House of Commons Hansard #47 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was housing.


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1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The next question is on Motion No. 40. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members


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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

In my opinion the nays have it.

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An hon. member

On division.

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1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I declare Motion No. 40 lost.

(Motion No. 40 negatived)

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1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Normally at this time the House would proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions at the report stage of the bill. However the recorded divisions stand deferred until February 14 at the end of government orders.

The House resumed from February 9, consideration of the motion relating to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to another act.

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1:25 p.m.


Daniel Turp Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have come to the end of a week of parliamentary work marked by interesting and less interesting moments, including the adoption of a closure motion to shorten debate on Bill C-20 and second reading of this bill, which the Bloc Quebecois considers anti-democratic.

The Bloc Quebecois would nevertheless, as is its practice, want to show the people of Quebec and Canada that it knows how to act constructively before this parliament and give its support when it is appropriate to do so to bills introduced here.

This is why the Bloc Quebecois is saying once again in this House that it supports Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Records Act.

There can be no doubt—

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1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I am sorry to interrupt, but this is probably the appropriate time to end debate for today.

It being 1.30 p.m, the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

HousingPrivate Members' Business

February 11th, 2000 / 1:30 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should adopt a national housing strategy and housing supply program, in co-operation with the provinces, that recognizes housing as a human right and meets the goal of providing an additional one percent of federal budgetary spending to meet basic housing needs in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago a homeless man died. He died alone underneath a park bench huddling to protect himself from the blistering cold winds of winter. He died a few hundred yards from where we stand today. He died behind the Chateau Laurier in the shadow of Parliament Hill.

Unfortunately, this story is not unusual. Homeless men and women are dying in cities and towns right across Canada: Robert Cote; Eugene Upper; Irwin Anderson; Gino Laplante; Mirsalah-Aldin Kompani; Lynn Maureen Bluecloud; Al; Vernon Crow; Jens Drape. These are just a few of the names of those we have lost to the homelessness crisis.

I read their names into the record of this House because it is this House and the Liberal majority in it that failed them.

It is this government that must bear the responsibility for this terrible loss. It is their retreat from social housing construction and their steadfast refusal to initiate a national housing strategy and supply program that has contributed to a housing crisis that has ballooned out of control.

Canada is the only developed country in the world without a national housing strategy. What a disgrace. As parliamentarians we come to Ottawa to enact laws and to push forward policy that will better the lives of all the people of Canada, the rich and the poor. But I say today, the rich can care for themselves. It is on behalf of the poor that we must work the hardest, because in a country as wealthy as ours nobody should be forced to live out of doors, to beg for food, or to die on the streets.

That is why I introduced this motion, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should adopt a national housing strategy and housing supply program, in co-operation with the provinces, that recognizes housing as a human right and meets the goal of providing an additional one percent of federal budgetary spending to meet basic housing needs in Canada.

The root cause of homelessness is lack of housing. It is as simple as that. Housing activists have said it, reports have confirmed it, homeless families know it and yet the government refuses to act on it.

Canadians know what needs to be done. We need the government to commit to a national housing strategy, a strategy that calls for the following: a federal investment of an additional 1% of overall spending on housing, or $2 billion annually; a national approach that is national in scope and in vision. That means no more patchwork solutions.

We need a return to the supply of social, not for profit and co-op housing. The federal government has not built any new or co-op housing units since 1993.

Ottawa must heed the call of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and take the lead by funding a new housing program that would create 70,000 units each year for 10 years.

I know the Liberal members will stand up in the House today and point to the announcement made by the minister responsible for homelessness in December and argue that it is sufficient to deal with this crisis. I am sad to report that this is absolutely untrue.

On December 17 the minister responsible for homelessness went to Toronto to announce a three year $753 million homelessness strategy. The problem was that she left out the homes. It is like agreeing to build the house but cutting off the money before the roof is on.

After months of travelling and consulting and with a projected $100 billion budgetary surplus at their disposal, the Liberals only announced one new program: the supporting communities partnership initiative. It is a $305 million investment but it is over three years. Beyond that, the details remain very hazy. Most people have interpreted it to be a source of matching federal funds for a patchwork of one time local projects. The rest of this so-called new money targeted to existing emergency and RRAP programs will go toward shelters and temporary beds.

