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House of Commons Hansard #35 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The recorded division on Motion No. 1 stands deferred.

The next question is on Motion No. 2. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

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

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The recorded division on Motion No. 2 stands deferred.

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions at the report stage of the bill.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The vote will be deferred until tomorrow at the end of government orders.

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among all parties and I think if you seek it, you would find unanimous consent to see the clock as 6:45 p.m.

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is that agreed?

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Canada Education Savings ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Simard Bloc Beauport, QC

Madam Speaker, on October 20, I asked a question in this House of the Minister of Labour and Housing, concerning the transfer of responsibility for housing from the federal government to the Government of Quebec. Negotiations have now resumed between the two governments about transferring the responsibility for social housing.

I was not satisfied by the answer provided and asked if we could discuss the matter further, because the situation is very serious. These negotiations just resumed after becoming deadlocked earlier, because the federal government would not recognize the underfunding Quebec experienced before 1993 in terms of housing, and social housing in particular.

As everyone knows or should know now, when the Prime Minister was the Minister of Finance, he cut all funding, which means that, from 1994 to 2001, no investment whatsoever was made in housing or social housing. The aim was a zero deficit, which was achieved, as everyone knows, on the backs of those who needed housing and of the unemployed.

We know that there was this massive cut from 1994 to 2001. What is less well know however is that, before 1994, the federal government was making investments, but not equitably. As a matter of fact, Quebec received a mere 18.7% of the funding for social housing, to develop housing co-ops, and build facilities owned by non-profit organizations and what is commonly known as low-cost housing units.

Quebec received 18.7% of the funding, while it accounted for more than 24% of the Canadian population. At that time, the housing needs in Quebec represented 27% of the total needs, which means that, sociologically, among the segments of population with social housing needs, Quebec represented 27% of the needs. Yet it received only 18% of the funding.

I will just mention a text that we have prepared. We at the Bloc Québécois will be going on a tour to discuss this issue.

It is important to know that the positions of the two parties involved in the negotiations are currently very far apart. I would like the government representative here this evening to give us the status of these negotiations. There was a disparity of more than $100 million a year between what Quebec was asking for to correct this historic difference and what the government was offering.

We hear all sorts of rumours that the transfer will cover only part of the housing units, while it is important to cover the cost of all of them, including low-income housing, housing cooperatives and not-for-profit agencies.

We want to know whether the transfer covers all the responsibilities and if it will allow for investment in social housing, The underinvestment before 1993 had devastating effects on families living in housing cooperatives, or these not-for-profit agencies. These cooperatives need reinvestment because they have had very little money to renovate, buy or build housing.

I am calling on the government to be clear and precise. I am asking the government representative to give us an update on the negotiations and to tell us whether they cover all the units.

Canada Education Savings ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Beauport—Limoilou for ensuring that light is fully cast on this question. We all know how important proper housing is. One of the fundamentals for healthy communities is proper housing.

Over the years the government's involvement in social housing has evolved to reflect the changing needs of Canadians. In 1996 Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation began to enter into agreements with provinces and territories to transfer to them the administration of the existing CMHC portfolio of social housing stock.

I point out that the successful transfer of the administration of the existing social housing stock has already been completed in six provinces and three territories.

Serious negotiations have recently been resumed with Quebec on the transfer of social housing. We are aware that this transfer presents some difficulties for Quebec. We have therefore struck a joint task force with a view to examining the various financial aspects of the agreement. Discussions on this are continuing, and all parties are determined to reach agreement promptly.

In response to the hon. member's question in regard to Quebec's fair share of funding, I would like to explain how the amount offered is calculated. Funding is transferred for the units for which administration is being transferred. The reason Quebec's share of funding is lower than its share of national population is because the funding offer is related to existing units.

I would remind the hon. member that Quebec decided in the past not to participate or to delay participation in federal housing programs such as the public housing program and the rent supplement program. This is why its share of the funding for housing is lower than its proportion of the total population. As well, the cost of social housing in Quebec is slightly less than the national average. So, although the province's share of social housing funds may be less than 25%, Quebec is being given its fair share compared to the real cost of social housing that would be covered by this transfer.

In 2003-04 the Government of Canada spent over $455 million in Quebec, mostly on social and affordable housing programs. This includes $306 million in ongoing funding spent primarily in support of some 136,000 dwellings occupied by lower income families, seniors and persons with disabilities, aboriginal people and victims of family violence.

As the hon. member has said, Quebec and Canada have recently signed an agreement relating to the second component of the affordable housing agreement. Quebec is, in fact, the first to sign such an agreement, by virtue of which an additional $150 million will be allocated to affordable housing in Quebec.

Canada Education Savings ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Simard Bloc Beauport, QC

Madam Speaker, the last part of the response does not apply to phase 2 of affordable housing. There is absolutely no more money left in Quebec and all the units are reserved. This announcement comes too late.

If I am not mistaken, there is something about this that escapes the government representative. Before 1994, Quebec applied the modesty criteria. It is the only place in Canada where such criteria were applied. Only 60% of housing could be subsidized, while in Ontario or in British Columbia, much more solid housing cooperatives and not-for-profit housing were being built, often with swimming pools. These homes were built to last.

It is not an issue of housing costs. To try to do more, to apply modesty criteria, we underinvested in Quebec. The theory that Quebec did not want to benefit from certain subsidies is highly contested.

In fact, not enough money was invested in Quebec. Quebec used modesty criteria that resulted in terrible situations today. There is a great need for renovation.

The government should acknowledge and correct this historic injustice. If it does not, these negotiations will either end in a stalemate or in concessions on the back of Quebec.

Canada Education Savings ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, as I said, the Government of Canada is working in a number of areas to meet the housing needs of all Canadians.

One part of this government's efforts is to transfer responsibility for the administration of social housing. Allow me to repeat that negotiations are now underway and we are very confident that we will soon reach an agreement with Quebec that satisfies all parties.

I wish to point out that signing these agreements does not in any way alter the federal government's level of commitment to these programs, but rather the administration of them.

Residents of Quebec will soon be able to enjoy a single-window approach to the administration of existing social housing units. We have the Prime Minister's commitment and we intend to work with the provinces and communities in order to ensure access to housing for the poorest people in Quebec and the rest of Canada.

Canada Education Savings ActAdjournment Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 4:21 p.m.)