Poverty Reduction Act

An Act concerning the development of a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada

Sponsor

Brigitte Sansoucy  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of Dec. 6, 2016

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-245.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment provides for the development and implementation of a national strategy to reduce poverty in Canada and the appointment of an independent poverty reduction commissioner.

The enactment also amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Finally, it amends the Department of Employment and Social Development Act to establish the National Council on Poverty Elimination and Social Inclusion.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Dec. 6, 2016 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:50 p.m.
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NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, achieving gender equality is non-negotiable. There is no doubt about it. That is one of the NDP's core principles, actually. It is always at the heart of our work on the ground and the legislative measures we put forward. Can the same be said of the government? Unfortunately not.

I have no doubt about the sponsor's intentions. I have been keeping tabs on his interventions in the status of women committee. However, if one truly believes in as fundamental a principle as gender equality, one must be consistent and non-partisan about it.

It is a shame that the sponsor of the bill before us voted against the NDP's Bill C-237, the candidate gender equity act, which was designed to increase the number of women in federal politics. It was actually an excellent and very well-documented bill.

How can anyone support gender equality and yet vote against a measure that would put more women in Parliament? I, for one, will be consistent and vote in favour of this bill. I do not think it goes far enough or actually does anything concrete, but I do think there is no such thing as paying too much attention to gender equality.

In addition, my NDP colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith will work tirelessly in committee to propose amendments in order to make this bill even more action-oriented, and I fully trust and support her.

When I first saw Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week, I thought that we would finally see some real progress and concrete measures for women and girls. Unfortunately, that is not the case. This bill proposes declaring the first week of October gender equality week, but nothing more.

There are no measures to tackle economic disparity, there is no money to fund shelters for women and children, no action plan to end violence against women, no funding restored to organizations that work with women and girls and that, quite frankly, do an excellent job with very little funding, there are no measures to increase the number of women in the House, and I could go on.

What does the bill propose? Its preamble has 21 points. Here is an excerpt: “Whereas there is a wage gap between men and women in Canada”. What does the bill propose to address that problem? Does it include any actions, plans, or measures? Well, no, it proposes to establish a gender equality week.

No one here is against apple pie, but how will a gender equality week truly change anything for women and girls? If legislative measures are proposed, then action must follow. Unfortunately, this bill proposes no such action.

As the House probably knows, the disparity between men and women is glaring. For every dollar earned by a man, a Canadian woman earns only 74¢. That is unacceptable, and measures must be taken to address this gap.

Last March, Oxfam published a report on the measures taken by the Liberal government on gender parity. This government received the worst score for its policies on the work of women and pay equity. The Oxfam report noted that while the Liberal Party campaigned on a promise to improve the economic situation of women, this government has put very few measures in place to that effect.

In other words, once again there are more words than action. I feel like I have been saying that all day. Women need tangible measures from this government. Women have been waiting for pay equity for 40 years. It is all well and good to promote it, but proposing concrete measures is better, and women need these measures now, not later. This government must immediately draft proactive legislation on pay equity in order to reduce the wage gap and achieve economic equality for women.

Because this is 2017, we should do things differently. Because this is 2017, women should have equal pay for work of equal value. It is time for this government to back its claims that equality counts and to take immediate action.

Another point highlighted in the preamble is the following:

Whereas poverty and inequality disproportionately affect Canadian women, particularly elderly, disabled, transgender and visible minority women, leaving them isolated and vulnerable;

That is so true.

With respect to my Bill C-245 to establish a poverty reduction strategy, I heard many stakeholders, several organizations, and many women's groups talk about this reality. These organizations are waiting for real measures and actions to continue helping women.

Women's groups in my riding do extraordinary work. I am thinking, for example, of the Centre Ressources-Femmes de la région d'Acton; the Centre de femmes L'Autonomie en soiE; La Clé sur la porte, a shelter for victims of domestic violence; the Centre d'aide pour victimes d'agression sexuelle or CAVAS; Les 8 Marskoutaines , which organizes activities on March 8 every year; the Cercles de fermières in various communities; Afeas, which does work to raise awareness; the Syndicat des agricultrices de la région de Saint-Hyacinthe; and the Coalition des femmes de la MRC Les Maskoutains. These groups expect more. They expect better. They expect this government to walk the talk.

In our ridings, 63% of low-income seniors who live alone are women. The median income for seniors in Quebec is $20,200 for those aged 65 to 74, and for those 75 or over it is less than $20,000. There are real people behind the statistics. They need action and measures.

When women live in poverty, so do their children. That is completely unacceptable. By not dealing with this problem, the government is abandoning thousands of women, girls, and children who are in desperate need. How is a week of celebration going to help them to get out of poverty?

I am already at the end of my speech. We must adopt concrete measures to make gender equality a reality. Feminism means more than just believing in a philosophy and lofty principles; it means taking actions that are consistent with those principles. Appointing a gender-balanced cabinet and doing nothing else for the next four years is not enough. Dedicating a week to gender equality is not enough. This bill has to be the first of a great number of steps.

Oxfam gave this government the worst grade. New Democrats know that action is key to true gender equality. Words are not enough. We can never stop fighting for gender equality and women's rights, and we never will.

PovertyAdjournment Proceedings

March 8th, 2017 / 8:15 p.m.
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NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, even so, I am not completely satisfied with the parliamentary secretary's answer. The measures taken by the Liberal government are woefully inadequate. We need a large-scale plan to fight poverty. By voting against the NDP's bill, Bill C-245, the Liberals deprived all those who are living in poverty of a much-needed plan.

When I asked my question, the minister answered that the government was committed to reducing poverty, but proposing consultations and studies rather than addressing the root causes of poverty is not a viable option. The means and opportunities are there. The only things that are missing now are the Liberals' will and political courage.

