Evidence of meeting #29 for Finance in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was housing.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Hans Cunningham  Director for the Regional District Central Kootenay, British Columbia; President, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Eira Thomas  Member, Board of Directors, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada
Judith Guichon  President, British Columbia Cattlemen's Association
Loretta Wallace  Vice-President, Procom Group, National Association of Computer Consulting Businesses Canada
Hilla Kerner  Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter
Jeff Richards  Treasurer, Surrey Board of Trade
Joanne Curry  Executive Director, Simon Fraser University, Surrey Board of Trade
Pierre Gratton  President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of British Columbia
Gabe Miller  Director, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Kevin Boon  General Manager, British Columbia Cattlemen's Association
Laureen Whyte  Vice-President, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada
Donald Bassermann  Chair, Omineca Beetle Action Coalition; Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition
Rhona Martin  Chair, Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition
Margaret Mason  Canadian Association of Gift Planners
Bart Given  Director, Marketing and Communications, Sport B.C.
Brenda Kenny  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association
Asia Czapska  Co-ordinator, Justice for Girls
Shelagh Day  Representative, B.C. CEDAW Group
Laura Holland  Spokesperson, B.C. CEDAW Group

11 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

I'll ask for a quick follow-up and then two quick questions.

11 a.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Do you mean this tax credit is solely for the junior sector?

11 a.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada

Eira Thomas

It's all exploration that's happening on the ground in Canada, so large companies can take advantage of that as well, but it's specifically for grassroots, early-stage exploration activities.

11 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

I have a quick two-minute round.

Mr. Généreux, go ahead.

11 a.m.


Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My question is for Messrs. Cunningham and Gratton.

Mr. Paillé was saying earlier that project costs were rising owing to the March 31 deadline. When I was a mayor, I completed countless projects in four years in my municipality, and I never had any date-related constraints. It's not about the deadline. For some projects that I or the municipality completed, there were cost overruns for all kinds of reasons that had nothing to do with a deadline.

The Canadian government says that in terms of agreements with the provincial and municipal governments, integrity and mutual respect play a key role in the completion of those projects. I would like to hear your thoughts about that.

As municipally elected representatives, we sign an agreement, accept the well-defined terms, such as the program deadline, and decide to complete our projects. There are those who meet those objectives and those who cannot meet them for various reasons. How do you feel about that?

September 27th, 2010 / 11 a.m.

Director for the Regional District Central Kootenay, British Columbia; President, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Hans Cunningham

Thank you for your question. I will defer to Gabe.

11 a.m.

A voice

It's not an easy one, is it?

11 a.m.

Director, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Gabe Miller

Thank you.

It's not an easy one, but it is important to remember that it hasn't been an easy situation. These have not been normal times. As the members of the committee know well, two years ago Canada and the rest of the world entered into the worst economic crisis in 50 years. I'd say that the success the federal government has had with its stimulus plan has been because it has had clear objectives and it has been structured, but it has also been flexible enough to reflect the differences in the different parts of the country and to appreciate that challenges will come up along the way.

You're quite right--municipalities have worked extremely hard to put forward projects that could be finished on time and to keep them on time. But I think there is also a basic sense of fairness so that if a community has done its best to play by the rules but life has presented a circumstance due to which it cannot meet what was always a very aggressive and ambitious timeline, then the question is how we can serve Canadians best. Leaving projects unfinished in those circumstances or handing the bill to the local government wouldn't seem to most people to be the best solution.

Certainly there is a strong desire to meet the objectives and to make the program reach its target, but in a difficult situation I think--and our members think--there has to be an ability to respond to new situations.

11 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you very much.

Merci. Thanks to all of you for being with us here this morning and for your presentations and responses to our questions. We appreciate it very much.

We will suspend for about two minutes and then have the next group of witnesses come forward.

11:10 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Order. We will continue our discussion this morning on pre-budget consultations leading to the next budget.

We have six organizations on this panel. I want to welcome the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition, the Canadian Association of Gift Planners, Sport B.C., Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Justice for Girls, and B.C. CEDAW Group.

Thank you to all for being with us this morning. You have up to five minutes maximum for opening presentations. Then we'll have questions from all members of the committee.

We'll start with the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition.

11:10 a.m.

Donald Bassermann Chair, Omineca Beetle Action Coalition; Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition

Merci, Mr. Chairman, and bonjour to members of the committee.

My name is Don Bassermann, and I am chair of the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition. We're here as a joint group today. With me is Rhona Martin, chair of the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition. We are speaking as well on behalf of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition.

