Mr. Speaker, before question period I talked about the dire need in the country for affordable housing and for a range of housing. I talked about the fact that an organization in Nanaimo said that housing was a part of a stable community. In the south end of my riding in the Cowichan Valley we also know that affordable housing is a crisis.
Homeless shelters have opened up. We have had some tragedies where people were squatting in buildings and the building caught fire. We desperately need affordable housing and not only in Nanaimo—Cowichan or British Columbia.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report said:
Increasing income inequality has further aggravated housing affordability issues for many Canadians. The rental market has stagnated in terms of supply, with a net increase of only 2,000 units across all of Canada between 1996 and 2001
The CCPA recommends the development and implementation of a national housing strategy which should be drafted in consultation with first nations and aboriginal groups where appropriate.
The budget does not contain the kinds of long range fundamental solutions to our affordable housing crisis and money that has been earmarked for housing is often flowed through the province with no accountability measures put into that flow through of money.
The budget also does not do enough to address questions of improving infrastructure of Canada and B.C. in particular. The federal and provincial transfers have declined by 37% in the past decade. Not only does the Conservative government have responsibility for this, so does the previous Liberal government.
As a result, Canada's municipal infrastructure debt is estimated at $60 billion and growing by $2 billion each year. An additional $21 billion is needed to improve urban transit. When we talk about infrastructure, that infrastructure includes roads, sewers, water treatment plants and also important heritage items.
In my riding we have a very important heritage item called the Kinsol Trestle, which spans the Koksilah River in the southern Cowichan Valley. It is one of the largest and highest wooden trestle bridges in the world. It was built in 1921, though there was an unfortunate fire and a number of years of neglect of this important artifact. That kind of infrastructure money is part of a trail system and infrastructure money has not been earmarked. We can designate things like the Kinsol Trestle as a heritage site, but there is no money to maintain it.
The budget also does not provide money more broadly on other infrastructure items. I point specifically to the flooding that is going on right now in British Columbia. There is a long term need for dealing with the dike system in British Columbia. That has been neglected year after year. This year flooding is removing people from their homes and cutting communities off. I encourage the government to take a look at that longer term need.
I will talk about forestry for a moment. My riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan has been reliant on the forestry sector for its economy for a number of years, and has been in transition. Over the last several years, between softwood lumber and raw log exports, we continue to see jobs lost in many communities in Nanaimo—Cowichan and Nanaimo—Alberni. I mentioned earlier that 185 jobs were cut last week. We continue to see lack of adequate attention paid to the forestry sector in British Columbia.
When we talk about economic prosperity, we need to ensure that we foster economic prosperity and make the kind of strategic long term investment. I would argue that British Columbia's forestry sector deserves that strategic long term investment.
When we talk about the pine beetle in the House. We have had nothing but hollow promises to deal with the pine beetle epidemic, which is decimating forests in B.C. Although there have been promises, that money still has not flowed. I will to read from an article dated Friday, June 8, entitled “We say when will the feds give a damn about beetle?”. In this article it says, “This is a disaster that directly affects the finances and pocketbooks of individuals every bit as much as other natural disasters like floods and ice storms”.
It goes on to say, “This is the case no matter how we might quibble over the definition. People struggling with the pine beetle devastation aren't asking for a free ride. They would simply like an indication that the federal government gives a damn. They would be grateful to receive even a small percentage of the cost”.
The article talks about the fact that there are $62,000 from the federal government toward the continuation of the Kamloops beetle wood pickup program, and that is it. We know we need to have a long term view of what is happening in British Columbia. Forests are being cut because they need to be, but what is the long term economic survival of the community? What is the transition plan for workers in those communities? We must pay attention to that. Thousands and thousands of hectares have been impacted.
It is clear when we look at housing, the forestry sector, fishing, health care and seniors in British Columbia, many of these issues critical to the health, safety and well-being of our communities, that they have not been a priority in this budget. It is also clear that citizens in British Columbia have not been a priority for the government.
I will turn my attention for a moment to an issue that confronts us on a national scale, which is the aboriginal peoples of our country. As the aboriginal critic, I was particularly interested in what the government saw fit to put in the budget. When it comes to first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples,we see there is very little commitment in the budget.
Close to one million Canadians identify themselves as aboriginal peoples, including over 600,000 first nations, 300,000 Métis and 50,000 Inuit. The aboriginal population is young, incredibly diverse and growing much faster than the rest of Canada, yet the government continues to miss the opportunity to pursue programs that benefit both aboriginal peoples and ordinary Canadians.
A budget is, at its core, a set of numbers that demonstrate a government's priorities. Canadians expected fairness toward first nations, Inuit and Métis people to be a priority, but as this budget clearly shows, it was not.
When adjusted for inflation and population increases, the INAC budget has dropped in real terms by 3.5% since 1999-2000. As a result of the discriminatory 2% cap, core services, which include education, social development, capital facilities and support of self-government for first nations people, have declined by 13% in real terms during the same period.
There are more numbers. Aboriginals make, on average, only 60% of what ordinary Canadians make. They are two to three times more likely to be unemployed. They are three times as likely to live in poverty. Aboriginals are two to three times as likely to suffer chronic health conditions and live in inadequate, crowded housing. This is an embarrassment for Canada. It is time we refocus on the issues that are central to Canada's aboriginal communities, good housing, good jobs and a bright future for their children.
When we talk about this we often forget there is a natural face. In a speech that National Chief Phil Fontaine gave on Tuesday, May 15, he put a face to the conditions in Canada. I will quote from his speech. He said:
We must admit that First Nations People in Canada live in the most disgusting and shameful conditions imaginable in any developed country.
