An Act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights (right to housing)

Sponsor

Rachel Blaney  NDP

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

Status

Second reading (House), as of Sept. 25, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-325.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Canadian Bill of Rights to include the right to proper housing, at a reasonable cost and free of unreasonable barriers.

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.

Canadian Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you will indulge me for a moment, I would like to take this opportunity to wish my wife Kristin a happy 13th anniversary. We are all surrounded by people who support us, and she is definitely my rock. Without her, frankly, I would not be here today.

I would also like to thank the hon. member for North Island—Powell River for raising this important issue. Her career prior to entering the House was dedicated to helping some of society's most vulnerable people. Bill C-325 shows that she has carried this commitment forward in the House.

As chair of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of People with Disabilities, this is a critical issue, one which my committee has discussed and studied at length over the past years and is something we are currently studying as it relates specifically to seniors.

Housing is such an important issue. Our government believes that Canadians deserve to have safe, affordable, and accessible housing. This belief has guided our international commitments. It has been the underlying principle behind many of our government's actions; and it is the force behind the national housing strategy, which will be released later this fall.

Housing is so important, and it is important we do it right. While I support the principles and goals behind Bill C-325, I will unfortunately not be supporting the legislation when it comes to a vote.

My main concern for the legislation is how it casts housing as a right by enshrining that right into the Canadian Bill of Rights. This has the potential to shift focus and resources away from the work already being done on housing toward legal challenges. I do not believe this is the most effective way to deliver housing for Canadians or to solve the housing or affordability issues.

Our government has already been taking action and working to include a diversity of viewpoints in creating a national housing strategy. An effective strategy will require buy-in at all levels, which is why we have been consulting housing experts, municipal and community groups, and other housing stakeholders, as well as nation-to-nation conversations with our indigenous partners. We are confident that, with their support, we will be able to achieve a housing strategy that addresses the needs of all Canadians.

This widespread consultation will demonstrate that this strategy represents cross-Canada viewpoints and that it is not a made in Ottawa solution. Our government wants to create a national housing strategy that reflects the different needs of people in Tofino and in Toronto, in Vancouver and in Valcartier, in Calgary and in Cambridge.

The strategy must recognize urban and suburban living and it must appreciate rural and northern living. It must consider those living on reserves and Canadians in all four corners of Canada.

The national housing strategy will, similar to Bill C-325, work to benefit those who do not have adequate, accessible or affordable housing in Canada, but move the needle further, in ways that do not put our government at legal risk.

Before my time as an MP, I worked in the non-profit sector with organizations like the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada. Many of the issues I dealt with every day were either connected to or rooted in housing issues. Adequate housing is a solution to so many ancillary problems.

I am concerned the bill takes too narrow an approach to the idea of housing. As a signatory to the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Canada has long been guided by the notion that adequate housing is more than simply four walls and a roof. Adequate housing has access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation. Adequate housing is not cut off from early learning and child care, health care, schools, or social infrastructure.

All governments, and all levels of government, must engage with and recognize that housing must be considered holistically. That holistic approach has consistently guided our government's actions. This is why budget 2017 did not just allocate funding for urgent on-reserve housing needs, but also invested in clean drinking water, repairs, and renovations of on-reserve child care centres and community health centres. This holistic approach also guides community-based initiatives like the homelessness partnering strategy, in which we work with partners at the local level to reduce the strain on shelters and on health and justice services while continuing to address the needs of the most vulnerable.

This understanding has continued in our most recent budget, which included substantial investments in housing, alongside investments in clean energy, green infrastructure, and world-class public transportation systems. Through these actions, we will meet not just the letter of our international commitments but also the spirit.

A well-rounded and informed view of housing will also guide our upcoming national housing strategy. Thanks to the extensive consultations I mentioned earlier, we heard from stakeholders and partners about the pressing need to build, renew, and repair Canada's stock of affordable housing. We will act to meet these needs through initiatives like a national housing fund that will prioritize support for vulnerable citizens; a co-investment fund that will provide opportunities for our partners in the provinces, territories, and the social and private sectors to pool resources and undertake large-scale community renewal projects; together with initiatives to improve housing conditions in the north and for indigenous people on and off reserve; an expanded and reformed homelessness partnering strategy using surplus federal lands and that makes buildings available to housing providers at low or no cost; and strengthened capacity to gather, analyze, and act on housing data.

