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House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ndp.

Topics

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association respecting its participation in the meeting of the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region, held in Rovaniemi, Finland, from February 28-29.

Employment Insurance ActRoutine Proceedings

May 8th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-542, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (illness of child) and another Act in consequence.

Mr. Speaker, formal employment insurance programs that a parent of a critically ill child can access to provide income protection while the child is undergoing medically prescribed treatment do not exist. In most cases, this treatment takes the child away from school or out of day care and often can involve lengthy hospital stays.

Childhood cancer is on the rise, and more and more patients are surviving. Current treatments can last a minimum of six months to a maximum of three years. Of necessity, one parent becomes the primary caregiver for the child and is instructed by doctors and nurses on how to administer chemotherapy at home, along with other toxic drugs. These medications make a child very sick and quite often place him or her at risk of death from the side effects. Return to a normal routine, such as school or day care for the child and work for the parent, is almost impossible. There is no predictability. This will go on as long as the child is taking the medicine as prescribed by the oncologist.

I am pleased to introduce today a private member's bill that addresses this issue through employment insurance.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Employment Insurance ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to adopt the following motion: That the House acknowledge the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel and highlight that this is an opportunity to celebrate Israel's entry into the community of nations, its many cultural, economic and scientific achievements as a free, democratic society, and the special relationship between the governments of Canada and Israel; and that the House agree to reaffirm Canadians' unwavering support for Israel's right to live peacefully and safely within secure, recognized borders, for the peace efforts undertaken by the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and for the creation of a future democratic Palestinian state living peacefully and safely next to its Israeli neighbour within secure, recognized borders.

Employment Insurance ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Joliette have the unanimous consent of the House to move this motion?

Employment Insurance ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Employment Insurance ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There is no consent.

DarfurPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by a number of my constituents from the riding of Yukon. These petitioners bring to the attention of Parliament the concern of Canadians over the ongoing genocide in Sudan, more specifically in Darfur.

They also outline the need for greater world action against the brutality in this African country, and this includes all nations, corporations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations. Much stronger action has to be taken by the world to stop the murder, rape and violent displacement of the people of Darfur.

DarfurPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I also am pleased to present a petition on the crisis in Darfur on behalf of nearly 1,000 constituents in and around my constituency of Newton—North Delta.

This petition was created by a group of young leaders of the Solutions Society at Seaquam Secondary School in Delta. The society works for positive solutions in social justice issues, from homelessness to human rights violations across the world. Over the past year, Grace Wilson, Catherine Carey, Kerat Sidhu and other members have brought this urgent matter to the attention of our community.

Canada has a long and proud tradition of peacekeeping. The petitioners are calling for Canada to honour these values and take action to bring peace and assistance to Darfur.

Property Crime LegislationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to present a petition from constituents in my riding of Langley. It is a petition on prolific property offenders. It states that property crime is a serious offence that affects most people and often results in huge financial losses and significant emotional upset due to the loss of security at home.

It states that a majority of property offences are committed by a minority of prolific offenders; that it appears property offences are treated as insignificant and minor by enforcement agencies and the justice system; that the fears and concerns of victims are often left unaddressed by the enforcement agencies or the criminal justice system; that repeated claims compromise the ability of homeowners to receive their home insurance; and that the government has the responsibility to ensure safety and security for its citizens.

They therefore ask that the House of Commons enact specific and precise legislation to deal appropriately with prolific property crime offenders.

Animal Cruelty LegislationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition from constituents in my riding calling on the government, specifically the Minister of Justice, to bring forth government legislation that would protect our animals from abuse and cruelty. They call on the government to have the legislation so that it is in keeping with Bill C-50, which was before the 38th Parliament, and to in fact institute a regime which would provide that safety for our animals.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Royal Recommendation--Bill C-490--Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before we proceed to orders of the day, I have a ruling I would like to give.

On April 8, 2008, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform rose on a point of order to argue that Bill C-490, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (application for supplement, retroactive payments and other amendments) required a royal recommendation.

On April 15, 2008, the hon. member for Joliette made an intervention arguing that this bill did not infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown.

In his submission, the government House leader argued that clauses 1, 2, 3 and 6 of the bill would result in increased spending by extending old age security benefits to surviving spouses for a period of six months and by eliminating the requirement to make an application for a supplement for old age security benefits. He pointed out that the increased monthly guaranteed income supplement benefits and increased retroactive payments would also entail additional spending.

