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House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was women.

Topics

Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to table a petition today signed by many people from greater Vancouver, who in fact signed it at this past summer's pride festival in Vancouver, in support of full and explicit human rights protection for transgender and transsexual Canadians.

They note that transsexual and transgender people are victims of discrimination, harassment and violence because of their gender identity and expression and that they are often denied employment, housing and access to trans-sensitive health care and often have difficulty obtaining identification documents because of their gender identity and expression.

The petitioners are calling on Parliament to support a private member's bill that I have tabled, Bill C-389, that would add gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination to the Canadian Human Rights Act and would also amend the Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression as distinguishing characteristics and as aggravating factors to be taken into consideration at the time of sentencing and in hate crimes legislation.

Franklin Border CrossingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present to the House of Commons a petition signed by nearly 5,000 citizens from my riding who are asking the Government of Canada to commit to reviewing its decision to close the Franklin border crossing on April 1, 2011. I would like to point out that this decision was made without informing elected officials from the affected municipalities, businesses, citizens or our American neighbours. No consultations or public meetings were organized by the Canada Border Services Agency to explain the decision and the possible alternatives to municipal authorities and the merchants using this border point.

I would like to point out that this border crossing is important for our economy and the tourism sector, for the safety of our residents and the village of Franklin's viability.

Passport FeesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition calls on the Canadian government to negotiate with the United States government to reduce the United States and Canadian passport fees. The number of American tourists visiting Canada is at its lowest level since 1972. It has fallen by five million visits in the last seven years, from 16 million in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009.

Passport fees for an American family of four could be over $500 U.S. While 50% of Canadians have passports, only 25% of Americans do.

At the recent Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments, attended by myself and over 500 elected representatives from 11 border states and 3 provinces, a resolution was passed unanimously which reads:

RESOLVED, that [the] Conference calls on President Barack Obama and [the Canadian] Prime Minister...to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism; and be it further

RESOLVED, that [the Conference] encourage the governments to examine the idea of a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application;

To be a fair process, passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the government to work with the American government to examine a mutual reduction in passport fees to facilitate tourism and, finally, promote a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application fee on a mutual basis with the United States.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

ImmigrationRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. You moved so quickly after question period that I missed the tabling of documents under routine proceedings.

I would therefore like, pursuant to section 94(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, to table, in both official languages, the 2010 annual report on immigration.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-47, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know we have spent a lot of time speaking to the budget's effects domestically within Canada and what it will do to Canadians, good or bad, but I would like to spend a few minutes discussing what will happen to Canada's image overseas; to our own image of helping other people who are in desperate need and who are dispossessed.

I am aware that international co-operation is a contentious issue right now as we look through the budget and at what is going on. However, I am more interested in the future rather than debating the decisions that have happened in the past. I am very much aware that CIDA has decided that it wants to focus on three areas: health, education and food. I am not so much against that idea, as those things are very necessary, but I wonder where the money will come from to be able to do it.

I have looked on in concern as CIDA has continued to narrow down its funding programs in such a way that, as it focuses on those three things, many other things are not getting done. I think that is a concern.

I think it is also a great concern, not just for people in Canada but also various multinational groups and others overseas, that CIDA has had its budget frozen for the next five years. It is not only that. It is also the fact that that represents almost a full 25% of the deficit reduction that will be going on over the course of the next five years.

My concern about that is that as the needs grow and as our other partners around the world, Britain, the United States, Norway, the United Nations, Brazil, China and other countries, begin to ramp up their international co-operation dollars, we are actually in a situation where we will fall behind. That does concern me.

I do not want to pick fights over the particular decisions that are made. My concern is that as the rest of the world moves forward, even in very difficult economic times, groups, like the Government of the United Kingdom, Britain, have decided that, in spite of their own massive deficits and the deficit cutting that they will do, they will still reach 0.7 of GDP by the end of their mandate. I think that is significant.

It is also significant that Norway and other Scandinavian countries are up at 0.9. It is interesting that the Obama administration wants to claw its way to 0.7 as well. We know that Brazil has signed on and that it is becoming an economic powerhouse. It will reach its 0.7 budget, which is significant because Canada, by freezing our aid dollars, will fall down below 0.3. I do not think any of us really expected or wanted that but it will happen. It is happening at a time when we all, as advanced nations, decided in 2005, in Gleneagles, Scotland, to sign on to the millennium development goals. Up until that time, poverty was just a dog's breakfast. It was all over the place. Nobody knew quite how to attack it. Nations were running on all sorts of different cylinders.