In three years, the cumulative area of B.C. affected by the beetle is estimated to be 16.3 million hectares. That is almost 23 times the size of metro Toronto. We are in crisis.

In the materials we've made available, there is a photo that demonstrates the example of a landscape that can be seen across the interior of the province of British Columbia. In short, British Columbia is experiencing the most severe and widespread mountain pine beetle epidemic in recorded history. There are maps in the materials we have provided you that indicate the collective percentage of pine beetle kill.

The B.C. Ministry of Forests and Range estimates that the mountain pine beetle has now killed a total of 675 million cubic metres of timber--630 million cubic metres of red- and grey-attack damage, plus 45-million cubic metres of green-attack--since the current infestation began.

On a provincial level, the infestation peaked in 2005 in terms of volume killed annually, and has slowed considerably since then. However, the impacts will last for many years to come.

We have provided maps at the back of the handout. We have also displayed in the room a number of maps that will provide a more visual impact.

As mills close and communities lose their industrial tax base, it becomes increasingly difficult for local governments to provide and maintain core infrastructure and services. This has severe impacts at the community level. It can affect the amenities available--local culture and related activities, businesses, schools, and health services--with the changes around them due to the mountain pine beetle epidemic and the changing fabric of the landscape and the commerce that it supports.

11:15 a.m.

Rhona Martin Chair, Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition

In response to the mountain pine beetle epidemic, three beetle action coalitions have been formed: Cariboo-Chilcotin, Omineca, and Southern Interior. The beetle action coalitions are made up of local government regional district representatives--typically mayors from the municipalities within the beetle-impacted zone, or elected area directors--and first nations leaders from tribal councils or aboriginal language groups.

The partnerships the beetle action coalitions represent are truly unique in that they represent large regions of the province and provide a forum for dialogue on sustainability issues that affect first nations and non-first nations alike. This is the only forum of this nature in B.C. where our neighbouring governments are working side by side to develop solutions and on-the-ground actions to address the challenges we face.

Pages 12 and 13 provide examples of projects that we would be delighted to answer questions on.

Over the past several years, each of the three beetle action coalitions has developed an in-depth understanding of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and the unique impact it has in their respective regions. We, the BACs, are best positioned to continue to implement on-the-ground projects and solutions to bring our communities through this transition period. As well, the BACs have wide regional representation of local government and first nations communities that can advocate for implementation, develop and implement actions and projects, and monitor the impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic. The BACs need to ensure that the right information and actions are developed and the right issues are on the table.

The Government of Canada committed to provided funding of $1 billion, and to date has provided $200 million, in 2006. We understand that the remainder of the commitment had to be put on hold when the economic crisis hit.

Our request is that the Government of Canada provide B.C. with $100 million in pine beetle funding in 2011-12, and annually for the following seven budget years, for a total of $800 million.

We'd like to thank you very much for your time. We have included our website for each of the three beetle action coalitions, where you can find more detail on the mountain pine beetle epidemic and our respective mitigation plans and sector strategies.

We would be happy to answer your questions. Thank you.

11:15 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you for your presentations.

We will now hear from the Canadian Association of Gift Planners.

11:15 a.m.

Margaret Mason Canadian Association of Gift Planners


My name is Margaret Mason. I am a lawyer in Vancouver but I'm here representing the Canadian Association of Gift Planners, an organization that supports philanthropy by assisting donors with structured gifts. There are about 1,300 members from across Canada, the majority of whom work in charities themselves, and the balance of whom are related professionals, lawyers, accountants, and that sort of thing.

You have a presentation in front of you. There are three recommendations that we are making to you today. The first relates to the charitable remainder trust. This has been an ongoing initiative. In 2003 the CAGP-ACPDP met with Ministry of Finance and the Canada Revenue Agency. The ministry and the agency were both supportive of the proposal regarding charitable remainder trusts and are of the view that it's a valid type of giving and would enhance charitable giving in Canada.

In 2003 the association was asked to develop a proposal, which we did, and further, we've provided some updated material to the Ministry of Finance regarding the required changes to the Income Tax Act. This would require very minimal changes to the act and, we believe, would enhance giving. We can do it, but we are shoehorning it into the current provisions of the act, and I do know that it is supported by the ministry.

This would allow a donor who is 65 years or older now to make a gift and receive a charitable receipt now for the capital that will eventually end up with a charity, but to retain a life income during their lifetime. It's a way for an older person not to have to look after their investment, to protect it from the vagaries of, in British Columbia, the Wills Variation Act and those types of challenges to wills, and to enhance giving.

