House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was company.

Topics

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats once said of poverty:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

For millions of Canadians the reality of poverty is not a dream but a daily hardship they face with growing disenchantment. It is a chain that anchors them to lives that cannot possibly realize their fullest potential. It is a woeful destroyer of youthful dreams and once hopeful ambitions.

Recently, on April 29, 2010, the Senate of Canada unanimously approved its report on poverty, In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness.

This report confirmed yet again what we all know. Poverty is a real and growing problem here in Canada, one of the world's most prosperous nations. The report went on to make recommendations on how to address poverty and homelessness across Canada.

I implore the government to reconsider its decision to reject the recommendations made in the Senate report and to take action on the meaningful and wise suggestions put forward in the study.

We know that statistics can at times seem to be mere numbers on a page, but they also tell a story that cries out for a voice. In my home province of Ontario, for example, there are 357,000 people who receive social assistance and live below the poverty line. Food banks have experienced a 15% increase in demand in this year alone.

The same food banks also report that so desperate are some of their clients that 28% of them have had to use credit cards or lines of credit just to pay for food and shelter.

These are Canadians not unlike any other person we know. They are hard-working people caught up in difficult economic times who simply want to provide for their families and live decent and dignified lives. They are not looking for a hand out, but a step up.

Many of those who daily face the torment of poverty are society's most vulnerable: children, people with disabilities and senior citizens.

All too often in the midst of hurried lives and demanding schedules these are people who are invisible to many Canadians who do not know the burden of poverty. But the truth is, more than ever, that they are not invisible, they are unnoticed. It is not the same thing.

In many respects their lives are uncomfortable reminders to us all that we too are vulnerable. We owe it to them and to our country's future to see that we hear them, see them and do whatever we can to help them from the painful reality of poverty that can so often be cloaked with indifference.

We must remember that we all Canadians. All children deserve the same chance. All older people deserve the same dignity. All of us share this same vast and blessed land. We belong to it as to each other.

Mother Teresa once said:

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

I ask the government once again, will it reconsider its decision with respect to the Senate's report on poverty and homelessness and take decisive and desperately needed action on these issues?

7 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, we have taken a number of steps and a number of initiatives to ensure that we can address the issue of poverty. We have not just looked at reports or talked about it; we have actually taken concrete steps that have had meaningful results and have had an impact.

Our view is that the best way to fight poverty is to get Canadians working, and our economic action plan is doing just that by helping grow our economy and increasing the number of jobs. In fact ,we have created over 400,000 jobs since July 2009. We have done a number of things such as preserving and protecting jobs by job sharing. Over 250,000 jobs were protected.

We absolutely have made sure that the economy will go forward. We have reduced taxes. We have reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. We have reduced taxes right across the board. We have ensured that an average Canadian family of four will have $3,000 more in its pockets than it would otherwise have had under the previous government. We have done a number of things in that direction.

We have invested moneys to ensure that people get the skills and training they need so they can get jobs that will be meaningful to them and will help them along.

Every action we have taken has been to help Canadians and their families become independent.

We have introduced an interesting benefit called the working income tax benefit, to make work pay and help low income Canadians over the welfare wall. It helped over 900,000 people in the first year.

I can say that regarding members of the member's party, the Liberal member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour had this to say:

I support very much the direction on the WITB. I think improving the working income tax benefit is a very positive thing.

While we were at the human resources committee, the then minister of children and youth, Deb Matthews said:

...I was happy to see in the budget that there are some initiatives that will directly improve the quality of life and the standard of living for kids living in poverty. The increase to the WITB will directly help low-income families. Thank you for that. The housing initiatives are, of course, very helpful. The increase in the CCTB is also appreciated.

That is one initiative that has been particularly helpful.

At the human resources committee, Ken Battle, the president of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, said that the working income tax benefit is “very important in terms of reducing poverty among the working poor, who make up about half of low income Canadians”.

As I have mentioned, we have invested about $4 billion in training to help over 1.2 million Canadians.

We have also increased the amount that families in the two lowest personal income tax brackets can earn before paying taxes.

We have taken a number of initiatives with respect to housing. It is important to ensure that people have a place to stay and a roof over their heads. We have invested $2 billion to repair and build new social housing. We have provided specific amounts for seniors and for persons with disabilities, and specific amounts for first nations and those in the north. These have all been very significant amounts of money. We have close to 9,000 projects completed or under way under the economic action plan.

All of these are steps to ensure that there is more funding.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, Time magazine once reported that Canada is one of the planet's most comfortable and caring societies. This is true for most of us. However, if we are to realize the fullest potential of this great and youthful land, then we must ensure that all of us feel part of the dream that is this country. It is difficult to feel that when one is hungry, without shelter or in desperate need. Poverty is the great divider. It separates us from one another instead of bringing us together. Generations to come will not cast their gaze upon those of us alive today and reflect upon our words. They will look back to our times and seek the truth of our actions.

The Senate report on poverty, along with long lists of statistics and anecdotes all tell the same story. Poverty is all too real for too many Canadians, and if we are to succeed in confronting it, we must show leadership and resolve.

I ask again, will the government hear the call and find the resolve to take the action we all know must be taken?

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, we have taken action. We have renewed the homelessness partnering strategy with $390 million per year over a five year period, for $1.9 billion.

Here is what Geoff Gillard, a member of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, had to say:

We're pleased with and commend the Government of Canada for its active support of the housing first principle through the homelessness partnering initiative, which was a big step for this country in the area of homelessness.

Wellesley Institute's federal housing consultation submission stated:

The federal government's investments in affordable housing and homelessness services are making a positive difference in the lives of many Canadians.... [F]ederal housing and homelessness dollars are helping to build new homes, repair existing homes, provide vital services for people who are homeless or insecurely housed and strengthen successful community-based housing collaborations.

We are taking specific initiatives and specific action to address the issues that the member raised.

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:07 p.m.)