However, the leaders of the industrialized world at that time decided that the time had come to pull it all together, to come up with some major themes in which all the major countries of the world could come together.

I want to mention briefly what was agreed to in Gleneagles, Scotland. It was agreed to end poverty and hunger; to have universal education and gender equality; child health; maternal health; combat HIV-AIDS; environmental sustainability; and global partnership.

Those are very important goals and, as we saw this past September at the millennium development goals summit at the United Nations, we are failing. I want to commend the government for its own actions around child and maternal health. The fact that it attempted to show leadership in that area is a good thing, but we need to back that up with the funds that would help us get to that point.

It is also important that as a government we did not sign on to child and maternal health nor to the global fund. We also did not sign on to environmental sustainability. We signed on to global partnership which allows people in developing worlds to take more part in the allocation of aid dollars and in what needs to be done.

In universal education, Canada has done a very good job, even under the present government for a number of years, of keeping our levels high in universal education but now they are beginning to dip. The Government of Canada is freezing its budget at the same time that others, equally oppressed by very difficult times, are deciding to move ahead anyway and do their best to fulfill the millennium development goals.

Why is it that we are being presented with a budget like this and debating it, which is a really good thing, that we have opted to do this at a time when other countries, which are far more financially stressed than we are, are opting to go ahead? Once again I would remind the House of Great Britain and all the strains that it is under. Even its coalition that came together has decided that it will stick together and stick to 0.7.

Some great things are coming out. When I look at Haiti, I think about the 200 people who have died as a result of the cholera outbreak. The whole island was wiped out and it needs rebuilding and rebuilding is going to take funds. The Government of Canada matched funds with Canadians in a strong response to Haiti. However, Bill Clinton told me in New York that it will be a 20 year project. If in the first five years of that project, CIDA has frozen its budget, I do not see how we will get there.

I would like to talk a bit about Sudan. People know about my own particular interest in Sudan. Sudan will be signing a referendum in January of this coming year. That is only two months away. Many of us will be there as that is going on. South Sudan will be the world's newest country. I realize that CIDA has said that it will put money toward food, and that is important. I also realize that the Government of Canada has given $800 million to Sudan since it came to power in 2006. There is nothing wrong with that. That is important. Sudan has stayed a country of focus for both the previous government and the current government.

Our problem comes with the World Food Programme report that now says that food assistance has more than quadrupled from 1 million to 4.3 million people in South Sudan in 2010 who will need help. How do we help them if we have frozen the budget? I do not understand.

I spoke with southern Sudanese officials just this past week and they are greatly worried about the two million people who will come back in massive migrations from all sorts of countries around Sudan and swell over the villages that are already there. The health concerns are major. Although CIDA has said that health is a major concern, how will we meet those needs if we have frozen the budget? There are other things as well.

When it comes to Sudan, it is important to realize that both the previous government and the current government made serious commitments to the people of south Sudan and to the country of Sudan as a whole. Many of us in the House will be there to watch the referendum signing ceremony. In the years following that, what are we going to do with the two to three to four million people who have visited Sudan and have decided to stay? How can CIDA possibly keep Sudan as a country of focus if its budget is frozen? I am concerned about that.

There is Congo. The Globe and Mail had a good article last week saying that the Canadian government had a very unique opportunity to go into Congo and help to stabilize that region because of our bilingual nature, the training of our troops and the excellence of our CIDA people. However, It will not happen, in part because we have not made that commitment. Where will CIDA's money come from if it enters into the massive problems in that region?

We have some serious thinking to do. If this budget has been cut by 25% to just CIDA alone and we are part of a worldwide scope to try reach out to these countries of the world and help stabilize them, how will we do that if we are suddenly frozen and we fall below 0.3 when our other partners are moving toward 0.7?

These are serious issues and I am worried. I do not want to pick fights about what should have been done about KAIROS. Those are for another day and another time. I just want to talk in broad strokes. What will we do as a nation if our budget is frozen?

This is an important issue for members of the House and for Canadians. According to a recent poll, 77% of Canadians think it is important for Canada to be known as a world leader in funding solutions and 62% of Canadians think this funding should not be frozen.

