House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to have a discussion on the important issue of housing and the condition of homes in rural and remote areas in the province of Manitoba and on reserves and in other communities. I want to take this opportunity to highlight what I think is really important.

We acknowledge the need for the federal government to play a role with respect to housing. There is a direct need for the federal government to play a role with respect to aboriginal communities. There are places such as Attawapiskat, and in Manitoba places such as Red Sucker Lake and many other first nations reserves where there is a great need and a high demand for housing.

I would also like to provide some comment with regard to the subsidies that are given to provinces through non-profit housing organizations, and that includes ongoing annual operational costs for housing. It was estimated at one time that there were 20,000 non-profit housing units in the province of Manitoba.

The federal government has played a fairly significant role in the past. It needs to look at ways to address the needs of today, whether it is with respect to on-reserve housing or whether it is with respect to the larger picture of non-profit housing. Many would argue that the first priority has to be first nations housing. I represent the riding of Winnipeg North and I could speak to the housing needs there. Whether it is infill housing, life lease programs, housing co-ops, or non-profit housing, the government has a role to play with respect to development.

To give hope to individuals, the federal government needs to play a stronger role. Could the parliamentary secretary provide an explanation or some rationale as to what he believes the Conservative government's intentions are with respect to housing? We are getting closer to March 29, budget day. How does the government see housing here in Canada?

I would like the parliamentary secretary to provide comments with respect to two important areas: one, housing conditions for first nations; and two, non-profit housing and low-income housing, which are issues in all cities and municipalities across Canada.

6:30 p.m.

Kenora
Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, the member was right about something. Very recent governments have been doing a lot of work on that. I have a sense of this having lived in isolated first nations communities in the province of Manitoba, some 5 to 10 years ago. Considerable progress has been made. There is more work to be done, so I am pleased to rise and speak to the question from the hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Our government recognizes that access to safe and affordable housing is essential for improving economic and social outcomes and for supporting healthy, sustainable first nation communities. The Government of Canada recognizes that there are still challenges in on-reserve housing and that these conditions must be improved. That is why we have a plan and we will continue to invest in practical solutions with real results. We are focusing our efforts on making a real and measurable difference in the lives and in the communities of first nations people.

The Government of Canada's annual investments through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada translate to tangible results. These investments support the construction of approximately 1,750 new homes and the renovation of some 3,100 homes per year in first nations communities, as well as supporting social housing, capacity development and other housing related activities.

Since 2006, the Government of Canada has provided approximately $1 billion in on-reserve housing to support first nations communities. On-reserve housing projects are an important part of community development and we will continue to provide support for first nations in this regard.

Our government will continue to work in partnership with first nations to address housing requirements and ensure that sustainable and flexible options are available for first nations communities in new and innovative ideas around housing development on reserve.

On January 24, our government reinforced its commitment to focus on real progress and issues that mattered to first nations at the Crown-First Nations Gathering. Both the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations committed to advancing a constructive relationship based on the core principles of mutual understanding, respect, ensuring mutually acceptable outcomes and accountability and, of course, shared priorities. Five important steps for immediate action were agreed upon for practical ways in which we could improve the quality of life and long-term economic prosperity of Canada's first nations, building on the Canada Assembly of First Nations joint action plan launched with the minister and the national chief of AFN last summer.

One of the steps agreed upon was renewing the relationship with the first nations and the Canadian government, improving lives of first nations people and their communities across the country and the ongoing commitment that would require a sustained and dedicated effort from all levels of government, from all first nations leaders, whether we are talking about housing, water, infrastructure and things like education, which have recently been debated in this place.

We are fully aware of the challenges facing first nations in the area of housing and we are working to address those changes. Clearly, this government is committed to helping first nations meet their housing needs.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is a great deal of need to recognize the current housing stock and conditions on our first nations. I think there was an underlying theme in regard to whether the government was aware of the numbers.

Could the member provide us with the numbers of homes that are in need of repair and the number of homes that are needed to meet the needs and demands on first nations?