Will we finally have the opportunity to get to work and eliminate poverty once and for all, or will we have to once again settle for the half measures proposed by the Liberals, which, in my opinion, are just smoke and mirrors?

When will the government propose real solutions to finally get to the root of the problem?

PovertyAdjournment Proceedings

March 8th, 2017 / 8:10 p.m.
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Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate my colleague for the work she has done on Bill C-245. I know how important reducing poverty in Canada is to her. It is also important to us.

This government is committed to reducing poverty and improving the economic well-being of all Canadian families so they can have a real chance to succeed. Our government is working on its first-ever Canadian poverty reduction strategy. The strategy will provide alignment with, and add to, the initiatives this government has already launched in the last budget and the strategies that already exist at both the provincial and municipal levels, as well as within our first nations communities and governments.

As part of the Canadian poverty reduction strategy, we launched two important initiatives that will support this development. These include a national consultation process and the implementation of an advisory committee on poverty. Through the consultation process, Canadians have the chance to share their opinions and their suggestions for more effectively tackling poverty. They can do this through an online consultation, which also includes discussion forums.

We are also holding in-person round tables with businesses, community organizations, academic experts, and, most important, Canadians with a lived experience who have come through or championed themselves as they succeed despite the poverty they may have endured.

We will also collaborate with indigenous organizations to ensure that the voices of first nations, Inuit, and Métis people are heard through this process.

For the advisory committee on poverty, I invite all Canadians with experience in poverty and with poverty reduction strategies to share their views and apply online at Canada.ca to take part in the selection process. This committee will help identify the best ideas resulting from the public consultations and will also provide expertise and independent advice to the minister.

There is more. Our government has also launched the tackling poverty together project that was done earlier this year in Saint John, New Brunswick. This is an important research project that is currently under way. It is dedicated to understanding poverty and identifying what can be done to lift Canadians out of poverty from coast to coast to coast. The results from the project, which will also involve case studies in six distinct communities across Canada, will help us better understand the impact that poverty is having and opportunities for poverty reduction programs in different communities that have identified poverty as an important issue.

Furthermore, our colleague knows that we have already announced important measures, for example, in budget 2016, that will reduce poverty among children, seniors, indigenous peoples, and all Canadians in need.

These measures are not limited to, but include the following: increasing the guaranteed income supplement with a top-up of almost $947 annual for the lowest-income single seniors, most of whom are women; cancelling the Conservative increase in the age of eligibility for OAS, changing it from 67 back to 65, again helping hundreds of thousands of Canadians; introducing the tax-free Canada child benefit, which is better targeted to those who need it most, low- and middle-income families and, most important, poor families across this country, to prevent them from falling into poverty. We have also doubled the investment in affordable housing funding, bringing the total federal investment to over $1 billion over the next two years, with the promise of a national housing strategy on the horizon.

Once again, I would like to congratulate my colleague for raising this important issue in this House and across this country and for the tremendous work she does and the focus she brings to the goals that she and I and our government share. She has raised awareness that reducing poverty can be done in Canada. She has put this on the table for us to debate. We will deliver on these issues because they matter to all of us as Canadians, all of us as parliamentarians.

PovertyAdjournment Proceedings

March 8th, 2017 / 8:05 p.m.
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NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, on November 15, I asked the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development if the Liberal majority would support Bill C-245, which I introduced in the House to develop a poverty reduction strategy. The bill responded in every respect to the mandate letter that the minister received from the Prime Minister.

The minister told me that the government was in the process of creating a poverty reduction strategy in Canada. What we did not realize is that the Liberals were going to vote against Bill C-245, shutting down what could have been a real policy to fight poverty, one that would help us avoid delays and improve quality of life for the less fortunate in our society more swiftly.

In that question, I also talked about the report from Canada's food banks. They had just tabled their report stating that one million people in Canada needed to use food banks. The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities is currently studying poverty. The study began in September and will wrap up in June. Representatives from Canada's food banks came to committee and told us that they would like to see a poverty reduction strategy by October 2017.

With the protracted consultations, I am not sure we will meet that deadline. However, adopting Bill C-245 would have made it easier. When we say one million people in Canada, we are talking about one in eight families. That is a lot of people who often have to choose between eating or paying rent.

As part of this study on poverty, we went to Medicine Hat, in Alberta. Two directors of a food bank told us that they were working every day to ensure that one day their food bank would not be needed. We all want a society where we no longer need food banks to feed families.

We will also remember that Statistics Canada just told us that the two richest men are as wealthy as 30% of all Canadians combined. As the gap between rich and poor grows, it is high time to establish a real poverty reduction strategy.

When I go back to my riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, I meet with organizations that do excellent work such as La Chaudronnée sponsored by the Centre de bénévolat d'Acton Vale, the Accueil fraternel of the Centre de bénévolat de Saint-Hyacinthe, and the Comptoir-partage La Mie or the Moisson maskoutaine, which are our food banks. I see people who are working very hard, but they alone will not be able to alleviate poverty.

In a country as rich as ours, we cannot tolerate the fact that people suffer every day because of the government's ongoing lack of action on this file. A few months ago, this chamber had the opportunity to get down to work on attacking the problem of poverty, but the Liberals seem to have decided that this issue is not a priority. The Liberals have been in power for 17 months, but nothing has been done outside of consultations.

The days that I am in my riding, I can talk to the people of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, and it is at these times that I can really see that the fight against poverty must be a priority and that it is high time that the government wait no longer and that it take action.

My question is simple. Will the fight against poverty become a government priority and, most importantly, when?

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members’ Business

December 6th, 2016 / 5:50 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Pursuant to an order made on Thursday, December 1, the House will now proceed to taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-245 under private members' business.

