, not just for the really poor, to whom we really need to be responsive, but many other Canadians are awfully nervous and are not that far away themselves from having issues regarding decent shelter.

I want to provide a statistic from RBC Economics in September. It stated, “Today the typical Canadian family must devote 49% of its income to own a standard two-storey home while mortgage rates are at their lowest point”. Another statistic was that 58% of Canadians are concerned with their current level of debt, averaging $41,470 per person. That means many people are not that far from being under-housed, at the very least, and perhaps even some being homeless.

The statistics and evidence of the need for housing is coming from all kinds of quarters. Recently TD Economics released a report on the Toronto area economy's hidden recession. It stated, “Looking ahead, little improvement in the jobless rate, social assistance case loads and social housing wait lists can be expected over the medium term”.

The news is not really very positive. We need to take action on poverty overall, specifically homelessness. Let us look at the groups that have endorsed Bill C-304 recently such as the YWCA Canada, the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Federation of University Women. which is a fabulous organization. It has great advocacy. I happen to know that because my mother-in-law is an active member of the Canadian Federation of University Women and I would never go against her advice.

Other groups that endorse the bill include the Canadian Medical Association, Canada Without Poverty, the Red Tent campaign and the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association. As I mentioned, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been very active on the need for getting into the housing business on a national level, bringing everybody to the table and asking what we can do, not just because it is an issue of social justice but because it is an issue of good economics as well.

I hosted a round table in my constituency last week, along with my colleague from Halifax, on palliative, or end of life care. We spent a lot of time talking about the importance of people choosing to die at home. Somebody stood and asked, “What about the people who don't have a home to die in?” When we think about the very basic needs of Canadians, one of the most important ones is that people have homes, not only where they can live but where they can die when that time is upon them.

In my constituency many times I visited the Metro Turning Point Shelter, where 70 or 80 men at a time live in one room. I think the beds are surplus prison beds. The men line up and spend the night there. We are all familiar with that in our constituencies. They go to the mission or, in our case, to Hope Cottage in the morning to get their meals. They wander around and return at night to try to get a bed. There is some really innovative stuff going on. We just need to encourage more of it.

Also in my constituency Affirmative Industries is an organization that has built housing for mental health consumers. Not only do people pay rent, but as part of the program they build up equity in those houses so eventually they actually have a few dollars invested. It gives them pride in home and when they leave, they have some place to go and a little money. More important, they have the dignity of knowing that it belongs to them.

We can do innovative things in housing. The Canadian Co-operative Housing Association has some fabulous projects that could benefit from the national housing strategy. There is no lack of ideas. There is a lack of a national strategy and commitment from the federal government. We need to do more.

On our federal anti-poverty hearings in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, everybody who came, from Mike Kirby with the Mental Health Commission to people with disabilities, people from the aboriginal community, they all said the same thing. The first and most important step is to have a house. In Canada, where we pride ourselves on social infrastructure, we need to do better.

We can make the case purely from a social justice argument, but we can also make it from an economic argument. There is more and more evidence telling us that if people have a house, they are less of a burden on the health, justice and social welfare systems. This is where we have to go. It is time that we have some kind of national system that looks at this really important issue and asks if we can do better, if people in Canada should be housed, if everyone should have shelter. If they should, they can start here and this bill can play an important role.

We are happy to have made it better. We congratulate the member for Vancouver East for bringing it this far and we hope the House sees fit to adopt it.

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

October 20th, 2010 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the subject of social housing. I noticed earlier—and this is where I will begin—that our Conservative colleague does not understand the first thing about social housing. He knows nothing about the money that could be invested in it. He does not realize that social housing does not cost so much in reality. We are currently paying for people who are living in the street. We are paying to look after them. We are paying for their well-being and we are paying huge bills for their health. All that costs much more than social housing would. The Conservative colleague does not understand the math. He understands absolutely nothing about it.

The Bloc Québécois believes that social and affordable housing is needed across Canada, which necessarily includes Quebec. Why does UNESCO regularly say that Canada is a rich country that does not take care of its least fortunate and does not build social housing, when my colleague says that social housing is not necessary and that it constitutes reckless spending? “Reckless” is the word he used earlier. I think he has never been to the many poor neighbourhoods in Canada. I have gone into Canada's cities and I have seen where first nations people live and I have seen the housing conditions. It is awful. Some places are scary and people live in the street. According to the Wellesley Institute, as my colleague was saying earlier, if they are not living in the street, they are paying a lot of money in places like Toronto. My colleague was saying that people spend up to 85% of their meagre income on housing for the sake of their children. How are they supposed to have enough left over for food? They become sick and then the government ends up paying to keep them alive and well.

It is such a mistake not to realize that we need social housing immediately. Furthermore, I do not understand how the Liberal Party could have put an end to that in 1991. Not to mention the fact that children who are homeless and raised on the street are not being educated. They are living in poverty. What is the best crime school? Poverty. The main motive for crime is poverty. The Conservatives are always talking about law and order. Yet they have no problem letting people live in poverty. It is unbelievable.

The Bloc Québécois has always defended and will always defend social housing. I am not sure if all the groups that support Bill C-304 are aware that this government will not want to implement it. Do those groups realize that even if the Conservatives do implement it, studies will drag on for years before there is any money for social housing.

Money is needed right now, which is precisely why I introduced another bill, even though the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-304, which would provide a much-needed strategy. Canada lags behind when it comes to social housing.

The purpose of Bill C-304 is to establish a national housing strategy. There is the problem, since Quebec already has a strategy. The Société d'habitation du Québec is handling all the needs quite well. What we do need, however, is money. We would have liked this bill to include full compensation from the beginning, and a real opportunity to get out of this situation. If that had been the case, we could have supported it immediately. However, although it is not yet a done deal, we still have hope.

The Bloc has always taken a constructive approach to this bill, which is not ours, but it believes the bill would serve as a wake-up call for the public, even though it would not necessarily provide any money. What we really want is compensation, though. Every region and every first nation has its own needs, and Quebec is no exception.

Quebec has developed widely recognized expertise. Earlier, I quoted the Wellesley Institute, which says that Quebec is ahead of all the other provinces because it has the Société d'habitation du Québec, which puts up energy-efficient buildings and has the same standards that UNESCO claims to have. We are not saying that the rest of Canada should not have such a body. We agree that the rest of Canada should have one. All we are asking is that this bill provide a way to recognize our own institutions. Then, Quebec would agree to let the rest of Canada come up with its own strategy.

I move, seconded by the member for Chambly—Borduas, who is present here today, that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for the purpose of reconsidering Clauses 3 and 4, or to add new Clauses, with a view of clarifying the role of provinces, specifically Quebec, within the jurisdiction of the Bill.