House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aircraft.

Topics

Opposition Motion— National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think what Canadians want when they think of Canada's military is a military that is modern and that has the necessary equipment to fulfill the missions that we as Canadians ask of it. Where there can be some legitimate philosophical differences is what those missions may consist of.

I think certain members of the House think Canada should be playing a role in international aggressive military operations and therefore we need equipment that would fit into that particular philosophy. Others feel, as I do, that Canada should play a peacekeeping role on the world stage and our military should be tight and well equipped in order to protect our borders, participate in peacekeeping activities, participate in rescue missions, help with natural disasters and the like. I am wondering if my friend could comment on where he sits on that philosophical question.

Many Canadians are asking whether the timing of this purchase is accurate. We have a $55 billion deficit. There are many pressing priorities in this country. A national child care program is required. National housing is required. Two million seniors live in poverty. My home province of British Columbia has the highest rate of child poverty in the country where one in four children live in poverty.

Does my colleague think that, in terms of priorities, purchasing 65 of these aircraft for $16 billion is really the best use of money at this particular point in time?

Opposition Motion— National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do agree with my colleague with regard to his sense of where our military should be headed, and it is in more of a peacekeeping role. New Democrats have been clear over the years in the way we have voted because we have always believed that we will have folks in theatre or on missions, such as in Afghanistan. We should articulate the extension of our troops in Afghanistan in a debate here in the House and then a vote if we are going to send folks to these sorts of places regardless of where it happens to be.

When I was speaking earlier, I had indicated that we if had a new defence white paper that talked about where we are headed in the next 20 years and laid out a strategy, we would know what to buy. It is like buying a house or condo. If I buy a condo I do not need a lawnmower but if I buy a house with a lawn I need a lawnmower.

This is about knowing what we intend to do and understanding what Canadians are asking us to do, which is fundamentally more important. It is not about what we want to do because at the end of the day, Canadians are the ones who will be footing the bill. To be honest, this is not the time to spend $16 billion on a fully operational, bells and whistles fighter jet.

Opposition Motion— National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate this evening.

We have heard a lot of discussion in this House and in public forums about equipping the Canadian Air Force with the F-35 aircraft. Over the past few months, the debate seems to have focused on three key themes: necessity, cost and procurement. I think it is important to be transparent about these themes and I would like to address each of them in my remarks this evening.

I will start with necessity. Since its establishment over 85 years ago, the air force has done tremendous work, often defying the odds and achieving success where it was not thought possible. It is truly remarkable that over 22,000 Canadian air crew served in the First World War. It was the first conflict in which aircraft played a part. Through the valiant efforts of our fighter pilots, especially our famous air aces, like the legendary Billy Bishop, Canada became known for aerial skills and bravery.

During the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Air Force, RCAF as it was then known, reached over 200,000 personnel, including, for the first time, over 17,000 total members of the women's division. At the time, it was the fourth largest air force among the allied powers.

More recently, during the 1991 Gulf War, the Canadian Air Force, as part of the multinational coalition force, contributed combat air patrols, sweep and escort missions, and ground attack roles with CF-18s, as well as reconnaissance with Sea Kings.

In 1999, Canadian CF-18s were actively involved in the NATO-led air campaign in Kosovo from bombing missions, combat air patrols and providing close air support.

An independent fighter jet capability has proven crucial to Canada. As part of our security, fighter jets conduct daily domestic and continental operations, including in the Arctic and through NORAD.

As part of Operation Noble Eagle, NORAD's mission to safeguard North American skies, CF-18s maintain a constant state of alert, ready to respond immediately to potential threats to continental security.

North American Aerospace Defence Command launched three pairs of fighters on September 28, 2006, from the Command's Canadian NORAD region and the Alaskan NORAD region in response to Russian aircraft that penetrated North America's air defence identification zone.

Fighter jets support major international events in Canada. Of course, the CF-18s provided around-the-clock support during the 2010 Olympic Games in British Columbia, keeping the skies safe for athletes and spectators from around the world. Fighter jets respond to major terrorist attacks. Canadian CF-18s formed part of the immediate response to the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

Just a few weeks ago, Canada worked seamlessly with our American partners to dispatch our CF-18s to interdict a flight suspected of carrying explosive packages designed by terrorists.

Time and time again, events in or close to our air space have shown that Canada needs to maintain a fighter jet capability. The question then is: What kind of plane does Canada need to face the challenges of the decades to come?

We need a robust aircraft capable of handling Canada's geography and harsh weather conditions. We need to be interoperable with our allies. We need to be flexible enough to adapt to whatever challenges Canada may face in the 21st century. We need to provide our men and women in uniform with the best chance to return home safely after confronting those challenges.

A fifth generation fighter aircraft with stealth advance sensors, fusion of central data and external information fits the bill. The joint strike fighter, the F-35, is the right plane for the Canadian Air Force at the right time for our country.

Opposition Motion— National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 5:15 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, November 23 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Opposition Motion— National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it you will find unanimous consent to see the clock at 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion— National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is it agreed?

Opposition Motion— National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion— National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 20 consideration of the motion that Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

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

5:15 p.m.

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

5:25 p.m.

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

5:35 p.m.

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

5:45 p.m.

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

5:55 p.m.

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

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Given that the sponsor is not here to take advantage of the five-minute right of reply, we will move to the question. Is the House ready for the question?