Like the hon. member for North Island-Powell River, I want the House and the government to commit to doing the right thing for all Canadians when it comes to housing. I want to see a housing policy that listens and responds to the concerns of our partners and stakeholders across Canada. I believe that our upcoming national housing strategy will allow us to do these things and so much more.

I am sure I speak for everyone in the House when I say that the hon. member's passion and willingness to work toward housing solutions is welcome and I hope that even if we cannot support this private member's bill, she will work with us as we move forward in implementing a national housing strategy that meets the needs of all Canadians.

Canadian Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2017 / 11:35 a.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour for me, as the New Democratic Party's housing critic, to support my colleague from North Island—Powell River's Bill C-325, which we are debating today.

Too rarely do we have the opportunity to debate a housing bill in depth. I thank my colleague for choosing to debate this bill today and for giving us a chance to advocate for housing rights here in the House.

When I was made my party's housing critic, I launched a campaign called A Roof, A Right, which I have promoted all across Canada because I strongly believe that housing is a basic right and should be treated as such.

To put things in context, Canadian law differs from that of some other countries in that, for an international treaty to be law and enforceable in Canada, it must be incorporated into our legislation. Simply ratifying an international treaty does not mean that the content of that treaty becomes part of Canadian law. True, by ratifying a treaty, Canada makes an international commitment, but that is all. The rights that Canada commits to recognizing by ratifying a treaty cannot be enforced in Canadian courts unless those rights appear in Canadian law.

This bill seeks to address this unacceptable situation by adding the right to housing to Canadian legislation. In 1976, Canada ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, or ICESCR, which obliges nations to take appropriate steps to ensure “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.” In doing so, signatory states made a commitment not only to formally recognize the right to housing, but also to remove barriers to achieving that.

Here we are more than 40 years later, and unfortunately there is no federal legislation that formally recognizes the right to housing in Canada. On top of that, the housing situation in various regions of the country clearly shows that the federal government has not taken any meaningful action to remove barriers to housing and to the full exercise and realization of that right. This is precisely the reason why Canada has been chastised repeatedly by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for failing to take appropriate action on housing.

In its observations adopted on March 4, 2016, not so long ago, the committee stated the following regarding the housing situation in Canada:

The Committee is concerned about the persistence of a housing crisis in the State party. It is particularly concerned at: (a) the absence of a national housing strategy; (b) the insufficient funding for housing; (c) the inadequate housing subsidy within the social assistance benefit; (d) the shortage of social housing units; and (e) increased evictions related to rental arrears.

The committee also recommended that Canada develop and effectively implement a human-rights based national strategy on housing. It made a list of recommendations in light of its observations on the right to adequate housing and on forced evictions.

Last week, my colleague from North Island—Powell River received a response to written question Q-1086 in which she asked the government, “Why has Canada never formally incorporated the international covenants on the right to housing”?

The government's response was absolutely unbelievable:

Canada currently answers to its obligation to ensure the right to adequate housing, as it is framed in international law. The United Nations ICESCR recognizes the right to adequate housing as a component of an adequate standard of living. Canada currently implements the right through a wide range of federal, provincial, territorial and municipal laws, policies, programs, and administrative measures.

In light of the observations by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that I just mentioned, I do not understand how the government can claim to be meeting its international obligations. If the government wants to claim that it is being compliant, then it has a responsibility to incorporate the right to housing into the Canadian Human Rights Act, and especially to implement the necessary measures to ensure that the fundamental right to housing is fully realized.

The current housing situation in Canada clearly shows that since the ICESCR was ratified, successive governments never took the steps required to eliminate the obstacles preventing the full implementation of that basic right.

We have been hearing for years about a housing crisis in Canada. Rising rents, a shortage of rental housing units, the lack of federal government funding for social housing, too many families spending over 30% of their income on housing, and increasing homelessness are only a few examples of the causes and consequences of that crisis.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, CMHC, housing is considered affordable if it represents 30% or less of a household's revenue. Households that spend more on housing are considered to be in “core housing need”.

According to the 2011 National Household Survey, one out of four households spend more than 30% of their total revenue on housing costs. Also, one out of three Canadian households are renters, and of this number, 40%—almost half—spend over 30% of their income on rent.

The proportion of income spent on housing is over 50% for one out of five Canadians, and over 80% for one out of ten Canadians.

