Evidence of meeting #5 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 million.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

I have to say I'm concerned about that. I've read a number of studies lately. I certainly read the study from John Richards regarding some of these things. I think he had some very strong views on how important it is to use the hot job market as a way to lift people out of poverty.

I take your point. I don't disagree with it at all. There are people working today who can't make ends meet and we need to work hard to find ways so that being in the workforce is rewarding and ultimately allows them to improve conditions for themselves and their families. I think all members of Parliament are concerned about that. I can tell you I've read a lot about it lately, and working with this committee, I want to put in place changes that realize that goal.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

I know that housing is a persistent challenge across the country. There are a number of people now working very aggressively and energetically on homelessness initiatives across the country, but what they're finding is they're spending as much time trying to raise money as they are actually doing the job.

Is there any intention on the government's part to put in some core funding for some of those agencies and those groups so they can really turn their mind and most of their creativity to actually solving the problem as opposed to continuing to have to fundraise?

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

What we've done with the homelessness partnering strategy is we're funding a lot of local groups to make judgments about who, within those communities, is in a position to provide services to people who are facing the potential of homelessness or are actually without a home today.

We've just started this program, of course. It just began with the beginning of the last fiscal year. So we're going to take a little bit of time to assess how well it's doing, but we're pretty encouraged with what we're seeing so far. I think it makes sense to have the real experts on these things engaged, the people who deliver the services on the ground. Hopefully, we'll find over a period of time that this is successful, and then maybe we'll be able to make the argument successfully that programming should be extended over a longer period of time. But it's a little early to say that, only a few months into the new program.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much, Mr. Martin.

Now we'll move to the final individual this round. Ms. Yelich, for seven minutes, please.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Thank you.

I have a few questions, then I will defer to Mr. Lake.

I, too, want to talk about Canada summer jobs, but from a different perspective.

First of all, though, I would like to ask you, from the questions today, do you think the opposition understands yet that the summer jobs program has nothing to do with ridings but has to do more with the whole national picture, that it's not everybody's riding and what they got? Do you think they've caught on yet that the program has been changed?

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

I would say the very good news is that this last summer was the hottest job market for youth in 15 years. Generally, youth did very well between the support we provided through CSJ and what was occurring already. Through the private sector and the not-for-profit sector, there were many opportunities.

However, I think it always is a wise idea for members of Parliament to take as much of a national approach as possible. We're always pulled in two ways. We're pulled toward our ridings, obviously. We're members of Parliament. We have a job to do to represent people. But we also have to look at the big picture. We're obliged to do that, and hopefully we'll all agree to try to find that balance as we consider the new program when we roll that out very soon.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

And that's what we look forward to.

My main question concerns the need to dispel some myths about the Canada summer jobs program. First of all, that there was $80 million from the common experience payment account to pay for those summer jobs. There have been incorrect stories in the media, and some members actually believe them. Could you perhaps straighten this out?

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

I'd be happy to do that, and I want to thank my friend for that question.

This was a story that ran and it was factually untrue. The $82 million the member raised, of course, was paid out to residential school students who were over the age of 65. It was paid out last year. This was not money that went to the Canada summer jobs program from residential schools; it was actually a payment to residential school students. So that's a pretty important point to make, and I appreciate the chance to correct the record on that.

Of course, as everyone knows and as I mentioned in my remarks, we are now approaching $600 million in payments to people who went to residential schools and were eligible for the common experience payment.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

And I think it's helpful for the committee to understand that it was an advance payment, because it was suggested that these advances be paid out early. I think it also has to be reiterated.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

It's a good point. The people who were receiving these payments tended to be very elderly. You know, tomorrow is promised to none of us, and we wanted, in a good faith attempt, to show that we understood our obligation with respect to this program. We got that money out the door as quickly as possible to make sure that very elderly people who had passed through the residential schools had the chance to enjoy the benefits of the common experience payment.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Would you also like to comment on the delays for people who have applied for the common experience payment? Could you update the committee on what's happening in regard to the service standards on that? How many applications have been made and how many payments?

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

As I said in my remarks, about 79,000 have actually applied for the program. We've paid out, as I recall, a total of $600 million so far to 25,000 people.

Sometimes it's challenging, because people will come to us with not very much information. But I can tell you that the officials at Service Canada have been working very hard, along with the officials at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, to make sure we do everything we can to get this funding out as quickly as possible.

December 3rd, 2007 / 4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

I'm going to take over now. I probably have time for one quick question before the next round.

You mentioned in your speaking notes the national homelessness initiative and the homelessness partnering strategy, $25.1 million. I had an opportunity in Edmonton to attend the opening of the L'Arche Ted Bradshaw House, which is a home for aging people with developmental disabilities. Six people live in the home and they have the live-in support they need there. It's a wonderful program, dealing with some of the issues we deal with from a homelessness perspective.

I have a son with autism, so it's something that's fairly close to my heart, obviously. As a parent you always kind of wonder what's going to happen when your child gets older and you're not around to take care of him any more.

Would you speak a little bit more to this homelessness partnering strategy? It seemed there was a lot of support in the room at that opening to the concept of bringing different groups together and taking ownership of something like that.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

I'm happy to.

This is an issue that I think really crosses party bounds. I've talked to a lot of people on this committee about the wisdom of having a lot of these problems resolved at the local level, to the degree that we can.

The homelessness partnering strategy brings together the federal government, the provincial government, municipal governments, the not-for-profit sector, and in many cases the private sector as well to try to resolve problems that might be unique to a particular community. I think that's a terrific idea. I think it's potentially a model for doing a lot of the programming that we do in the future. But as I said before, we're in the early days and trying to figure out how effective it is.

The idea of local solutions to local problems makes a lot of sense to me. I think it makes sense to a lot of folks. As I said before, the real expertise isn't here in Ottawa with me; it's with folks on the ground who experience these things every day.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

You have 30 seconds.