House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was inequality.

Topics

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am struck by the discussion about firearms. When we think of firearms in our country, we think about a criminal act of not storing them safely. Business owners will not be in a position to have loaded firearms available if someone comes in to take over the store because they have to store their firearms in a separate place from the ammunition. Safe storage is under the Criminal Code.

The other point I want to bring up is with regard to the police. For instance, police officers will say that the most likely gun they will be injured or killed by are their own guns. In fact, their bulletproof vests were designed to repel a slug from their issued firearms.

When we talk about increasing the supply of firearms in our country, would the member not agree that it will take a lot of examination to see whether this bill fits in all of that?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker. Part of why I am bringing this up is to try to draw attention to the fact that this bill creates a knowledge, appreciation and clarification of the laws around self-defence. We are trying to ensure the laws that talk about self-defence are not used by people to create a vigilante system that will end the lives of many of our young people.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-26. This is a great honour for me given that I have happily agreed, at the NDP whip's request, to become a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. This is both a great honour and a great challenge for me.

I will take advantage of my speaking time to express my opinion about a bill that the committee has studied and to talk about the ins and outs of bills like this one, their impact on society and their usefulness to the courts.

It is very important to understand that the courts are working to help society, to ensure order and to suppress crime using the tools they have been given by, among others, our House of Commons. That is an important notion because the bills that we draft, discuss, debate and study in committee to achieve an outcome are just part of the courts' toolkit.

Of course, simply passing a bill does not solve all problems. Quite the opposite. The goals of a bill can be achieved only if other authorities, including this House, give police forces and other stakeholders the means to engage in prevention and education and if other levels of government are equipped to ensure that the implementation of the law achieves the desired results.

I have to say that I am also very honoured to speak to this bill because I personally believe that it is a good model. This bill should become an operational model for the work of this House and of the various committees my colleagues work on.

I want to emphasize that because the New Democratic Party, as represented by committee members, was disappointed in a number of things. Unfortunately, even though the other members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights agreed to two of the amendments we proposed, seven of our amendments were rejected, including, among others, an amendment that was very important to us and that had to do with actions taken in self-defence, such as in situations involving domestic abuse.

Some of my colleagues have given very eloquent, detailed speeches on this issue, which is very important to us. I will not necessarily go into further detail on the matter. However, I would like to come back to the fact that if there is one measure of satisfaction that all members of this House can express and, more importantly, that we all hear from our constituents, that would be great. Incidentally, I would like to point out that we are all here as representatives of our constituents, first and foremost, and we are accountable to them, to everyone in our ridings, no matter which party we belong to.

Coming back to the main point I wanted to make, when all is said and done, and considering the results achieved, Bill C-26 is a great example of how this House and its committees can work together.

Although by no means ideal—that would be going to far—it is nevertheless a model that all members in this House can follow in order to improve the atmosphere here, which is not always easy. I do not wish to dwell on examples from the past, but unfortunately, the fact is that this government continues to blindly and stubbornly advance its own agenda, while dismissing any informed opinions that differ from its own. I would like to again point out the success of Bill C-26.

I would now like to address another very important aspect that gives us a great deal of satisfaction about the goals achieved while working on Bill C-26. It is important to understand that creating legislation that deals with a subject as complicated as self-defence and the protection of personal or other property is like walking a tightrope.

Defining the limits of actions, violent or not, that in some cases are clearly criminal and in others are not, can be very tricky.

As you know, self-defence is a widely accepted principle. Some of my colleagues, like the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, have been very clear on this subject—and I thank them for that. In my opinion, this has allowed all of my colleagues to understand that even though self-defence is widely accepted by the public, there are nonetheless some inherent risks involved in its implementation.

The New Democratic Party does not accept and will never accept vigilante justice. It is very, very important to understand that. Likewise, it will never accept the pure repression that this government is promoting. Nuance is very important. Fortunately, or unfortunately—depending on one's point of view—we do not live in a world without nuance, where everything is black and white. On the contrary, the circumstances surrounding a case before the courts can become very important and can affect the outcome tremendously. That is one of the reasons our justice system gives judges some latitude. They are not, however, given full or arbitrary latitude. Our judges have to make their decisions and work within the confines of the law and case law.