In...Northern Manitoba, Chief Shirley Castel tells us that some two-bedroom homes have as many as 28 people living in them. People are forced to sleep in shifts and many parents often go without sleep to ensure their children are able to learn and play.
The Conservative answer to that is to put $300 million into market housing, but no additional money into on reserve affordable housing and no additional money into off reserve affordable housing. The fact is that $300 million in market housing only addresses one small part of what is needed in first nations, Métis and Inuit communities.
Further in National Chief Fontaine's speech he says:
The UN Human Development Index ranks Canada at about sixth in the world. First Nations on reserves rank somewhere around 63rd, according to Indian and Northern Affairs...
The Department's own officials have warned the federal government that First Nations' socio-economic status will continue to worsen and the gap widen—yet these warnings have not been heeded.
Later in Chief Fontaine's speech, and I noticed that the Ottawa Citizen ran a story on this very sad tragedy that took place in Ottawa, he says:
And so where is the public outcry about the loss of Kelly Morriseau...especially now with the Robert Pickton trial underway in B.C.
It's estimated that more than 500 First Nations women have disappeared or died violently during the past 30 years.
That is a litany of the tragedies facing many first nations communities in our country.
When the Assembly of First Nations put out a report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, it gave an overall grade of meeting their recommendations in that report as F. In one section of the report called “First Nations Homes”, and I talked a little about homes, but I will read the statistics. It says:
In addition to a higher rate of overcrowding, First Nations homes are about four times more likely to require major repairs compared to Canadian homes and mold contaminates almost half of First Nations homes.
1 in 3 First Nations people consider their main drinking water unsafe to drink, and 12% of First Nations communities have to boil their drinking water.
Six percent (over 5,000 homes) are without sewage services, and 4% lack either hot water, cold water or flushing toilets
I remind the House that this is in Canada. We would not expect that many citizens in Canada are living in third world conditions. When I talk about the international stage, I want to turn to a report that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination published in March, pointing out Canada's shameful record in a number of areas in dealing with first nations, Métis and Inuit people.
Under Item 21, it talks about the commitments made in 2005 by the federal, provincial and territorial governments under the Kelowna accord. It goes on to say:
—the Committee remains concerned at the extent of the dramatic inequality in living standards still experienced by Aboriginal peoples. In this regard, the Committee, recognising the importance of the right of indigenous peoples to own, develop, control and use their lands, territories and resources in relation to their enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, regrets that in its report, the State party did not address the question of limitations imposed on the use by Aboriginal people of their land, as previously requested by the Committee. The Committee also notes that the State party has yet to fully implement the 1996 recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
In the same report we have heard Conservative members talk about the fact that Bill C-44 will address human rights on reserve. What they fail to acknowledge is that Bill C-44 does not allocate any additional resources to the things that might arise in human rights complaints around water, housing, adequate education. There is no remedy and this report cites, in fact, that without those remedies, human rights cannot be addressed on reserve.
We have often heard talk about the 2% cap. Again, I want to turn to the government's document. In a cost drivers report it indicated:
The rationale is that after nine years of a 2 percent cap the time has come to fund First Nations basic services costs so that population and price growth are covered in the new and subsequent years. Over the period of the 2 percent cap departmental per capita constant dollar expenditures for basic services have declined by six percent.
This is the context of the fact that population both on and off reserve continues to grow. Aboriginal population in the country is the fastest growing of any population in the country, and yet we have seen a net decline of 6%. This is the government's document.
I would suggest that when this budget was developed, surely the government would have received advice from its own departments in developing a budget that would adequately address even a minimum standard of care in the country.
Later on in the same cost drivers report, it talks about socio-economic influences. It talks about the fact that:
The real costs associated with First Nation schools implementing programs that assist those students affected by adverse socio-economic conditions, in achieving school success, however that may be defined.
It says that is a problem.
It includes things like remedial programs relating to basic skills, nutrition programs, extracurricular programs associated with sports and recreation, after school programs and so on.
It talks about the fact that when we compare the services of on reserve schools with off reserve schools, there is a funding gap of $64 million in the band school system for the year 2004-05. We know that the gap has continued to grow.
I could continue to talk about the overcrowded housing, the lack of clean drinking water, the lack of mould remediation programs and the lack of education. The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the spring completed a report on post-secondary education. The committee called upon the government to recognize the 2% funding cap, to address the serious shortfalls in post-secondary education. There was no new funding.
We know that one of the ways that economic disparity can be addressed in first nations communities, Métis communities and Inuit communities across this country is by making sure that education is accessible.
With our aging population, it is really important that we invest in the skills and labour shortage. Although there was some money in the budget for the skills and labour shortage, I would argue that it was not nearly sufficient to meet this country's needs. If we fail, as this proposed budget does, our economy and society will not only forego this great potential, but also continue to incur large social costs. I have called for more funding for skills and development training, but it has to be a much broader base than what is in the current budget.
Justice Thomas Berger's report on Nunavut's education system pointed out that indigenous language training is vital to developing a skilled workforce. There is no money for indigenous language training in this budget. In fact, the program was gutted by $160 million. Many of the indigenous languages across this country are in serious trouble, so it is important that we continue to support language training because it helps the health and well-being of communities.
Perhaps one of the most important elements of any community is the hope that it has for its children. Yet, this budget robs aboriginal children of this hope.
There is no funding to provide child welfare on reserves to meet provincial standards. It is $109 million short. In fact, there has been a human rights complaint filed because of that funding gap.
We continue to see a 2% gap on programs and services, a 3% gap on health care, and there are countless other ways that this budget nickels and dimes aboriginal people. There is no additional funding for friendship centres. There is not the kind of support for infrastructure that is required for water or housing.
We have seen many broken promises over the years. This budget is just a continuation of the broken promises to first nations, Métis and Inuit people in this country.