Citing rulings delivered on December 8, 2004 and October 24, 2005, the government House leader stated that these precedents illustrate the principle that a royal recommendation is required when a bill alters the manner in which retroactive payments are handled or when the extensions of program benefits are proposed.

The hon. member for Joliette expressed the view that section 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867 only called for a royal recommendation to accompany a bill in the event that it proposed new program spending.

He argued that this was clearly not the case since Bill C-490 did not authorize a new appropriation but simply allowed monies previously authorized by Parliament to be returned to the rightful beneficiaries.

I have carefully reviewed Bill C-490 and have come to the following conclusions. Clause 1 of the bill, which seeks to extend old age security benefits to surviving spouses for a period of six months, would, in my view, clearly result in additional spending for a new and distinct purpose. Furthermore, clauses 2, 3 and 6 of the bill seek to alter the conditions and manner in which compensation is awarded to old age security recipients by increasing monthly guaranteed income supplement benefits, modifying retroactive payments and removing the requirement to make an application to receive benefits.

It is true that, as the hon. member for Joliette pointed out, the proposed changes do not call for the actual creation of a new program. However, they would alter the conditions and qualifications that were originally placed on public spending on old age security payments when those benefits were approved by Parliament.

As I have reminded the House on a number of occasions, funds may only be appropriated by Parliament in the manner and, as explicitly stated in Standing Order 79(1), for purposes covered by a royal recommendation. In my view, Bill C-490 alters the original purposes of the benefits and therefore the bill does require a royal recommendation.

Consequently, the Chair will decline to put the question on third reading of this bill in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received.

At the moment, the debate is on the motion for second reading, and this motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the second reading debate.

I thank the hon. Government House Leader and the hon. member for Joliette for their interventions on this matter.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

moved:

That the House recognize the harmful effects on working and middle-income Canadians of the growing income gap fostered by this government's unbalanced economic agenda, including its failure to reform employment insurance to ensure that people who lose their jobs during economic downturns are protected and trained, and therefore the House has lost confidence in this government.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Over the last couple of years, I have travelled across this country meeting with and listening to people struggling with income security and poverty. I of course saw many things that I expected to see, including the growing difficulty that many of our most at risk and marginalized citizens are having in keeping their lives together, putting food on the table, finding decent homes and participating in the communities to which they belong.

Their circumstances seem to be getting worse instead of better. They know that a lot of this is due to the damage that has been done to the social safety net that we have woven underneath all of us over a number of years but which over the last 15 years has been literally torn apart and destroyed and is tattered.

However, I have also seen some things that have surprised me, particularly in a time when the economy is good. I went to Calgary, Alberta, where oil is king and where the new economy is obvious from the rising skyscrapers that pop up almost daily in that city of great wealth, only to discover at the foot of those buildings some 3,500 to 4,000 people living on the streets and homeless.

Many of them, as we would expect, are suffering because of the difficulty they are having in accessing government programs. There is mental illness and there is suffering from addictions of various sorts. Even more startling is the reality of young people in particular, who went to Calgary attracted by the new economy, by the new work that was supposedly out there. In fact, they found work, but at jobs that do not pay enough for them to be able to afford the very expensive housing that is available, if they can find it at all.

In my travels, I also went to Toronto, where a report had just been released that studied the effect of income security on working age adults, only to find that in that city, the financial heartland of this country, there were hundreds of thousands of young people, including young men, immigrants, single mothers and single parents, working full time all year long but still living in poverty. Some of them are working at two and three jobs but are still not able to make enough money to pay the rent, feed their children and keep themselves at the standard of life they expected to have if they did that, if they worked hard like that, put in the time and made the effort.

I moved from there to meetings with people in places such as Hamilton and Welland. I also spoke to my colleagues from Windsor, who told me of the terrible impact of the downturn in the manufacturing sector, of the literally thousands of people who, having worked hard all their lives, having brought their skill and knowledge to the table each day as they showed up at the plant, now find themselves without work.

The alternative is to go on EI, which many of them do not qualify for because of the changes to that program. Or if they do qualify, it is for too short a time to bridge the gap between the good jobs they had, which provided a decent income with benefits for them and their families, and looking around but finding that what is left are jobs in the service sector that pay barely minimum wage or a little bit more. However, these jobs do not pay benefits, so there is no way to make sure their families have the dental care, eye care and the different benefits that were available to them when they had those good jobs in the manufacturing sector. Some 55,000 jobs have disappeared in that sector since January.