Will the Liberal plan announced so far solved the homelessness and housing crisis in Canada? It will not. The reason it will not is because it fails to reverse the government's fateful 1993 decision to withdraw from social housing construction.

The Liberal solution it appears is to institutionalize shelters, and that is no solution at all. By offering their support to this motion, members of the House of Commons can rectify that mistake. We can send a message to the finance minister that we want to see a real commitment to end the housing crisis on February 28 when the minister rises to outline his government's budget priorities.

Instead of handing out tax breaks for their wealthy friends, the Liberals should direct some of the projected $100 billion surplus to social housing construction. If they forgo on just one of their proposed tax breaks, the elimination of the 5% surtax on people who earn over $65,000 a year, the diverted dollars could build 10,000 desperately needed social and co-op housing units.

Furthermore, based on research by the House of Commons research branch, if the government met the goal of the 1% solution advocated by this motion and by others the initiative would employ 44,550 Canadians each year for 10 years.

The upcoming federal budget is an opportunity for the finance minister to recall his own words of 1990, a decade ago. Then in official opposition and as chair of the Liberal Party's task force on housing, he condemned the government of the day, the Mulroney government, for doing nothing while the housing crisis continued to grow out of control. This is what he said:

...the government sits there and does nothing; it refuses to apply the urgent measures that are required to reverse this deteriorating situation. The lack of affordable housing contributes to and accelerates the cycle of poverty, which is reprehensible in a society as rich as ours.

That is what the now finance minister had to say a decade ago.

Three years later, the now finance minister steamrolled his own report and in its place introduced a budget that slashed all federal funding for the creation of new social housing units. This single act meant that 75,000 new social housing units that had been targeted for construction were never built, a decision that has denied tens of thousands of families the right to decent and affordable housing. What an absolute shameful act.

It is time to right that wrong. It is time to admit that this decision was not only short-sighted, it was shameful. If the government refuses to admit that, if it continues to keep its head in the sand, believing that band-aid solutions are the only solutions worth funding, then the sad reality is that more people will die.

I call on all members of the House to support this motion as a way of sending a message. In doing so, they will be joining a massive wave of support which has come in from across the country. In truth, I have been overwhelmed by the public outpouring of support for this motion and the 1% for housing campaign.

Thousands of people lent their names to our petition and postcard campaign in support of Motion No. 123. These are piled up on my desk just as a sample of what has come in from across the country. The petitions continue to flood into my office, and that is not all. I have received hundreds of phone calls in my Ottawa and Vancouver offices. Many people have called in simply to express relief that housing is finally on the agenda. Hundreds of other Canadians have contacted me by e-mail to lend support or, in some cases, to share a story of how the housing crisis has impacted on their life or on the life of a friend or loved one.

I know too that hundreds of letters and e-mails have gone to the minister responsible for homelessness because people sent me the copies of the letters they sent to her: people like Randall Ducharme, who works in a shelter in Vancouver and met with the minister responsible for homelessness when she travelled to Vancouver in the summer.

Randall wrote this message to the minister the day after he had received news of yet another death, this time a teenager, “a bright light” he says, who “succumbed to the perils of an increasingly selfish Canada”. He letter reads:

Claudette, when you visited me at Dusk to Dawn—a Vancouver shelter—in the summer of 99—you promised me something would be done. Thus far your government has only applied more band-aid solutions. Libby Davies has a motion that will enable the government to set into motion a long-term solution that is in line with the spirit of a Canada I can be proud of. I urge you to support M 123.

Al Mitchell, who runs a shelter in Vancouver, says:

Has it occurred to anyone that that if existing programs were adequate, we wouldn't be trying to get your attention to a crisis!

I also received hundreds of letters, many from individuals and many others from organizations, shelters, frontline housing advocates, politicians and unions. The list is too long to go through, but I would like to give an indication of some of the kinds of support that came in.

The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, which was the initial champion of the 1% solution, has done an absolutely amazing job in bringing the national disaster of homelessness to the forefront of the public agenda.

