Mr. Speaker, this bill unfortunately is about what we are losing as a country and as individuals. We would not suddenly just by lowering taxes have more houses available to those people who may or may not have jobs, because just having a job now does not guarantee one will get a mortgage to get into a home.
I know of women with decent jobs who are single parents and are not eligible for a loan. Neither were they eligible for any help from CMHC so that they could buy a home, even though they had the money to make the monthly payments.
The saddest point about this issue is what we are losing. The bill would eliminate statutory requirements for social housing to be safe, sanitary and affordable. Those are minimum requirements that we would expect for any housing, let alone social housing.
I quote from a letter dated September 22, 1993, from the current Minister of Finance to the National Housing Coalition in which he stated:
We believe the federal government has a positive, proactive role in a national housing policy and the responsibility of accessibility and affordability to over one million Canadian households living in need of adequate shelter.
I could almost cry knowing that this has not happened and that in fact the reverse has happened. The government is not even willing to shelter those who are most vulnerable in society such as those who have psychiatric problems and have ended up on the street. We are also talking about the elderly and the very young.
I have a young friend who left Yukon to return to Ontario and lived on the street for two to three months. She struggled really hard, lived in shelters and managed to get herself into high school. In fact she will graduate this year. She spends her spare time volunteering to help other kids get off the street.
Every day when I walk to work I make sure that I have money for the people who are on the street at 8 o'clock in the morning because they have no place to live. One man has lived under a bridge for the last 17 months. Why on earth would we tolerate that? We do not need people living without anything but a sleeping bag, a hat and a pair of sunglasses. We can afford to do better.
The bill shows an unwillingness to build houses, to take money from people who pay their taxes and turn it into four walls and a roof so that nobody will freeze to death in the night.
Another part of our population that suffers disproportionately when it comes to housing are our first nations people. Recently I saw a video put together by an Ontario group of first nations. In three towns the first nations people were at dumpsites using scraps to build shelters. They were living in burnt-out old vehicles. They had 10 to 20 people in their little shacks so that they could stay warm at night. This is all they had.
Those little places are regularly either burned down by the townships or bulldozed because they do not want them there. They do not want those little shanty towns outside their rather nice cities. That is all these people have to call home. Whatever piece of two by four, plastic or plywood they can put together is their home. Then as a country we say it is all right to burn them down. In those three communities alone there were nine deaths. They were called natural causes but dying of TB and exposure are not natural causes. Not having a place to live is not natural.
Another tragedy for these people is that they are the ultimate victims of the residential school system. Ninety-eight per cent of them have come out of that system. They do not fit in their own community. They do not fit in a white community. They live in our garbage dumps.
The people of one of the towns had enough compassion to have the RCMP arrest them and put them in a cell so that at least they would have a warm place overnight. Some 2,300 arrests were logged in one year just to give these people a warm place to sleep.
It has been said over and over that first nations people are living in third world conditions. They do not have equality. Our minister of aboriginal affairs has issued a Gathering Strength document dealing with building new partnerships. The problem is that they need to be equal to be partners. In no way can we say the first nations people of the world are financially equal to the rest of us. All we have to do is look at the houses they are forced to live in to know that they do not have equality. How can they be considered partners that can go out and get financing to build homes?
The CMHC bill has indicated an intention to seek joint ventures with first nations as a way of facilitating housing developments on reserves. However, it would be a radical change to make first nations borrow from financial institutions to pay for their own housing. This would be a back door abandonment of the government's responsibilities for housing on first nations. Over half of the first nations population live off reserve and in the ghettos of our cities.
Canada has signed a lot of covenants and conventions recognizing that aboriginal people have the right to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families including adequate food, clothing and housing. This is not being met by any stretch of the imagination.
As I travelled around Yukon I met a couple. They were elders and were forced to live in a burnt-out cabin. That is all they had. The older gentleman had arthritis in his hand so he could not build a new cabin. That is the kind of housing we are expecting them to live in.
When it comes to living in the north, the CMHC underwriting of mortgage insurance has been absolutely essential for anyone to get a house there. We would lose the capacity of the CMHC to absorb losses. If it underwrites these mortgages itself, it might decide that it cannot afford to insure houses in the north, that it is far too expensive and it will not do it. The state of Alaska has had to deal with the issue because it only has commercial mortgage insurance. No one would go into Alaska to insure homes so it had to depend on government intervention to insure mortgages to allow people to get homes.
It is a very different situation to try to get a mortgage for a home in the north. It is not something that happens even if one has the money to buy a home and pay the mortgage on a monthly basis.