The sum of $4.5 billion will be cut from the CIDA budget because the money will be frozen and it will not continue to be increased. What will we do as a nation? How will we answer the world when other countries are looking to us for leadership as part of broader partnerships. Do we tell them that all bets are off? Do we tell them that we have frozen our budget, that they will be left on their own and that we will keep doing what we want to do?

We are part of a global alliance. It is my hope that all of us will look at this budget and realize that one of its fundamental flaws is the fact that our hand of compassion to the world has just been cut off because of our own inability to continue to increase funds for international co-operation.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from London not only on his comments with respect to this budget legislation, but for the work he has done in Canada and internationally in terms of international development and co-operation.

I have had the privilege of having a number of conversations with my colleague and his passion and knowledge on questions of international development, particularly with respect to the African continent are an inspiration. It is in that vein that I would very much like our colleague to share with us his views on how the lack of funding for development projects and for Canada's commitment to multilateral organizations like the United Nations has been reflected in our participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

Our colleague's knowledge of the African continent and of some of its difficult conflicts is worthy of sharing with this House as well as his views on what Canada could do more of to participate in the United Nations peacekeeping exercises and missions on that continent.

Does he have a sense of the number of Canadian military personnel, for example, involved in peacekeeping efforts under the United Nations banner?

I think a source of pride for many in this House is our past participation in those missions. I know we would benefit from the member's insight in this matter.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend's question is an important one.

We are about ready to look at the purchase of 65 stealth fighter jets. Right now Canada has between 30 and 50 peacekeepers worldwide. In 1992 we led the world in peacekeeping. We had more troops, more skin in the game in 1992, but today we are right near the bottom. We are 53rd out of 55 countries in peacekeeping.

There are 35 peacekeepers. I do not think Canadians know that or necessarily understand it, but that is a real issue. Peacekeeping is essential to international co-operation as well. We need that security in order to do our work.

I appreciate my friend's inquiry into this because we cannot separate peacekeeping, foreign development, international development and our troops from one another. They are a whole unit. It is time we realized that peacekeeping has to be part of the game and we have to be part of it.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is probably no member in this House who has more knowledge and authority on the issues he just spoke about. The member is very articulate in showing the relative and absolute decline in the influence of CIDA as far as our nation is concerned. It shows an absolute decline in numbers.

For whatever reason, we have chosen to deal with our deficit on the backs of the poor of this world. We have recently suffered a slap in international prestige before the United Nations. CIDA is a diminished force. Of course, there is what happened to Bill C-300 last Wednesday night. All of this makes us, in my judgment, a diminished nation.

I am interested in the hon. member's views on the diminished nature of CIDA going forward.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, to put it simply, the rest of the world is looking at us and wondering what has happened. I know that from speaking with people.

Right now we are 22nd on the list of OECD donors. We used to be near the top. We are now at a point where the rest of the world is no longer factoring in Canada. The delegations and others that we speak with about international co-operation realize we are on a downward track. It affects very much how the world will respond. Canada used to be one of the key players in peacekeeping and international co-operation. Without Canada, that work is greatly hindered.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to say a few words on economic recovery and on the budget.

First, in case I am not on my feet again, I would like to pay my respect to the older Canadian veterans who did so much to make it possible for us to be here today and have freedom and democracy in this great nation, and also to remember our newer veterans.

It is fair to say that we understand more what our veterans go through and what they suffer when they come home. It is vitally important that the Government of Canada has a package in place to ensure that when these veterans return they are able to live a normal life. Some of them suffer physical and mental illnesses. We must have the funds in place to assist them. That is why I have some concern about the lump sum payment for veterans. If that takes place and something happens and the fund is gone, what happens to them? Will there be people on the street with no dollars, people who stood in a foreign land in order to preserve our democracy? I hope the government will take that in hand.

I had the privilege of sitting at the cabinet table for a period of time representing veterans and I did learn many things. One thing they told me was that we certainly should know our history, and I do the best I can, because if we do not know it, we are very apt to repeat it.

In looking at the economic situation in the country today and reflecting back to when I came here, there was a previous government in place. When I reflect on the budgets that were presented at that time and the projections that were made, very fine people with great intentions gave great projections, none of which were met, and all the deficits were added onto the debt.