I am pleased that this bill will give our courts new tools for building more balanced precedents in matters of self-defence, protection of property and citizen's arrest. It is very important.

However, I am warning this government not to believe that passing this bill will solve all the problems. On the contrary, if we do not give the other stakeholders—such as our courts or police officers—all the tools they need to implement this legislation, then unfortunately, Bill C-26 may very well not meet its objectives.

I repeat: I wanted to put this in perspective. This bill will be only one of a number of methods for achieving the important objective of protecting ordinary people who, in some exceptional circumstances, may find themselves in situations where they could be convicted of a crime.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am just curious. I have not heard again the reference to judicial discretion. I know there has been some argument in committee by the NDP in relation to this, and then again some discussion here. I am wondering how the member feels about removing judicial discretion for judges in respect of victims. The NDP has said in the past that judicial discretion should not be removed and that a judge should be able to send people away for as long as the judge feels is appropriate.

We say that we need to send a clear message to the community that violent crimes, violent drug offences and gang-related organized crime will not be tolerated and that the people who commit these crimes deserve mandatory minimum sentences. That would remove judicial discretion and bring certainty across the country that people who commit violent crimes have to do serious time.

I am wondering if the member agrees with our position here to allow judges to have judicial discretion in relation to victims' rights.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question and comments. That is a very good question.

I think judicial discretion is key. I therefore find it particularly strange to see the hon. member getting upset about the fact that judges have a certain amount of discretion in the performance of their duties, in their use of the criminal justice system.

Unfortunately, this government has always had the bad habit of applying the “give a dog a bad name and hang him” philosophy. What is really outrageous is that they believe that wishful thinking can solve any problem and they refuse to trust professionals, people who, through years of practising law, have acquired sufficient judgment to apply the law to its fullest extent. Indeed, under our Criminal Code, life and other very stiff sentences can be imposed. Judges have the freedom to impose such sentences and it is very important that their freedom be preserved.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative member said that eliminating judicial discretion and imposing minimum sentences gives victims more rights and ensures that those who commit serious crimes are incarcerated for a certain amount of time.

However, and I do not know whether my colleague is aware of this, with minimum sentences criminals generally are more inclined to plead guilty in order to negotiate a shorter sentence. I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that.

Personally, I think this proves that minimum sentences do not always work.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague very much for her question.

We can consider minimum sentences from several perspectives, as the government argues. We can take the statistical or epidemiological point of view: it has been clearly shown that minimum sentences do not reduce or prevent crime. On the contrary, they result in more crime.

I remember very well some discussions we had at our national convention in Vancouver last year, especially with correctional officers. Apparently all inmates, no matter what sentences they receive—except for those serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole—will have a life after serving their sentences. Whenever hope is crushed or thwarted, the inmate is all too easily pushed into despair, or put in a position where they could reoffend or commit more serious crimes.

It is truly important. We are seriously worried about this and we will continue to defend our position as we continue our work in this place.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak for a second time to Bill C-26. Those watching the House of Commons today might be thinking that they are watching a competition to see how many times the Criminal Code can be amended in one Parliament, with these Conservatives and their tough on crime agenda.

Nevertheless, I would like to say that I think this change is essential. A number of lawyers and judges say that this is a necessary change. There is no denying that the Criminal Code sections on self-defence, defence of others and defence of property have been causing some confusion in the courts for a long time. I would like to read a section of the presentation made by the Canadian Bar Association to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

The Criminal Code provisions concerning self-defence, defence of others, and defence of property have been subject to decades of criticism, and have been an ongoing source of frustration for lawyers, judges and juries. This is due to the multiplicity of relevant Code sections and subsections, and the variations among their elements. Many high-profile cases have faltered on jury instructions regarding self-defence.

Clearly, there was a real need for change. As a member of this House, I am pleased that we were able to bring about this change. I would also like to congratulate my colleague from Trinity—Spadina for having initiated this bill in the previous Parliament.

