House of Commons Hansard #254 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cmhc.

Topics

National Housing Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

moved that Bill C-108, an act to amend the National Housing Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

National Housing Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Cochrane—Superior
Ontario

Liberal

Réginald Bélair Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I rise to move that Bill C-108, an act to amend the National Housing Act, be read a second time and referred to committee.

This is an administrative bill whose purpose is to increase the ceiling of mortgage loan insurance under the National Housing Act. This will enable CMHC to continue underwriting home mortgage loan insurance within the legislative limit. Bill C-108 will increase the existing limit on outstanding loan insurance from the current $100 billion to $150 billion. The bill also includes a provision to increase the ceiling further through appropriation in the future.

Members of the House should know that CMHC loan insurance is self-financing and self-sustaining and does not cost the government anything. The mortgage insurance fund is regularly evaluated according to rigorous insurance principles and is fully adequate to cover all insured losses as well as overhead.

While the amendments contained in this bill represent administrative matters, passage of this bill is essential to the continued operation of CMHC's Mortgage Loan Insurance. Allow me to take a minute to explain why this bill is important to Canadians.

The desire to own a home remains very strong among Canadians. Yet many people who can afford the monthly mortgage payments are still unable to access home ownership because they find it difficult to save for a down payment for a conventional loan.

With mortgage loan insurance, home buyers can secure up to 95 per cent financing with a lender because CMHC insures the mortgage.

Because CMHC assumes the risk of borrowers defaulting, mortgage lenders are able to supply more mortgages to Canadians. By reducing the down payment required to purchase a home, the Mortgage Loan Insurance Program makes home ownership more accessible to moderate income households.

It is a vital component of ensuring that all Canadians, regardless of where they live, have equal access to mortgage funds needed to acquire decent, affordable housing.

Let me give you an idea of the extent to which Canadians depend on mortgage loan insurance in order to fulfil their dream of owning a home. Mortgage loan insurance has allowed many people to become homeowners, some who would not otherwise have been able to buy, others who would have been able to make their purchase sooner because of the lower down payment.

In 1994 alone, CMHC mortgage loan insurance helped to house over 300,000 Canadian families at no cost to the government.

My colleagues will also be interested to learn that this means that approximately 40 per cent of the residential mortgage stock in Canada has involved financing by CMHC mortgage insurance last year. Without mortgage loan insurance, Canadians who do not have a 25 per cent down payment would generally never have access to home ownership.

CMHC Mortgage Loan Insurance has demonstrated the flexibility to facilitate innovation in housing finance. This is a critical feature, given that the needs of mortgage borrowers, and the market within which these needs are met, are constantly evolving. In 1987, the program was improved to allow for the insuring of second mortgages, an innovation that has been particularly helpful to people who need additional money for renovation.

In the following year, the chattel loan insurance program was introduced as a five-year experiment to cover loans made on mobile homes and to help people who choose this kind of affordable home ownership. This coverage for mobile homes has now been made a regular part of the mortgage insurance program as per the announcement made by the the minister responsible for CMHC at the beginning of this year.

In 1992 the mortgage insurance program was expanded to accommodate the reduced down payment for first time home buyers making home ownership even more accessible to moderate income households.

This program, called First Home Loan Insurance, has provided Canadians with their entry point to home ownership. May I reiterate to my hon. colleagues that the success of this initiative has been achieved without any cost to the government.

We want to ensure that CHMC can continue to provide that kind of market support in the future. That is why this legislation is before the House today. CHMC is continually reviewing the Mortgage Loan Insurance Program and regularly introduces changes to make it more effective and more convenient for both approved lenders and home buyers.

By exploring new housing finance options for Canadians we are looking to promote greater choices, lower the costs, increase the accessibility of housing finance and assist borrowers to meet their financing needs within their own resources.

CHMC will continue to encourage innovation and creativity in housing finance through the Mortgage Insurance Fund to promote greater access to housing markets for the benefit of all Canadians.

Besides helping Canadians to become homeowners, CMHC mortgage insurance has been key to the health of the housing industry in Canada. By fully protecting approved lenders against default on the part of the borrower, mortgage insurance encourages investment in residential construction.

The federal government, through CMHC, has been providing national mortgage insurance for four decades. CMHC has remained a significant player throughout this time with a mandate from the federal government to provide mortgage insurance to support loans to all Canadian home buyers regardless of where they live in Canada at the smallest feasible down payment and the lowest feasible cost.

Today, the private housing market is able to meet the housing needs of the vast majority of Canadian households. There is no doubt that CHMC's Mortgage Loan Insurance has played a critical role in that achievement. CHMC's Mortgage Insurance Program experienced a record year in 1994 in terms of volume. A number of unexpected factors led to the significant increases in activity last year. Mortgage rates dropped to their lowest levels in 30 years, much lower than anticipated. Low inflation has kept house prices stable and more affordable.