In fact, when Mr. Chrétien formed government and Mr. Martin gave us our first economic update, the debt was $38 billion, going to $60 billion if we did not do something. It kind of reflects what is taking place today and it is a great concern. Today I am fearful of how the economic situation might be straightened out in this country. We have to be sure it is not straightened out on the backs of the poor.

In Prince Edward Island, and in the Cardigan riding which I have the great privilege of representing, agriculture, fisheries and tourism are very important. In the agricultural field, I often hear the minister and other government members talk about it being from the gate to the plate. It sounds great but I can tell the House there is absolutely no problem at the plate, but there is a great problem at the gate.

If we go beyond the gate of the family farms and meet with the people who are involved in the agricultural sector and get an understanding of the debt they are carrying, farm debt has doubled in the last three years. It is a sad situation. This is the second largest nation in the world. If we are not careful, we will not be able to feed ourselves. It is certainly true that the measures we have do not meet the requirements for what is needed in the agricultural sector.

There is one thing a number of constituents say to me. They want me to remind the government that it is the government. In fact, some people in my riding feel it has been the government a bit too long. For government members to stand in their places and indicate what took place five, ten or fifteen years ago is not good enough. People need answers.

At the agriculture committee, a number of things have been suggested. The emergency advance payment program must be re-established at a higher level to meet producers' needs. Producers have a great difficulty. Looking at the hog industry in Prince Edward Island, many people had great difficulties. Another suggestion that was made to the committee was that we have funds in place to make sure that Canadians know that they are eating Canadian pork. The problem with the hog industry in particular is that little or nothing was done and they went broke.

We need to take care of our farmers.

Fishing is another very important industry in the province. There are a lot of problems in the fishing industry in Prince Edward Island. There are certain areas in the lobster fishery that are doing quite well. However, there are areas that are in a very serious situation. They need help from the government.

On June 10, 2009, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced a $65 million investment to help the Atlantic lobster industry. Why was it not an announcement of $165 million or $265 million, because the government is going to spend practically none of it anyway. That is the difficulty in the fishery. The fact is 80% of the total dollars that were announced have not been spent.

There were $15 million of this fund put in place in order to help fisher people who are in great difficulty, for example, in area 26A. There are always ups and downs in every industry. The pork industry needed help a year ago and a number of my constituents did not get any. They went broke. There is great difficulty in the fishery in 26A. I remember travelling in that area a number of years ago and the catches were high, but for the last number of years the people have been in a desperate situation and they need some input from the government.

The difference between fisheries and agriculture is that when fishers go broke the fleet is repossessed. It goes back to the lending institution and somebody else buys it. Somebody else invests in it. The fact is that all governments have issued lobster licences to people in this area. It is the responsibility of the Government of Canada to put a publicly funded rationalization program in place to help, in somewhat of a decent way, take out of the fishery those people who wish to come out. It is important to realize that the government issues the licence, but the people involved in the fishery spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on boats and traps to get their fleet in order, only to lose it.

The difference between the fishery and agriculture, when the government does nothing for the agricultural sector, people just go broke and go away. In the fishing sector they go broke and the lending institution is hurt. It is always a family operation and the people go broke, but it goes back to the lending institution. Someone buys the fleet and that fleet is back on the water creating the same amount of pressure on the fishery in 26A. It is not the only area in Atlantic Canada that has great difficulty. If the government does not put something in place that would take these people out of the fishery, there is going to be a continuous cycle of people going broke, people reinvesting in the fleet and the strain remaining on the resource.

As far as a recovery for people in the fishery is concerned, I suggest that the government spend some of the $65 million it announced. It has dealt with fishermen since it made that announcement. Nothing has happened in my area. The people are still up against it financially. They are asking to do this and do that, but in the end there is nothing done in order to take that fleet out of the system. The licence has to be taken back by the government and taken out of the system altogether. If 30% are taken out, it leaves 70% of the people able to make a living. Why would the government not see that? That is exactly what we need in order to ensure that the economy in that area of Prince Edward Island becomes even better.

A number of things were put in place. In fact the Liberal government put in place pilot projects in the EI program. Pilot programs have succeeded for years. They should be made part of the EI program so businesses can continue to thrive in Prince Edward Island.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Cardigan is well known in this House as somebody who defends the fishing industry, coastal communities, agriculture, and those who require employment insurance at periods of the year when there is no work.