As we all know, this bill was inspired by one specific case. Mr. Chen was trying to protect the merchandise in his store. When he discovered that the thief who had stolen a plant—I think—had returned to his store, he detained that person, but he faced charges himself.

During one of our meetings of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, someone from the convenience store owners' association was present. He talked about this need and this desire on the part of owners—those who cannot afford a security guard—to be able to protect their property and put an end to these constant thefts. He pointed out that convenience stores tend to be robbed over and over again, and this translates into serous losses at the end of the month.

I understand that situation. Many small and medium-sized businesses are trying to be independent, and they do not necessarily have the means to protect themselves by hiring security agents. So if someone steals milk every week, eventually that ends up being a loss for the convenience store. I really do understand the situation.

During testimony, we asked a lot of questions about the bill. We were a little worried about the balance between the subjective and objective elements of the bill. We even presented some amendments that, unfortunately, were rejected. The Conservative Party rejected one amendment in particular. We were disappointed about that, but we worked well together to make sure we covered the issue thoroughly.

We also considered whether this could become a trend and what we could do to make sure that it does not. By that, I mean making sure that people do not take on the role of the police. People can put themselves in potentially dangerous situations by arresting someone themselves if they do not have the experience or the strength to do it.

However, we all agreed that we do not want to see this to become a trend. We also proposed amendments to prevent that from happening, but that does not mean we should not have these provisions.

In my opinion, Bill C-26 also includes another important and interesting element.

It contains a non-exhaustive list that the judge can consult when a person pleads self-defence. This list allows the court to determine whether that person has a history of violence, whether there is a history of interaction between the parties, the nature of the force, the size of the person, etc.

Of course, I am a small woman and I would be afraid of a large man. I have reason to be afraid in certain situations. This is very important to consider, particularly when we think about women who are victims of domestic violence and who, every day, have to face a person who could do them harm. It is very important to consider the factors on this list.

I am also happy that this list is not exhaustive and that there is always the possibility of adding additional factors to it. We know that, with time, we will find other factors that should be added to the list.

We also heard comments about security guards. I find this dynamic very interesting. Our society seems to be depending more and more on security guards, and private ones for that matter. I encourage the House to examine the issue of private security guards. They are not necessarily obliged to obey the charter.

This bill will affect their work because, when they are on site, they try to protect a store or shop and its goods. They cannot always arrest someone. There is, therefore, a certain desire among security guards to see these changes implemented. They are very happy about them, and I encourage the House to continue to examine this issue. Personally, I believe that some studies are needed in this regard.

I would also like to speak about the arrest of a person after the fact. We know that, in some rural communities that do not have as large a police force as metropolitan areas like Montreal, it is not always possible for a police officer to come and arrest someone who has committed a minor crime, such as stealing plants, as in the case of Mr. Chen.

The bill clearly states that a person can only be arrested if it is believed that the police would not have arrived in time to make the arrest. It is important to include this. Perhaps it does not go far enough. We submitted a number of amendments to try to restrict this a bit, but the Conservatives refused. The bill states that it can only be done when a peace officer cannot come to arrest the person in the place of the citizen. I am pleased about this because it could be dangerous for someone to make an arrest because that person may not necessarily have the expertise or the strength required.

I will end my speech here. I would like to point out once again that we support this bill, but that we do not want it to become a trend.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainvillewill have five minutes for questions and comments when the House resumes debate on the motion.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Study on Income Inequality
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

moved

That the Standing Committee on Finance be instructed to undertake a study on income inequality in Canada and that this study include, but not be limited to, (i) a review of Canada’s federal and provincial systems of personal income taxation and income supports, (ii) an examination of best practices that reduce income inequality and improve GDP per capita, (iii) the identification of any significant gaps in the federal system of taxation and income support that contribute to income inequality, as well as any significant disincentives to paid work in the formal economy that may exist as part of a “welfare trap”, (iv) recommendations on how best to improve the equality of opportunity and prosperity for all Canadians; and that the Committee report its findings to the House within one year of the adoption of this motion.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce my motion M-315, on the issue of income inequality in Canada.