The House resumed from November 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-245, An Act concerning the development of a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Report StageBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

December 5th, 2016 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, it was only 13 months ago when I attended an orientation session for new members of Parliament here in Ottawa. There was a cameo appearance by the Prime Minister, which was very much appreciated by all of us. During that cameo appearance, he said that the role of opposition is to make government better. I fail to see how bringing time limitations on debate works toward that objective of making government better. However, I will do my best in the time I have to make some suggestions on how we can make this a better bill.

I want to start with the tax break for the middle class. In my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, when I tell people about the tax break for the middle class, which goes from $45,000 up to potentially $190,000, frankly, my constituents shake their heads. We put forward an amendment to try to bring it down to from $20,000 to $45,000, which was defeated in this House. I can assure members that the middle-class salary in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia is not $45,000 to $190,000.

With respect to small businesses, I am holding a series of sessions around the riding, meetings with small businesses, and bringing together a representative of the provincial and municipal governments, along with myself representing the federal government, to talk to small businesses about how we can help them get ahead. Interestingly, members will not find too much congruity between what small businesses at a meeting in Fernie had on their list and what is in the current bill from our friends across the floor.

I will read from their list of how to help small businesses.

With respect to payroll taxes, businesses want a clearer understanding of how they are being used. With respect to the temporary foreign worker program, the program is cumbersome and needs fixing. The $1,000 fee is too high, and there is no clear path to citizenship, so the turnover is high. They think there should be an increase in minimum wage. There is a need for subsidized affordable housing units. This is from small businesses.

Programs should be redesigned to be suitable for small businesses rather than just targeting medium-sized businesses and manufacturing. There is a real lack of support for small business programs. Youth employment programs should be expanded. A scientific development tax credit for sole proprietorships should be introduced, something which is not currently available. The digital technology adoption program should be redeveloped to include use by small businesses.

We need to recognize and rectify the reality of the digital divide in rural areas and small communities, which is a barrier to cloud-based systems, and redefine broadband to bring it to the level of modern requirements. Right now, the definition of “broadband” is too low in terms of speed.

Canada Post needs to reinstate more affordable shipping options, particularly for books. We have a book publisher in my riding. It can cost more to ship a book via Canada Post than the profit he makes on that book. Credit card fees are too high for small local businesses.

These are things coming right from small businesses, and, had they been included in this budget, it would have made it a much better budget for small businesses.

I want to turn now to helping people in real need. There are 15% of Canadian children who live in poverty. For aboriginal children, that number is 27%. In my home province of B.C., the rate of child poverty is even worse than the Canadian average, at 19.8%. The majority of these children have parents in paid work. If we think about that for a moment, one in every five children in British Columbia is living in poverty.

My colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot had a recommendation for Bill C-245 that would help fix some of that, by bringing in the office of the commissioner for poverty reduction and proposing a national council for the promotion of social inclusion and elimination of poverty.

Approximately 35,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night in the year, and one in five household is is at risk of homelessness because they spend over 50% of their income to secure shelter. However, over the past 25 years, while the population of Canada has increased by 30%, national housing investment has decreased by 46%. We need a national housing strategy. I know the government has one on the books, but we need to see the details to know whether that will really help the groups that need it.

This morning I met with a group called Inclusion BC, and number one on their list is also affordable housing for people who are living with challenges. They want housing to be integrated so that people with challenges are part of a regular community and not set aside in special housing. Affordable housing for all Canadians is really important moving forward. We need to hear a little more about what is in the budget around that particular initiative.

As a former mayor, I can say how important having access to dollars for infrastructure is, particularly for smaller communities. I was mayor of a community of about 20,000 people. When we look at the current formula that was in place for many years, it was a one-third formula. The municipality had to come up with the first one-third, the provincial government the second one-third, and the federal government the third one-third. For small communities, coming up with that first one-third is a real challenge. I will give a quick example. In Cranbrook, if we wanted to raise $1 million through property taxes, every 1% increase in property tax equalled $200,000. To raise $1 million to meet our one-third was a 5% increase in property taxes. One is not very popular as a mayor with a 5% increase in property taxes to cover one project.

As the infrastructure project funding rolls out, we need to make sure that the federal government provides at least 50% of the infrastructure dollars and that the provinces continue to provide their 33 1/3%, reducing municipalities' input to a little over 16%.

Infrastructure funding needs to be long term, so that municipalities can plan. It should not just be one year at a time. We need to change the definition of infrastructure. Those of us who have worked for municipalities know that infrastructure is generally considered to be sewer, water, roads, and storm drains. We need to have dark fiber and high-speed Internet as a basic fundamental piece of infrastructure in all communities moving forward.

It is great to see some money in infrastructure, but how that money rolls out is important. In 2014, the Conservatives announced a multi-billion infrastructure program, and none of it made it to us in the municipalities that year, at least in rural areas. In the end, my Conservative colleague at the time, who was our member of Parliament, blamed the province for not getting on board and getting the money out. However, we need to make sure that the infrastructure dollars actually make it into communities.

I want to talk a bit about private sector involvement in infrastructure. We had one project in Cranbrook prior to when I became mayor, which was our recreational complex. It was a private-public partnership. That partnership went bad, and the city had to buy out the private partner. We ended up with about 15-year's worth of loans, locked in at 8% and higher, that we could not get out of, even though as a municipality we could borrow money at about 2% from a special fund in British Columbia. From Cranbrook's perspective, privatization of infrastructure does not work.

The thought of selling airports or bridges to reduce this $30 billion to $40-billion deficit is absolutely the wrong way to try to get a deficit under control. We do not sell assets in order to pay down debt.

