Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to Bill C-285. I followed the debate with interest and I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.
I share the views expressed by my Conservative and Liberal colleagues, who argue that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation should stay the course in terms of prudently managing its self-sustaining commercial activities.
As the House has heard before, 100% of CMHC's surplus relates to the self-sustaining activities and CMHC has a mandate to operate its insurance and securitization activities in a commercially viable manner. To do that, it sets aside capital reserve to ensure that sufficient capital is available to meet future risks.
Let me illustrate this with actual figures. In 2005 CMHC capital reserve was 1.2% of the outstanding mortgages it had insured. More specific, that is $3.4 billion against $274 billion in insured mortgages. This is consistent with directions set for private sector insurers by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.
Also, CMHC's surplus, including amounts set aside for capitalization, forms part of the Government of Canada's accounts and is included in the calculation of the government's surplus or deficit position. This means that both budgeted and actual federal annual surplus figures include CMHC's net income. CMHC's retained earnings have serviced to reduce the government's accumulated deficit over time.
Beyond the arguments regarding prudent financial management, Bill C-285 would also mandate a rigid approach to housing policy, an approach that would not serve the interests of Canadians as it would legislatively mandate housing investments without regard to the current need of Canadians and how those needs may evolve.
Moreover, the bill would distribute funds to provinces on a per capita basis, thus ignoring the needs of aboriginal people, whose housing conditions remain well below those of most Canadians. Housing supply shortfalls, crowding and inadequate housing on reserves in the north and remote communities are of particular concern.
Our first budget recognized these needs and investments in a $300 million northern housing trust and a $300 million off reserve aboriginal housing trust. This new funding will be a source of housing solutions for aboriginals and will address the cost of housing and extent of housing needs in the far north. In addition, the budget also included an investment of $450 million over two years for education, water services and housing on reserves, as well as to generally improve social economic outcomes for aboriginal women, children and families.
Most Canadians never have to wonder whether they have a safe warm place to come home to. However, many segments of our population are in need of safe and adequate housing.
Let me take this opportunity to highlight some of the innovative ways the Government of Canada through CMHC is dealing with some of the issues addressed in Bill C-285.
Imagine, for example, a single mother who is fleeing from domestic violence, trying to raise three small children in a shelter or cramped studio apartment. CMHC's shelter enhancement program assists in repairing, rehabilitating and improving existing shelters for women and their children, youth and men who are victims of family violence. Through its assisted housing programs, CMHC can provide people affected by violence a way of transition out of the shelters when they are ready.
Seniors are a fast growing segment of the Canadian population. Many senior citizens want the simple dignity of being able to stay independently in the house that they have come to call their home for over 30 years. CMHC home adaptations for seniors independence program helps homeowners and landlords pay for minor home adaptations. This means that seniors with low to medium incomes can continue living in their homes longer.
These are just a few examples of how the Government of Canada, through CMHC, is already tackling the issues addressed by Bill C-285.
Moreover, I would like to remind the member for Québec that we also are taking concrete action on housing renovations. Our housing strategies seek to maintain the existing affordable housing stock in addition to creating new units. In this regard, funding for the residential rehabilitation assistance program and several related housing renovation and adaptation programs has been renewed for 2006-07 at a cost of $128.1 million.
Using these figures once again to illustrate the impact of these programs, in 2005-06, 12,150 units were rehabilitated, close to 3,000 units were repaired on an emergency basis, some 1,220 shelters for victims of family violence were renovated, and 1,945 seniors were helped to live independently.
The Bloc Québécois has suggested during this debate that spending approximately $2 billion per year primarily in support of some 644 households is not good enough. I would like to remind the Bloc that we are in fact in the process of delivering on the $1 billion affordable housing initiative in collaboration with provincial, territorial and local partners. Thanks to that funding, new affordable housing is being created in communities across this country as we speak.
As of June 2006, over $659 million has been committed or announced to create a total of over 27,000 new units of affordable housing. Through agreements with each province and territory, this funding is being used to create affordable housing for a wide range of Canadians, including seniors, persons with disabilities, new immigrants and low income families. Recognizing the importance of affordable housing, the 2006 federal budget also provided for an investment of $600 million to help increase the supply of affordable housing.
These are all examples of programs and investments that meet the changing housing needs of Canadians. They are in place because, as parliamentarians, we have the ability to ensure that our housing investments do in fact respond to the changing housing needs over time while delivering results and targeting those most in need. In contrast, Bill C-285 would force CMHC and future Parliaments into a rigid, inflexible stance on the question of budgetary reserves.
I have to say that I agree with the Liberal member for Cardigan who stated during the first hour of debate that this bill is problematic from an accountability perspective, noting that it would eliminate parliamentary review of housing expenditures. The hon. member for Cardigan also briefly highlighted the fact that Bill C-285 is problematic in terms of equity of distribution, as he put it.
The federal government has an important role to play in ensuring that the housing needs of Canadians, which are so different from region to region, are adequately met. How would an automatic annual per capita distribution of funds to provinces and territories ensure that federal housing dollars are delivering results where they are most needed? Clearly Bill C-285 would take away the government's ability to be responsive to the changing and diverse housing needs of Canadians. We would not only in effect be tying the hands of future governments, we would also be weakening CMHC's ability to adapt to changing market conditions and to address the true needs of Canadians.
It is for the aforementioned reasons that I urge all hon. colleagues to join me in doing the right thing and voting against Bill C-285.