This means that households in “core housing need” are too often forced to choose which basic needs they will meet.

In a wealthy country like ours, no one should have to choose between buying groceries and paying rent. We must admit that we are unfortunately not respecting a person's right to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing, and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions, as set out in the ICESCR.

The government must release the details of its national housing strategy this fall. If it wants to show that it is serious and ensure that this strategy will be successful in the long term, the government's measures must give everyone the opportunity to fully exercise and enjoy their right to housing.

Bill C-325 is a first step towards ensuring that Canada fulfills its international commitments by enshrining the right to housing in Canadian legislation. The bill would amend section 1 of the Canadian Bill of Rights by adding paragraph (b.1) the right of the individual to proper housing, at a reasonable cost and free of unreasonable barriers.

Because the Canadian Bill of Rights takes precedence over all other federal laws, it would offer a means of recourse to any person who feels their right to proper housing has been infringed by the federal government.

Consider the example of an indigenous family of 10 living in a two-bedroom home, which is the reality on too many reserves. I think we can assume that their right to proper housing is being infringed, so they could use this recourse to assert their rights, particularly since the federal government already has a fiduciary duty to indigenous peoples.

Given that the Supreme Court also decided last year in Daniels that indigenous peoples living off-reserve are also “Indians” under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, it is also the responsibility of the federal government to ensure that their right to housing is respected.

That is why, a few days ago, I joined the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou and the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association in calling for a targeted strategy to tackle the indigenous housing crisis.

Right now, 10% of Canadian renters are spending more than 80% of their income on rent. It is easy to imagine that any of these renters could invoke their right to housing at a reasonable cost and require the government to take the necessary steps to fulfill that right.

There is also the matter of the homelessness rate. In this country, it is estimated that more than 235,000 people experience homelessness in a given year. Any of them could potentially seek recourse under this bill to make the federal government do whatever it takes to ensure that every person in Canada has a roof over their head. The Liberal government has told Canadians all about its good intentions on the housing issue. Now it is time it turned words into action.

If the government wants to show that it is serious about keeping all of those promises, why does it not start by recognizing the right of every person to housing? On that note, I would urge my colleagues on both sides of the House to vote in favour of this bill and finally acknowledge once and for all that a roof is a right.

Canadian Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to thank the member for Spadina—Fort York for that passionate campaign speech. I would also like to thank the member for North Island—Powell River for the actual passion she has on this. That being said, I personally cannot support this bill, which would put the right to housing under the framework of the Canadian Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, I am concerned that this bill would not actually combat the real barriers, and those are actually the barriers the member for Spadina—Fort York focused on. The bill fails to deliver the necessary measures needed to help Canadians who are hurting the most.

I would like to first talk about the style of the bill and how it does not properly take the current state of the Canadian Bill of Rights into account. To be honest, that is one of the key issues we looked at as a caucus when we were discussing this. What is the Bill of Rights? What was put forward by the Right Hon. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker at the time he wrote this in 1960? What would be the significance of this amendment? While I appreciate the difficultly the sponsor of this bill must have faced in forging new ground by seeking its amendment, I have a few issues with the language of Bill C-325.

Primarily, the framework set out in the Canadian Bill of Rights is a prohibitive one. The Bill of Rights put forward by Diefenbaker in 1960 is not about including things like housing. The former prime minister understood that the framework and the purpose of the Bill of Rights was to expand individual freedom and to protect people from the long reach of the government. This would become a very short reach of the government if we were to start enshrining it in the Bill of Rights.

The point of the Bill of Rights was to ensure that Canada would continually be a society of free men and free institutions. All the rights currently present in the bill are to protect the rights of the individual by ensuring that the government cannot interfere with the practise of those rights. They include freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and association, among others. That is why it is a key point that Bill C-325 does not actually fit into the Bill of Rights adopted in 1960.

The reason is that the right to housing, as outlined in Bill C-325, does not work within this framework and would try to create a potentially massive program and government intervention as a right. This activist role of the government is opposite to the framework of the Bill of Rights and would do damage to the rich history of the legislation, which has truly stood the test of time. We have had this legislation for more than 50 years, and it continues to be vibrant and to have a part in today's debate.