We have support from the New National Housing Network and the Tenants Rights Action Coalition in Vancouver.

I would particularly like to thank the Canadian Auto Workers Union for its leadership. It launched its own national campaign and actually put up $1 million to support housing. It showed that it was very committed.

We also have the support of the National Anti-Poverty Organization, the city of Nepean, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Working Group on Poverty in Vancouver, the Street Nurses Network in Toronto, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Calgary and District Labour Council, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation, the Alliance to End Homelessness in Ottawa, the B.C. Government Employees Union, the Brunswick Street United Church in Halifax, Hope Cottage in Halifax, the United Steelworkers of America, the Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice, the city of St. John's in Newfoundland, Lu'ma Native Housing Society, the United Native Nations, the Kettle Friendship Society, the Hospital Employees Union, the John Howard Society, the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto, the Carleton Graduate Students Association, the Franciscan Sisters of Atonement in Vancouver, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.

We have support from End Legislated Poverty, an organization made up of groups in my home province of British Columbia working to end poverty. They have sent a statement that I think is representative of the overwhelming call to action expressed by most of these groups. They said:

Emergency shelters provide immediate crisis services, but the existing shelters are severely overburdened. Shelters are not enough: we need real, long-term housing solutions.

Those are just a sampling and a fraction of the organizations that have supported this motion.

The time has come to turn the disgrace of being the only industrialized country without a housing strategy into a rallying point for those of us who care about social justice and want to live in a country governed by compassion, not contempt for those struggling to make ends meet.

It is time to stop the desolation. It is time to curtail the housing crisis in this country.

I call on all members of the House to support the community's call for help. Homelessness is an unnatural disaster. It can be solved if the political will exists.

I will end by asking if I have the consent of the House to make this a votable motion.

HousingPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Vancouver East has asked for the unanimous consent of the House to make this motion a votable motion. Does the hon. member have the consent of the House to move the motion?

HousingPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


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HousingPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member who is presenting this motion to the House and, in particular, her appeal for the compassion in the hearts of Canadians for the plight that exists on some of our streets with the homeless people. I really think that is noble.

To ask for a strategy is also a good idea, but it assumes that there is a policy which determines the overall focus and direction of the government. Unfortunately, a strategy without a policy to determine the focus really ends up being nothing more than a program to throw money at a problem. Unfortunately, that is precisely what the Liberal government is doing all the time. It does not have a a focused program to deal with problems. Whenever something happens that is a bit of a problem, the government just throws money at it and thinks it will go away.

We have to look a bit deeper. What should a national housing strategy really be achieving? I want to commend the hon. member for bringing this forward. She has indicated very clearly that Canada does not have a national housing policy. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation does not have a national housing policy. The government does not have a housing policy.

There are all kinds of patchwork programs. Probably the most blatant of these was the one announced on December 17. It was a joint announcement made by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and the Minister of Labour, who is responsible for homelessness.

The motion suggests a national housing strategy. It suggests a housing supply program. It suggests that housing is a human right—and I agree that everybody has the right to shelter—and it suggests that an additional 1% be added to the federal budget to meet basic housing needs.

There is nothing wrong with looking at these things and saying “This is what we should have”. The difficulty is that we do not have anything that pulls all of this together. I would like to suggest that the hon. member do that. Had she done that, we might have come to a conclusion that would mean more than simply throwing money at the problem. We might have actually come to grips with what is at the heart of the issue and what needs to be done.

We have a majority government. It can run anything it wants. It has a surplus and it has the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, with all of its talents, abilities and research. Why does the government not have a policy? It seems so obvious that there should be a policy.

With the difficulty that the HRD minister finds herself in today, I now know for sure what the problem is. The problem is that if the government has a policy, a direction, an objective and a focus, then it also can be held to account for achieving that focus and that objective.

If it does not want to be held accountable, if it does not want to be held responsible, if it does not want people to say “See, you did not do it”, all it has to do is say that it does not have a policy and throw a few dollars at the problem so the people will be quiet and go home.

I think that is what is happening. We really have to be careful.