There seems to be a great deal of goodwill from our aboriginal leadership to try to get to the bottom of those numbers. Does the government have any of those numbers and would he be prepared to share those with us this evening?

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly our government has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to the First Nations, by making investments and taking concrete action to enable them to continue to contribute to Canada’s prosperity and benefit from that prosperity. That is why our government is determined to help the First Nations meet their housing needs.

In the last five years, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has spent an average of $155 million per year on housing on reserves. That is also why we have announced, as part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, an additional investment of $400 million for housing on reserves. That investment will come from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

It is clear that our government is making efforts to bring about concrete changes in the lives of members of the First Nations in the area of housing.

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect for my colleagues in the House, I have to admit that I was very disappointed by the remarks made by the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development on December 5. She told this House that to meet the needs of persons living with functional limitations, her government had created the registered disability savings plan.

I would like to draw the minister’s attention to the fact that a majority of the people targeted by this measure are low-income or living below the poverty line. This measure therefore simply does not correspond to the reality of the lives of persons with disabilities in Canada and does not meet their needs at the present time.

I would like to remind the minister that one Canadian in seven lives with a functional limitation. That is why I reiterate that we need a real action plan that will enable these individuals, in a tangible and immediate way, to enter the labour market. I strongly believe that in order to achieve this, they need support and resources to help them.

I know very well that access ramps alone do not solve all the problems, as the minister seems to think. When we talk about workplace accessibility, we have to think about adapting workstations. We can consider, for example, persons with hearing loss, for whom flashing lights must be provided in case of fire, and installing adapted software for individuals living with a visual impairment.

I would like to come back to a particularly shocking point. In response to a question on the order paper, we recently learned that since the Enabling Accessibility Fund for persons with disabilities was created, in 2007, Quebec has received barely 3% of the grants allocated under the fund. If we examine those documents, we find that nearly 85% of the $67.4 million granted by the federal government has been spent in Conservative ridings in Canada. This situation is unacceptable and Quebeckers find it hard to understand why they have received such a meagre share of that money.

I remind members once again that I am asking for nothing less than a fair division, without a hint of political partisanship, as this assistance is vital to those living with a functional limitation who need a hand to get a job. It is possible to support disabled people from a social perspective by ending their isolation and enabling them to play an active role in their communities.

If this Conservative government's intention is to truly improve the living conditions of disabled persons, I do not understand why the Canada pension plan disability program systematically turns down 55% of initial applications. This makes the process longer and more difficult. It is easy to understand why most of these people would never take the steps to appeal this decision. In my opinion, it is an act of bad faith to refuse to give first-time applicants the disability benefit when they really need it.

Having said that, if the government believes, by avoiding a census of those persons living with functional limitations, that it will make the problems these people face go away, they are hugely mistaken. It would be wrong to underestimate the potential and drive of all those people with disabilities who wish to improve their living conditions and get back into the workforce.

It is my view that this government must develop a concrete action plan to truly support all those disabled Canadians in their effort to re-join the workforce.

6:40 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the question of the member for Montcalm on the issue of data collection to support individuals with disabilities.

In order to modernize data collection, in April 2010 the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development announced that the Government of Canada had developed a new strategy to collect and disseminate data on people with disabilities. We are currently working with Canadian national disability organizations and experts, as well as with the provinces and territories, to implement the new data strategy. Because information is gathered more regularly, the strategy will enable our government to be more responsive, timely and targeted when addressing disability issues, allowing us to see trends earlier than if we were only collecting the data every five years.

The new strategy will ensure that information about income, demographics, education, the job market and health continues to be available.

Our new approach to data collection is in line with our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified by Canada in March 2010. The Government of Canada is committed to promoting the full inclusion and participation of Canadians with disabilities in all aspects of society.

Each year, the government invests to help address the needs of people with disabilities in different areas. Accessibility, for example, is a high priority for our government. Through the enabling accessibility fund, we are helping Canadians contribute to and participate fully in their communities by improving access to facilities, activities and services. Our government is providing accessibility funds to make more than 600 buildings throughout Canada, such as community centres, more accessible.