Then I travelled for some time in my own backyard, in northern Ontario, where community after community is dependent for its livelihood on the forestry sector, on the work in the forests and in the plants and mills. Those plants and mills, which existed for years, were very profitable and provided to the Canadian economy a great stimulus, are now shutting down. We have community after community barely hanging on. People are losing their jobs. Again, some qualify for EI but many do not. For those who do, it is not for very long. They are having to move on.

Those people have spent a large part of their lives working in those industries and it is all they know. They brought their best game to the table every day. They invested in homes, built cottages on the lakes nearby and some built up small businesses. Now they are having to turn their backs on those investments and head out to lands unknown. Some may go to Calgary where they may get a job but they will not have the support to access the kind of housing they will need to support their families.

The same thing goes for a lot of communities in British Columbia where forestry is under attack as well. All this is happening at a time when we are experiencing a good economy, so they say, in this country. Last week Statistics Canada issued a census report that told us yet again, because we have heard it before but this time very definitively, that the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class are stuck or disappearing.

We have a government here in Ottawa obsessed with the notion that a good economy will lift all the boats. Well, the evidence is in. Many of these boats are taking on water. Many of them, in fact, have gone under and other people are paddling without any boats at all.

Even the government, in its human resources development committee performance report of 2007, has recognized that the gap between the lowest and highest income families and between ones with the lowest and highest net worth, is wider. What the census report of last week told us was that most Canadians are stuck in neutral income while the richest 5% in Canada are dramatically accumulating more wealth.

Canada's rich are getting richer while the poor get poorer and the middle class stagnates. Between 1980 and 2005, median earnings among Canada's top earners rose more than 16% while those in the bottom fifth saw their wages dip by 20%. Those in the middle are making about a buck a week more than in 1980. Almost 900,000 Canadian children are still poor and more than one-third of these deprived children are in the care of single mothers.

We have a government here in Ottawa supported by the Liberals because they will not stand up to the agenda that the Conservatives keep rolling out in front of us, with substantial tax breaks to people who really do not need it. They are convinced that all we need to do is to cut more taxes and that will fix everything that ails us.

The Conservatives gave a $2 billion tax relief package to the well-off, to corporate financial institutions and oil companies, not understanding that this simply depletes the treasury and reduces government's capacity to deal with some of these alarming realities affecting communities across the country.

This is unsustainable and causing irreversible damage to Canadian families. I detect an uneasiness as I cross the country. People are beginning to realize that they are no more than a paycheque or two away from poverty.

People used to look ahead, to look for the next wrong and understood that if they worked hard, got the training and made investments that they would get ahead. Today, however, more and more people are looking over their shoulder to see what might be there if they should lose their jobs. What they are discovering is that there is not much.

Each day Stephen Harper's Conservatives are allowed--

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. The hon. member knows that he is not supposed to refer to members by their name.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Each day the Prime Minister and his Conservatives are allowed to set Canada's economic agenda, the country takes another step in the wrong direction. The unbalanced economic agenda set by Harper and the Conservatives--

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I warned the hon. member not to do that and he did it again.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Burlington.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the comments of the member for Sault Ste. Marie, he referenced the StatsCan study. Many commentators and observers have debated certain aspects of the report over the last few days, specifically the overall focus of the study. I want to preface my question with a quote from the Montreal Gazette of May 3. It states:

But the emphasis it put on some figures over others can certainly be misleading.... Consider:

First, StatsCan emphasized earnings from employment. But non-employment income—pensions, welfare, other government transfers, and so on—reportedly counts for more than half of all income in that bottom quintile. So earnings figures alone distort the gap between rich and poor

Second, Canada now has more two-income families than it had in 1980. With more women in the labour force, median family income—from all sources—was up by more than 11 per cent since 1980.

Would the member care to comment on what has been said and why the debate is ongoing on the review of the StatsCan piece? Also, does he believe that family earnings are a more appropriate measure of well-being over individual earnings?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the member that I read those very same articles. If we read the whole article correctly, it is obvious that people are working harder at more jobs. More people are trying to bring income into the family and are certainly adding to the productivity of this country but, at the end of the day, they do not have much to show for it. They are barely holding their own.

This unbalanced economic agenda set by the Prime Minister and the Conservatives means that the damage being done to working families is irreversible.

We have a moral imperative to act now. Therefore, I call on the Liberals and the Bloc to support us in this motion of non-confidence, bring the government down and let us get this agenda changed.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to inform my colleague that we will support the NDP motion because we think that since this government presented the budget, it no longer deserves the confidence of the House. We should have triggered an election over these things and given the public the chance to debate and make different choices.

