Evidence of meeting #25 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was poverty.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Shawn Pegg  Manager, Policy and Research, Canadian Association of Food Banks
  • Wayne Hellquist  Chief Executive Officer, Regina and District Food Bank, Canadian Association of Food Banks
  • Michael Buda  Acting Deputy Director, Policy, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
  • Michel Frojmovic  Consultant, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
  • Monica Townson  Research Associate, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, As an Individual
  • Chris Sarlo  Professor, Department of Economics, Nipissing University, As an Individual

10 a.m.

Research Associate, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, As an Individual

Monica Townson

Yes, the Nordic countries do that best. You won't be surprised to hear that. They have very good social support systems and they assume--as I think we should too--that women who have children are doing it on behalf of all of us. We wouldn't want them to stop doing that, so we shouldn't be penalizing them for doing something that is a contribution to the whole of society.

In Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands, for example, they have very extensive support systems: child care, parental leave, and all kinds of stuff like that. Many countries have laws that provide equal pay for people who are doing part-time work compared to people who are working full-time. The important point to make there is that the hourly wage for part-time workers is often much lower than it is for full-time workers who are doing similar kinds of jobs. So that's one area: countries that have succeeded in addressing the hourly wage.

As I mentioned in my presentation, the review of the Canada Labour Code that was done by Harry Arthurs makes some specific recommendations on that. Changes to the Labour Code could provide for temporary part-time and other types of non-standard workers to be paid the same hourly wages as full-time workers in permanent jobs doing the same sort of work. I think that's the important point to make there.

The child care supports and other kinds of things they do are really crucial in those countries.

10 a.m.

Bloc

The Vice-Chair Yves Lessard

Thank you, Ms. Townson.

Mr. Ménard.

10 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'm going to start speaking with the representatives of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the quality of whose contributions to our debates we are familiar with. Moreover, the City of Montreal, where I am a member, is a member of that organization. However, I'm not convinced you clearly explained the indicators to the members of this committee.

How do you evaluate the municipality's situation? I understand that the brief you tabled provides a list of the some 80 indicators. I won't ask you to explain them to us in detail as a result of the time allotted to us, but I would like to understand how they differ from the consumer basket or low-income cut-offs.

What are we to understand about the 22 municipalities, including Calgary and Edmonton, that we find in your brief and that took part in it? Provide us with a summary. How was your measure different and what are we to understand from these conclusions?

Then I'll ask Mr. Sarlo two other questions.

10:05 a.m.

Consultant, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Michel Frojmovic

I'm glad you asked that we don't go into full detail on all the indicators.

Again, this is not an attempt specifically to measure poverty. It's not an alternative to the LICO or an alternative to the market basket measure--although I'd like to return to the market basket measure, MBM, in a second.

We are working with staff from a group of municipalities, and with their input, with their advice, their understanding of the dynamics and the issues in their respective municipalities, we are asking what would be a range of issues relevant both to them and to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities because they're of national importance. What are those issues that best capture what we're calling quality of life?

There is quite a diversity of indicators in there. We look at commuting patterns, for example. There is a whole range of health indicators; there are environmental ones, and just basic demographic ones. With some of those, you can see a direct connection to poverty. With others the connection is less clear.

We are not trying to simply and exclusively measure poverty. It's not an alternative at all; it's a menu of indicators open to a range of issues. If poverty is the issue of importance, well, then we can certainly draw on that quality of life reporting system. We forwarded a report to you that we called “Theme Report #1”. The reason we have thematic reports is that we are able to pick up on different themes. There have been three since the first one. We're working on the fifth, which will deal with immigration.

So to answer your question, we can draw on poverty, but it's not designed exclusively for that.

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

All right.

Am I mistaken in thinking that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities adopted a resolution that went around various city councils, including that of the City of Montreal, urging the federal government to restore funding for affordable housing?