Those are a few of the ways that the budget could be improved. There are some good things in the budget, but there are many ways to make it better. I hope that we can see a better future for poverty, for small businesses, and the way that infrastructure is handled in Canada, and, of course, in Kootenay—Columbia.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

November 30th, 2016 / 6:50 p.m.
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NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear that, at this point, we are not making any decisions. The second reading vote is simply about sending the bill to committee.

We just heard that the Prime Minister and his cabinet will vote against the bill because they vote against all private members' bills. By definition, those bills are not part of the government's agenda. They have even voted against Liberal private members' bills.

However, I sincerely hope that the other Liberal members will be able to vote freely because a second reading vote is an opportunity to show openness. In his mandate letter, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development was instructed to lead the development of a poverty reduction strategy. That is exactly why I introduced this bill. I wanted to contribute to the process.

Tony Martin and Jean Crowder held consultations for nearly 10 years. I took their findings and turned them into this bill. I wanted to contribute to the government's deliberations on developing a poverty reduction strategy even though I am well aware that a committee is in the midst of a study on poverty as part of that process.

Voting in favour of Bill C-245 at second reading does not mean that it will be put to another vote next month. We will have time to read the report that comes out of the study on poverty and see the results of the minister's work on the poverty reduction strategy. We are simply asking that Bill C-245 be allowed to contribute to the process and the discussion on what needs to be done.

Similarly, I have discussed the issue with the two Conservative poverty critics, and we managed to agree on certain amendments. Earlier I heard my colleagues talking about human dignity and I heard them say they would like to see full employment. We agree completely, but we are well aware that full employment is not going to happen overnight.

In the meantime, this bill does not create any new programs or offer any concrete solutions. I am the first to support concrete solutions, as I have worked in community-based organizations my entire life. Clearly, concrete solutions on the ground are what is needed to lift people out of poverty. However, this bill is simply saying that a poverty reduction strategy requires specific targets.

Where do we want to be in five or 10 years? We need to measure the effectiveness of our poverty reduction measures every year. For example, we have to ask ourselves whether the government's actions from the past year helped reduce the level of poverty or caused it to increase. We need to check on our progress because, unfortunately, a growing number of people are ending up in poverty.

Canada's food banks issued their report last week. They made it clear that a growing number of families are using food banks. By all accounts, the actions we are taking are causing poverty levels to increase, not decrease. We have to keep a check on our progress.

I urge hon. members from both sides of the House to vote in favour of Bill C-245, so that it can be given consideration by the committee that is studying poverty and by the minister, who is tasked with developing a poverty reduction strategy.

I introduced Bill C-245 because I fundamentally believe that we can work together. Poverty is not a partisan issue. Every one of the 338 members of the House can see it when they return to their ridings. There is poverty in every one of our regions. The face of poverty is the same everywhere in the country. We need to work together and that is why I introduced this bill.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

November 30th, 2016 / 6:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for your clarification. I will cut to the chase then.

As I draw to a close, I understand that it might sound like Bill C-245 is not a good thing, but it is a good thing. It is a good thing because it clearly demonstrates that this government is definitely going in the right direction. It is a good thing because it clearly demonstrates that our priorities are similar to those on the other side of the House. It is a good thing because it clearly demonstrates that we share a vision, a vision of a country where everyone works together to fight poverty and where everyone works together to make sure that no one is left out and that everyone is on an equal footing.

Once again, congratulations to my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. We appreciate her efforts in this regard.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

November 30th, 2016 / 6:45 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to a private member's bill that deserves recognition. Bill C-245 is an act concerning the development of a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada. It was put forward by our colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. I would like to commend the hon. member for the great work she has accomplished with this legislation, and for the passion I know she has for this issue.

The truth is that this bill pairs well with our government's agenda. We share the same vision, a vision of an inclusive society in which people will be able to take part to their fullest. Bill C-245 provides for the development and implementation of a national strategy to reduce poverty in Canada. It also provides for the appointment of an independent poverty reduction commissioner and the establishment of the national council on poverty elimination and social inclusion.

Lastly, Bill C-245 provides for the amendment of the Canadian Human Rights Act to add the term “social condition” as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

As a government that is determined to fight poverty, we welcomed Bill C-245. Unfortunately, we just cannot support it. Not now. It is a matter of timing. Let me explain why we feel compelled to oppose Bill C-245.

A number of poverty reduction initiatives are already being advanced by our government and are still in various stages of development. We strongly believe that they are designed to achieve the same objectives as Bill C-245.

The first one that comes to mind is the study on poverty by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, also known as HUMA. The hon. member has been attending many of those meetings along with me. This study will take the committee across the country through in-depth consultations with key stakeholders, as well as the general public. We must wait for the committee's findings. We need to hear its recommendations before making any major decisions, such as the appointment of an independent poverty reduction commissioner.

Our government made a promise to Canadians that our decisions, policies and programs would be evidence based. We have to be true to our words.

I talked about HUMA's study, but this study is just part of something much bigger. What am I talking about is the mandate of my colleague, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. He was asked by our Prime Minister to lead the development of a Canadian poverty reduction strategy that would set targets and measures to reduce poverty.

In fact, the minister recently tabled, in front of HUMA, a discussion paper entitled, “Towards a Poverty Reduction Strategy”. This document opens the dialogue on the subject of poverty reduction in Canada. It includes perspectives that could be helpful as HUMA conducts its work. That will help us develop our strategy.

It would be premature to decide on a specific approach, such as the one prescribed by Bill C-245, while discussions, engagement, and analysis of these initiatives are still under way. Bill C-245 makes numerous suggestions that could warrant consideration, such as consultations with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, indigenous communities, and various stakeholders. We have to ensure that such engagement happens prior to deciding on a specific approach, including the one outlined in Bill C-245.

