House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was insurance.


Division No. 93
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


Division No. 93
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Division No. 93
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


Division No. 93
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Division No. 93
Government Orders

6 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think you would find consent to apply the vote on the previous motion in reverse to the motion now before the House.

Division No. 93
Government Orders

6 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Division No. 93
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6 p.m.

Some hon. members


Division No. 93
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like the record to show that the member for Fundy Royal is voting with his party on this one as well.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 94
Government Orders

May 9th, 2001 / 6 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

It being 6 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should introduce legislation that offers GST relief to the victims of premature building envelope failure who are eligible for compensation through British Columbia's PST Relief Grant Program and to make any and all consequential amendments required.

Mr. Speaker, the building envelope failure, or a leaky condo crisis, has been devastating to British Columbia's real estate market. It has devastated families, evaporated peoples' savings, thrown families into financial crisis and drowned the dreams of thousands of homeowners.

The leaky condo crisis involves over 50,000 damaged and destroyed homes. Those affected face an average repair bill of $21,043 per owner. The average owner faces a total loss of $58,543 on their investment, 12,879 consumer bankruptcies have been the direct result of the leaky condo crisis and at least 7,500 condo owners have or will claim bankruptcy due to this disaster.

This issue is not just about statistics. I want to tell the House about a couple of constituents of mine who are being crushed by this issue.

Carma Albert lives in the Glenborough in Coquitlam Town Centre. Carma is a member of her strata council and she is helping to co-ordinate its $1.7 million reconstruction project. Carma and her husband had hoped that their suite would be a stepping stone to buying their future house.

It now seems that with an assessment of nearly $19,000 their plan will have to be put on hold for quite some time. By the way, Carma is the mother of a tiny baby only a couple of months old.

Claudette Friesen is another constituent of mine. She lives with her husband and daughter in the Madison in Coquitlam Town Centre in my constituency. They also have a newlywed daughter. Claudette is very involved in my community as president of the Coquitlam Town Centre Community Association, president of the Madison Strata Council which is managing roughly $1 million in repairs. She is the founding member of the tri-cities condo group and she sits on several city committees, including the mayor's task force on building envelope failure.

She also has multiple sclerosis. Her family has been assessed $15,000 with an additional assessment of approximately $3,000.

These sorts of tragedies are seen all across British Columbia. If we count the owners of leaky condos and their extended families, this crisis has directly affected 250,000 people, one in 10 British Columbia voters. Twenty-four of 34 constituencies in British Columbia are affected by this issue directly. The impact of this issue is enormous.

The collateral economic impact of this issue is devastating. When local governments are taken to court as defendants in leaky condo court cases, all taxpayers are on the hook.

Taxpayers are soaked again when Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a federal crown corporation and the largest mortgage insurer in the country, bears the brunt of the cost of foreclosures. Also, when homeowners declare bankruptcy, their creditors pass on the debt expense as a business expense, which is then borne by all consumers.

With all this in mind, it has been three years since former British Columbia premier David Barrett was appointed to chair a commission to look into this disaster. His report was tabled in June 1998 and it made 82 recommendations to, as the title of his report suggests, create a “Renewal of Trust in Residential Construction”.

Among the recommendations, the federal government was asked to pay $300 million into a compensation plan that would help homeowners repair their leaky condos. On July 17, 1998, the minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation announced that the federal government would lend $75 million to the reconstruction fund. In truth, the federal government will not give a dime to affected homeowners.

Quite to the contrary. At the same time that the federal government is giving a no-interest loan to the province of British Columbia for $75 million, money that has yet to be spent or seen, by the way, it is raking in a tidy profit from the application of GST to the cost of repairs. The three year carrying cost, that is the lost interest on the $75 million federal loan to British Columbia, is roughly $13 million.

However, before members of the Liberal government pat themselves on the back for this contribution, they should know that they are profiting mightily from this crisis.