We would strongly recommend that changes be made to the act. It would simply be to provide a definition of the term that beneficiaries be “qualified donees”, a term under the act, which in essence is other registered charities and levels of government and certain other organizations, so it's very little in terms of changes to the act.

The second proposal is the third one on our submission, but I would like to address it before the other, and it is for an additional provision to the Income Tax Act that would enhance gifts of real estate, of real property. In 2006 changes were made to the act to permit donations of publicly traded securities and to allow such gifts to be made without, in essence, paying tax on the capital gain, so that the capital gain was exempted from taxation.

In essence, we're asking for the same type of treatment to be given to gifts of real property, so that for a gift of real property given to a charity for its charitable activities, the gain on the property would be exempt. The normal rules would apply to recapture and that sort of thing with respect to the building. We are also asking that changes be made to include gifts where the property is sold by the donor but the proceeds are donated to the charity within 30 days of the original sale of the property.

That's the second proposal. As you may have noted or heard, the changes to the act for gifts of publicly donated securities dramatically increased giving. We think this proposal will also continue to dramatically increase giving. Now we currently have to structure and it's very complex to do gifts of real property.

The last item is to provide the association's support to a proposal put forward primarily by Imagine Canada, which is for the “stretch” credit. Of course, Imagine Canada's proposal has much more detail, but in essence it's hoping to provide an incentive to donors to increase their year-over-year giving, such that there will be a threshold set in 2009, and if they increase their charitable giving they will receive an enhanced credit.

Those are my remarks. Thank you.

11:20 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you very much for your presentation.

We'll now hear from Sport B.C..

11:20 a.m.

Bart Given Director, Marketing and Communications, Sport B.C.

Good morning. My name is Bart Given. On behalf of Sport B.C., thank you for the opportunity to submit our comments as part of the federal pre-budget consultation.

Sport B.C. represents the 67 provincial sport organizations that make organized sport a reality on the fields and rinks and in the gyms around B.C. every day, and the approximately 700,000 citizens enrolled in their clubs.

The year 2010 was a cornerstone year for sport in Canada and in British Columbia. The Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, with their inspirational performances and record-breaking Canadian medal haul, demonstrated to everyone the powerful impact of sport. Communities across our nation banded together in ways we have never seen to support these athletes. The successes of these games stand as a testament to what can be accomplished through the collaborative efforts of not only dedicated community and corporate teams but also all levels of government.

Earlier this spring the federal government committed to sport with further investment in the Own the Podium program to build on this success. Because of the raised profile of sport, we anticipate an unprecedented interest in sport participation over the next few years. With the Own the Podium program providing athletes the opportunity to hone their skills at the elite level, what can be done to help our athletes get there? How can we develop the amateur sport sector to ensure that physical, emotional, and social benefits of sport are enjoyed by all?

All athletes, coaches, and officials have to begin their journey somewhere. In Canada, provincial sport organizations are the backbone of amateur sport and, together with their clubs and associations, bring sport to life across the country. Continued investment in this strong infrastructure of organizations, volunteers, and the 700,000 participants will have a multi-faceted impact on the lives of British Columbians, and not just in building future champions. It's an investment in our health, physical literacy, and early childhood education. It is a key driver of social inclusion and community building.

That there is value in sport is not merely subjective opinion but proven fact. Continued collaboration with government will ensure that these long-term benefits are felt by all.

Three-time Olympic alpine skier Emily Brydon knows first-hand how important support is for children looking to participate in sport at a local level. Brydon, who grew up in the Kootenay region of B.C., received a KidSport grant as a young athlete to cover her registration fees before becoming a ten-time Canadian champion and nine-time world cup medallist. Now retired, she is lending support to the program to ensure the next generation of athletes have the same opportunities. In her words,

KidSport gave me the opportunity to continue striving for success in the ski world.... It allowed me to help my parents pay for the cost of sport and playing, and in turn is an important factor for being where I am today.... Not only is the funding crucial to help offset the costs of sports but also it inspires kids to do and be more. When you are rewarded for your success it solidifies your own belief in your dreams and goals.

Brydon is one of over 250,000 athletes KidSport has supported across Canada since it was established by Sport B.C. in 1993. Sport B.C. also works closely with our provincial sport organizations to deliver sport development programs in first nations communities every year. According to Aboriginal Sport Circle, aboriginal barriers to sport participation include access to facilities and programs as well as the cost of participation. Through coaching clinics and skills camps, we work with communities to develop the infrastructure to create a lasting legacy of sport for children who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn.