I disagree with Bill C-325 on more than just stylistic grounds. The content of this bill naively assumes that Canadians' housing needs can be resolved with a single stroke. That is something we have heard from the member as well as from the government. It seems to put forward the idea that housing is a right and that if the federal government steps in, the housing concerns of Canadians would magically disappear. Unfortunately, the reality is much more complex than that.

First, the bill completely ignores that jurisdiction for housing is shared with the provinces and territories. Almost all federal funding that goes toward housing and homelessness initiatives is funnelled through the provinces and delivered through the municipalities and individual housing co-operatives, which provide housing to those in need. As it stands, the plan put forward by our NDP colleague would simply give an unreasonable mandate to the federal government in an area that is a jurisdiction shared with our fellow governments. It is also worth noting that as a simple act of Parliament, the Bill of Rights is only able to create rights that fall within federal jurisdiction. We are talking about shared jurisdiction with the provinces, territories, and municipalities. This Bill of Rights put forward by Prime Minister Diefenbaker is specific to federal legislation, and it rules over all levels of government.

The question then becomes this. What is the point of this bill? Is it a simple token sentiment? Is it an attempt to seize power unilaterally from the provinces? I believe, after listening to the member who put this forward, that it is about passion. I do not want to say that the work she is doing is not admired, but at the same time, we have to ask what the role of the federal government is and how we can go forward with this. We need to look at the logistics.

All the issues I have raised so far need to be taken into account. However, the issue at the core of this bill is that it would not make housing more affordable for average, hard-working Canadians. This is a key issue. Allow me to be clear on this. As a Conservative member representing the Conservative Party today, I can say that we firmly agree that Canadians deserve a reasonable opportunity to own their own homes and to have access to safe and affordable housing. Unfortunately, we currently have a government that seems bent on making home ownership increasingly difficult for aspiring Canadians. Housing is one area where the truly damaging policies of the current government can clearly be seen.

By raising taxes, the Liberals have cut the ability of Canadians to save up for a down payment or a mortgage. By hiking CPP payroll taxes on hard-working middle-class earners, the people the Liberals pretend to help are being forced to give to the government their hard-earned money. We see this more and more as we continue to talk about some of the proposed tax legislation being put forward.

It is no surprise that the Liberals feel that they know how to spend Canadians' money better than Canadians, but the damaging effects of the government's entitlement mindset are clear when we see how regular people are crippled in their ability to make large financial decisions, such as moving toward permanent home ownership. The debt the government is racking up is only looking to get worse, and Joe and Jane taxpayer are feeling the pain.

When budget 2017 was unveiled, it was apparent that the Liberals had no plan to make life more affordable for regular Canadians. Although the Liberals often boast about their purported investments in housing, it has largely turned out to be a game of smoke and mirrors. One of the foremost examples of the government's failure to deliver is the recent Parliamentary Budget Officer's report that clearly demonstrated that despite big talk and flowery language, the government's money has not made much of an impact on Canadian families. Communities are not getting the funding the government promised. The PBO's report even says that it does not expect that the federal government will spend all the money on housing and infrastructure investment that has been promised.

More directly related to housing, the government has further burdened young Canadians who are working hard and aspiring to home ownership by tightening the rules for obtaining a mortgage. What is more troubling about this move by the government is that it was done without engaging any stakeholders, including young Canadians. It will push home ownership more out of reach for Canadians and will not help affordability at all.

To summarize, the government has tightened rules, requiring Canadians to pay more for a mortgage while simultaneously pickpocketing Canadian families through tax hikes, debt, deficits, and credit eliminations, not to mention slamming a carbon tax on living necessities for every middle-class family in this country. The government is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. It seems to be striving to set Canadians up to fail in the housing market.

In light of this, I can understand my colleague's desire to step in and more clearly define the government's role in housing through Bill C-325. However, adding it to the Bill of Rights, where it does not belong and will not be effective, is not the way to fix such a broad issue. Instead, the federal government needs to be taking practical approaches that will empower Canadians to own their own homes.

The Conservatives have a strong track record of making progress in this area. By 2014, the Conservative Party had brought the low-income cut-off poverty rate to a historic low of 8.8%, making huge strides in reducing poverty through fair-minded policies. Conservatives also expanded saving mechanisms such as the tax-free savings account, reduced taxes, and invested in responsible policies to bring home ownership within the realm of possibility for every Canadian.

