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House of Commons Hansard #194 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cmhc.

Topics

TradeOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister for International Trade. This government is one that vigorously defends protected industries, like magazines, but where is it when it comes to defending the interests of genuine free traders in disputes with the United States? Why does the government not get its priorities straight?

TradeOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

York West Ontario

Liberal

Sergio Marchi LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, we have our priorities straight. It is the member who has his facts wrong. We make no apologies for standing up for culture. We make no apologies for defending Canada. The member should get on board and know who his friends are.

Year 2000Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence. The Y2K computer problem has been described as a significant threat to world peace and security of the computerized world.

Will the Minister of National Defence assure this House that the Y2K problem in the military system throughout the world, including China, Russia and North Korea, has been addressed in relation to the NATO missile defence system?

Year 2000Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, there has been substantial discussion of this at NATO. The NATO allies are quite understanding and quite supportive of doing everything possible to ensure that all military weapons systems are Y2K compliant.

We have also been addressing this matter, both as NATO and as Canada, to the Russians and to other non-aligned states to ensure their missile and weapon systems of all kinds are bearing in mind what will happen January 1, 2000.

I am confident everything is being done that can be done by Canada and by NATO to accomplish that.

Urban SmogOral Question Period

March 11th, 1999 / 3 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, a recent study shows that the level at which health problems related to smog start occurring is five times lower than the authorized federal standards.

It is the first time that a study establishes a direct link between mortality rates and urban smog.

Given the study's findings, what does the Minister of the Environment intend to do to correct this dangerous situation as quickly as possible?

Urban SmogOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

Christine Stewart LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, this government is very concerned about air quality. We have taken significant action, including last fall when we suggested that the levels of sulphur in gasoline be lowered.

We are also engaged in ongoing work with the provinces on air quality to reduce particulate matter out of air and other contaminants. We are working with the United States to improve air quality. We will negotiate an annex to our U.S.-Canada air quality agreement.

We will continue to explore all the methods possible to improve the quality of air for Canadians because it has a very direct effect on the health of Canadians.

HousingOral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it was very disheartening to read that when the Prime Minister met with the mayor of Toronto to discuss the disaster of homelessness in that city and across the country all he had to offer was a cold beer.

There was no offer of funding. There was no national action plan on housing, no new social housing and no social support for people who are living and dying on the streets. It is absolutely shameful.

Homeless people want to know when the Prime Minister will act on this crisis or will he continue to ignore homeless people?

HousingOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalDeputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, as usual, the premise of the hon. member's question is completely wrong.

The Prime Minister is taking the problems of homeless people very seriously. This is proven by the announcements of the minister for central mortgage and housing of millions of dollars to provide additional shelters for the homeless. This is proven by the fact that Mayor Lastman, who can speak very critically if he wants to, had nothing but praise for the Prime Minister and his approach to the problem of the homeless.

International TradeOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Murray Calder Liberal Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for International Trade.

The opposition has repeatedly said it costs more to do business in Canada than in any other G-7 country. I understand that a study has just been released on this very subject.

I would like the minister to tell the House how Canada compares with our international competitors.

International TradeOral Question Period

3 p.m.

York West Ontario

Liberal

Sergio Marchi LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for asking because this afternoon KPMG International tabled its report.

The conclusions reveal that Canada has the lowest cost for establishing a business among all the G-7 countries. It looked at 8 countries, 64 cities and 9 different industrial sectors. Canada came out by a country mile, clearly in first place.

What is says is that Canada has an excellent environment for investment. We all need to tell the story loudly and proudly to the world.

PovertyOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Diane St-Jacques Progressive Conservative Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, as you know, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada set up its own task force to travel across the country and to look at the issue of poverty in Canada.

Since the Prime Minister claims to care about the poor in Canada, what does he intend to do to solve this national problem, which generates huge economic and social costs?

PovertyOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, first, we have invested $300 million in the residential rehabilitation assistance program, the RRAP, and we have participated in various studies.