Two specific things in the motion caught my attention. It states that there is a gap fostered by this government's unbalanced economic agenda. The best example is the $10 billion surplus that was put towards the debt, when at least $7 billion of that was needed to stimulate the economy.

In terms of employment insurance, even Canada's actuaries are saying that the reform proposed in Bill C-50 is unacceptable.

My question is for my colleague. The Bloc will support the NDP, and we will see what the Liberals decide to do. Are we not at a crossroads, meaning that the government will have to answer to the public for its actions, because it seems determined to go against the wishes of the majority of citizens?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member's analysis of the EI system as it has unfolded and the damage that has been done where hardly 40% of people qualify any more and, in Toronto, that is as low as 25%. The people who pay into that fund expect it to be there when they need it but it is no longer there.

This damage has been done over 15 years of both Liberal and Conservative rule. It is an agenda that is unbalanced and unstable, and it is failing working families. Working families are scraping by and the government does not care.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to sincerely thank my colleague for bringing this motion to the floor today. We will have lots of partisan stuff going back and forth.

He is a colleague on the human resources committee, is somebody I respect and is somebody with whom I share a common lineage as well. He has worked hard, as have the Liberals, members of the Bloc and, to some extent, the Conservatives, to embark on a huge poverty study. The committee has just started that study, to the delight of that member and myself.

Does the member not feel a certain pang of regret that this is a confidence motion whereby, if people support it, there will be no guarantee that the poverty study, which is just beginning, will take place again?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member will know, I have been trying to get this poverty study on the road for some four years now. It is finally there and yet we do not see anything in the government's agenda that reflects it will be interested in the findings and, hopefully, the comprehensive anti-poverty strategy that we recommend after the study is done.

Perhaps all of us who are on that committee might want to commit, once the government is brought down and the people of Canada have a chance to make a judgment on its performance, to getting back to the table after the election is over, if we get re-elected, and continue this very important and helpful work.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to second the NDP opposition day motion today with regard to the harmful effects of the growing income gap fostered by the government's unbalanced economic agenda.

It is official now that in the Canada of the Conservatives the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The May 1 report from Statistics Canada, a report based on the data from the 2006 census, shows this clearly. The Statistics Canada report shows that earnings of full time, full year earners rose for those at the top of the earnings distribution, stagnated for those in the middle and declined for those at the bottom. It also pointed out that between 1980 and 2005 median earnings among the top 20% of full time, full year earners increased by 16%. In contrast, median earnings among those in the bottom one-fifth of the distribution fell 20%. Median earnings among those in the middle 20% stagnated, increasing by only 0.1%. The report also outlined the very dramatic decline in income levels of recent immigrants to Canada over that same period, which is of great concern to all of us.

In British Columbia, the statistics are particularly noteworthy. In the inflation adjusted median earnings for workers who worked full time between 1980 and 2005 in Canada, there was virtually no change over those 25 years. However, in British Columbia, earnings dropped by 11.3%, a huge loss in purchasing power and a huge decline in the quality of life for B.C. families. It is clear that families in British Columbia are losing ground at an incredible rate.

New Democrats have long proposed measures to deal with the growing prosperity gap, the gap between the rich and poor, the difficulty working middle class Canadians have making ends meet and the unconscionable poverty in a wealthy country like Canada.

We have signed onto the make poverty history campaign. We initiated the child poverty pledge in 1989. We believe that we should be working, as all members of Parliament and government should be working, to close the gap by redistributing income more equitably and more fairly. Sadly, however, it keeps getting worse.

Tax cuts were proposed by the government and the previous government in the belief that they would cause economic benefits to trickle down and put more money in people's pockets, but it has failed and failed miserably. Huge tax cuts to profitable corporations and big polluters have not caused the income gap to change. In fact, it keeps rising. Poverty continues to be a serious problem all across Canada and many Canadians are one paycheque away from homelessness.

Many of our social programs are mere shadows of what they once were. EI, for example, does not serve part time and seasonal workers well. We know that most of the jobs created in recent years have been in those categories. We have lost well-paying jobs with good benefits in manufacturing and forestry all across the country.

At the same time, the Conservatives seem incapable or uninterested in doing anything about this. One example of this is the situation with regard to housing. There are too many homeless people in Canada, some say over 300,000, too many people at risk of homelessness, too many people paying too much of their income for housing and too many people couch surfing across the country.