As well, the rapid and continued success of housing stimulation policies, including the First Home Loan Insurance Program and the RRSP Home Buyers' Plan, contributed to record volumes of insurance activity last year.

When the Mortgage Insurance Company of Canada stopped underwriting new mortgage insurance business in April 1993, CMHC had to assume 100 per cent of residential mortgage insurance activity. Furthermore, a greater proportion of all mortgages have been insured by CMHC in recent years.

In 1994, CMHC insured 40 per cent of all residential mortgages initiated, up from 22 per cent in 1991. Because there is some lag time between insurance loans and receiving the reports from the approved lenders, it was only in 1995 that all the figures for 1994 were compiled. At that time it was realized that the $100 billion maximum aggregate loan insurance currently stipulated in the National Housing Act had been exceeded. For this reason the provisions of this bill are effective starting 1994. I hope members of the House will see fit to give swift passage to Bill C-108 so that CMHC can continue to promote access to home ownership through mortgage loan insurance.

As I have stated and as my colleagues are aware, the purpose of the bill is to increase the maximum aggregate mortgage loan insurance. This will enable CMHC to continue underwriting home mortgage loan insurance within the legislative limit. Considering the housing sector's importance to the well-being of the nation, CMHC is committed to a stable supply of housing that increases economic and social opportunities for all Canadians.

With CMHC's mortgage loan insurance program qualifying home buyers anywhere in Canada can secure up to 95 per cent of home financing with an approved lender. Mortgage insurance through CMHC also provides a means of introducing guarantees for innovative mortgage products to benefit consumers, for example mortgage backed securities which increase the pool of funds available for mortgages and competitive rates.

The corporation continues to develop new initiatives and adapt existing ones to meet the challenges of housing Canadians adequately into the new millennium. Among the new initiatives being examined are alternative financing mechanisms for homes such as reverse annuity mortgages and shared equity financing.

CMHC has a role to play in helping Canadians to access decent affordable housing. CMHC continues to provide social housing assistance to support more than 661,000 existing units that house over one million low income Canadians whose housing needs cannot be met through the housing market. This housing assists some of the most disadvantaged members of our society including seniors on fixed incomes, aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, single parent led families, social assistance recipients and the working poor.

To solve today's housing problems and define tomorrow's housing needs CMHC is involved in research and development both independently and with industry and government partners. CMHC's research into sustainable development, quality of life, housing technology and building science promotes good living environments that are safe, healthy and sustainable. As well CMHC is helping the Canadian housing industry to promote the Canadian housing system abroad by helping to develop housing export strategies to assist the Canadian housing industry to market Canadian housing technology, products and services in world markets.

Through its Mortgage Loan Insurance Program, CHMC continues to make housing more accessible for Canadians. The Corporation is also working to improve housing affordability.

The federal government through CHMC is committed to a stable supply of affordable and accessible housing that increases economic opportunities for all Canadians. CHMC's market housing programs promote affordable housing and equal access to financing through financial instruments such as mortgage loan insurance.

Moreover, CMHC provides mortgage insurance to all Canadians regardless of where they live in Canada at the smallest feasible down payment and at lower cost. To improve access to an affordable form of housing CMHC also provides mortgage insurance for manufactured housing, for example mobile homes. In January 1995 the minister of public works recently announced an expanded chattel loan interest program that includes resale of manufactured housing units.

CMHC also helps to ensure Canadians are well housed by pursuing and encouraging housing innovation and by developing national housing policies in concert with provincial and territorial partners, the housing industry and non-profit groups.

One important way CMHC levers the efforts of its partners in Canada's housing sector is CMHC's Canadian Centre for Public-Private Partnership in Housing. The Centre acts as a catalyst and a source of expert advice.

It brings together the public and private sectors, non-profit organizations and private citizens to develop low to moderate income housing projects without the need for government subsidies.

CMHC is also contributing to making housing more affordable through better housing regulations. The affordability and choice today program funded by CMHC encourages regulatory innovation in municipalities across Canada. The ACT program encourages the housing industry and municipalities to work in partnership to improve housing affordability and choice. More than 80 ACT projects are developing a wide range of practical approaches to streamlining approval processes, developing new forms of affordable housing, facilitating infill and conversion, and adopting alternative development and building standards.

As I have said Bill C-108 is an administrative bill. As my colleagues know, the bill is crucial to ensuring that CMHC can continue to offer mortgage loan insurance to Canadians. Through its mortgage insurance activities CMHC has been responsible for helping many Canadians become homeowners and we want to ensure that it can continue to do that.