The Conservatives invested over $19 billion through CMHC to improve the state of housing in Canada and began initiatives, such as the investment in affordable housing and the housing first initiatives, to empower Canadians and fight homelessness at a fundamental level. Last week, when I was taking part in a housing symposium in Ottawa—Vanier, one of the things I heard about time and time again was specifically housing first and what an excellent approach it is. Does it need additional things put into it? Absolutely, but it was a great first step in what the former Conservative government did in 2008. We need to continue to build on that.

The symbolism of the member's bill is understandable but somewhat misguided. If the federal government is serious about making home ownership for regular Canadians a reality, it needs to seriously re-evaluate its policies. Canadians deserve more action, rather than more talking, to make home ownership a reality.

I know that a government member is likely to stand up in this House and brag about how much the Liberals are throwing at housing in budget 2017, but high taxes, reduced saving capabilities, strict rules on the market, and expensive household items will not help Canadians and will continue to lock them out of this market. Broad-based relief when people are trying to own a home or are seeking affordable rental housing is essential.

In conclusion, I would like to compliment the sponsor of this bill for her attempt to make amendments to a well-crafted bill that has never seen such additions. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today. As we move ahead, I look forward to the debate.

Canadian Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

moved that Bill C-325, An Act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights (right to housing), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am incredibly proud to stand in the House to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-325, the right to housing.

I believe having a home is a human right, and in a country as wealthy as Canada no one should be without a safe place to live.

It did not take me long to grasp the magnitude of the housing crisis in my riding of North Island—Powell River. Housing cases continue to come into our office, and the number is growing. I have heard horrifying stories, such as a single woman living in a van because she has been diagnosed with a significant health issue, which meant she had to choose between either medication and a special diet or her home; a couple with a teenage boy with special needs living in a tent in their parents' backyard; and a retired man of 70 couch surfing between several friends. As well, there was the case of a local business owner who hired a new employee but had to wait eight months for the individual to start because no housing could be found and people calling the police and breaking the law until they are arrested because they are old and have nowhere else to sleep except jail. I have heard of bidding wars on rentals, with people using over 65% of their income to pay the rent. I have heard of seniors waiting in acute care ready to go to a home, but there are no homes available.

There is no doubt that the stories of North Island—Powell River are the same as too many others across Canada. Housing is a priority that must be advocated for loudly and boldly.

I want to thank our NDP housing critic and MP for Hochelaga for working so hard. She has travelled across the country and she understands the realities of people struggling every day for affordable, decent housing, whether in a large urban centre, rural areas, or indigenous communities. She is there fighting. I am proud to be by her side and bring this important piece of legislation forward.

I am not the first member in the House to bring forward legislation on the right to housing. There is a reason that the reiteration of the bill has survived all of these Parliaments through the many members who believe that this is a right. I gather it rings true because it embraces a fundamental ingredient of our survival in finding shelter and our right to dignity.

It is my hope that together we can pass this bill. It would be timely and key for the coming years while we start to reinvest in housing.

As a country, Canada is at a crossroads. We have lived through almost 30 years of inaction and budget cuts. In the last budgetary cycle, the Liberals promised an abundance of cash. Months later we still do not truly know how this money will be spent.

I want to be very clear in the House. Whether it is in downtown Toronto, small cities, rural and remote communities, or indigenous villages, there is no more time to be had. We are in a national housing crisis, people are desperate, and time has run out.

Bill C-325 aims to be the cornerstone for that long-term plan. This bill would ensure the foundation of a national housing strategy that can be built solidly and will stand the test of time. We can no longer just say housing is a right; it is time for it to be legislation. My bill would do this. It would amend the Canadian Bill of Rights to introduce housing as a human right.

In 1976, Canada enshrined the fundamental right to housing when the government of the day ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. However, this right has never been formally incorporated into Canadian law. This bill would make that happen.

While I was working on the bill, a few of my constituents were concerned with this approach, thinking I wanted to give free houses to people. Although this would support many people in moving towards their personal goals, this is not what the bill would do.

Adding housing to the bill of rights means redefining the lens that housing is viewed through. It is about a fundamental approach to reviewing regional differences, working with all levels of government and the market to address the reasons we are facing such a housing crisis, and then building a national housing strategy grounded in the right to housing that will address it head-on. It is about creating a long-term solution. It is my hope that as a country we never get to this place again.

We must think differently about how we approach housing. What we need is a new lens, and Bill C-325 offers that. Building a building here and there is not going to address the severity and systemic causes to our housing crisis.