I would like to start by telling the House a bit about my dear friend the late Wallace McCain, a great Canadian who passed away last year. At his funeral, Frank McKenna gave the eulogy, and in describing Wallace, Frank said:

He was a steely-eyed capitalist, competing and winning against the biggest and best in the world. On the other hand, he was also a deeply patriotic Canadian, committed to a caring and sharing society. He believed the government has an important role. He believed in public health care. He believed in early childhood development, he believed in progressive social policies. He believed that we truly are our brother's keeper.

Wallace McCain used to say, “I pay a lot of taxes. I don't mind paying taxes. Everybody's got to pay their taxes. We get a lot for our tax money in this country”.

I share this story about Wallace's vision on the role of government because I do not believe that the issue of income inequality should be reduced to one of class warfare. It should be about creating and protecting equality of opportunity.

Wallace McCain would have wanted Parliament to study income inequality because he would want us to continue to ensure that Canada is a place where we can grow up in Florenceville, New Brunswick, and with education, hard work and a lot of determination, go on to conquer the world. Then when we succeed, it is about giving back. It is about building a Canada where we can hope for a better life for our children, our grandchildren and our neighbours' children and their grandchildren. It is about making sure that regardless of where we start, we can work to make a better life for ourselves and our families, that we have a chance.

As MPs, we have a responsibility to make sure that Canadians can access the tools they need to succeed, regardless of where they start. Unfortunately, in Canada opportunity remains far from equal. Income inequality across Canada is in fact growing. This has been the trend for the past generation under federal and provincial governments of all stripes.

Inequality is growing between Canadian regions as our economy is divided between resource-rich provinces and those without. Inequality is growing between urban and rural Canada, and it is growing between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians. These growing inequalities result in tremendous costs for our economy in terms of lower economic growth and higher demands on health and social services.

The economic cost of growing inequity and inequality for aboriginal Canadians is particularly alarming, and the trend is getting worse. On the issue of aboriginal poverty, we face the growing cost of Canada's youngest and fastest-growing population also being the most economically disadvantaged and socially disenfranchised.

Growing income gaps have been the trend across OECD nations, although some countries are doing better than others. When it comes to the growing gap between rich and poor, no political party in Canada has a monopoly on answers or the blame, but in recent public opinion surveys, Canadians have identified growing income inequality as the most important issue they want their members of Parliament to be working on. That is why I proposed this motion: so that parliamentarians could work together across party lines on ideas to strengthen equality of opportunity for all Canadians.

The issue of growing income inequality in Canada has recently been identified as a major public policy challenge by the OECD, by the Conference Board of Canada and by Canada 2020. The level of inequality in Canada is in fact above the OECD average, and while it is true that the U.S. still has higher income inequality than Canada, income inequality in Canada is now growing at a rate faster than that in the U.S.

Even Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney agreed that this recent growth in inequality is an important challenge, and Mark Cameron, a Conservative and a former director of policy to the Prime Minister, has argued that addressing the issue of growing income gaps should be a priority for the Conservative government. Let me read from Mr. Cameron's recent paper on the issue:

A society in which a small group is perceived to be benefiting unfairly, or where there are wide gaps between social and economic classes, can lead to dissension, jealousy and anti-social behaviour, even if the less well-off are still making material gains. This, in turn, can lead to increases in crime, loss of participation in social and charitable organizations, and greater demands for government intervention to help deal with these social tensions. Such a scenario should concern not only social democrats or liberals..., but also conservatives who are concerned about maintaining public support for free markets and limited government.

The fact is, equality is good for the economy. Howevever, on that front our economy faces strong headwinds. The problem of Canada's shrinking middle class has been somewhat masked by cheap credit as Canadians borrow more and increase personal debt in order to make ends meet. Canadians now owe, on average, more than $1.50 for every dollar of annual income.

The record levels of debt-financed consumption we see by Canadian households cannot continue forever. The Bank of Canada has already identified Canada's record levels of household debt as the biggest risk to our economy, and it is just a matter of time before rates start to rise. The problems of growing income inequality will grow as rates go up.