To date, the federal government has received $40.7 million in GST revenue on the $581 million that leaky condo owners have spent on their repairs. If we deduct the $13 million carrying cost of the $75 million loan, we arrive at roughly $30 million, which is the net GST profit that the federal government has pocketed on this disaster from its victims. That is the government's profit.

While low and middle income families in my riding and across British Columbia struggle to keep up with the bills that are rolling in because of this disaster, the government is helping no one, but laughing all the way to the bank.

My motion reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should introduce legislation that offers GST relief to the victims of premature building envelope failure who are eligible for compensation through British Columbia's PST Relief Grant Program and to make any and all consequential amendments required.

The motion is nothing more than the implementation at the federal level of Barrett commission recommendations 79 and 80, found on page 52 of the “Renewal of Trust in Residential Construction”, part 2, volume 1.

Those recommendations read:

  1. For purposes of reconstruction, all GST and PST, payable on qualified repairs and renovations, should be repealed. In this way, the owner/occupier is treated by taxation the same way as the owner/landlord.

  2. All GST and PST that has been paid on renovations should be refunded to the homeowners.

I would like to point out three things with reference to these recommendations. First, that the Barrett commission believes that all taxpayers should be treated equally. If a landlord can deduct the cost of leaky condo repairs from his taxes, then GST relief should also be offered to an individual owner of another similarly affected leaky condo in the same complex.

The government, while pretending to be a friend of the poor, the downtrodden and the little guy, taxes the working class owners of the leaking and rotting condo on the cost of repairs to their homes but it does not tax the same repair costs in the same manner when those repairs are paid for by the building's owner.

The second point I would like to note is that the government of British Columbia has wholeheartedly embraced recommendation 79 and 80 and created the PST relief grant program that is administered through British Columbia's homeowner protection office.

The provincial government ensures that the PST relief is only given to the intended class of victims, those who own or live in leaky condos and those who can prove that they have paid to have their homes repaired.

Among the documents those who qualify must submit are: First, a certificate to verify that the repair was necessary due to a premature building envelope failure and is not simply related to maintenance; second, a statutory declaration by the contractor confirming repairs have been completed; and three, copies of contracts with change orders, invoices or certificates of payment that support the cost of repairs being submitted on the application.

The federal government could easily piggyback on this system and give GST relief only to those who qualify for the PST relief grant program. Unlike the home heating fuel rebate that this government botched earlier this year, this approach is foolproof from waste and error and, more important, it is compassionate and the appropriate thing to do.

The third point I would like to make is the very nature of embarking on commissions like the Barrett commission in the future if its findings are simply to be ignored by the federal government.

The federal government is currently looking at the issue of reforming our health care system. Mr. Romanow, a respected former premier of the province of Saskatchewan is leading the effort and he will report to Canadians and the House in up to 18 months with recommendations.

I ask the government to think about the precedent it is setting by ignoring the Barrett commission and the cynicism such a move will engender. If the government ignores the Barrett commission, how can Canadians have any confidence that the government will respect any future reports from similar commissions? If the government turns a deaf ear to its obligations, as stated by the Barrett commission, it sends a signal that the reports of future commissions, including the Romanow commission, will also do nothing more than gather dust on Liberal shelves.

What hope, or better yet, what point is there in even asking taxpayers to ante up a dime for this type of bogus political posturing if commission recommendations are simply ignored?

We know that the cost of repairs on the average leaky condo is $21,043 per owner. GST on the repairs works out to $1,473 per condo. If we assume that the estimate of 50,000 leaky condos from the Barrett commission is correct, that would mean that the federal government would forgo $73.6 million in GST on leaky condo repairs.

That is what my motion calls for, granting GST relief only to those who qualify for the PST relief from the government of British Columbia. That, by the way, is a paltry 20% of the announcement last week by the Minister of Canadian Heritage of $560 million for Internet art and assorted cultural posturings.

It has not escaped my attention, or that of those watching and who own leaky condos, that while this motion is not being voted on and is not being taken seriously by the government, we will soon be voting on the weighty matter of creating the position of a parliamentary poet laureate. I can only hope that the poet laureate will be able to adequately capture in iambic pentameter the depth of frustration and distress felt by those who live in leaky condos who will not be applying for Internet funding and whose needs are being ignored by the government's harsh decisions.