Let me give a few examples. Look at the leaky condo situation in the lower mainland of British Columbia. It is absolutely unbelievable what is happening. We have had many conversations about this. The buildings are rotting from the inside out because there is a failure in the exterior envelope. It is pretty obvious from all the discussions that have taken place that errors were made by the builders, the inspectors and the architects. Errors have been made virtually all along. The one thing that is being avoided is placing the blame on the building code.

Probably there is fault in all four areas. The building code is at fault, the inspectors are at fault, the builder is at fault and the architects are at fault. One of the insurance companies that insures architects for errors and omissions has declined any further renewal of policies for architects because it feels there will be so many claims on the leaky condo issue.

Canada Mortgage and Housing, which has guaranteed these mortgages through financial institutions, says it is not responsible for anything that happens in these leaky condos, that all it is insuring is the mortgage. In other words, it is saying that its only legal obligation to the financial institution is the repayment of the mortgage.

I know that there are a lot of people who believe, perhaps incorrectly, that when the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation grants them the assurance that it will repay the loan, there is an understanding that the building which is being mortgaged is sound and that they can depend on this. Obviously the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation does not think that is right. Therefore, it feels it has no obligation. We will find out if in fact there is no obligation.

There is another issue. The only person who is not protected is the poor consumer.

We have to look at a lot of other areas to see why it is that people are found on the streets. Why are there so many who are homeless? There are many reasons for this. We could argue that some of the social policies, both at the provincial and federal levels, have failed and have thrown people on to the streets who are unable to look after themselves. They have been told “Mind your own business. Find your own food. Find your own shelter. Find your own clothing”, when it was known fully well that they could not do that.

We have to look at this very carefully. It is not a simple matter of throwing money at the problem. We have to look at what is the policy we should have.

What is the government policy that we should have? This is the way the minister approached it. On December 17 he said:

I am pleased to provide you with the details of the contributions of Canada Mortgage and Housing the Government of Canada's strategy to address homelessness which was announced by the Honourable Claudette Bradshaw and myself on December 17, 1999. Funding for existing housing renovation programs for low-income households will be increased substantially and there will also be several policy enhancements aimed at focusing some of the additional spending more directly on homelessness.

In total, a further $311 million will be spent over four years on these initiatives. This is in addition to the $300 million over five years that I announced in 1998 for the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program...the Emergency Repair Program...and Home Adaptations for Seniors' Independence....The $311 million in total funding is broken down as follows:

$200 million to double the current annual budget for RRAP...

$40 million over four years for a new component of RRAP to facilitate the conversion of non-residential buildings to residential use...

$28 million to double the current budget for On-Reserve RRAP over four years...

$43 million in additional funding for the Shelter Enhancement Initiative over four years (...$12 million per year for the following three years) and an expansion of the program to include shelters and second stage housing for youth.

By April 1st of next year, nearly $138 million per year will be spent on CMHC housing renovation programs, compared to approximately $60 million annually prior to this announcement. This represents more than twice the amount that CMHC invested in these programs in previous years.

Note the $138 million on CMHC housing renovation programs. It was $60 million prior to this and now it is $138 million. How many different ways does the government count the same dollars?

The hon. Minister of Labour, the federal co-ordinator for homelessness, on December 17 announced $753 million to alleviate and prevent homelessness. A cornerstone of that program is the new supporting communities partnership initiative which will amount to $305 million over three years. The total is $753 million. Of that total $305 million is new money. That is all. The minister is saying she is doing all of these things, but in reality about $400 million is simply being moved around. She is doing something all right. She is moving money from one hand to the other. That solves nothing. This is an insult to Canadians.

The national housing policy is a major issue for Canadians. The government should be held to account and asked when it is going to come up with a national housing policy that will work and solve the problems. It should not just throw money at it. It has done that for years and it has not solved anything.

HousingPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate. I congratulate my NDP colleague for introducing this motion in the House.

The subject at issue is no longer a secret to anyone. Recent years spent fighting the government's budget deficit have hit society's disadvantaged the hardest. It is therefore appropriate, when the first fruits of this new budgetary era are gathered, to think right off of those who have suffered most at the hands of this government's policies.