With both programs, regardless of whether the children we support turn into top-tier athletes like Emily or doctors, firefighters, or politicians, we aim to open the door to these opportunities for children across the province. This idea encompasses Sport B.C.'s core belief that everyone is an athlete. Everyone, from the child lacing up skates for the first time to the 90-year-old setting world records on the track, deserves the opportunity to participate.

In the years leading up to the games, Sport B.C. worked collaboratively with other B.C. sport organizations through the B.C. Sport Alliance to detail this very vision: an amateur sports system for British Columbia that can be accessed by everyone, is inherently sustainable, and can be a central instrument to better the lives of British Columbians in an accountable, measurable way.

This vision has been worked on in close consultation with B.C.'s Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport, and we urge you to capture the opportunity Vancouver 2010 presented to us by providing the necessary funding capacity to allow the vision to be executed in the years to come. We have led the world in demonstrating how to prepare to host the Olympic Games. Help us now lead the world in showing how to leverage the benefits of the games long after the Olympic flame has gone out.

Thank you.

11:25 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you very much, Mr. Given.

We'll go to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.

11:25 a.m.

Brenda Kenny President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association

Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to present to the committee this morning. It's a pleasure to appear before you and provide some of the views of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.

My name is Brenda Kenny. I am president and CEO of that organization.

I'll begin with some context. CEPA represents companies that transport over 97% of all the oil and natural gas that we use in Canada and export. Our membership currently operates over 100,000 kilometres of pipelines in North America.

Pipelines are the only feasible and by far the safest and most environmentally sound way of transporting large volumes of natural gas over land. I'm here today to speak with you with regard to the 2011 budget.

This is a sector that has long recognized the need for eventual retirement of these major Canadian systems. For more than a decade CEPA has actively advanced technical work to support planning for environmentally responsible retirement. In addition, we have identified appropriate funding mechanisms to ensure sufficient funds are available in the long-term many, many decades out while also ensuring the costs are well managed and fairly distributed between current and future energy shippers and consumers.

In May 2009 the National Energy Board passed down a decision that will require all pipeline companies to begin to estimate and set aside funds that will eventually be required to retire their infrastructure in an environmentally sound way. It is to satisfy this regulatory imperative that operators must submit their estimates in May of this coming year, 2011, and then begin setting aside funds in May 2014.

So the NEB requirement necessitates a decision now to allow our members certainty in estimating costs associated with the collection of those funds. We are seeking in the budget of 2011 a resolution associated with the mechanism through which the management of these funds would occur.

Our proposal is one that respects the environment, land owners, our customers, and ultimately energy consumers that rely on Canadian energy pipelines every day.

The National Energy Board, in its decision, found that the pipeline operators should approach the Department of Finance to ensure that a mechanism for setting aside funds is in place. It is following this direction that I am here before you today.

Our proposal is as follows, and is outlined in our previous submission to you.

Currently, the Income Tax Act provides a mechanism for the retirement of mining assets in the form of something called qualified environmental trusts, QET. We recommend modifications to the existing structure in two ways. First, that the word “pipelines” be included so that QETs could be used for pipeline assets. Second, we're asking the federal government to modify the investment restrictions on those trusts. I'll explain why.

I must emphasize that pipeline operators do not intend to invest in funds that are susceptible to unnecessary risk. These are long-term undertakings,and the investment objectives, in order of priority, are actually quite similar to pension funds: first, security of principal; second, liquidity; and finally, return.

All investments will be of an investment grade counterparty in liquid securities that have open markets and numerous participants. Acceptable investments would include government securities, bankers' acceptances, deposit notes, and the like.

The NEB decision indicates that there will be regulatory oversight of these funds, including regular audits. This is all with an eye to ensuring that there are sufficient funds to enable responsible retirement at the end of the pipeline's useful life. This further regulatory oversight, which does not currently exist on mining, would provide further safeguards on these investments over time and reinforce the value to Canadians in modifying those investment restrictions on these trusts.

By accepting CEPA's recommendations, the Government of Canada would not only be facilitating the National Energy Board but would also ensure that the funds are available in the future so that corporations and not governments will solely be responsible for the financial burden associated with reclamation.

Together we can ensure that the eventual abandonment of pipeline systems takes place in a way that respects the environment, landowners, and Canadian consumers. An inclusion of these two changes in the Income Tax Act in the budget of 2011 will provide certainty for all stakeholders.