I hope that the member for Cardigan will share some of his vast experience in this House and in government as a senior minister. I wonder whether he might comment on small craft harbours. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has a budget for small craft harbours.

A previous Liberal government increased the budget. In fairness, the current government, as part of the economic stimulus program, also increased the budget for the important work of repairing fishing harbours around the country. Certainly, in my riding of Beauséjour, a number of wharves still need work.

I wonder if the member might share with us his views on whether this program should be extended or allowed to sunset, as the Conservatives seem to want. We think this would be irresponsible.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Beauséjour, who represents fishers, understands very well how important small craft harbours are. Small craft harbours are just like our homes. If we do not spend money on them every year, they deteriorate. It is for the government to decide whether it is going to keep them in proper condition or not.

If this sunsets, if these dollars are not left in place, we know what happens. It is like anything else. These harbours become a massive bill for government, or they deteriorate and we cannot use them.

I remember all the barricades that were up when we formed the government in 1993. It was pretty sad. There were barricades up, and we were not able to use them, because they were not safe.

I agree with the member for Beauséjour. Let us ensure that the barricades are not put back up.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate listening to my colleague from Cardigan when he has an opportunity to speak in the House.

I want to ask him a question that I think is relevant to today's discussion. During my fourth or fifth year on the Hill, there was a debate about cutting back the support for the Pictou-P.E.I. ferry, the ferry service through the Northumberland Strait. I recall that the former premier of Nova Scotia, Premier John Hamm, for whom I have a great deal of respect, phoned my office. We had a great discussion about the impact that this would have on the people of Pictou County and P.E.I.

I know the member has a terrible reputation. He has been besmirched in this House for fighting for the people he represents and for dragging too much back to his constituents. I am sure that this is a reputation he will never want to apologize for.

However, I want to ask him, what is the current state of the Northumberland ferry service? Does he believe that the current government will be able to address the situation to the benefit of the people of P.E.I. and Pictou county?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service is a vital link. If we want to maintain, just maintain, the economic growth that has taken place in eastern Prince Edward Island, we must have the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service in place. It is no good to have members of the government saying they support the service. That is no good at all. It is a government decision, a political decision, that will decide whether the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service remains.

The government has asked for a public service review of the ferry. I can tell members that I am some concerned about this public service review. What happens if the public service review comes back and says that this service should not be there, that the fixed link was built and this should not be there?

Nothing could be more devastating to the economic growth of eastern Prince Edward Island than failing to reinstate the funding for the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service. We need to maintain it as it is today.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill C-47, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures. It is nicknamed Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act.

This gives me a chance to address broadly the government's economic priorities. I have to say that in my home community of Burnaby there are lots of folks who question where the government is headed. They question the expenditures that the government is undertaking, especially during this period of recession. They question things like the large expenditures the government undertook on the G8 and G20 meetings, which were larger than those of any G8-G20 meeting in the past, and more than any that are planned in the future. People in Burnaby are left wondering just what the heck is going on when the government puts out that kind of money for that kind of meeting.

People in Burnaby are wondering about the planned expenditures for building more prisons. They do not understand why that should be a priority, especially when crime is falling in many of our communities. They just do not get why that kind of building program should be a priority for the government.

People wonder about the purchase of new fighter jets to the tune of $9 billion, and the $9 billion maintenance contract associated with the purchase. They do not understand that kind of expenditure when there are other needs in our community going unmet. They do not understand why the government continues with its massive corporate tax cuts at a time when the government is in deficit, and why government would borrow to continue these tax cuts when it does not have the money for them. It does not make sense to people. People would not do that in their own budgeting. They do not understand why the government is pursuing such activities.

They do not understand why this is not a time for us to work together to solve some problems instead of undertaking massive expenditures. People in Burnaby are coming together to put forward a clear program on homelessness and affordable housing. They favour addressing this issue by working together, across political lines, working among different agencies, with the public and private sectors.

There has been a lot of activity in Burnaby over the last year on this issue. A lot of it was motivated by the Burnaby Task Force on Homelessness. I want to pay tribute to the co-chairs of that group, Wanda Mulholland, a citizen activist on homelessness issues, and Irene Jaakson, from the Lookout Emergency Aid Society. I also want to recognize the various other partners in the Burnaby Task Force on Homelessness.