The problem of social housing is one specific and eloquent example of this government's approach in recent years.

Barely a few months after it took office, during its first mandate, the Liberal Party decided unilaterally to get out of social housing as of January 1, 1994.

This is when the government began negotiating with each of the provinces and territories to move away from this responsibility, knowing full well that these agreements did not meet the provinces' real needs.

For Quebec, this arrangement comprises essentially a transfer of management to the Société d'habitation du Québec for all social housing funded by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. To fulfil that mandate, it gets nothing more than the funds required to meet the CMHC's existing commitments regarding existing housing units, which in no way meets the current needs of the poorest households.

The provinces that have already signed on are getting a share of CMHC's budget that is equal to or in excess of their demographic weight or needs. As for Quebec, based on CMHC's budget expenditures for 1995-96, it only receives an 18% share, while its demographic weight is 24.5% and its needs amount to 27.4%.

Why is it so important to invest in social housing?

Between 1990 and 1995, the number of Canadian households spending more than 50% of their income on housing went from 583,710 to 833,555, a 43% increase. We know that single-parent families, persons living alone, young people under 25 and older couples are very affected by the lack of affordable housing.

It is urgent that the federal government realize the scope of the needs and give new moneys to the provinces, so that they can set up an investment plan for social housing that will reflect the realities of the neighbourhoods, cities and regions.

The federal government's withdrawal has had a negative impact, particularly on women. Indeed, in the area of health, employment insurance and other areas, women were hit particularly hard by the cuts made by this Liberal government. Social housing is no exception.

Being a woman and a tenant often means being unable to find good quality housing at an affordable price. A recent document prepared by FRAPRU shows the housing situation as lived by women. The Liberals would do well to read that document.

Let me give two examples. I was stunned to learn that in Drummondville, which is in the centre of Quebec and which is the largest municipality in my riding, there are 2,370 households with an average income of $20,640—with women being the primary source of income in 44.7% of the cases, that are spending more than 30% of their income on housing. Moreover, 1,105 households, or 20.9%, are spending more than half of their income on housing.

Let us not forget that, according to the government's criteria, a household spending more than 30% of its income on housing is paying too much for housing. Imagine when this figure climbs to 50% and higher.

Yet the economy of the city I represent is in good shape, proof that housing is not just a problem in certain less fortunate regions. It is a problem throughout Quebec, throughout Canada. But there is worse—and I will give two examples—because, in the Prime Minister's own riding, the situation is catastrophic.

Instead of favouring certain rich promoters in his region in order to buy votes, the Prime Minister should look after the poor, the least fortunate in his riding.

In Shawinigan, the main city in the Prime Minister's riding, the average income of households where women are the primary earners is $16,072. The figures show that 1,635 of them, or 55.5%, spend over 30% of their income on housing and that 870 households, or 29.5%, spend over half.

I think that the Prime Minister cannot honestly be proud of the situation of poor women who rent housing in the municipality of Shawinigan, which he represents in the House. Their average income of $16,072 is the lowest of the 59 cities studied by the Front populaire pour le réaménagement urbain, or FRAPRU.

On October 27, 1999, the Bloc Quebecois asked the minister responsible for the homeless the following question:

—the Minister of Labour, who is responsible for the homeless, is the first to admit that the federal government has made cuts that hurt the most disadvantaged.

Could the Minister tell us, of the cuts the government has made, which ones most hurt those most disadvantaged in our society: cuts to employment insurance, cuts to social housing or cuts to the Canada social transfer, which forced the provinces to cut services?

And here is her answer:

—in travelling across Canada, what we notice most with respect to the homeless is that the provinces have closed psychiatric hospitals. Former residents of psychiatric hospitals are turning up at food banks.

This is unbelievable. It is really hard to understand that, in her visits to food banks and self help groups, the minister did not realize that a large majority of people who go there do not necessarily have psychiatric problems, but are simply poor. It is unfortunate that the minister should make political hay on the backs of those most in need and the homeless instead of giving them back immediately the money her government has taken away from them.