We must begin submitting estimates for retirement to the NEB in May of this coming year, 2011. As such, this request is urgent.

One final point I'd like to make is about funding the federal government's commitment to regulatory efficiency and effectiveness. In the budget of 2007 the federal government committed $150 million to these goals and it led to the creation of the major project management office. This funding is about to come to an end, but funding is still necessary to advancing a modern, effective, and efficient regulatory regime, especially for Canada's energy sector. I would urge the government to maintain this commitment to ensure that regulatory capacity and the appropriate resources are in place within government to continue the valuable work the MPMO and other agencies provide.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak.

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you for your presentation.

We'll now hear from Justice for Girls.

11:30 a.m.

Asia Czapska Co-ordinator, Justice for Girls

Thank you.

My name is Asia Czapska. I'm the housing coordinator at Justice for Girls.

Justice for Girls is a B.C.-based organization. We advocate for homeless and low-income girls and have done so for over eleven years now. We recently completed a federally funded housing strategy for the prevention of girl homelessness in Canada and have set out what kinds of housing and program options are needed for girls who are at risk of homelessness or who are already homeless.

One of the main findings of our housing strategy is that many coeducational so-called “youth homelessness” housing options, such as youth shelters and also other slightly longer-term youth coeducational programs, do not meet the needs of girls who are homeless and that girls require specific girl-only housing and support. Youth shelters across Canada and government programs for homeless youth do not respond to the specific needs of girls and the needs of aboriginal, racialized, and lesbian girls in particular.

Youth safe houses or shelters are coeducational, as I've said, can be unsafe for girls, and do not respond to their needs, especially as many homeless girls are actually escaping male violence. For example, a 2007 B.C. survey of 762 homeless youth aged 12 to 18 found that 57% of the girls had been sexually abused, so especially in these conditions it's really important that youth homelessness programs are not de-gendered but that programs are created specifically for girls.

Group homes, foster homes, and youth shelters, sometimes called safe homes in British Columbia, are coeducational, and mostly across the country young women are often supervised by adult male staff, including on overnight shifts, and forced to live with male peers. For homeless young women, the vast majority of whom have been subjected to extreme and repeated male violence, coed housing is not a safe option.

Furthermore, safe houses, group homes, and foster homes often impose unrealistic and insensitive rules, regimes, and short time limits that push girls out of shelters. Girls end up living in squats with older predatory men, on the streets and alleyways, or couch surfing, which means staying on friends' and people's couches, and sometimes it's with people they don't know. Girls also lived in cramped, unsafe, and unsanitary single-room occupancy hotels in the downtown east side, or crack houses, or move from hotel to hotel under the control of pimps.

Given these considerations, and in particular given the fact that so many homeless teen girls are escaping male violence, including experiencing sexual exploitation, transition houses specifically for homeless girls must become the emergency response to girl homelessness as opposed to blanket youth homelessness initiatives. In order for gendered support programs and girl-specific emergency and long-term housing to be created across Canada, the federal government must allocate specific funding within the federal anti-homelessness and other housing initiatives toward housing and programs for the prevention of girl homelessness.

In 2006, in its review of Canada's compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United Nations committee responsible for that covenant recommended that Canada give “special attention to the difficulties faced by homeless girls who are more vulnerable to health risks and social and economic deprivation, and take all necessary measures to provide them with adequate housing and social and health services”.

Given that a significant number of the homeless in Canada are teenaged girls, we approximate that between 6% and 12% of the homeless in large Canadian cities are teen girls. This is based on the number of youth homeless. It is estimated that somewhere between 10% and 30% of the homeless are youth. Half of those are girls.

A minimum of 6% of federal funding for anti-homelessness initiatives should be allocated specifically for programs tackling girl homelessness. Ultimately, any future federal funding designated for youth homelessness prevention must allocate 50% of funding towards housing and support programs that are for girls only, and that are specifically for homeless teenaged girls.

Finally, Justice for Girls of course looks forward to the creation of a national housing strategy, one that considers the needs of girls who are homeless.

Thank you.

11:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you for your presentation.

Our final group is B.C. CEDAW.

11:35 a.m.

Shelagh Day Representative, B.C. CEDAW Group

Maybe I should explain that acronym. It stands for the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which Canada has been a signatory to since 1981. The B.C. CEDAW group is a coalition of women's and human rights organizations in British Columbia dedicated to ensuring that Canada and B.C. are living up to the commitments we made in that particular convention to women and girls.