Recent studies also show that income inequality is not just growing between individuals; it is also growing between Canadian neighbourhoods. In fact, incomes in the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada are not just stalling: between 1980 and 2005, their incomes actually shrank, making the poor even worse off. However, in the top neighbourhoods, incomes continue to grow rapidly. As a result, Canadian cities, communities and towns are becoming increasingly ghettoized. This division leads to weaker communities, increased crime and worse outcomes for health and education.

The Code Red study in Hamilton, Ontario, looked at the link between income inequality in Hamilton neighbourhoods and the health of its citizens. The results are startling. It found a 21-year difference in life expectancy between those living in the richest neighbourhoods and those living in the poorest. In fact, the poorest neighbourhood in Hamilton would rank 165th in the world in terms of life expectancy.

People living in poorer neighbourhoods also require significantly more time in the hospital. They are more likely to find themselves in emergency rooms.

Healthy birth weights are an important indicator of future health. The average rate of low birth weights in sub-Saharan Africa is 15%. The study found seven Hamilton neighbourhoods where the rate was more than 20%, including one where the rate was, astonishingly, 47%.

The study described some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Hamilton as living with

...Third World outcomes and Third World lifespans—all the more shocking in a city with a major medical school and top teaching hospitals, in a country with universal, publicly funded health care.

Income inequality can be a life-and-death issue. Stats Canada has been looking at income levels and the probability of dying prematurely. The results show a Canadian male in the top 20% of income earners only has a 27% probability of dying prematurely. However, that risk rises to 35% for average-income males and 50% for those in the bottom 20% of incomes. It is 52% for an aboriginal, and there is a 69% chance of premature death for those living in a shelter or rooming house.

The issue is also about hope. For generations, Canadians have prided themselves in calling Canada a land of opportunity, a place where someone can arrive with nothing, but with hard work and perseverance can make a better life for themselves and their family, and while they are struggling to make it, Canada's social safety net will be there with them.

The economic mobility project recently asked Canadians about their current thoughts on economic mobility and their level of hope for the future. Only 47% of Canadian parents—less than half—now believe that their children will be able to match the same living standards of their parents.

As parliamentarians, we should consider that fact carefully. When people no longer have hope for the future and for their children, that is when they start getting into trouble.

When it comes to specific measures that can both reduce income inequality and improve GDP per capita, the focus of the proposed finance committee study, there are some areas in which Canada is already adopting some best practices at both the federal and provincial levels.

I believe one good idea is the working income tax benefit. This refundable tax credit helps remove disincentives to work by bridging the welfare gap faced by low- and modest-income Canadians. It helps the recipients and it helps the Canadian economy. It is an idea that was first introduced by the previous Liberal government in the 2005 fall mini-budget and the subsequent election platform, and it was implemented by this Conservative government in budget 2007 and increased in 2009. It is an idea that builds on successful provincial programs, such as Saskatchewan's employment supplement and rental housing supplement and Quebec's work premium, which are also designed to help Canadians in those provinces climb the welfare wall and get out of the welfare trap.

Another area where investments both grow the economy and help address inequality is investments in early learning and child care. Together with the provinces, communities and parents, we can support initiatives for early learning and child care and help make sure Canadian kids get a good start.

Income inequality is a complex issue. Complex, challenging issues are exactly what we as parliamentarians have a responsibility to take on here. There are groups and individuals with expertise on income inequality. There are faith-based community organizations and churches that are on the front lines of this issue. We can hear from them and learn from them. We can hear from other levels of government to help inform federal policy and help us tackle this problem together.

After 15 years as a member of Parliament, I am not so naive as to believe that a study by the House of Commons finance committee will solve income inequality once and for all, but it will be a start. It will engage Parliament in a constructive non-partisan effort to deal with an issue that Canadians care deeply about. It will help us understand this issue better and put Parliament on a path of progress where we can work with other levels of government and other stakeholders to address it. Canadians want us to deal with income inequality, and we should not disappoint them.

I would like to conclude on a personal note.

Growing up, I went to Dr. Arthur Hines Elementary School in Hants County, Nova Scotia. It is an area where a lot of people face very deep rural poverty. Wendy Elliott of the Kings County Advertiser has written about this issue of rural poverty. She has also written about the fact that Canada is the only G8 country with full day classes and no national school meals program.