I would like to take a few minutes to talk about a complementary initiative, First Home Loan Insurance, introduced by CMHC in February 1992, to make home ownership even more accessible for first time home buyers. Earlier this year, the Hon. David Dingwall announced that the maximum eligible house prices for First Home Loan Insurance were increased in 30 communities across the country.

This initiative allows more first time homebuyers to purchase a home with a down payment of as little as five per cent. Anyone who buys or builds a home in Canada as their principal residence is eligible for the lower down payment, as long as they have not owned a home at any time during the last five years.

First home loan insurance was initially in effect for a two-year period but was extended for an additional five years until 1999.

The 5 per cent down initiative has been a major success in helping to increase home ownership in Canada. Thanks to the reduced down payment home ownership has moved from a dream to a reality for the many Canadians who can afford monthly

mortgage payments but are having trouble saving for the down payment.

The statistics speak for themselves. Since November 1993 over 210,000 Canadian households have taken advantage of the lower down payment to become the proud owners of either a new or existing home. In April 1994 a survey of Canadians who bought homes with less than 10 per cent down showed that 72 per cent of them would not have been able to purchase their homes when they did without the reduced down payment.

The first home loan insurance initiative is constantly being monitored to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of Canadians. CMHC is committed to helping Canadians who desire to own a home and have the proven financial management capability to do so.

First home loan insurance is an excellent example of CMHC's ability to adapt its mortgage loan insurance activity to ensure that Canadians can enjoy the benefits of home ownership.

Allow me to speak on the importance of Bill C-108 by describing an initiative of CMHC which has as its foundation the flexible use of the mortgage insurance fund. I am referring to the Canadian Centre for Public-Private Partnerships in Housing which I mentioned earlier. Allow me to take a moment to provide the House with some details about the important work being undertaken here.

The partnership centre was established by CMHC in 1991.

Its objective is to bridge the public and private sectors to facilitate the production of cost-effective and accessible housing for low to moderate income households, including those with special needs. The centre ventures into new areas through such means as innovative financing and tenure arrangements.

Much of the centre's activities are accomplished at the grassroot level with a view to encouraging a wide variety of people active in their community to become involved in newly created housing partnerships.

The partnership centre identifies opportunities and brings together potential partners to develop and implement public-private partnerships. It acts as a source of best advice by offering an advisory service to potential partners to identify the key legal, financial and regulatory issues that need to be considered in structuring a deal.

Since its inception the centre has ventured into innovative tenure arrangements such as occupancy rights, life leases, equity co-ops, as well as a home ownership equity partnership program. As at the end of June of this year the centre had facilitated the realization of 79 projects totalling in excess of 4,200 housing units.

Allow me to take a minute to outline a few innovative projects that have been made possible by CMHC's Canadian Centre for Public-Private Partnerships in Housing.

Vancouver's Khatsahlano Equity Housing Co-operative offers affordable housing for families. Equity co-operatives are ongoing housing co-ops that are financed entirely or partly from the investment of their members.

Traditionally aimed at seniors, they are now becoming an affordable housing alternative for a growing number of Canadians. This project demonstrates that it is possible to provide families with affordable housing options in a market where starter homes are very expensive.

Two non-profit groups in the province of Quebec, both dedicated to helping people with psychiatric and developmental handicaps, are buying and renovating houses and will run them as group homes. In Montreal, Centre de crise "Le Transit" is purchasing a house in a mixed residential downtown neighbourhood to accommodate eight adult residents referred to them by city-run and charitable social services agencies.

A similar project in Granby will house 12 residents in a triplex being purchased by L'Autre Versant Inc., a local non-profit group organized five years ago to provide homes for people with psychiatric and development handicaps. Both these projects are being made possible thanks to CMHC-insured mortgage loans supported by the Partnership Centre.

Clearly CMHC's partnership centre and its innovative uses of mortgage insurance are making great strides in increasing the supply of affordable housing for low to moderate income Canadians including those with special needs.

As I have stated before, Bill C-108 is an administrative bill to facilitate the continuation of mortgage loan insurance under the National Housing Act. As my colleagues well know, CMHC has an important role to play in helping Canadians gain access to home ownership.

CMHC's mortgage loan insurance with its mandate to provide equal access to Canadians throughout the country is important to achieving that goal.

CMHC has a unique role of ensuring equal access to Canadians throughout the country. This is one of the major factors that distinguishes CMHC's operation from mortgage loan insurance operations. Without CMHC's commitment to provide mortgage loan insurance in the small communities of the country, places that

private insurers have not traditionally wanted to serve, many Canadians might not be able to buy homes.