In 1998, through our private and public partnership centre, we have also built over 2,600 low cost housing units, and this year we hope to be able to build another 3,000. We are working on this project with our partners, the provinces, the municipalities and all the other community groups willing to co-operate with us.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

John Reynolds Reform West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, during question period the Minister of Justice stated the Reform Party wanted to put 10 and 11 year olds in jail. That is untrue and I hope the minister would withdraw that statement.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

You are into debate.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, being Thursday, I ask the government House leader the nature of the business of the House for the remainder of this week and for the next week.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

An hon. member

And whether we will adjourn.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the last question first. I know some people are asking if we will have early holidays. I regret to inform them we will not.

We will be continuing today with Bill C-66, the housing legislation, followed by Bill C-67, the foreign bank bill.

Tomorrow we will debate the third reading of Bill C-55, the foreign publication bill. That debate will end tomorrow.

Monday and Tuesday of next week shall be allotted days.

Next Wednesday we would hope to get a head start on legislation emanating from the budget. Hopefully by the end of next week we will have passed both budget implementation bills and we will progress on legislation in the constructive way the House generally does.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-66, an act to amend the National Housing Act and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act and to make consequential amendment to another act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

National Housing ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

When the debate was interrupted for question period the hon. member for Scarborough East had 12 minutes left.

National Housing ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will not take the entire 12 minutes complete my comments.

I was speaking about the situation in my riding and the 1,100 homeless people who are there each and every night and the growing situation in Toronto which I know is being experienced by other cities. Homelessness continues to be a significant and major problem.

It is all linked. All shelter is linked. It does not much matter whether one can buy a $2 million home in my riding or a $500,000 home or if one is in a motel unit. It is all linked. That is what this bill attempts to address.

It may be obscure to some people that things like bundling insurance is somehow linked to homelessness. When a package of $100 million in mortgages can be bundled and sold off to investors, that makes a pool of $100 million available to lenders so they can in turn lend to other housing situations. We increase the pool. That is what this bill does.

It may be obscure to some that reverse mortgages are somehow a very limited form of shelter. If you are elderly, if you have equity in your home and if you do not want to move, being able to stay in your home over a period of time through a reverse mortgage is a very useful thing to be able to do.

This bill speaks to direct assistance to housing projects. This bill speaks to lending to charitable corporations so housing can be provided to those people who are most in need of it. In my riding we have federal co-op houses. There is not a person in the Chamber who would not like to live in that kind of housing. It is good housing and it is provided through the auspices of the Government of Canada.

This is a good bill that deserves the support of all members. Is it enough? It is never enough. Will it address the problem of homelessness in its totality? Of course it will not. It does move toward eliminating homelessness in my riding of Scarborough East, in the city of Toronto, in the province of Ontario and in the nation. This bill, along with the measures announced in the budget to provide $3.5 billion in health care funding, $2 billion in additional cash funding to the CHST and in Ontario's case an additional $900 million in catch-up money, speaks to the commitment on the part of this government to address the crisis in our largest city and in all cities.

This government has responded and it is responding enthusiastically to those issues.

National Housing ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the second reading stage of Bill C-66, an act to amend the National Housing Act and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act. Although our party is opposed to the amendments to these two acts, I am pleased to have this opportunity because the issue of housing and social housing is a very important fundamental issue in Canada that affects millions of Canadians and regrettably it rarely gets debated in the House of Commons.

Contrary to what the government member said a few moments ago, the amendments will not in any way improve or increase the supply of affordable, not for profit social housing in Canada. This bill will pave the way for the further privatization of social housing in Canada.

From that point of view this is a very sad day for Canada because historically Canada has played a very positive and innovative role in the provision of social housing right across the country. We have tremendous expertise and skill at a community level in the not for profit housing sector in developing resources and in the construction and development of social housing.