As if this contempt for the homeless were not enough, the government has more than once used the Prime Minister's ways to repel protesters who want to show how desperate they are and to ask for assistance. On the hill, the RCMP pepper sprayed protesters, and, a couple weeks ago, force was used against several people who were trying to deliver their message directly to the Prime Minister's office. Some compassion.

Action is urgently required. Ten years ago, the federal government promised to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. The year 2000 is here.

To make up for its broken promise, the government has to understand that child poverty means there are also women and men living in poverty. Some families have to cut back on basic necessities and food to pay the rent.

Social housing is a crucial weapon in the fight against poverty.

HousingPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


Angela Vautour NDP Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to stand before the House today on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party and as the member of parliament for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac to debate Motion No. 123.

I believe that the lack of safe, secure, affordable housing is one of the most important factors contributing to poverty for many Canadians. I thank my colleague the member for Vancouver East for presenting this very important motion to the House and for giving us the opportunity to debate this growing problem.

Although we support this motion, I must add that we have some concern regarding the requirement to spend exactly 1% of the federal budget on housing needs. We believe that allocating an exact amount without knowing what is needed is a problem when indeed that amount may not even be sufficient to solve this growing problem.

It is unfortunate this is not a votable motion.

To address this growing problem we need first and foremost a national strategy to deal with homelessness. That strategy must provide affordable housing and address the problem of growing poverty. We need a plan to reduce homelessness with targets for reducing poverty and an increase in the amount of affordable housing available to Canadians.

Will that plan include the commitment of new finances? Of course. We may need more than 1% of the federal budget or we may need less. New money has to be part of an overall strategy to wrestle this problem to the ground but it is not the answer in itself.

Recognizing that there is a key link between economic policy and social policy and that good social policy is good economic policy, the PC Party of Canada has a long history of concern with poverty and its consequences. For that reason on March 3, 1999 the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada announced the creation of the PC national caucus task force on poverty.

Many members of our party caucus from both houses of parliament held meetings across the country during the spring and summer of last year to listen and learn from a wide variety of witnesses. We were shocked by the conditions under which so many Canadians are forced to live. However, we were inspired by their courage and by their refusal to relinquish hope. We were awed by the hard work and dedication of the many groups and individuals who are striving for positive change.

The task force acknowledged that no single strategy, no matter how well designed, could be expected to address all aspects of what is an extremely complex, multifaceted and challenging problem. It is also recognized that such an objective cannot be accomplished overnight. Therefore the recommended initiatives target the near, medium and longer term.

Flexibility is also required as is a mechanism by which to judge the success of the strategy in reducing and eliminating poverty in order that various components can be modified as necessary and new ones added.

The key to the success of any attempt to address the causes and consequences of poverty and homelessness in Canada is by developing partnerships among the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, people living in poverty, organizations representing them, and the business community.

While the task force's recommendations made it clear that it does not have any desire to intrude on areas of provincial responsibility, the federal government must play a facilitating and leadership role with the support and co-operation of other governments in Canada as well as the non-profit and business sectors.

During these meetings witnesses made it abundantly clear that a lack of safe, secure, affordable housing is one of the most important factors contributing to and compounding the poverty of many Canadians, and that action is desperately needed to ensure that such housing is available to the thousands of Canadians who are inadequately housed and homeless.

An income deficiency rather than a housing deficiency is at the heart of inadequate housing and homelessness. People in poverty have a housing problem not because there are not enough homes but because there are not enough safe, secure affordable homes relative to their level of income.

In our report several recommendations were made in regard to support for children living in poor families, employment, income support and taxation, housing and homelessness, special assistance for vulnerable populations, support for the voluntary non-profit sector, and accountability for results.

Among the recommendations dealing with affordable housing, our party's task force recommended that the federal government in partnership with provincial, territorial and municipal governments develop a national housing policy which acknowledges the need for the federal government to be an active partner in the provision of funding and leadership in the area of social housing and commits Ottawa to provide the provinces and territories with significantly increased funding to implement programs designed to meet specific objectives in support of this national housing policy.