Let me illustrate how important CMHC loan insurance is to Canadians in small communities. Take for example CMHC loan insurance activity in the municipality of Brooks, Alberta, with a population of 10,000. In 1994, 137 households were able to access home ownership thanks to CMHC's mortgage loan insurance.

This year, as of September 30, 153 households became proud homeowners, again thanks to CMHC. Make no mistake about it, if CMHC were not in the mortgage loan insurance business these 290 families in Brooks, Alberta, might not have been able to buy their homes. I would further like to point out that these 290 households represent 83 per cent of the total number of 349 households who bought homes in Brooks, Alberta, during that period.

The government knows just how much Canadians value home ownership. It represents a major portion of wealth accumulated by households. For some it is a source of retirement income. It is also an important component of quality of life.

We believe that every Canadian should have access to home ownership. CMHC mortgage loan insurance can turn the dream of owning a home into a reality. It is therefore critical that CMHC be able to continue to provide mortgage loan insurance to Canadians now and in the future. This is why I support Bill C-108.

I hope my colleagues will see fit to give swift passage to this administrative bill so that CMHC can continue to help Canadians realize their dream of owning a home.

National Housing Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Good morning, Mr. Speaker. We will, of course, support the bill introduced by the parliamentary secretary since we agree with what it proposes to do, which is to increase the aggregate amount of loans that may be approved by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to $150 billion, but the fact remains that it all seems very unsatisfactory.

We must admit that, at the very least, there is something embarrassing, disturbing and unsatisfactory about the fact that we have before us a bill that reminds us that the federal government's involvement in the housing sector, through this flimsy vehicle, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, consists exclusively of loan guarantees.

We must not forget it has been some years-in fact, since 1989 but even more so since 1992-since the federal government withdrew altogether from the construction of social housing. Remember this: It completely withdrew from this sector, and I intend to give chapter and verse later on. There is something here that arouses a sense of outrage and indignation-and I hope the parliamentary secretary, who I know is sensitive to these issues, will share my sense of outrage and indignation-when we see that the federal government, with all the resources at its disposal, has nothing to offer except loan guarantees through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Meanwhile, it has withdrawn from the construction of social housing, it completely abolished its co-operative housing policy in 1992, which the Liberals had promised to reinstate, and plays no role at all in housing renovation.

We have a definite problem with this. And anyone in this House who has a social conscience must feel the same. As for amending the National Housing Act and having a debate on housing, what are we entitled to expect from the government? We have a Liberal government that does not believe that poverty is acceptable, that believes that being a Liberal means embracing the philosophy of liberalism. Embracing this philosophy means believing that the state has a role to play in putting an end to the disparities in our society.

I know the parliamentary secretary agrees with me. As the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, I am disappointed. And if the hon. member does not agree with the substance of what I am saying, I am sure that by the end of my speech he will have changed his mind.

The issue is one that concerns me, as the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and as a former member of the board of a technical resources group that examined these issues. I have been involved in housing issues since I was 20, and I am now 33, although I may not look it. The fact remains that I have been involved in the housing sector for nearly 13 years. And I am shocked that this government has nothing to offer in the way of social housing.

It is particularly shocking this morning, when we are asked to discuss the role of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation at a time when poverty, both in Canada and Quebec, is more widespread than ever before. This is serious.

As members of Parliament, we all represent ridings, and when it comes down to it, we all want to work for the people who elected us. We all know that housing, the right to have a decent roof over your head at a decent price, is something that is central to people's lives.

The debate this morning comes at a time when there is more poverty than ever before. Mr. Speaker, let me quote a few figures. When we talk about poverty, we should remember that in Quebec, to give you a very specific example-or perhaps we should look at

the situation in Canada as a whole, where the poverty rate is now 17.4 per cent. So what does poverty mean? Poverty is when a household has to spend more than 55 per cent of its income on three basic items: rent, food and clothing.

We live in a society where poverty is more widespread than ever before. And since we live in this society, we have every right to expect the Liberal government to be a little more enterprising, to come up with a proposal this morning that is more intelligent and more pro-active than approving loan guarantees, since even the parliamentary secretary admitted this did not represent any additional cost to the public purse. The parliamentary secretary was very frank at the beginning of his speech when he said this was a program, a loan guarantee that was self-financing and did not cost the treasury a cent.

Is the parliamentary secretary satisfied? Does he approve of the fact that his government, considering its responsibilities at a time when more people are poor than ever before, when, according to Statistics Canada, we have never been so short of housing? When the parliamentary secretary goes to bed tonight with his beloved, will he be pleased that his government has nothing to offer but a loan guarantee which puts no strain on the public purse?