I want to thank the members of the committee for agreeing to hear Vancouver Rape Relief and Justice for Girls and the B.C. CEDAW group this morning. We had some back-and-forth discussion about this. We were not on the list, and we were added at the last minute. We appreciate your doing that. We were consternated to find that on the list, as it was before we made some interventions, there were no women's groups at all. We are also very disturbed that as far as we could see, before we were added to it, the list for the whole country had one or perhaps two women's groups in total.

This is a big concern for us, because women have a lot to say about the budget and a lot of interest in it. Any budget greatly affects women, and we think we should have an equal say in how this budget gets constructed.

We're also very aware of the under-representation of women among the members of Parliament and the fact that there's only one woman on this committee. I'm very glad that Ms. Block is here and that Cathy McLeod and Dona Cadman are with her today. We take comfort from that. It's extremely important to us.

I would suggest, however, considering the general under-representation of women so far in this conversation, that the committee should consider having a special session of pre-budget consultations in Ottawa with women's organizations and women experts on economics and tax policy as part of the preparation of its report.

The first thing I want to say is that we are very concerned about whether deficit reduction strategies at this particular time will result in more downloading of social costs to women. That has certainly been the pattern we have seen since 1995. In the name of deficit reduction, there has been a great deal of cutting of social programs and cutting of transfers from the federal government to the provinces and territories for social programs. We are still suffering from the impact of the erosion of social programs and services under that particular strategy in 1995. We urge you and plead with you not to make things worse through whatever deficit reduction strategies you now feel you're going to consider. It's extraordinarily important to understand the impact that the erosion of social programs has had on women and girls in this country and to not make things worse but of course, instead, to make things better.

I want to point out to you that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in its 2008 note on Canada says that we are distributing wealth upwards and that poverty rates have increased in Canada over the last decade. It says that inequality of household income increased significantly and that poverty increased for all age groups. The OECD also noted that taxes and transfers do not reduce inequality in Canada as much as in other OECD countries or as much as they previously did in this country.

So I would suggest to you there's a profound inequality at work in how we're dealing with the distribution of income in Canada right now. It has a very serious impact on the women and the children of this country. It has an impact on everyone, but it has an impact on women and children in a particular way because it's layered on top of inequality in employment, which is, I'm sorry to say, still the state of affairs for women.

I want to say just a word about two particular things in this province. One is social assistance. It has been mentioned by my colleagues, but social assistance rates here and across the country are so low that the people who are forced to live at those rates cannot feed and shelter themselves adequately. It has profound effects on the gender equality of women who, as has been said, can't remove themselves from often violent situations.

The second thing is civil legal aid; that is, legal aid especially for family law matters. In this province women have virtually no access to it. That means that in many situations where they are in difficult family disputes, they are ending up representing themselves.

These two things that I'm talking about are programs and services that are ostensibly covered under the Canada social transfer; that is, in that transfer from the federal government to the provinces they are supposed to be included in there. We are asking for adequate funds to ensure that these things are truly adequate and support women properly. We're asking for designations inside the funds for those particular things.

Thank you.

11:40 a.m.


The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you for your presentation.

I'll just remind witnesses we have six organizations here today. Members do have limited time, so I encourage you to be very brief in your responses.

We'll start with Mr. Pacetti, for seven minutes.

11:40 a.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses for appearing. It has been a very interesting panel.

I'd like to apologize personally to Ms. Day. I was a little bit negligent in inviting women's groups. Anita Neville was the one who spoke on your behalf. From a caucus point of view, we do consider women's issues, and I neglected to look at it from an external point of view. We do have a percentage of women candidates that we want to present in the next election and things like that, but I took it for granted, assuming that everybody had the same views. I neglected that, so I apologize for the oversight.

Having said that, I have a question for Asia, from Justice for Girls. Your first half of the presentation was concerned with discussing challenges, and everybody who comes from a riding understands the challenges, especially when it comes to girls. With regard to delivery of the services that you want to deliver, it was a little more vague. I know you wanted to focus on housing, but even if there is more money devoted to housing, who is going to deliver those services? Who is going to staff the houses that you want to put together, and how are we going to ensure those services are going to be delivered in the same fashion, whether you are from the east or the west?

That would be my first question.

11:40 a.m.

Co-ordinator, Justice for Girls

Asia Czapska

There are many women who work in adult women's transition houses who are excellent at that kind of work. I don't think there would be a problem finding women who would be able to staff houses like that. If the federal government actually--