A portion of this federal funding should be directed to new co-operative housing supply programs and housing trusts. The money that Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is now required as a result of the passage of Bill C-66 to pay the government as compensation for the crown guarantee of its mortgage insurance program should be reinvested instead in affordable housing.

Such recommendations would ensure that a long term solution be found for the growing shortage of affordable housing. By undertaking a well managed affordable housing program, valuable government moneys could well be spent to stem the chronic shortage.

HousingPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I notice that there is not a quorum in the House.

HousingPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member has requested a quorum call. We are under a special order in which there will be no quorum calls or dilatory motions, so it is to no avail.

HousingPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


Angela Vautour NDP Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate there are not enough members interested in the serious problem of homelessness in the country. In those of us who are here we certainly have quality, but it would be nice to have numbers. Usually numbers are what really count here.

The PC task force on poverty also studied direct ways of eliminating the causes of homelessness and made recommendations.

First, the federal government should work with provincial, territorial and municipal governments and the non-profit sector to develop and implement a national homelessness strategy. It would include a comprehensive range of measures aimed at preventing and alleviating homelessness in Canada.

Second, the federal government should present an annual report card on homelessness to Canadians to be tabled in parliament detailing federal measures undertaken to address homelessness and setting specific objectives for the following year. I am sure if we had had a report card under HRDC we might be able to find out where that money went.

Third, the federal government should work with the provincial and territorial governments to help them fund a series of measures to be delivered by organizations active in the mental health field and those working with homeless people, including the provision of mental health services, community support, addiction treatment, employment assistance and housing, to help homeless Canadians develop greater personal autonomy and facilitate their reintegration into society.

Finally, the federal government should make available at no charge the use of federally owned facilities which are not being used for other purposes to temporarily shelter homeless people in response to requests from local governments.

Such recommendations would help to eliminate in the short and long term the causes of homelessness and would get the homeless off Canada's streets, especially at this time of year.

All Canadians agree that the federal government needs to do more. The announcement made by the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Public Works and Government Services in December to build more homeless shelters was a start. However with the use of over $300 million to conduct new studies on ways to administer such programs, all agree that the money could be better spent helping the homeless. We also need a national housing strategy that includes affordable housing.

The PC party supports the motion presented by my colleague the member for Vancouver East but we would argue that adequate financial resources need to be allocated in order to solve this growing problem.

HousingPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Mississauga Centre Ontario


Carolyn Parrish LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I rise to address Motion No. M-123 presented by the member for Vancouver East.

Time and again the member has spoken out on this issue calling attention to the importance of housing. I do not think anyone in the House can doubt she is a passionate advocate. I am pleased to say that our government already shares her concern on this question and has taken a number of steps to help low income Canadians generally and to ensure Canadians have access to quality housing.

The motion recognizes that the issue of housing need is directly related to the root issue which is that of poverty. A housing affordability problem occurs when a large portion of a family's income is consumed by housing costs to the extent that money for other necessities is lacking.

The Government of Canada has recognized the needs of low income Canadians and is currently taking action. Last year 438,000 new full time jobs were created. Over 1.8 million jobs have been created since the government took office in 1993.

The Speech from the Throne set out ambitious new goals and objectives to create new prosperity and enhance our quality of life. This is supported through prudent economic and fiscal management and additional support for the less fortunate in our society.

We have and will continue to strengthen support for low income families. Significant investments in the welfare of children have been made, including the introduction and enrichment of the child tax benefit. The child tax benefit will reach an annual level of close to $7 billion by the middle of this year.

We are working with the provinces and territories on the national children's agenda to improve supports for families and for their children. We have sought to reduce the burden of taxation on low income families. Targeted tax cuts in the 1998 and 1999 federal budgets have taken 600,000 lower income taxpayers completely off the tax rolls. The significance of this initiative cannot be overstated. Some 600,000 lower income Canadians no longer pay a penny of federal tax.

Income support is not the only approach. My hon. colleague will recall that last year the government made the commitment to invest $11.5 billion in our health system. This represents the largest single investment we have ever made. Because administration of the health system falls under the constitutional jurisdiction of the provinces and territories, the federal government made this offer on the condition that each provincial and territorial government must commit to use these funds exclusively for health care.