In fact, last spring, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development did discuss the development of the Canadian poverty reduction strategy with his provincial and territorial counterparts, as well as with stakeholders from different parts of the country. This past September, the minister officially launched the tackling poverty together project. This important research project consists of six extensive case studies across Canada. This will help us better understand the impact of poverty reduction programs in communities that have identified poverty as an important issue.

What I am trying to say is that our partners are expecting us to engage with them, and they want to engage with us too. Supporting Bill C-245 and its proposed initiatives could be seen as contrary to the approach we have pledged to take.

Mr. Speaker, could I ask for a clarification? If I do not finish my remarks, I understand that I get 10 minutes. Is that correct?

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

November 30th, 2016 / 6:35 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in the House today to support Bill C-245 put forward by the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. It is a progressive piece of legislation that would create the social democratic infrastructure for eliminating poverty in Canada.

The Prime Minister's mandate letter to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development prioritized “the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy that would set targets to reduce poverty and measure and publicly report on our progress, in collaboration with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.” Moreover, the Prime Minister said, “Our strategy will align with and support existing provincial and municipal poverty reduction strategies.”

As I said, these are the words of the Prime Minister. However, more than a year into their mandate, the Liberals have yet to take on any action on providing a poverty strategy for Canada. I cannot help but think that Canadians who are struggling to find work, to feed their families, and to keep a roof over their heads might be having a hard time believing in sunny ways.

There is, however, some very good news here today. New Democrats have done the heavy lifting, as we have done in the past with medicare and workers' rights. The research is filed, Canadians have been consulted, and the experts agree. Bill C-245 would be a framework for fostering social inclusion. It would pave the way to creating the Canada we all know is possible. All that is left now is to make it happen. All that remains is political will on the part of the government.

Thanks to the tireless efforts and consultations of our New Democrat brother Tony Martin, who sat as the member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie between 2004 and 2011, we have before us a plan for poverty elimination that is considered, sustainable, and more critically necessary today than it was when first introduced in 2010. Tony's spirit and heroic efforts resonate in Bill C-245.

I applaud the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and her staff for their efforts in bringing this very important issue to the House, and for the recognition that poverty elimination would firmly set us on the path to the social justice Canadians deserve. I also offer my profound thanks and respect to Tony Martin for the work he has done as a champion of this cause over his lifetime.

In 1989, this House unanimously adopted Ed Broadbent's motion to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. The turn of the century has come and gone without Y2K ending the world as we know it, and without any substantive progress in ending child poverty in Canada.

The fact that we have reached 2016 without achieving our objectives with regard to poverty is shameful. It is shameful because it is something over which our governments have control. Not only are we no further ahead, it can be argued that the forces of neo-liberalism and globalization embraced by Conservative and Liberal governments alike have left us worse off instead of better. Post-secondary education has become the privilege of the elite; our health care system is in danger because of underfunding and corporate greed; and our finance minister has told workers and youth to suck it up and resign themselves to a lifetime of precarious and temporary work. When workers and young Canadians challenged the government for espousing these views, the Prime Minister chose to take a patriarchal approach and chided young workers for being disrespectful. Furthermore, the income gap has widened and continues to grow, leaving more and more Canadians unable to make ends meet, forcing them to choose between paying rent and paying the bills.

Taking an intersectional approach to poverty reveals that it has the biggest impacts on Canadians who have historically been disadvantaged. Women, seniors, senior women, children, disabled Canadians, immigrant Canadians, and Canadians of colour all experience poverty at rates higher than the average. Colonialism has entrenched Canada's indigenous peoples in poverty, which continues unchecked because of the government's refusal to honour the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The fact that we have done little to nothing in the way of fighting poverty in the 21st century in Canada is especially shameful, because the evidence is clear and undeniable. We all, rich and poor, individuals, families, and even the corporate elite, all of Canada thrives when we make efforts to reduce the impacts of poverty.

The cost of poverty in Canada is staggering, placing unnecessary burdens on our systems of health care, education, justice, and social welfare. The Canadian Medical Association has cited poverty as the number one social determinant of health, observing that society, governments, and health care providers, all have an obligation to address poverty, inadequate housing, and nutrition.

In response to a 2011 report from the National Council of Welfare, which placed the cost of poverty to our economy at $24 billion, the Conservative government of the day responded with its economic action plan. That government has come and gone, and all that remains of that important plan are some tattered signs, and a level of poverty unacceptable in a country as resource rich as Canada.

Poverty and income security are issues that need to be addressed at all levels of government. While the federal government has a fundamental role to play in establishing a strategy, provinces and municipalities are in many ways closer to the issue, and have expertise in delivering social services essential to communities.

Bill C-245 seeks to reach out to the other levels of government to harness that expertise in an effective way. It will strengthen Canada's social and economic safety net, and promote the involvement of the general public as well as public and private sector stakeholders in poverty reduction. It will ensure that every Canadian has access to affordable, secure, and adequate housing.

In addition, the bill seeks to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to recognize social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination, and in doing so, promote equal opportunities for Canadians living in poverty.

Recognizing that a full life is a human right, my community of London, Ontario has adopted a municipal strategy on poverty whose goal is to end poverty in a single generation, thereby allowing our community to reach its full potential. Entitled “London for All: A Roadmap to End Poverty”, the report includes 112 recommendations broken down into eight categories, including income and employment, health, housing, transportation, education, and food security.

I would like to remind the House and the government of the proud social democratic roots that the foundation of our country is based on. Social democracy provides balance in a capitalist economy with the recognition that core values of access to decent employment, health care, affordable housing, education, pensions, food, and union representation are not commodities to be marketed away at the whim of the corporate elite or government.