There is nothing in the recent budget for homelessness or for affordable housing except more study: five more pilot projects on homelessness. There is nothing new to support housing since the NDP convinced the last Liberal government to cancel its final attempt to give the corporate sector yet another huge tax cut. Instead, we convinced it to put that money into housing, post-secondary education, public transit, the environment and international aid.

The Conservatives came in and had the pleasure of being able to spend that money but they have taken no new initiatives of their own in that time.

The Wellesley Institute notes that the fair housing income threshold has gone down for Canadians. It notes that in 2000, 22% of Canadian households were below the income level required to afford a two bedroom apartment and that it rose to 26% in 2005, which means that 3.2 million Canadian households cannot afford a two bedroom apartment.

The Wellesley Institute also reports on home ownership and it notes that over half of all Canadian households no longer qualify for the purchase of even an entry level home. Those are very serious questions of affordability for Canadians, for middle class Canadians and for working Canadians.

The situation with regard to housing in British Columbia is particularly concerning. Housing unaffordability, as reported by the Vancouver Sun in January, is increasing in Vancouver. There is little hope of significant change.

The Vancouver Sun story pointed out that owners of standard two-storey houses needed 71% of their pre-tax income to service their ownership costs, that owners of detached bungalows needed 67% of their pre-tax household income, and condo owners needed 36% of their pre-tax income to service their ownership costs. That is on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

Those are hugely significant numbers. That is a huge part of people's income that is going into housing when those who are spending over 30% of their income on housing are deemed to be spending too much on the housing portion of their living requirement.

Also, in Metro Vancouver the 2008 homelessness count was recently completed and the numbers are up yet again. The number of those living on the street was up 37% over 2005 and up a whopping 131% overall since 2002. It is likely even higher than that given the difficulty of actually taking account of homeless people in our cities. It is estimated that 20% of those folks who are homeless are actually working and homeless.

Today there is new information out about child poverty in British Columbia. According to BC First Call Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, B.C. has the worst record in Canada on child poverty for five consecutive years now. The numbers today are that the number of poor children in B.C. rose to 181,000 in 2006, compared to 175,000 in 2005, giving B.C. a child poverty rate of 21.9%. This is well above the national average of 15.8%. This is another serious indication of what is happening.

In British Columbia recently we have seen in the Vancouver area that the Citywide Housing Coalition has begun to organize silent protests every Saturday, called “STAND for Housing”. People stand on street corners in silent witness to the need and the slogan is “homes for all”.

Last Saturday there were 80-such stands in the province of British Columbia. It organized a province-wide stand; 40 on the Lower Mainland, including 2 in Burnaby, 18 on Vancouver Island and 24 in the interior in the north.

In Burnaby, Kaitlin Burnett organized one with the Burnaby Teachers' Association and students from the Burnaby North Secondary School organized the other. I can say that the number of people, when I was attending these stands who honked their horns in support and who called out from their car windows to explain their situation with regard to affordable housing, was incredibly significant. People know the importance of this issue. They know how hard it is hitting them in the Lower Mainland. The Citywide Housing Coalition says that the number one cause of homelessness in B.C. is:

The federal government pulling out of an annual social housing program that brought as many as 2,000 units of affordable housing to BC.

It is recognized there and in report after report in communities all across Canada and by organizations all across Canada that the federal government needs to be a key player in solving the housing problem in Canada.

What would the NDP do around housing? We have a plan. We call for a national housing program that actually builds homes. It is a 10-year plan to build 200,000 new, affordable and social housing units, 100,000 renovated units, and 40,000 new rent subsidies. It includes a green renovation program. We would immediately reconnect to a continuation of the RRAP program, the housing renovation program, and the homelessness initiative. Both of these programs are set to expire in 10 months and the government still has yet to recommit to their extension.

We would see that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation gets back into creative housing development and reinvests some of its significant profits into housing development. We would pass a housing bill of rights based on Bill C-382, introduced by the member for London—Fanshawe, originally proposed by the member for Vancouver East, to enshrine in law the right to housing and require by law the establishment of a national housing program.

We would take measures such as my Bill C-532 which takes up an idea from the Canadian Real Estate Association to propose changes to taxation law to encourage reinvestment in affordable rental housing.

We cannot have confidence in a government that has no plan and takes no action to address these issues. We cannot have confidence in a government that pursues policies that only increases the gap between the rich and poor and has no policies to end poverty and homelessness. We want to ensure that Canadians have access to safe, secure and affordable housing.