However, all of that has pretty well come to a standstill because of policies implemented by the Liberal government since 1993 to basically trash social housing in Canada. Regrettably the debate today is simply nothing more than one more nail in the coffin of social housing and affordable housing in Canada.

Today in question period I asked the Prime Minister why in a meeting with the mayor of Toronto yesterday about what is a disaster in that city and across the country on homelessness, the Prime Minister had nothing more to offer the mayor of Toronto than a cold beer. There was no offer of funding for social housing. There was no offer of a national action plan for social housing. There was no offer of new social housing units or help for people who are living on the street, and yes, dying on the street as well.

What we heard today from the government was that it is thinking about it, it is studying it and in fact it has already done a lot. The reality is that we have a crisis in this country, not only in the city of Toronto, but in just about every major urban community and in smaller communities as well because the federal government abandoned the provision and the construction of social housing in 1993.

Let us make no mistake about that. There is a direct relationship between increasing homelessness, what we now see, even here in the city of Ottawa, what I see in my own riding of Vancouver East, what I saw in the city of Halifax and in other communities across Canada, and the policy decisions that were made by the finance minister in 1993 to axe social housing.

I want to say that I think it is an absolute disgrace. I think that Canadians understand intuitively that housing is a basic human need. It is a human right that is laid out in the universal declaration of human rights, and yet here in Canada we have no provision to ensure that this basic human need is being met.

I might add that the Toronto disaster relief committee has repeatedly called on the Prime Minister to visit this disaster area to see for himself what is taking place on the streets of Toronto. When I visited the city of Toronto, I visited the emergency shelters and saw the appalling conditions that people are living in. When I talked to people on the street it was really very shocking to learn what people are facing in this country.

The people who form what is called the Toronto disaster relief committee have put together a very urgent call that has actually been endorsed by the 10 big city mayors across Canada, including the mayor of my own city, the city of Vancouver, and the city council. What the Toronto disaster relief committee is calling for is simply this, that there needs to be a 1% commitment to the provision of social housing in Canada by all levels of government.

One would hope and one would have expected that there would be a response from the federal government, that there would be some kind of indication that there is an acknowledgement and a recognition of the disaster that is before us.

One would hope that there would be an acknowledgement of the work that was done on the Golden report in the city of Toronto, which was actually funded by the federal government, and that indeed there would even be some kind of response to that report. There was even a Liberal member on the task force. However, there has been deafening silence on this issue.

We have not seen one cent come forward for the provision of social housing. We had one small announcement saying that there would be additional funds for residential rehabilitation. However, I have to say that the Minister of Public Works, in making that announcement, really was just making a drop in the bucket in terms of the very critical situation that is facing us.

The federal government keeps on telling us that it is no longer in this business. In fact the bill that is before us today to amend the National Housing Act and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act is really going further down this path of the federal government offloading and abandoning its responsibility to Canadians in this area. In fact what we have seen is the federal government trying to download and devolve its housing responsibility to the provinces.

I am glad to say that in the province that I come from, British Columbia, we have been resisting this devolution and we have been saying consistently that the federal government has to have a national responsibility for the provision of housing. Yes, there needs to be a partnership with the provinces. Yes, we need to have the involvement of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. In fact the federation is begging the federal government to come back to the table and to get involved.

In my province alone, because of the loss of federal dollars, because of the abandonment of social housing by this Liberal government, we have lost something like 10,000 units that would otherwise have been built if the program, as it existed in 1993, was still in place.

When we add the numbers and multiply them across Canada, on a very conservative estimate we have lost 75,000 social housing units in Canada that would have been built if those programs were still in place.

Today is a very bad day. Instead of facing that reality, instead of taking on the responsibility and saying that we will meet this human need, we will make sure there is adequate, safe, secure, affordable housing for Canadians, what is the federal government doing? It brings in this bill. It claims that this will improve housing for Canadians.

I read the press release from the Minister of Public Works who said that these amendments will better respond to the housing needs of Canadians. Where is the evidence? There is not a shred of evidence to show that will take place if this piece of legislation and these amendments pass.