The housing crisis is again and again portrayed as a big-city issue. This is simply not the reality. A recent report from one of my communities with a population of 35,000 shows we have 47 unsheltered homeless—people literally sleeping outdoors—and 32 people reported as being sheltered homeless, meaning they are sleeping in a shelter. This does not even address the concerns of overcrowded homes and people who are couch surfing.

This has led to the local municipality working hard to have accessible bathrooms. This is a serious result of having people without a home in our community.

I referred to dignity earlier in my speech. Human rights are that: moral principles. When our fellow citizens do not have a safe place to sleep or a place to go to the bathroom, these are incredibly dehumanizing experiences. A home is more than a physical space. Housing is intrinsic to the sense of security for families and stability needed to prevent marginalization. All of us look to home as an anchor in our community life, a retreat, and a refuge. What happens to people when they do not have this is debilitating. The ramifications have been studied repeatedly, and the stress on our communities and our society can attest to this.

In Canada, it is estimated that more than 235,000 people are without a home during the year. According to a joint study by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness in 2014, the gradual withdrawal of federal investment in social housing is one of the primary causes of this problem.

Our society and our governments are letting people down, devoid of a comprehensive safety net. Cracks are appearing at an alarming rate. Affordability is central, but cracks are appearing because of the results of not having a stable home: mental health problems, addiction issues, illness due to stress, family breakdowns, and so much more.

I believe all of us in the House have sat with constituents and heard heartbreaking stories. We are on the front lines of hearing where the human reality of legislation lives. I recently sat with a couple who shared their story of homelessness. It is a story that I hear all too often. One partner falls ill, so they can no longer work, and the family loses their home because they cannot afford their mortgage.

To add more weight to their reality, this couple has a son with a significant disability, one that leads a child to express himself through loud yelling when frustration grows. Finding a home that is not in an apartment building where the noise upsets the neighbours is their priority.

This is just one story, and it exemplifies the need for a different approach, a more holistic model to viewing housing. Let us imagine a housing plan that respects human rights.

In the government consultations, the right to housing was a recurring theme in many comments shared at the expert round table. Stakeholders clearly spelled out the need for the legally recognized right to housing. They insisted that a national housing strategy should examine whether our laws, policies, and practices are sufficient to prevent homelessness, forced evictions, and discrimination in accessing adequate housing. They agreed on a rights-based approach to housing and that the right to housing must be recognized and realized through laws and policies.

It is inspiring to see Canadians like Leilani Farha, a UN special rapporteur on adequate housing and executive director of Canada Without Poverty, take a leadership role internationally. She said:

Crafting a human rights-based policy would include eliminating discrimination in housing programs, setting measurable goals and timelines to reduce poverty and giving people the means to hold governments to account if their rights are violated.

This accountability is so badly needed. Many first nations communities are living in appalling conditions, and homelessness continues to rise across the country. For first nations people living on reserve, the national household survey shows that almost 40% of these homes need major repairs and close to 35% are not suitable for the family's size. In some Inuit communities, the proportion of housing not suited to family size exceeds 50%.

I did several round tables on housing in my riding. What I heard was clear. Municipalities are doing everything they can with their very limited resources. Community-based organizations are working together to do what they can to support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. People are desperate and ready to live anywhere to have a stable home. I also saw how exhausted they were, doing what they could and needing help.

They need help now, today, if not sooner. Hope is in short supply. The broad range of people experiencing the housing crisis is only growing.

It is alarming to talk to couples who are both working in good jobs, who cannot find a home they can afford to rent, let alone buy. There is a deep sense of betrayal because they have done everything right. They have worked hard to get where they are, and now they are hopeless. I have spoken with parents who have lost their children to care because they were evicted due to renovations and could not find appropriate housing. They can get their children back once they have a home to go to, but they simply cannot find one.

Seniors are renting out extra rooms in their homes. One senior I spoke to is even renting out her living room, because there is no other way she can afford to live.

These are just a few of the many stories that are happening in all of our ridings.

I want to say a special thanks to the Right to Housing Coalition for its hard work and continued work in advocating for these rights. Housing is and will always be a top priority for New Democrats. We want the federal government to recognize the historically vital role of government in housing. The Government of Canada has a responsibility to take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this fundamental right by meeting the security, affordability, health, and safety needs of all Canadians. The government has a duty to ensure that all its citizens have access to suitable housing so they can participate fully in society, as is their right.