My motion is in the spirit of strengthening federal-provincial relations and in encouraging the federal government to partner with the government of British Columbia to implement the Barrett commission recommendations 79 and 80. By respecting these recommendations the federal government would send a clear message to the people of British Columbia that it is willing to work with their government to solve major problems that affect them the most.

My motion is probably good also for the federal purse as contractors cannot avoid paying income tax on the repairs they perform if clients need a receipt to claim their GST relief. Presumably this is part of the justification for the government's partial GST relief on new homes and renovations to homes.

The government has repeatedly resisted calls for GST relief on the repairs to leaky condos. In a July 17, 1998 press release entitled, “Gagliano Announces Federal Aid for Leaky Condo Owners in Lower Coastal B.C.” we find the following paragraph:

Tax relief or a tax subsidy, as suggested by the Barrett Commission report, would not be an equitable option for all Canadians. The Government of Canada's position is that the federal tax system is nationally based and it would be difficult to provide tax assistance to owners of water-damaged dwellings in B.C., while excluding others. It would also be difficult to provide a tax subsidy for unexpected repair costs arising from one particular cause but not others.

It is my understanding that this accurately articulated the government's position at the time, and that position has not evolved. The fact that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance is here with five books on his desk to respond to my speech says that the government will respond to my motion on an economic basis, and the minister himself will not be responding.

I want to draw the House's attention to the final sentence from the minister's release that I just read. He said:

It would also be difficult to provide a tax subsidy for unexpected repair costs arising from one particular cause but not others.

Let me quote from page 5 of Revenue Canada Bulletin 4028 entitled, “GST/HST New Housing Rebate” as updated online on April 26 of this year. It reads:

You may be eligible to claim a rebate for a part of the GST/HST you pay on the purchase price or cost of building your home, if you are an individual, and: You buy a new or substantially renovated home, and you lease the land from the builder; you construct or substantially renovate your own home, or carry out a major addition (or hire another person to do so); or your home is destroyed by fire and subsequently rebuilt.

Note how this final point, GST relief in cases where one's “home is destroyed by fire and subsequently rebuilt,” flies in the face of the minister's comments I just read to the House.

If I understand the government's position correctly, then it will not give GST relief to owners of leaky condos facing unexpected repairs and affected by the 1999 collapse of the new home warranty program, but his colleague, the Minister of National Revenue, will offer GST relief to those “facing unexpected repair costs arising from one particular cause”, in this case fires, even though in many cases fire damage is covered by insurance.

Such a contradiction in policy seems typical of the government. It offers help to those who do not really need it while taxing and profiting from those in distress. The Liberal government is even contradicting a core principle of the GST. Many Canadians know that by law the government extends partial GST relief to Canadians who build a sun deck, add a second storey to their house, or turn their carport into a garage.

However the government will not extend that relief to Canadians who try to repair their own leaky condos and thereby avoid deterioration of their homes. This sort of judgment, with a clear contradiction of principle and policy and with blatant disregard to its impact on victims, is the sort of judgment that alienates Canadians from this institution and undermines the ability of parliament to claim to represent those in need.

We have seen how the government is prepared to give GST relief to cases where certain repairs and renovations are undertaken and even to the construction of new homes. However it stops short of extending the umbrella of GST relief to those most in need, namely 10% of my constituents. A respected provincial commission recommended such relief. The province was quick to embrace the same recommendation and has already established an efficient mechanism to distribute this relief. Surprisingly the government stops short of giving this GST relief to only those who need it.

On behalf of thousands of my constituents, tens of thousands of British Columbians and all those who seek compassion and justice on this issue, I ask the government to implement Barrett commission recommendations 79 and 80 to give leaky condo owners the same treatment as those who repair fire damaged buildings and to show compassion to those whose homes and lives have been destroyed by this crisis. I call on the government to support my motion and to treat leaky condo owners with the justice, respect and sense of compassion they deserve.

Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Etobicoke North


Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to comment on the motion put forward by the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam.

The motion proposes that the government introduce legislation to offer goods and services tax relief to victims of premature building envelope failure, or what we commonly refer to as leaky condos, who are eligible for compensation through British Columbia's PST relief grants program.

The federal government is sympathetic to the difficulties and inconvenience being experienced by individuals in British Columbia over premature building envelope failure to their condominiums as a result of moisture damage. I was in Victoria not too long ago and I spoke to many people who were victimized by this unfortunate event.

I can assure the hon. member that the federal government has given careful consideration to requests for assistance from condominium owners in the British Columbia lower mainland and Vancouver Island areas.

As evidence of its concern I remind the House that the federal government through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation announced $27.7 million in assistance for owners of moisture damaged homes in British Columbia in October 2000. That was the $75 million interest free loan program. These funds, which were made available through B.C.'s provincial homeowners reconstruction loan program, would greatly assist those homeowners who are having financial difficulty making necessary repairs.

With respect to the hon. member's motion, the federal government believes that the GST is not the appropriate vehicle for providing relief in regional crises. Hon. members will recall that the GST is intended to be a broadly based tax applied to the same tax base throughout the country. As a result it would be very difficult to justify providing tax assistance to owners of water damaged dwellings in British Columbia while excluding people in other areas of the country who also purchased homes of substandard quality. What do we do for them?

In addition, it would be difficult to justify providing a tax subsidy for unexpected repair costs arising from water damage but not for repair costs arising from other causes. Is there something particularly special about water?

The government is sympathetic and has given careful consideration to requests for assistance of all types, not only in the context of the condominium problems in British Columbia but also for the extensive damage to homes resulting from the floods in the Saguenay in 1996 and Manitoba in 1997, as well as the ice storm in Quebec and Ontario in 1998. As regional GST relief was not provided following these crises, it would be inappropriate in this case to use the GST to provide regional relief that is limited to British Columbia.

The government supports the view that it is more appropriate to provide tax relief for low income Canadians than to exclude specific items from the GST base. This is achieved through the GST credit which helps to offset the sales tax burden of low income families and individuals, thereby ensuring that the sales tax system is sensitive to differences in income and family type.

The member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam talked about the energy rebate. It reached 11 million Canadians at a cost of $1.3 billion. It was driven through the GST rebate and went to Canadians directly. It did not go to the oil companies, as was the proposition put forward by the Alliance Party. The rebate went directly to Canadians who needed some relief from the high energy costs this past winter. The credit has proven to be a very effective means of targeting and delivering tax relief, particularly to low income families.

For these reasons the government does not support using the tax system as a means to provide relief. However I assure the hon. member that the federal government would continue to work with the government of British Columbia in assisting owners of moisture damaged homes or leaky condos with their repair costs.

The federal government's October 2000 announcement of $27.7 million in assistance is evidence of this commitment. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation will continue to work in co-operation with others involved in housing research and design to find practical solutions to moisture related problems. For the reasons I have just outlined, I am unable to support the hon. member's motion.

Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam for bringing the motion forward for debate. Like the hon. member, I am a member from British Columbia. I know from personal experience, in speaking with my constituents and visiting homes in east Vancouver, the devastation that has been caused by leaky condos.

I listened to the parliamentary secretary speak on behalf of the government to the motion. I cannot help but comment on the absurdity of the government saying that it is sympathetic to the inconvenience of owning a leaky condo. We are not talking about inconvenience. We are talking about families who have gone into bankruptcy, families who could not sell their apartments for a dime. Everybody knows they are leaky condos; they have put plastic and awnings on the outside. These families know they will never be able to get rid of them.

We are not talking about an inconvenience when these people use all their RRSPs, beg and borrow at the bank, and throw their life savings into trying to repair their condos. It causes sleepless nights and incredible anxiety because they are dealing with the most important purchase they have ever made. British Columbians are facing a billion dollar tragedy.

The hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam outlined some of the issues very well. I support his motion. I am very proud to say that the provincial government of B.C. took the issue very seriously. It set up a public inquiry, headed by former premier and former member of parliament Dave Barrett.

They held exhaustive public hearings. They tried to get to the root causes of what had caused this problem in condominiums and, I should mention, in federally funded co-ops. They have also experienced the same problem.

In reading through the volumes of reports of the Barrett commission, we see that the B.C. government did come forward with very proactive and positive measures to provide relief to homeowners, who were suffering terribly. For example, the provincial government provided PST relief. The province provided about $100 million in no interest loans. The homeowner protection office has been operating since October 1998. There are very tough new licensing requirements for developers and contractors. The province even approved $30 million in interest free loans for federally funded co-ops because the federal government would not do anything. In fact, the province has made extensive recommendations and has acted on them to provide some assistance.

It is quite appalling to know that there has been virtually no response from the federal government. I really take offence to the suggestion on the other side from the government that because this is “a regional issue” it does not qualify for the kind of relief called for in the motion.

Anyone who thinks this issue of leaky condos, leaky co-ops and building envelope failure is contained to this one province should think again, because this issue is now cropping up in other communities across Canada. The idea that because it is regional somehow people will not qualify for the kind of help they need is an idea I find offensive.

I want to say that my colleague, the member of parliament from Burnaby—Willingdon, the former member of parliament from Kamloops, and three members from the NDP in British Columbia wrote time and time again to the minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

In one of the many letters we wrote to him, we told him that the Barrett commission had urged the provincial and federal levels of government to provide compensation and had further recommended that the federal government ensure that CMHC provide assistance as well as tax relief on repairs. Ironically, though, we told him, because the federal government rejected the recommendations that would allow homeowners to repay their RRSPs, the government was actually making money off people who were forced to liquidate their RRSPs to pay for repairs.

It is just so insulting to people to have to withdraw their life savings and then find out that they are being taxed on those savings. The federal government is actually making money off this tragedy of people having to deal with costly repairs for their homes.

One thing the parliamentary secretary did get right is the fact that last October the federal government provided to the province of British Columbia a one time grant of $27.7 million. This is important to note, because during the last federal election campaign our local Liberals, including the member who was defeated by the member bringing forward the motion today, tried to spin that, saying that the federal government was actually providing $75 million in support.

Let us be clear. The $27 million grant allows the province to finance $75 million worth of no interest loans. In other words, the federal money basically pays the province the interest on $75 million. However, during that campaign the claims were just outrageous. There were claims in the media by Liberal candidates who were running around saying that the federal government had coughed up $75 million. It was no such thing.

The motion today is very straightforward and basic. The motion deals with one of the issues that came forward from the Barrett commission. It seems to me to be the most common sense and the most minimal thing the federal government could do, which is to provide GST relief just as the provincial government has provided PST relief.

However, surely we have to go further than that. People should be able to withdraw from their RRSPs and not get dinged on having to pay the taxes. People should be able to have an income tax deduction for the cost of repairs.

Finally there is the issue of compensation. Mr. Barrett made a very strong recommendation for compensation because people, through no fault of their own, are living in a state of disrepair and dysfunction because of what is happening to their buildings. Compensation is something I support and I believe the federal government has a responsibility to compensate those people.

The parliamentary secretary raised the issue of other disasters in Canada. Let us look at the ice storm in Ontario and Quebec and how quickly the federal government responded to it. The government saw it as an emergency and put forward some $900 million or $700 million to deal with it. That was the proper thing to do.

The issue of leaky condos in British Columbia is no less of an emergency but it has been completely ignored by the federal government. We must continue to press on this issue.

I say to the minister today in the House that if he has somehow forgotten the file on leaky condos or thinks other people have forgotten, he has only to go into any community in B.C. and talk to people to understand the horror of what they are facing. This is a very real financial burden for homeowners and families in British Columbia.