That does not satisfy me. I do not think that it is politically defensible. So 17.4 per cent of Canadian households are classified as poor. This means that 17.4 per cent of the population belongs to a household which spends 55 per cent or more of its income on the three basic items.

I know we are just coming out of a referendum campaign, and that events in the months to come will mean that the issue is not totally closed, but speaking as a levelheaded, rational man-two qualities which I think the parliamentary secretary will agree describe my character-I feel that, when evaluating federalism, it is our duty to recall that Quebec, as we speak, is the province with the highest rate of poverty.

As we speak, Quebec has the highest number of poor households of anywhere in Canada. If the parliamentary secretary is sceptical, I can provide figures. The most recent figures available are for 1993: Newfoundland, 17.7 per cent of households; P.E.I., 9.9 per cent; Nova Scotia, 5.5 per cent; New Brunswick, 14.5 per cent; Quebec, 20.7 per cent.

This means that 20 out of every 100 households belong to people who are among the poorest in Canada. This is the reality the federal regime has inflicted upon us. And this is not a mindset, a political pipedream, but something confirmed by Statistics Canada.

So the figure in Quebec is 20.7 per cent; in Ontario: 15.6 per cent; in Manitoba, 18.1 per cent; in Saskatchewan, 17 per cent; in Alberta, 17.6 per cent. In a context where Quebec has the highest number of poor households, in a context where we are aware of the importance of housing in balancing individuals' and families' budgets, we find ourselves faced with a government that has nothing to propose except the addition of a measure like any other government action relating to shelter, a loan guarantee. One that they have the gall to describe as not requiring anything from the government, from the public purse, because it is self-sustaining.

As the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, as an individual who believes in democracy, I wish to state that it is my belief that the government is not assuming its responsibilities, that this is shameful, that this is unacceptable, that it is just one more reason to separate, because we have no need of a government that cannot offer us anything in the area of housing.

If the parliamentary secretary finds that I am overdoing it, he has only to get up off his chair and add some substance to his proposals on housing-at this time, as we speak, all of my friendly feelings for the parliamentary secretary notwithstanding, we have every reason for dissatisfaction. But I want to get back to the subject of poverty in Quebec.

Quebec has 24 per cent of the total Canadian population. The federal government gains 23 per cent of its income from Quebec's individual or corporate taxpayers. Thirty per cent of all of those living in poverty live in Quebec. There is one other reality which characterizes Quebec and militates in favour of more government involvement in social housing: more Quebecers rent their homes than the Canadian average.

This means that more individuals in Quebec have insufficient income to own property. This is why we feel a government must be involved in social housing. What is social housing in its co-operative or non-profit OSBL form? I shall come back to that later.

When a government sets aside public funds for social housing in co-operative or OSBL form, this is because of a belief that there are people whose income alone, without a little hand up from the government, will never enable them to own property.

This is a trend which a self-respecting government, a government with some social democratic leanings will take action to correct-and I am sure that the Government whip either lives in a co-op or has plans to do so, since he shares our slight socialist bent.

All of this to say that, in Quebec, 44.4 per cent of households are tenants; 44.4 per cent rent their homes, while the Canadian average is 37.1 per cent. We would therefore have been right to expect this morning that the government would have a somewhat more substantial policy to provide support to the provinces in the whole area of public housing.

I say "a somewhat more substantial policy" with respect to the provinces, because it is clear in my mind that federal government involvement in housing must take the form of a transfer of funds or budget allocations, where the funds are managed by the government of the individual provinces. I say this, because it is clear, constitutionally, that the federal government has no authority to intervene in the matter of housing.

When it does, it is obviously contravening the Canadian constitution, because neither section 92 nor section 93 accords the federal government jurisdiction over housing. We must remember, however, that, if the federal government is to be involved in public housing, as I think it ought, it is by transferring money to the provinces, which want to be involved.

No one is saying the government should not set funds aside. We acknowledge that it has a fiscal capacity, access to areas of taxation that justify its setting money aside for the provinces.

I have an example for hon. members. Quebec has a program, I do not know if the parliamentary secretary is familiar with it, called Logirente. It targets people 55 years of age or older, who have difficulty paying their monthly rent on the basis of their income alone.

The government of Quebec assists those who meet the eligibility criteria with their rent payment monthly.

Some 60,000 people benefit from this program at the moment. Quebec officials asked the federal government if it could also get involved and make some money available.

Had the federal government agreed, through an administrative agreement, to become involved in the operation of the Logirente program, we estimate that 145,000 households and families could have been helped, instead of the present 60,000.