This additional funding was designed to help the provinces and territories to deal with immediate concerns in the health system, including diagnostic and treatment services for those with mental health issues or drug addictions, those most likely to be found on the streets in need of adequate housing.

Members know that decent housing at a reasonable cost is essential. There are current housing problems in the country which need to be addressed such as the pressing housing needs that exist in a number of aboriginal communities. We must address the changing needs of an aging population. There is the problem of homelessness particularly in larger cities across the country.

Our government is committed to action across the broad spectrum of housing issues. We are taking a comprehensive approach. We are seeing concrete results. The primary instrument for the Government of Canada's action in the area of housing is the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. As Canada's national housing agency, CMHC is responsible for the government's housing policy. The corporation's goal is to promote affordability, accessibility and choice in housing for Canadians. Each of CMHC's core activities supports this goal.

The corporation's work on behalf of Canadians rests on four solid pillars: housing finance, assisted housing, research and information transfer, and export promotion. Let us take the example of housing finance. CMHC mortgage insurance, which guarantees mortgage loans issued by financial institutions, plays a crucial role in helping Canadians gain access to home ownership or rental accommodation with the lowest possible down payment and interest rates no matter where they live in Canada.

For generations of Canadians saving for the down payment on a first home has been a challenge. Thanks to CMHC-protected reduced down payments, home ownership has become a reality for more than 610,000 first time home buyers since the program's inception in 1992.

The second important pillar that supports the valuable work of CMHC is research and information transfer. CMHC's research helps Canadians to understand and meet the housing challenges of tomorrow. Working in partnership with the housing industry, research into housing issues results in developing solutions to improving the quality and technical performance as well as the affordability of housing.

As well there is the commitment to assisted housing. The Government of Canada currently contributes $1.9 billion annually to meet the housing needs of low income Canadians, supporting 644,000 units across the country. For years Canada's social housing services have been provided in partnership with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, and with housing agencies and sponsor groups.

Another successful program which the Government of Canada supports through CMHC is the residential rehabilitation assistance program. The minister responsible for CMHC announced last December a further $200 million over four years, effectively doubling the budget for RRAP. This is part of the Government of Canada's overall $753 million strategy to address homelessness. As well the minister announced the creation of a new component of the program to convert non-residential buildings to residential use for a total contribution of another $40 million.

The current budget for RRAP on Indian reserves was doubled, which will result in an additional $28 million over four years. These funding increases are in addition to the $300 million over five years announced in 1998 for this program.

RRAP is a very successful program. It provides funds to low income home owners and owners of properties where low income Canadians live. The owners use the funds to bring their properties up to minimum health and safety standards. They have been referred to by other speakers as safe, clean and affordable buildings.

Over the years we have seen firsthand that RRAP makes a tangible difference in the lives of thousands of disadvantaged people across Canada. The examples of RRAP's success stories are too numerous to list, but the program is having a positive impact in communities across Canada.

I will give the House a brief glimpse of what the government is achieving through two examples. In Winnipeg there is a 40 bed rooming house in the inner city called Nakiska II. This facility is primarily used by natives from communities in northern Manitoba who come Winnipeg for medical care. Nakiska II received a RRAP commitment of over $380,000.

In Vancouver there is the Metropole Hotel, a 60 unit building that received CMHC loan insurance to purchase the building and $1.1 million in RRAP funds for much needed repairs. The Metropole provides affordable housing for low income inner city residents.

These are just two examples of what RRAP is achieving throughout Canada. What these projects all share is that they are based on partnerships and involve the local community. They prove the worth of our emphasis on community solutions.

In closing, I stress again that CMHC is committed to ensuring that Canadians remain among the best housed people in the world. However, our government is aware that there are too many of our citizens who do not have adequate housing. Rest assured that the government through CMHC will continue to improve Canadians access to quality, affordable housing. By working together with our partners at other levels of government, with community groups and with the housing industry, we will continue to help Canadians buy, build and rent homes. In so doing we will improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

Housing is a joint responsibility of all levels of government: federal, provincial and municipal. For this reason the government cannot support this specific motion.