This legislation is about privatizing the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, privatizing certain provisions of its policies and practices and further commercializing the way CMHC operates.

We had the situation where CMHC insurance and mortgages were guaranteed by the federal government. As a result of very large corporations in the U.S. challenging us under the NAFTA and other international trade provisions, the Liberal government is now capitulating and saying that those types of assurances will no longer be provided. Therefore, people who unfortunately are considered to be high risk by the marketplace and our financial institutions will now be in greater difficulty, even through CMHC, because they will not have the same access they had before.

This is an important debate. We are talking about a very basic issue that does not often arise for debate in this House. I am glad we are debating it. However, I also want to say that we in the New Democratic Party are appalled and outraged that the Liberal government has gone so far from its own platform and commitments.

I can hear the words in my head of a Liberal member of parliament, now the finance minister, who in 1990, as the chair of a Liberal task force on housing, said that it was reprehensible in a society as rich as Canada that we would have an erosion of social housing and a growing gap between the rich and the poor. That is what the finance minister, then an opposition member of parliament, said in 1990.

I say to government members that this bill is not what we need. This piece of legislation is not what Canadians need. We need to be responding to the very dire circumstances of the people who are living and dying on the streets today in Toronto, in my community of Vancouver east and in the downtown east side where 6,000 people are still living in deplorable conditions. These people are living in substandard housing, in rooms that are ten feet by ten feet, with no washroom facilities. They have no cooking facilities and they have to share a broken washroom down the hall with 25 other people. That is what people are facing in this country. It is something that none of us should be tolerating.

We want a response from this government that will improve and make clear that there is a commitment for social housing in this country, that will use the expertise that has been developed at the grassroots level and in the not for profit housing sector and that will encourage the development of co-operative housing in Canada that has been so incredibly successful. Since 1993 no new co-operative housing units have been built. That is absolutely shameful.

We are opposed to these amendments today because they are taking us in the direction of the further privatization of social housing in Canada. The amendments basically undermine the programs we have had in the past and further abandon the federal government's response and responsibility to providing housing for Canadians.

I urge members of this House, particularly Liberal members, to rethink the provisions of the amendments that are before us today. If we are genuine about our care and support for homeless people, for poor people, for people who live in substandard housing and for people who are paying more than 50% of their income for rent, then we should be defeating these amendments. We should be trying to get back to a national housing strategy. We should support the call from the Toronto disaster relief committee for a 1% commitment for social housing in this country.

National Housing ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member referred to the Golden report, the task force on homelessness in Toronto. I want to share with her a couple of facts from that report.

Of the total homeless, 28% were youth, 70% of whom had been physically or sexually abused; 15% were aboriginal persons; 10% were abused women; and 30% were mentally ill persons. That totals 83% of total homelessness in Toronto.

When one looks at those items with regard to youth, clearly the government has invested substantially in youth initiatives, youth employment strategies, education programs and all kinds of different programs. Therefore, I believe the member's assertion that the government has done nothing with regard to homelessness is incorrect.

With regard to aboriginals, it is the same. The member will know the substantial investment that the Canadian government makes to our aboriginal people.

The issue of abused women is primarily under provincial jurisdiction, as is the issue of the mentally ill. However, the member well knows that there has been a substantial increase in the moneys available for health care to address these issues. This is where the government's participation is, in front-line health care for the mentally ill and for those in need, et cetera.

In addition, the member also knows about the RRAP, the additional funding for rehabilitation.

The member should also know that the government puts forward about $2,500 per unit for CMHC housing and about $3,500 per unit for rent geared to income housing. Those are government contributions to deal with social housing. This shows an ongoing commitment.

She also talks about the poor. She should know that 40% of the people who are poor, according to Statistics Canada's low income cutoff, own their own house, and of those half of them have no mortgage.

The member should know these facts because it is very important to understand what is homelessness and its causes, as well as what is poor and who is poor.