This is the role of government. What is the point in having a federal government that could care less about getting involved in people's lives when the most fundamental of needs are at issue? You will not be surprised to learn that the federal government refused to get involved in the Logirente program, thus ensuring that 60,000 households rather than 145,000 could benefit from it. This is one case where federalism is not working, and where a sovereign Quebec could have, on its own and totally, a housing policy it alone established, one that functioned independently under its control.

I would like to come back to something I consider absolutely essential, something that could have helped us through the difficult years of the last recession and could help Canadians through the next recession. The program we must talk about and one I encourage the federal government to re-establish with the provinces is, obviously, the co-operative housing program.

Mr. Speaker, you will remember that, in 1992, the federal government of the day abolished it without so much as a warning cry, a hint of its intention or consultation of any sort. Of course the parliamentary secretary will say it was not his government. That is true. Nevertheless, his government has not taken any positive action to date to re-establish it. Despite the fact that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is relatively well off, we have not found a way to use public money to establish a co-operative housing program.

What does a national co-op program entail? First of all, a national co-op program requires that people be responsible since co-op members must choose a board of directors and acknowledge their responsibility to manage and maintain the building in which they live. This implies that they feel concerned about their environment.

There are now 40,000 people-I hope the parliamentary secretary will admit that these are real figures, and I invite him to check their accuracy-on the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's waiting list for co-op housing. As a member of Parliament who believes in co-op housing, I am proud to remind you that, between 1973 and 1992, 85,000 units were funded by the provincial and federal programs then in effect, particularly by the federal government because it is mostly at that level that programs were available.

Co-op housing was found for 255,000 low income people. What is the reality? The reality is that, as we speak in November 1995, 66 per cent of households in co-op housing have an income that is less than $30,000, or a third of what MPs earn. We should keep this in mind. We can still agree that, in 1995, $30,000 a year is certainly a modest or average income.

In the past, and especially during the last federal election campaign, I heard members say that some co-op members were making $60,000, $70,000 or $80,000, and that co-op housing was reserved for the better-off in our society. When we look at the figures a little more closely, we see that co-op housing is a tool available to the poor or to honest, middle class people, since 66 per cent of co-op members, 66 per cent of households, make less than $30,000 a year.

Thirty per cent of households in co-op housing across Canada are headed by single mothers. These women are their families' breadwinners. This shows that there is a need, that there are poor people who, for all kinds of reasons, were not able to buy their own homes.

It is reasonable to think that a decent government, one that lives up to its responsibilities and cares about the people, cannot tolerate a situation in which the federal government has nothing to offer people with housing programs.

The main paradox of the federal government's withdrawal from the housing sector, especially from co-op housing, is that, in the

past three years, unemployment in the residential construction sector has hovered around 20 per cent. I think that the hon. members in this House would agree with that figure.

As our grandparents used to say, and I am sure that your grandmother also said it, "as the construction industry goes so goes the world".

Why is it that, with an unemployment rate of 20 per cent in the residential construction sector, the government does not realize that one way to revitalize the Canadian economy would be to promote the construction of co-op units?

Let us not forget that, for every 1,000 co-op units built-I have the figures here-2,000 direct jobs are created. The parliamentary secretary should never forget that, every time public assistance makes it possible to build 1,000 co-op units, 2,000 new jobs are created.

There are not many sectors in which government initiatives give a 200 per cent return. But in the housing sector, for every 1,000 co-op units built, 2,000 direct jobs are created.

Why does the government not understand that reality? Why is the government so dull witted and narrow minded? Whay can the government not see the obvious? Can we rely on those government members who represent ridings, in Montreal and in the regions, where there is a need for co-op housing? I ask these members to get a little more involved and show a little more respect for the people who need the government's assistance to take action.

The influence of the Quebec Liberal caucus on cabinet is aptly described by the movie title The Silence of the Lambs . We truly feel that the Quebec Liberal caucus has no desire to make representations to cabinet to correct the major fundamental injustices suffered by Quebecers because of policies put forward by this government, particularly in the housing sector.

Since 1989, the federal government has drastically reduced its support in the renovation and the co-op housing sectors, including its support to owner occupants. That withdrawal has had the effect of destabilizing public finances, as well as the economic situation of the poor in our society.

Let me give you an example. There used to be a rehabilitation assistance program for rental housing, which allowed people living in non-profit housing to get financing for up to 50 per cent of the costs of renovations to a housing unit. That was a joint program, with the federal and the provinces, Quebec in this instance, each assuming 50 per cent of the costs.

Then, all of sudden, without any warning, without any consultation, and in a period of widespread poverty, the federal government withdrew its financial support to the program. This resulted in a $20 million shortfall for Quebec.