The Liberals campaigned on a platform that, if we were to believe the promises, veered left of Tommy Douglas on a social democratic scale. The Prime Minister, in his victory speech on election night, paraphrased the words of Jack Layton when he declared he had beaten fear with hope. Well, with all the evidence to the contrary, it appears to me that hope is waning and the Prime Minister is neither a Tommy Douglas nor a Jack Layton.

In fact, the Prime Minister is towing the Harper line on climate change and health care transfers to the provinces, revoking citizenship without a hearing, forcing veterans to go to court to fight for their benefits, defying the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, and continuing to underfund indigenous children's education. Where is the promised end to the 2% cap on education, and where is the promise of electoral reform? It certainly sounds like the current Prime Minister is backing away from his promise on just about everything.

Canadians put their hope for social democracy in the Prime Minister. It was he who called on Canadians to step up and pitch in, to get involved in public life, and to know that to be optimistic is to be positive. While I agree with those sentiments, I wonder why Canadians have had to wait more than a year for any kind of change.

Today, we have an important bill that looks to that social democracy that I was talking about. I urge the House, the government, and the Prime Minister to take the gift that we are offering in Bill C-245, and run with it. Put Canada back on track to becoming the country we all know is possible.

I would like to thank the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, and I thank Tony.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

November 30th, 2016 / 6:15 p.m.
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Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-245. It has a lot going for it, but it certainly deserves to be debated and discussed. Bill C-245 is about developing a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada. It was introduced by our colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, and I congratulate her on this initiative.

The purpose of the bill is to encourage everyone to participate in poverty reduction. The bill talks about promoting inclusion as a way to fight poverty in Canada, which is certainly a worthy objective. Once again, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her tremendous work in preparing this bill. I would add that the excellent work she has done is in line with our government's agenda to reduce poverty in Canada. I have to add the fact that Bill C-245 is perfectly consistent with our government's direction on this issue.

We share the same vision, the vision of an inclusive society in which everyone can fully participate. However, the bill would provide for the appointment of an independent poverty reduction commissioner and also the establishment of a national council on poverty elimination and social inclusion. The bill would also amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to add social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Let us be clear, the government is determined to fight poverty and the Liberals agree with the intent of Bill C-245. However, as my colleague knows, we cannot support it at this time. This position is not adversarial, but rather based on logic and common sense.

The reality is that we are not supporting Bill C-245 because some of its initiatives have already been or are about to be implemented. In other words, the work has already started. We sincerely believe that the government's initiatives were specifically designed to achieve the same objectives as those of Bill C-245.

I do not have enough time to list all current and future initiatives, but I will talk about some of the most important ones. To begin with, there is the study of poverty reduction strategies undertaken by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. The committee will criss-cross the country to hold in-depth consultations with key stakeholders and the general public.

It is absolutely vital that we wait for the committee's report and listen to what it has to say before making any important decisions, such as appointing an independent poverty reduction commissioner.

Our government made an absolutely fundamental promise to Canadians. We promised that our decisions about policies and programs would be based on facts and consultations. Today, we must keep our word, just as we have in the past and will in the future. It is as simple as that.

I mentioned the study of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. In fact, that study was part of something much bigger. I am referring to the very broad mandate of my colleague, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. He was entrusted with this mandate by the Prime Minister of Canada, who asked him to lead the development of a Canadian poverty reduction strategy that includes very specific targets as well as performance indicators that will tell us whether we are achieving the stated goals.

The minister recently appeared before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. He tabled a discussion paper on poverty in Canada entitled “Towards a Poverty Reduction Strategy”. That document was designed to open a dialogue on the subject of poverty reduction in Canada.

This is a valuable tool that will help the committee to carry out its work. It will also help us, as a government, to develop our strategy. As a result, it would be premature to make any decisions about a specific approach, such as the one proposed in Bill C-245, until the discussions and analyses are complete. That does not mean that Bill C-245 does not deserve our attention and respect, quite the contrary.

As I said earlier, the member did an excellent job on this bill, which contains many good suggestions, such as the consultations with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, indigenous communities, and many other stakeholders and partners. What we are saying is that we should consult people and listen to what they have to say before making a decision. In other words, all in good time. There is a time for everything.

It is also important to point out that last spring the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development began discussions to develop a Canadian poverty reduction strategy. He initiated this important conversation with his provincial and territorial counterparts as well as with many stakeholders in various regions of the country.

In September, our government launched the tackling poverty together project. As part of this project, the government will conduct case studies in six communities in order to obtain a regional perspective and a better understanding of poverty in communities in Canada. It will also allow us to hear directly from Canadians living in poverty and receive recommendations from organizations that deliver poverty reduction programs. The tackling poverty together project will also be a valuable tool for developing our strategy.

My point is that our partners expect a real collaborative effort from us. They expect to be consulted. In fact, they demand it, and rightly so, and that is what we are doing. Therefore, supporting Bill C-245 and its initiatives would go against the approach we promised to adopt, namely to hold consultations.

As I said at the outset, our government made a solemn promise to Canadians. We promised to do things differently, to work together, and to consult Canadians, and we intend to keep our word. I would remind the House that we are already working on budget 2017, which will also include many commitments. We made commitments in 2016, and there will be more in 2017. We are also implementing our plan for a stronger middle class.

In closing, I would like to say that we can see right away that Bill C-245 is positive because it shows that the fight against poverty is something that every party and every member in this House cares about. It also shows that, despite our different political affiliations, we can share the same vision. When we share the same vision, we can join forces and work together to achieve that vision. In this particular case, it is the vision of an inclusive society in which everyone can fully participate. It is the vision of a country in which inclusion leads the fight against poverty, and this is already quite an accomplishment.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

November 30th, 2016 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today in support of Bill C-245, sponsored by my colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, which would establish a national poverty reduction strategy.