Our government also supports the income security of people with disabilities through the registered disability savings plan, the Canada disability savings grant and the Canada disability savings bond, as well as a range of tax measures, including the disability tax credit, the first-time homebuyer's tax credit and the working income tax benefit disability supplement.

I hope members of the House will join me in supporting our improved strategy for data collection and celebrating the progress we have made as our society in Canada moves toward full inclusion and participation of people with disabilities.

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, we heard our colleague attempt to praise our government for data collection, but that does not explain why it stopped tracking them. If we cannot track people, it is difficult to help them. It is clear that we have a difference of opinion.

What I am asking for from my colleague is a real understanding of the problems faced by Canadians living with disabilities and the realistic, appropriate and very immediate solutions to these problems for these people. What I am asking for is a real commitment from this government and a concrete action plan, one that will meet the basic needs of these people—such as putting a roof over their heads and food in their cupboards—foster their independence, and provide them with support when they return to work. That is what disabled Canadians are entitled to expect from their government, nothing less.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has made a full and real commitment to individuals with disabilities. Part of the reason I decided to run as a member of Parliament to support this government was because of my previous involvement with individuals with disabilities and their focus on it.

Another empowering experience for people with disabilities is finding meaningful employment. Each year our government transfers over $218 million to provinces through the federal-provincial labour market agreements for people with disabilities. These agreements support a broad range of programs and services that respond to the labour market needs for people with disabilities. This helps people with disabilities get the training and jobs they need. About 300,000 people are assisted through these agreements each year.

Our government also invests almost $30 million each year through the opportunities fund. This fund supports projects that help people with disabilities who are not eligible for employment insurance. It helps them prepare for, get jobs and become self-employed.

We are all working toward all Canadians having the opportunities to participate in the economy and share in our country's success. I hope the NDP is going to join us in that strategy instead of voting against it.

March 1st, 2012 / 6:45 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, on November 4, I received a contradictory response from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety. I hope that this evening the minister will enlighten us as to his position. The fact that this bill was passed on February 15 in this House and the government trumpeted victory at the conclusion of that vote in no way detracts from the scope of this evening’s adjournment proceedings. The legislative process of Bill C-19 is following its course.

My question dealt with the preservation of the firearms registry data. I must admit that I am quite puzzled by this government’s attitude toward crime. On the one hand it adopts a repressive approach, and on the other it is in the process of destroying an effective tool for police officers. This is a tool to control the use of long guns in Canada and to track the owners of such weapons.

It also curbs the trafficking of illegal weapons and serves to prevent the use of firearms in violent crimes against vulnerable persons such as female victims of domestic violence. Ending the registry is going to make things worse, and it runs counter to the effective combatting of crime. In reality, it is going to increase the number of victims in this country. For all these reasons I deplore this initiative of the government, who wants not only to abolish the firearms registry but to destroy the data collected, and who is categorically refusing to transfer it to the provinces, including Quebec, which is holding out its hand to the federal government.

This province is prepared to take over and manage this data. All Canadians and Quebeckers still remember the slaughter at the École polytechnique, the 22nd anniversary of which was marked last December. That blow to the heart of everyone argues in favour of transferring the data to Quebec. The federal government’s objection to proceeding with this transfer is inconsistent with an effective battle against crime.

Given the lack of co-operation between the federal government and Quebec, the provincial minister of public safety announced in a press release on December 13, 2011, that, if Bill C-19 were passed, he would go to court to recover the data from the registration certificates of non-restricted firearms owned by Quebeckers, data that are found in the Canadian firearms registry.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety said that the long gun registry does nothing to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms. I would like to challenge that statement. Certainly, criminals will always find backdoor methods of obtaining weapons, but the registry nevertheless constitutes an effective safeguard. Thanks to this registry, certain licence holders who presented real risk to public safety were deprived of the use of their firearms. Crimes were thus prevented. The registry protects both the public and police officers, and prevents them from becoming victims.