I very much support the motion. It is one aspect of a much larger program that needs to be undertaken. I also say shame on the federal government for ignoring the problem and cutting out homeowners who are legitimately concerned about an emergency over which they have no control. I urge the government to support the motion and provide GST relief.

Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to say a few words on the issue.

A little less than a year ago, shortly after I was elected, I found myself in British Columbia with a colleague, Gilles Bernier, who was then my party's critic for the department. Mr. Bernier did a lot of work on this file and we became well aware of the major problem facing people in British Columbia. People in other provinces were affected as well, but certainly the crisis was in British Columbia.

A lot of people do not realize the magnitude of the problem. The building envelope failure or, as we call it, the leaky condo crisis, has led to at least 7,500 condo owners having to claim bankruptcy. That is 7,500 owners.

Average repair costs are over $21,000 per owner, a total loss of investment of almost $59,000 for the average owner. There are estimated to be almost 13,000 consumer bankruptcies as a direct result of the leaky condo crisis. The issue impacts about 70% of the districts in British Columbia. This is not an isolated case of a housing program in some community. It is a major concern to many people in the province of British Columbia.

In reaction to the leaky condo crisis the British Columbia government empowered the Barrett commission to make recommendations. Motion No. 293 which we are discussing seeks to implement at the federal level the spirit of recommendations 79 and 80 of the Barrett commission. Recommendation 79 states:

For purposes of reconstruction, all GST and PST, payable on qualified repairs and renovations, should be repealed. In this way, the owner/occupier is treated by taxation the same way as the owner/landlord.

Recommendation 80 states:

All GST and PST that has been paid on renovations should be refunded to homeowners.

The B.C. government has embraced the plan and eliminated the provincial sales tax from qualified repairs. However the federal government has repeatedly refused to remove the GST from leaky condo repairs although it has exempted new homes from the GST and does not tax certain luxury items. The government does not tax luxuries in some cases and yet it taxes misfortune. That is what is occurring here.

As I listened to the parliamentary secretary I was hit by a couple of the words he used. One was sympathetic. He said that the government was sympathetic to the problem in British Columbia and that it was giving it serious consideration. I ask the parliamentary secretary and the government: How many leaky condos can be repaired with sympathy or serious consideration?

The parliamentary secretary said that tax credits could not be used for relief in cases like this. The government of British Columbia found a way to use taxes to relieve the situation. If there is a will there is a way. The problem with the federal government is that the will is not there.

Yesterday in the House we had a debate about the cleanup of St. John's harbour. Let us talk about coincidence. The NDP member who spoke before me mentioned $27 million that the parliamentary secretary said had been given to British Columbia. That was very good of him but he did not say when it was given. The hon. member from the NDP, a British Columbia resident, said that it was in October of last year.

What happened in October? An election campaign was going on. Perhaps it is my devious mind but I wonder if the $27 million given to British Columbia, which the government bragged about as if it were $75 million, had anything to do with the election. At the same time the government promised Newfoundland $33 million to clean up St. John's harbour.

We saw what happened yesterday. The government said that there was infrastructure money but that it needed to pick and choose. It said nothing about the ordinary infrastructure agreement last October. It was a specific program.

Two things are becoming quite clear. First, the government has no will to do what it should be doing. Ways can be found to help the people of British Columbia. A very simple way is being recommended here this evening with this motion. However the government says that it will not do so because it does not have the will. There are ways to help but the government says that it will not do so.

This is no surprise to any of us. The people affected by this are going through severe trauma. Many of them are bankrupt or wondering how they will pay for the necessary repairs. What are we saying here in the House? The government says that it does not care. That is not the way it should be.

This evening we hope to convince the government to change its mind, agree with us on the motion and provide the people of British Columbia the assistance they not only need but deserve. There is a way if the government is willing.

Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate my colleagues' comments, particularly the member for Vancouver East and the member for St. John's West who just spoke on the issue.

I came to the House with a big heart, hoping that I could raise issues that were important to my constituents, and we have spent 40 or 45 minutes of discussing the issue.