Poverty is, sadly, still very much a growing problem in Canada. Since the unanimous motion by Ed Broadbent in 1989 to eradicate poverty in Canada by the year 2000, very little has been done by successive Liberal and Conservative governments to actually reach this goal.

In the intervening years since 1989, Canada has been proud of its position as the ”best” and “second best” country in the world in which to live, according to various United Nations measurements. However, Canadians living in poverty, including an alarming number of children, are no better off than they were in 1989.

How can this be in a country as blessed as Canada, with natural resources, a skilled and educated workforce? How can we tolerate a situation where our neighbours are struggling to find shelter, put food on the table, and take care of their families?

In my office is a poster that say, “All it takes is political will”. That poster was created to commemorate Ed Broadbent's motion in 1989, which every member of Parliament voted to support. Yet here we are in 2016 and very little has changed. We obviously did not have the political will. Our governments have failed to make poverty reduction a priority.

Poverty reduction is a complex and challenging issue, but we must not let that paralyze us. Too much time has already been wasted by hand-wringing and repetitive consultations that do not produce any discernible improvements for people living in poverty.

Bill C-245 offers a turnkey proposal that the federal government can readily adopt and implement. It calls for the creation of an officer for the commissioner for poverty reduction, as well as a national council for the elimination of poverty and social exclusion.

These are concrete steps that would focus efforts in poverty reduction in a way that is measurable, accountable, and cumulative. Governments have often said that we cannot afford to do any number of things that would reduce poverty. On the contrary, we cannot afford to not do anything.

I would like to give credit where credit is due. The government has put in place the Canada child benefit and increased the guaranteed income supplement by 10%. Unfortunately, these measures, by themselves, are not sufficient to eradicate poverty in Canada in any meaningful way. The Liberals' Bill C-26, which is supposed to increase retirement security for all Canadians by improving the Canada pension plan, actually omits some of the most vulnerable from the enhancement: women who take time out to have kids and people living with disabilities. Whether this omission was an oversight or deliberate, the Liberals have refused to fix the bill, thereby doing absolutely nothing for two of the most vulnerable groups in society.

I come from the great riding of Saskatoon West, a diverse riding that, unfortunately, is no stranger to poverty, and there is a very high cost to poverty. In Saskatchewan, Poverty Costs, a coalition of community-based organizations, calculated that the economic cost of poverty in Saskatchewan was $3.8 billion a year.

Of course, the costs of poverty go beyond the dollars and cents spent on maintaining Canada's social safety net. The lost opportunity costs and the consequences of growing inequality among our residents impact all of us. In addition, poverty costs Saskatchewan $420 million a year in heightened health care service usage. Poverty also causes us to spend between $50 million and $120 million a year more than we would otherwise spend on our criminal justice system.

The same report also found that one in 10 of our population lacked the income needed to afford basic necessities. For a parent working full-time, minimum wage pays just over $20,000 per year. That is almost $15,000 below the poverty line for a family of four. Poverty affects us unequally and the numbers are shocking: 17% of Canadian children live in poverty, 33% of immigrant children, and 64% of first nations children.

Some of Saskatchewan's population, including women, children, newcomers, indigenous peoples, people living with disabilities, and those in rural areas are at greater risk of living in poverty and face systemic barriers that impede their efforts to rise above the poverty line.

Health disparities due to poverty are a direct result of substandard living conditions, inadequate access to nutritional food, and increased stress associated with making ends meet. The stresses of living in poverty can also be deadly.

In Saskatoon, low-income adults were 4.5 times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and 15 times more likely to attempt suicide.

In Saskatchewan, and across the country, costs of living are rising, but wages and salaries are not necessarily keeping pace.

In 2012, Saskatchewan had the second highest inflation rate in the country, and yet, still had the second lowest minimum wage.

The good news is that, overall, there is an increased public understanding about the social determinants of health, and growing support for addressing the underlying causes of poor health. Some 94% of Saskatchewan residents support reducing poverty, with 89% supporting a provincial approach to poverty reduction in Saskatchewan.

Therefore, we had high hopes in Saskatchewan when the provincial government adopted a poverty reduction strategy in 2014. Unfortunately, the Saskatchewan Party has now backed away from this priority, at a time when it is needed most.

The evidence shows that working to reduce poverty in the first place costs less than paying to respond to the effects of poverty later. If we needed proof that poverty is growing instead of decreasing, we just have to look at last week's headlines.

According to HungerCount 2016, a comprehensive report on hunger and food bank use in Canada, Saskatchewan has seen one of the largest increases in the number of people accessing a food bank since last year. The percentage of children using food banks is highest in Saskatchewan. It represents 45% of everyone served.

Steve Compton, the CEO of the Regina Food Bank, added that a job is no guarantee against food bank use. Nearly one in six households helped in Canada are working, yet still need a food bank to make ends meet. A lot of this has to do with the fact that low-wage and precarious jobs with no benefits are the only job growth our economy is seeing. It is no wonder that Canadians continue to rely on food banks, and yet, the finance minister has said that we should all just get used to job churn.

The Liberal government needs to acknowledge that poverty is growing, and use the levers it has to encourage stable, long-term jobs, instead of shrugging its shoulders. A $15 federal minimum wage would be a good start.

I am very proud to say that in my riding, four progressive employers have already committed to paying their employees a living wage. A living wage makes a huge difference for families and individuals and their communities. A truly progressive government would understand this and act accordingly.

Last week, Campaign 2000 released its annual report card on child and family poverty. It is heartbreakingly sad that an organization whose goal it was to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000 is not only still in existence today but that they are farther than ever from their stated goaI. After decades of advocacy for children and families in poverty, Campaign 2000 is still calling on the federal government to create a national anti-poverty plan.