We seek action when the federal government returns to the table on housing policy, and a commitment to housing as a basic human right. We want the framework of any solution to be based in the legislative right to housing.

It is my hope that today the members will speak in support of Bill C-325. It is time to give hope to those who desperately need and deserve it.

HousingStatements By Members

May 4th, 2017 / 2:10 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the right to housing is a fundamental one. Everyone deserves to have a roof over his or her head and the security of knowing where he or she will sleep at night. Across Canada, one of the richest countries in the world, many people do not have a home.

I have heard stories of seniors couch-surfing; couples who are both gainfully employed but cannot find a home to rent or buy that they can afford; parents placing their children in care because they cannot find a home; and business owners struggling because they cannot hire people because there is nowhere for them to live. There are many other stories that should make us all sleepless. There is no question that Canada has a housing crisis in rural, urban, and indigenous communities.

The government's recent budget has housing funding that would mostly be spent after the next federal election. When will Canada recognize that housing is a right?

I encourage all members of this House to support my private member's bill, Bill C-325, on the right to housing. Let us make it happen.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

December 6th, 2016 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in the House to speak to Bill C-29.

My constituents have identified three priorities in our riding. They have serious concerns around the needs of seniors, about housing that is affordable, and addressing the serious issue of climate change. This work has influenced my actions heavily. I am holding seniors' town halls that will be wrapping up in January, and in a riding of my size, I will be hosting a total of 11.

The need for affordable housing has been framed in my private member's bill, Bill C-325, on the right for housing for Canadians. This summer, we will begin the work we have to do with our constituents around the important issue of climate change.

Beyond these three priorities, my staff and I work hard on many challenges constituents face. They include small business needs, transportation issues around our ocean, issues with trade, and much much more.

My constituents sent me here to have a strong voice for them in this place. This is why I was very disappointed yesterday when the government reduced the time we could speak on this important bill. Bill C-29 includes 146 clauses that would amend 13 pieces of legislation. It was introduced in the House of Commons and this past Friday, three days later, debate began. With the time allocation now, there is very little time for parliamentarians to debate its content.

Time allocation provides the government with a mechanism for setting out the amount of debate a bill will receive at any given stage. When the notice is given, a short debate is had, a vote is called for, and if the motion is approved, as it was by this government, a limit for debate is established.

I take the duties of my job very seriously. Part of those duties are standing in the House debating on the bills before this place. During the last Parliament, the New Democrats decried the Conservatives' routine habit of this procedure. A year into the Liberal mandate, and the Liberals have not copied this practice; they have outright championed it.

I would like to remind members on the governing side that Canadians expect to know how they spend their money. Bill C-29 is a budgetary instrument, a bill that has specific changes to the Bank Act, to small businesses, the Canada child benefit, and the Employment Insurance Act. It must be taken seriously.

Specifically, the NDP is concerned by the fact that many relatively technical legislative changes, 239 pages amending over a dozen acts, are included in a single bill, while we have not had the time needed to debate them sufficiently.

In my riding, families are struggling daily. They have to make decisions if they can send their children to swimming with their classes because they cannot afford the $2 fee the school is requesting. Families are also facing serious challenges around finding day care. Day care spaces are limited, and the cost is often just too much. The child benefit was a step in the right direction, but the amount did not create child care spaces, nor make it affordable for families. Now we see that the Canada child benefit will be indexed in 2020, as the Liberals have proposed, rather than listening to the so-called inadmissible amendment made in the committee to see it indexed to inflation each year starting January 1, 2017. This means that each year the benefit will be worth less to Canadian families.

I have veterans who are standing outside of local businesses in my riding fundraising for their medication and seniors who are making choices among medication, food, or paying for their heat. Where is there anything in the budget that will help these folks to afford their medication?

Small business owners are looking for ways to build their businesses because they see opportunities. However, without the promised tax break, they are finding it hard to invest in the important infrastructure or human capital they need. Small businesses have grown in my riding and have provided jobs when our larger resource based jobs were lost. The government saying that businesses want money in people's pockets to spend in those businesses is only one part of the equation. The promised tax cut would have meant an equitable support to businesses across the country. Each area faces multiple challenges, and this tax break would have really made an impact in my riding.