Having been a director for five years of the Peel Regional Housing Authority, which managed social housing, we found that half of the units that were available to us were family units, and of those more than three-quarters were mother-led.

I hope the member agrees that the breakdown of the Canadian family is one of the most significant contributors, not only to homelessness and the need for social housing in Canada, but also to poverty in Canada.

National Housing ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, there were a lot of questions posed in the member's comments. If what the member says is correct, that there are youth programs, programs for aboriginal people and employment programs, I would not agree because I think those programs are very inadequate. However, let us assume that they are there and that they are adequate. That does not escape the reality that even with those programs we need to have a basic necessity in place, which is housing.

I spoke to young people in emergency shelters in Halifax. They were involved in youth programs and counselling. However, when they go through those programs, if they do not have an adequate, safe, secure and affordable place to live, then all of those programs become meaningless. I have seen that time and time again.

I do not necessarily disagree with what the member is saying. Those other programs are also critical. However, if we are dealing someone who is facing drug addiction or someone who is dealing with issues around mental illness, yes they need social support and the programs, but if they do not have a decent place to live it is very difficult to go to school. It is impossible to go to work. It is really hard to raise kids in an environment without housing. I hope the member understands that.

In terms of his involvement with the Peel Regional Housing Authority and the fact that there are a lot of single parent families in housing, we could have another debate about what causes family breakup. The fact is that families are living in poverty and high unemployment places a lot of stress on families. We must ensure that there is adequate housing and that people do not spend more than 30% of their income on housing. That is very important. Unfortunately, this bill does not address that in any shape or form.

This bill is taking us down the road of privatization. It is taking us down the road of abandoning people's needs. I think the member would agree. I ask the member to defend how this bill is improving the housing needs of Canadians. Having looked at it, I cannot see one sentence that will do that.

National Housing ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am saddened when members of parliament particularly from that party see no good in what the government has done. They are prone to exaggeration of nothingness. I remember having attended a few events in Winnipeg where I delivered federal government funding for social housing.

That being said, would the member agree that the meeting on homelessness between Mayor Lastman and the Prime Minister was important? Would she agree that the pledge of the Prime Minister to attend the summit on homelessness in Toronto on March 25 is significant? Would she agree that it is significant that health-related homelessness could be addressed by the $11.5 billion transferred through the CHST? I hope that she would.

National Housing ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments.

On the situation in Winnipeg, I visited Winnipeg. I saw communities that were completely devastated because housing was abandoned and there were no funds to rehabilitate the houses in the north end of Winnipeg. A consequence of the public policy decision that was made by the member's government is affecting the member's constituents and the people of Winnipeg like other cities across Canada.

Yes, I agree that the meeting with the mayor of Toronto was very important. But why was the meeting required in the first place? Why did the mayor of Toronto have to come here hand in glove and beg for funds to meet the disaster that is happening in Toronto and elsewhere? Why has the Prime Minister not gone to the city of Toronto to view the disaster? That is the question I would like to ask the member.

The situation in Toronto is really bad. People are dying on the streets. And it is not just in Toronto, it is across Canada. The Golden report clearly pointed that out. To this date, we have not had a response from any Liberal member or from the Prime Minister as to what is going to be done to enact the Golden report, or more than that, to deal with the situation across Canada.

Yes, there will be an emergency conference in Toronto at the end of the month. I am glad that it will take place.

This entire disaster could have been prevented had the federal government continued its provision of funding social housing since 1993; 75,000 units have been lost. That is why we are seeing more people on the streets.

Regarding the money that was announced in the budget, it is Liberal members who are saying that it is going to health care. I would argue that housing is a health care issue. They should be looking at housing as a health care issue. Good housing is a basic determinant of health. I encourage the member to do that. By the government's own admission, that $11.5 billion is going to health care which is also in a crisis.

Again, where is the money for housing? Where is the commitment to meet this very important social need?