Its 2016 national report card, “A Road Map to Eradicate Child and Family Poverty”, provides the latest statistics on child and family poverty in Canada, and clear recommendations for federal government action and leadership to end child and family poverty.

Bill C-245 can be the first step. It has already been studied at committee, and the Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development has acknowledged it is an excellent bill.

The Liberals have stated many times in the House, and at various committees, that the federal government has a role to play in reducing poverty in Canada, and that Canada needs a long-term, collaborative strategy to combat poverty.

Safe and affordable housing, affordable child care, accessible health services, a living wage, and a basic income for everyone are all important factors that contribute to the well-being of all Canadians.

It is my hope this excellent bill will be passed without delay, and it will be part of a truly comprehensive and collaborative strategy that will finally tackle all the different factors that contribute to poverty in this country.

The House resumed from October 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-245, An Act concerning the development of a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

November 28th, 2016 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, for many years now, the NDP has been fighting tirelessly for improvements to the Canada pension plan, so I can only be happy that it is finally happening. I would like to say that I will be supporting the main motion at report stage. However, I have to oppose the Conservative motions seeking to remove practically every clause in the bill.

Retirement insecurity is reaching crisis proportions in Canada, since many Canadians have been unable and are still unable to save enough throughout their lives to maintain the same standard of living once they retire. At the end of the day, over 6% of seniors are living in poverty. We in the NDP believe that this increase is crucial in order to ensure that our seniors can retire with dignity.

Bill C-26 proposes adding a separate new tier to the current CPP. This new CPP tier would be implemented gradually over the next nine years, until 2025, and basically does the following two things: first of all, it raises the income replacement rate from 25% under the current CPP to 33%; second, it raises the earnings ceiling from where it is today at $54,900 to $82,700.

Once the transition period is complete in 2025, it will still be 40 years before people receive the full enhanced benefit. The first workers who will receive the full benefit are now 16 years old. Someone who is 59 in 2019 and who makes higher contributions for six years before retiring in 2025 at the age of 65 will receive no additional benefit.

It will take time for the changes to come into effect. The NDP believes that certain measures should be taken immediately to help seniors and Canadians on the verge of retiring who will not benefit from these changes.

The government needs to leverage the energy generated by this agreement and do what it takes to improve long-term retirement security for today's workers. It must respond to Quebec's concerns about the impact of this enhancement on low-income workers.

The NDP will keep fighting for other increases to the guaranteed income supplement and old age security as well as the national pharmacare program and the program to improve home care and palliative care.

As is often the case with the Liberals, when we take a closer look at their proposals, we quickly realize that everything is not always perfect. In fact, we need only look at some of the details of this bill to realize that some things are not as we would like them to be. One of them is the child rearing drop-out provision. That is a failure. As the NDP critic for families, children, and social development, I am having a great deal of difficulty understanding and accepting that the Liberals have not kept this child rearing drop-out provision, which is currently in the CPP. This measure ensures that women are not penalized for having left the labour market for a period of time in order to raise children. The Liberal bill also eliminates a similar clause for people who have received disability benefits under the CPP.

It is all very well to increase CPP benefits, but that is not all that should be done. The NDP worked very hard for the CPP to become a reality, and we are going to work very hard to ensure that this bill is not inequitable.

Do members know why I am talking about inequality? It is because women are penalized for having children. Only 4.5% of women receive the maximum amount of benefits. I was really shocked to learn that because we have a Prime Minister who brags at every opportunity that his government supports women and that he is working hard to improve gender parity.

The Prime Minister is squandering an opportunity. I think it is safe to say that he has missed the mark. On the contrary, his government's bill is creating more inequality. It is not right. The fact that the Liberals do not even see the problem makes even less sense.

What we need to keep in mind is that 63% of low-income seniors living alone are women. Does the House understand how high that number is? We in the NDP think that this is unacceptable.

I see this reality in my riding. I see many seniors struggling to make ends meet at the end of the month, and they only make it thanks to the incredible commitment of community organizations back home such as St-Hyacinthe volunteer centre or the Acton Vale volunteer centre. They help our less fortunate seniors every day. Through their engagement and drive, these volunteers make seniors feel less isolated, get them to socialize, and help them continue making an invaluable contribution to the community, which in turn helps improve their quality of life and that of all our fellow citizens. Through their work, they constantly reflect the values of our wonderful community: independence, sharing, caring, loyalty, respect, dignity, and solidarity.

These two volunteer centres have been working with all of the other organizations in the Saint-Hyacinthe region for many years in order to promote volunteer work and help overcome the many challenges associated with meeting the community's growing needs. It is their desire to always want to do more for others that makes such a big difference.

It is time that the Liberal government followed suit. As the Prime Minister has said, in 2016, we cannot allow women to receive fewer benefits because they had to leave the labour market for a time to go on maternity leave. Allowing this to happen basically amounts to gender discrimination. It is unthinkable to give senior women 30% lower benefits than men.

Enhancing the CPP is one step, but more must be done to correct its flaws and injustices. The NDP wants to do more for people. That is why we believe in developing a holistic vision and improving Canada's socioeconomic safety net. That is what we are trying to do with my Bill C-245, which would create a national poverty reduction strategy to make things better for our seniors throughout their lives, not just in retirement.

That is the kind of holistic vision we need to develop to achieve a more inclusive and just society that leaves nobody behind. Doug MacPherson, national coordinator for the Steelworkers Organization, agrees. He welcomes the proposed CPP changes, but says they are an inadequate response to the critical situation facing many working Canadians when they reach retirement. He added that the government, which prides itself on passing evidence-based legislation, obviously failed to see the situation clearly this time around. Mr. MacPherson also said that it should be clear the current system has some serious flaws that the proposed Canada pension plan changes will not fix.

Let us work together to help all seniors, but above all, our senior women.