When I went into the general election campaign in my constituency, I went in with big ideals that I and my party would move mountains, that we would cut taxes and that we would have new Canada, and that these were the things would talk about.

However when I got into an election campaign I discovered what most members discover. The issues that people are most concerned about in their constituencies are the issues that affect them most at home, the bread and butter issues such as are they safe walking down the street, or is the government going to take more from their pockets than it should. Those are core issues.

During the campaign I knocked on doors in Port Moody, Anmore, Westwood Plateau and in Port Coquitlam of my constituency. When I met the people of my riding, I discovered very quickly that the most important issue in my constituency was the issue of leaky condos. It affected almost 10% of the people in my riding. It was by far the biggest issue.

Lou Sekora, the former member of parliament for my constituency, was elected in the byelection in March, 1998, largely on the hope of people from my constituency because this is a non-partisan issue. We have the members for Vancouver East and St. John's West supporting the motion. It is not an issue of conservatism versus liberalism versus socialism. This is a non-partisan issue, and we all supported it.

The people of my constituency, because this is a bread and butter issue, probably the most important in my riding, got together and said they were going to elect Lou Sekora in the byelection. They thought if they had the mayor of Coquitlam at the table of power in a Liberal government, he would bring attention to this most important issue. He could not do it, and I think for reasons that we see here today.

Those who are watching the debate should note that the government side had 10 minutes to discuss the issue. Since 1998, frankly I believe this is the first time that this issue has ever been raised in the House in a full debate. The government took four and a half minutes of that ten minutes to address it. It affects 10% of my riding, up to 250,000 people in British Columbia, and the government took four and a half minutes, wrapped it up and said “so long”. That is not good enough.

The member for Elk Island, one of my most esteemed colleagues in this entire House, has been here since 1993. He has been re-elected three times with massive majorities in his constituency because of the great work he does in his riding. He has been here for that long and has had zero private members' bills drawn out of a pool to be debated and brought to the floor of the House, like as this one. I have been elected once.

I do not know if I will run a second time, or a third time or if I will have the fortune of having the endorsement of my constituents. However this is the manner in which the most important issue in my riding is being dealt with by the House? The government spent four and a half minutes on it, denied it and blocked in committee the right for the bill to come forward for a vote. It treats my riding and my constituents like that?

How does the government expect me, my constituents and the people I represent to have any respect for the government in the House, when it treats the issues that are of most importance to them with that little respect?

I came here to talk, as I said, about the big issues of conservatism versus liberalism. However on the bread and butter issues, like the issue of people having a home that does not melt around them and that the government does not profit off the people who are losing their homes, the government gave it four and a half minutes of debate and brushed it aside.

These are the kind of things that make people like me and people who want to run for office say “To hell with it. I'm not going to run for office”. For the government to give my riding four and a half minutes of disrespect, slap it aside, deny it the right to come to the House of Commons for a vote and deny that members of the House be held accountable for this issue, is disgusting. It is absolute disrespect for people whose homes are melting around them.

The Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Finance stood up and said it was okay if the government profited from people losing their homes. He said that it was not a big deal and that it was an inconvenience. As the hon. member for Vancouver East said, that is not good enough.

The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is travelling to British Columbia on a fact finding mission to find out why British Columbians are not voting for the federal Liberal Party and why there is this thing called western alienation. This is why. Read Hansard . Look at the number of people in the House who are paying attention to the debate. Look at the four and a half minutes that the government spent on this issue. That is why the government is going nowhere in the province of British Columbia, and why people are totally alienated from this institution and from this government.

This is my final plea. This is the last legislative tool I have. The government has blocked it at committee. It has blocked it from taking it seriously. It gave it four and a half minutes of debate. The government has slapped my constituents in the face.

There are only three members of the government who can block this from happening: the hon. members for Mississauga South, Etobicoke North and Markham. I would ask those members: Will I have unanimous consent from the House to make this motion votable, and show respect to the people of my constituency?

Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent to make the motion votable?