Let us take the important issue of social housing. There are, in every riding, people who live in low rental housing. We are proud of these people, because they are a very dynamic group within our community. People who live in low rental housing create a feeling of solidarity. They have community halls which often alleviate the problem of loneliness.

Mr. Speaker, believe it or not, the federal government bluntly withdrew its support to that sector. Since 1992, not a single low rental housing unit has been built in Canada or in Quebec. I am shocked and I find this irresponsible. I was hoping that, this morning, the federal government would have shown a desire to do more in the important co-op and social housing sector.

National Housing Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

Dear colleagues, it being 11 a.m., we will now proceed to statements by members. Our colleague for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve will, however, have the floor again after question period.

The hon. member for Moncton now has the floor.

Mining
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

George S. Rideout Moncton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like today to speak to regulations in the mining industry.

Regulatory reform has been an issue of great concern to the government. A climate of change will serve as impetus to continue pushing these efforts.

Canadians in Quebec and across the country have made their voices heard and have called on us to continue to make the changes necessary to do business differently.

The mining industry is a prime example of where regulatory reform must take place. It is also one of the six economic sectors targeted by the government.

The Minister of Natural Resources has responded to the challenge with the Whitehorse mining initiative and most recently a new policy paper on sustainable development in mineral and metals that was unveiled in Vancouver in September.

All parties must be prepared to address this issue with greater vigour and with the conviction that mining is essential to our economic balance sheet. Mining is a $20 billion industry in this country and we need to ensure its viability for future generations.

We will do what has to be done to ensure the future of the mining industry.

Indian Affairs
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has stated that one element of fulfilling the government's red book commitment is to "not require blanket extinguishment of aboriginal rights in the settlement of land claims".

A few of the Yukon bands that signed the umbrella final agreement after 20 years of negotiations are now refusing to abide by its terms. They want to know if they might get more with the new inherent rights policy. They want to know if they can sign a final agreement for hundreds or thousands of square miles of territories now, and not surrender their right to ask for more 10 years down the road.

Instead of certainty, the government has created uncertainty. The minister must clearly state that a land claim is final, that self-government does not mean entrenching special rights based on race in our Constitution.

We all agree we must reach fair and affordable settlements of outstanding native claims but we cannot and must not achieve finality by sacrificing the fundamental Canadian principle of equality.

Eric Robinson
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am most pleased to offer congratulations to Mr. Eric Robinson, named to the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Eric's love for agriculture can be seen in his family, his farm, his community, and the company that bears his name. The company maintains two farming operations and also buys and sells potatoes for the domestic and export markets.

Eric's extensive travels throughout North America and Europe resulted in the introduction of new equipment that led to complete mechanization of the potato industry in Prince Edward Island. He was one of the first to use a bulk harvester and to import and grow the Russet Burbank variety, now the common variety grown in P.E.I.

A volunteer to many organizations, Eric was a member of the original P.E.I. potato marketing board in 1950.

Although he claims he is retired, Eric looks in daily on the operation. Eric Robinson is indeed most deserving of this honour. Congratulations to Eric and his family on his induction into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Wilkesport Community Centre
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Lambton—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to relate a success story in my riding of Lambton-Middlesex, based not on government handouts but on true community spirit.

I am referring to the recent facelift of Wilkesport Community Centre in Sombra township. The hall was built 17 years ago by holding various fundraising events in the community. The community centre consists of of a 500-seat hall and three ball diamonds, which incidentally have brought Sombra township two Ontario championship teams and seven runners up.

Volunteers have given their time and effort to keep this hall successful by providing the township with a focal point for a wide variety of community events. Seventeen years later, this community is still strong and vibrant. The hall needed a facelift, and the community provided it.

My congratulations to all the residents of Wilkesport and area, whose hard work and dedication exemplify a united community spirit.

Ed Peppler
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Ovid Jackson Bruce—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge one of my constituents who has returned from the Caribbean as a volunteer with the Canadian Executive Service Organization.

Mr. Ed Peppler of Hanover, Ontario recently completed a CESO project in Dominica. He was asked to start a furniture manufacturing workshop within a woodworking factory that was only producing small gift type items. Mr. Peppler oversaw the purchasing of machinery and taught the staff how to make furniture. The staff members were soon busy filling orders for the new products and were looking to hire three or four new people. The machinery, furniture, hardware, and tires for their vehicles were all purchased from Canadian manufacturers to help the plant.

Ed Peppler's efforts stand in the tradition of Canadian aid to the developing world. I and the town of Hanover, with its rich heritage in furniture manufacturing, and indeed the people of Bruce-Grey applaud the spirit of volunteerism and international co-operation of Mr. Peppler.