To your knowledge, how many member municipalities of your federation are dealing with affordable housing problems? We know that the federal government withdrew from affordable housing in the early 1990s and that the most recent governments have made very small contributions in that area. Are you telling us about the link between affordable housing and your federation's expectations? Be brief because I also want to ask Mr. Sarlo a question.

10:05 a.m.

Consultant, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Michel Frojmovic

Just to give a thumbnail sketch on these trends, one of the points I mentioned earlier was that these issues, these trends, do vary across the country when we're looking at municipalities. We looked at--I don't know how many--maybe a dozen of those 75 to 80 indicators that dealt specifically with housing trends. One interesting example was the vacancy rates, the availability of rental units. Those vacancy rates--

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

That wasn't the meaning of my question.

Would you like the federal government to reinvest in affordable housing? In your fight against poverty, are you asking the major cities to circulate a resolution among their municipal councils? As a result of the federal government's irresponsibility on housing, you passed a resolution that you are circulating to your city councils. Am I mistaken in saying that?

10:05 a.m.

Acting Deputy Director, Policy, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Michael Buda

Well, certainly in January we released our National Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, which laid out a fairly comprehensive plan on how all three orders of government could work together to reduce homelessness, to actually eliminate chronic homelessness and improve housing affordability. We released that plan in January, and many municipalities across the country have, on their own initiative, taken motions in council to support that housing plan.

One of the objectives of the action plan that we've developed is to provide a framework that can provide supportive policies and programs that individual communities are going to be able to adapt to their own realities, which Michel was just talking about. Housing and homelessness issues look very different in different communities. Our goal is to develop federal, provincial, and municipal programs that can be focused and targeted on the problems that appear in each community.

One of the key elements of that housing plan is a long-term commitment by all three orders of government to these problems. Extensive planning is required to deal with some of these. I know Mr. Sarlo spoke about that, about the need for targets. The national action plan contains very clear targets on various elements of housing and homelessness.

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Thank you.

I'll come back in the second round.

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

The Vice-Chair Yves Lessard

You have 50 seconds left.

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

You'll give me five minutes and 50 seconds on the second round. That's like equalization; you're not forced to cash it in right away.

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

The Vice-Chair Yves Lessard

In the second meeting.

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

In the second round.

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

The Vice-Chair Yves Lessard

Mr. Martin.

April 17th, 2008 / 10:10 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Thank you very much.

I think we are certainly back on track this morning. I appreciate that. I think Ms. Yelich would agree. We've had a fairly good overview of what poverty looks like and some of the measurements that are there if we want to access them.

I really appreciated the reference to the Broadbent resolution and the UN resolution at Copenhagen on absolute and relative poverty. There's a new phenomenon--or at least words--starting to evolve, particularly in the European Union and other places, about this notion of social exclusion or inclusion.

I want to share what Richard Shillington dropped on our desk on Tuesday, which speaks to that for me, and then I want to ask you what you think:

Poverty is...
wishing you could go to McDonald's
getting a basket from the Santa Fund
feeling ashamed when my dad can't get a job
not buying books at the book fair
not getting to go to birthday parties
hearing my mom and dad fight over money
not ever getting a pet because it costs too much
wishing you had a nice house
not being able to go camping
not getting a hot dog on hot dog day
not getting pizza on pizza day
not going to Canada's Wonderland
not being able to have your friends sleep over
pretending that you forgot your lunch
being afraid to tell your mom that you need gym shoes
not having any breakfast sometimes
not being able to play hockey
sometimes really hard because my mom gets scared and she cries
hiding your feet so the teacher won't get cross when you don't have boots
not being able to go to Cubs or play soccer
not being able to take swimming lessons
not being able to take the electives at school (downhill skiing)
not being able to afford a holiday
not having pretty barrettes for your hair
not having your own private backyard
being teased for the way you are dressed
not getting to go on school trips

This is how kids themselves, grade 4 and grade 5 from North Bay, define poverty. For me it's an obvious example of this notion of social inclusion. Should that be included in this measure that we are trying to come to terms with in defining poverty?