6:50 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, as we have already mentioned in this House, none of us want to see guns fall into the hands of violent criminals. This is why we want to preserve and enhance the measures that work to reduce crime and protect Canadians.

The hon. member refers to horrible incidents that should not be forgotten. Such arguments appeal to the very strong reactions we have to tragic events involving grievous gun crimes. It is understandable that some people wish to resort to massive controls by government in the hope of preventing such terrible violence from ever occurring again.

I should be clear that registering long guns does nothing to prevent such incidents. Our government is committed to getting tough on crime but the criminalization of our hunters, farmers and sport shooters will not have an impact on crime in Canada's major cities. We do not support treating them as criminals.

The May 2006 report of the Auditor General stated that the Canadian Firearms Centre could not demonstrate evidence-based outcomes of its activities, such as reduced threats from firearms, injuries and deaths, or helping to minimize risks to the public.

The facts are that the long gun registry has been ineffective, costly and wasteful. It has done nothing to help prevent gun crime in Canada or to help increase the safety of our communities. Canadians want gun control measures that enhance safety on our streets by preventing firearms from falling into the hands of dangerous people and by setting severe consequences for those who commit violent gun crimes. That is what our government is doing.

As we have said, the most effective gun control tool we have in this country is our current gun licensing system, which remains unchanged in Bill C-19. Every individual who wishes to possess and acquire firearms must take the required Canadian firearms safety course and pass the related test. Those wishing to possess and acquire restricted firearms must pass the Canadian restricted firearms safety course.

Firearms licence applicants are also subject to a screening process by the Chief Firearms Officers or their representatives, including a criminal background check, which determines if they have committed a serious criminal offence or if they are prohibited from owning firearms by a court ordered sanction, or if they present a risk to themselves or others. If any of these conditions exist, they will not be granted the privilege of possessing a firearm.

Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to end the long gun registry once and for all, and that is exactly what we will do. The successful vote on the third reading of the bill on February 15 marked a leap forward toward fulfilling our promise to scrap the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.

We are delighted to be closer than ever to doing away with the $2 billion boondoggle that criminalizes law-abiding Canadians, like those long gun owners in my riding of Simcoe—Grey. Unsurprisingly, the NDP and the Liberals once again reminded Canadians that, while they oppose tougher sentences for real criminals, they will never miss an opportunity to criminalize law-abiding farmers and duck hunters.

Law-abiding Canadians know that only this Conservative government will stand up for their rights.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec simply wants to maintain the data in the registry, which have already been paid for by Quebec taxpayers. I asked this question in order to come to a better understanding of this government's position. I am trying to understand the Conservative government's logic. It is saying that it is on the side of victims and yet it continues to refuse to co-operate with Quebec with regard to the transfer of this data, which would be helpful in preventing crime and protecting victims. It is a contradictory approach. Quebec is of the opinion that, if the data were transferred, it would help in the fight against crime and thus provide long-term protection to victims.

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government believes that violent gun crimes in Canada will be prevented by tougher criminal laws and sanctions, not by maintaining useless and incomplete databases on long guns.

Our government is committed to combatting gun crime, as well as other forms of serious violence, and maintaining the safety of our streets and communities. We have long recognized that these objectives cannot be realized through ineffective measures, such as the long gun registry which targets law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters.

February 15 was a great day for rural and northern Canadians, like those in my riding of Simcoe—Grey. It was also the day that the NDP members from Thunder Bay—Rainy River and Thunder Bay—Superior North stood up to the NDP's downtown big union bosses and voted to scrap the long gun registry. This shows that the NDP punishes MPs who speak for their northern and rural constituents while rewarding MPs who break their word.

What worries me is that this is just another example of the NDP's reckless and irresponsible choices that hurt law-abiding citizens like those in my riding.

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

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

(The House adjourned at 6:58 p.m.)