The fact is that where I grew up, a lot of the kids went to school hungry. Of the 23 students in my grade 6 class at Dr. Arthur Hines school, fewer than half went on to graduate from high school. Those who did had one thing in common: they had access to some early learning, generally from parents who read to them. Some of the kids did not have that opportunity, not because their parents were bad parents but because their parents had trouble reading.

Today the Hants Shore Community Health Centre provides early learning to local children to help all the local children get a good start. Thanks to pioneers like former principal Hazel Dill and restaurateur Michael Howell, nutritional education is helping kids eat better food. As a result, not only are more kids from Dr. Arthur Hines school graduating from high school in Hants County, they are winning scholarships and going on to post-secondary education as well.

Let us learn from these success stories. Let us approach this with an open mind and open hearts. Let us develop ideas that can help all Canadians. Let us understand this important issue better. This motion and this study are an important step for the Parliament of Canada to understand income inequality better. It is an important step in helping us address income inequality, which is an issue that Canadians say is a top issue they want us to deal with here in Parliament.

I hope that we can, as individual members of Parliament and as political parties, put partisanship aside and approach this issue by supporting this motion. I certainly look forward to this debate now and in the coming weeks. There will not be a vote until June. I would urge all members of Parliament from all parties to keep an open mind and an open heart, and hopefully we can show Canadians that we can make Parliament work for a more equal and more equitable Canada.

Study on Income Inequality
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, one must wonder whether the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party really knows no bounds. It was just a few years ago that our government introduced the child tax benefit to benefit and improve the lives of single moms who are underprivileged. Members will remember that it was a senior member of and senior adviser to the hon. member's party who said that they would use it to buy beer and popcorn. What an awful shame that was.

The member indicated that we introduced the working income tax benefit in 2007, which he supports. In the five years since, the tax benefit has proven to be a very effective tool in helping underprivileged people get back to work.

In February 2009, the member for Kings—Hants said:

The working income tax benefit...has helped many working families and increasing it further will contribute even more significantly to helping make work pay.

Therefore, I ask the member why the Liberal Party voted against its creation in 2007, and whether he will finally apologize on behalf of his party for denying hard-working Canadians this—

Study on Income Inequality
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would like to give the hon. member for Kings—Hants time to respond.

Study on Income Inequality
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, I guess if Canadians watching this debate were hoping that perhaps we were starting a less partisan approach to this important issue, they would be disappointed by hearing from that hon. member.

As the Conservatives mock and laugh at income inequality and Canadians who are living below the poverty line, I hope they can consider the immaturity of their approach and the effect of their pithy partisanship on the way Canadians look at Parliament. I find it very disappointing that the hon. member would not take his work as a parliamentarian seriously and actually try to address this issue that I and my party are seeking to address in a non-partisan and constructive way.

Study on Income Inequality
Private Members' Business

April 25th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, first of all I would like to thank my Liberal colleague for his motion to study income inequality in Canada. Because of his compassion for people in difficult circumstances, I would like to ask him a question.

When the last budget was tabled, the government announced that it would no longer subsidize the National Council of Welfare. The work of the NCW brings the concerns of people living in poverty into the political sphere, while providing important information to community organizations, researchers and the government in order to implement measures that will eliminate poverty.

NCW's annual budget is only $1.1 million and its work gives hope for a real distribution of wealth. Does my colleague support the government cuts to the NCW, an organization that provides assistance and studies poverty in Canada?

Study on Income Inequality
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the question very much. Given the level of poverty in Canada, it is clear that now is not the time to be withdrawing resources from groups that are looking for solutions and ways to reduce poverty.

I do not understand why the government has cut funding from such programs. It is clear that we must invest more and try to come up with more ideas. We must involve other groups in Canada, such as community groups and churches that work to address challenges in our communities every day. We must work more closely with the other levels of government, the municipal and provincial governments.

I agree with the hon. member. In my opinion, this is not the time to be cutting funding from important groups that are working to find solutions.