Parliamentary Reform
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Reform

Ted White North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, on October 16 we witnessed an act of great courage in the House

when a government member stood to speak out against the way the employment equity bill was handled in committee. His words from Hansard were: ``I am a first time MP. I never dreamed ever that laws were created in this fashion''.

At least 52 other members in the House agree that changes must be made to the system so that Parliament will function in a much more democratic manner. The present system is perfect for enacting a political agenda, but Canadian voters who pay our salaries are fed up with having Parliament force its will upon them and they are voting for change in greater and greater numbers.

We need more system changers in the House. If this does not happen before the next election it will surely happen during the next election. In the meantime, I ask the House to join me in congratulating all members of the House who have already shown that voting to represent their constituents takes precedence over the orders of the whip or the party line.

National Unity
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to thank the constituents of my riding of Prince Albert-Churchill River for their support for a strong and United Canada.

On Friday, October 27 a large number of Prince Albertans gathered to demonstrate their solidarity with Quebecers and support for a united country. Many others also signed a petition in which they stated their deeply held belief in Canada.

I wish to recognize four individuals from my riding who travelled to Montreal to attend the no rally: Lois Holcomb, Arlene Harper, and Jason and Karmen McNabb. I also wish to thank Val Longworth, who spearheaded a fundraising drive to assist these people to go to the Montreal rally. I also wish to thank those who financially contributed to this event.

While in Montreal I was particularly moved by the 150,000 voices singing O Canada and the outpouring of love for Quebec and Canada.

In closing, I wish to commend the constituents of Prince Albert-Churchill River for their commitment to our common values of democracy and tolerance and to a strong and united Canada.

Holding Another Referendum
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Maurice Dumas Argenteuil—Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is once again working to reduce the powers of the Quebec National Assembly, duly elected by the people of Quebec. This is 1980 revisited. The member for Saint-Maurice wants to use the defeat of the referendum to silence sovereignists and prevent them from holding another one.

In learning that he would not recognize a slim yes vote, we realized his contempt for democracy, but we would never have imagined his considering restricting the democratic rights of his own people. If this is how the Prime Minister of Canada responds to the 49.4 per cent of the population of Quebec that voted yes last Monday, Quebecers will do everything they can to retain their right to speak freely on their future. Let the Prime Minister just try to muzzle Quebecers; they will have an answer for him.

National Unity
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Susan Whelan Essex—Windsor, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the thousands of Canadians who went to the rally in Montreal and Canadians elsewhere in the country.

Canadians from all across Canada, including those from Windsor and Essex county who chartered buses from Windsor or joined the buses from London or drove or flew to Montreal on Friday, made a real difference by showing their support for Quebec and the Canadian Confederation. I want to thank them for their efforts and dedication.

I would also like to thank the other Canadians who did not go to Montreal, but who were there with us in their hearts.

Finally, I would like to thank Barry Fowler and all the Windsor Jaycees for creating the central image of the final days of the campaign with their monstrous six metre by nine metre Canadian flag, the largest in Canada. By holding and walking under the flag, Canadians at the rally created the key image on the front pages of the newspapers and on televisions in Quebec and outside of Quebec: that of the Canadian flag awash on a sea of support for national unity, carried by Canadians gathered from coast to coast.

National Unity
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, a week ago today well over 100,000 Canadians converged on Place du Canada in Montreal to stand on guard for their country. From every part of Canada they came because they care. The rally last Friday was a defining moment in the referendum and in our history. It was a beautiful moment, a moment the people of Canada cannot let us politicians forget.

All week I have been getting calls from people asking me what they can do to make sure their message was understood and remembered. I have a suggestion. I invite those who were in Montreal last Friday to take a few moments to put their thoughts to paper, to share with others how they felt and why they were there.

We must capture the spirit of the rally and build on it. Once you have done that, people of Canada, send me a copy of your letter or send it to your member of Parliament. I will undertake to safeguard those letters and make sure that every premier in the land gets a copy. Do it now. Keep up the pressure.

Deputy Prime Minister
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Maud Debien Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, in light of the disgraceful events yesterday in the House, the Deputy Prime Minister is clearly incapable of doing her job. In response to questions by the Official Opposition, she persisted in citing incorrect information in disregard of her responsibilities.

Her attitude certainly left something to be desired. Unable to justify the undemocratic remarks of the Prime Minister of Canada, she delighted in using diversionary tactics, which are inappropriate at this critical point in Quebec's and Canada's political history. Clearly, this government has lost control, and the Deputy Prime Minister no longer has any credibility, not only among Quebecers, but among all Canadians.