The Liberals have rejected our proposals to cap transaction fees for credit cards and are doing nothing to facilitate the transfer of family businesses within the immediate family. Small businesses could not be clearer. As the job creators of our country, a cap on transaction fees for credit cards would make a real difference. Why is the government prioritizing credit card companies over small and medium-sized businesses in Canada?

In my riding of North Island—Powell River, it is the small and medium-sized businesses that are participating in the chambers of commerce, giving back to the communities at events, and employing people. It is time to give them the support they need, because they benefit us all so very much.

This budget also shows a worrisome trend with the government, a hands-off approach that signals an increase in upcoming privatization schemes. This comes to us as a bit of a surprise because budget 2016 did not include any details of a privatized Canadian infrastructure bank. It did have the term “asset recycling”, about which we asked numerous questions. We know that “asset recycling” is a financial term that involves the sale of an asset and the use of proceeds of the sale to invest in another asset. For the government, it means selling public infrastructure or privatizing it to raise money that will be used to fund other infrastructure.

On October 20, we learned that Liberals gave Credit Suisse, an investment firm specializing in privatization, the mandate to advise the Liberals on the benefits of privatizing Canadian airports. It seems like a foregone conclusion that the recommendation will be privatization.

Other pension fund experts are salivating at the prospect and do not even hide that it is about private ownership or private management of public assets. As Claude Lamoureux, former CEO of Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, said on May 25, “For government, it is a way of offloading, of giving that to someone else. And in my opinion, this someone else might be more efficient than government”.

The road map is pretty clear: sell airports and possibly other infrastructure to raise some or all of the $40 billion to be invested in the Canadian infrastructure bank. The Liberals hope that these public funds will attract $160 billion in private capital. Regardless of the way the bank will work, it is clear that private investors and pension funds will be asking for a return on investment, which makes sense. That is what they do. The only way to do this is to create a revenue stream, and that means imposing tolls and user fees at a rate of between 7% to 9%.

What will this mean for communities across Canada? I represent many small and rural communities. The need for infrastructure is profound and often they are left behind. This scheme would not benefit the people of these small communities. How long will they have to pay tolls or user fees to get a benefit of 7% to 9% return on investment? This scheme is so speculative that even president-elect Donald Trump thinks it is a great idea.

Since we are on the topic of implementing certain provisions of the budget, can the government finally admit which ports, airports, and bridges will be privatized? What will be tolled and which user fees can Canadians expect? These are simple questions. My constituents, who work so hard, are left wondering when these costs will appear. I am particularly concerned with what this would mean for smaller communities that will not be able to generate the kind of user-fee revenue streams that would be attractive to investors of this bank. Why is the government taking away allocated funds for infrastructure for a new scheme that simply will not help communities in my riding?

During this time of year, many organizations, service groups, and people are working to ensure the holidays will be good ones for those struggling to make ends meet. I remember being in Port Hardy and one member of the community showing me the food bank. He said that 20 years ago they did not have them, that there were enough jobs, but now they had been forgotten and they fundraised to feed themselves. This budget could do so much more.

I want to thank all of the people, organizations, and service groups that are actively working to feed those across the riding who are hungry, whether it be the Eagles Ladies Auxiliary that has been fundraising for weeks now, selling food to raise money to feed those who desperately need it; the Angel tree, where people buy a gift for a child who would go without if not for the generosity of the communities I serve; the Community Resource Centre in Powell River; the Salvation Army; the Good Food Box; all the food banks across the riding; Grassroots Kind Hearts; and the Beacon Club, just to mention a few. Poverty is real in our communities and I thank all of those who work everyday on the ground to fight it.

Canadian Bill of RightsRoutine Proceedings

December 5th, 2016 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-325, an act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights (right to housing).

Mr. Speaker, the government must make housing a priority. In the communities I represent and across Canada, we see a staggering need for proper housing at a reasonable cost. In Canada, people do not have the housing they need.

For this reason, I wish to table today an act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights. This bill would ensure that the right to housing is firmly recognized as law. This would redefine the way we frame a national housing strategy and finally allow us to adopt our international responsibilities regarding human rights. When housing needs are met, we as a society can grow much stronger and more prosperous.

I would like to thank the member for Hochelaga for working so hard on the issue of housing. I look forward to the debate, and I hope to see all members in this House support this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)