People have come together from all over the community to address these issues: the Fraser Health Authority, B.C. Housing, all of the local MPs and MLAs across party lines, the Lookout Emergency Aid Society, Burnaby Community Connections, Burnaby Mental Wealth Society, Faith Lutheran Church, West Burnaby United Church, South Burnaby United Church, the Burnaby Hospital, the city of Burnaby, the Salvation Army, the community policing offices, the Progressive Housing Society, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness from the United Way, the Greater Vancouver Shelter Society, the Progressive Housing Society, the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police Service, the Mental Health and Addictions Geriatric Team from the Fraser Health Authority, and the Dixon Transition Society. All kinds of organizations and their representatives have come together to work on solutions to housing affordability and homelessness in Burnaby.

Recently, we marked this with a National Homelessness Week, which included a number of events that highlighted the program in the city of Burnaby.

What is remarkable about Burnaby is that there is not what might be considered the usual collection of community agencies, churches, and other agencies that serve people who are underhoused or homeless. Nevertheless, this message has spread to the business community in Burnaby. The exciting news is that the Burnaby Board of Trade has also got on board with this campaign and taken some significant initiatives of its own with regard to housing and homelessness.

A recent survey by the Burnaby Board of Trade established that homelessness and affordable housing were the top two social issues that business members could address. A full 64% of the members of the Burnaby Board of Trade identified those two issues as the key social issues in our community. The Burnaby Board of Trade Social Development Committee then began working on these issues.

The Burnaby Board of Trade's committee identified a number of reasons that homelessness was important in our community and to the business community. They noted that homelessness is just plain bad for business, that it is expensive, that it is a waste of human capital and productivity, and that it reflects poorly on our society. They found out that homelessness numbers are increasing in Burnaby and other communities in greater Vancouver. They noted that affordable housing is in short supply. They talked about solutions to those problems, and made some recommendations.

But they did not leave it there. They decided that they were going to take it further, and they got together with the Surrey Board of Trade and the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. Last September, they took a motion and a report to the annual meeting of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Ottawa. That annual meeting adopted the report suggested by those three organizations, the two boards of trade and the chamber, on reallocating federal funding to develop a national plan to end homelessness.

That was a significant move. To have the Canadian Chamber of Commerce adopt a policy for ending homelessness and providing affordable housing is an important development. The government should be getting ready, because it will be hearing from representatives of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce on this issue when they have their next meeting here on Parliament Hill.

It is interesting to note that in the report adopted by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce they make some clear statements. They say:

Homelessness is bad for business and the federal government does not have a national plan to end homelessness in Canada. Homelessness has a direct financial impact on businesses as it deters customers, damages employee recruitment and retention, harms tourism, and discourages companies from setting up offices in areas with a visible homeless population.

They begin their report with some bold and clear statements about the impact of homelessness on our communities and on the ability of businesses to be successful.

They note a number of statistics. The one that is often drawn to our attention is that Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy. They note that homelessness costs Canadian taxpayers between $4.5 billion and $6 billion annually, including health care costs, criminal justice, social services, and emergency shelter costs. They note that between 150,000 and 300,000 people are homeless in Canada, which is shameful to report. They note that in greater Vancouver homelessness increased by 22% after the homelessness count in 2008.

The Burnaby Board of Trade, the Surrey Board of Trade, and the Great Victoria Chamber of Commerce know about affordable housing and homelessness. In their report, they say, “The sooner the federal government commits to ending homelessness in a reasonable time frame, the sooner Canadian businesses and citizens will benefit from the resulting increase in Canada's economic productivity and quality of life. The development of a national plan to end homelessness is the necessary first step towards fulfilling this commitment”.

They make four recommendations. They call upon the federal government to reallocate funds from within the federal budget envelope to develop a national plan to end homelessness; to establish a reasonable target for the reduction of homelessness in Canada and set a reasonable time frame to accomplish this goal; to maintain a housing-first approach of creating and sustaining affordable and supportive housing as a first priority in the development of the national plan; and to consult with other levels of government and community partners in the development of the national plan.

If the Canadian Chamber of Commerce gets it, I wonder why this is not on the agenda of the current government. That is another failing in the government's economic program.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member with great interest. Perhaps he does not know about the homelessness partnering strategy. Of course, I realize that his party did not read the budget and voted against it. In my riding, extensive work is being done through that strategy. It supports everything from food banks to the development of low-income housing.

This is solidly in the budget. Perhaps he could speak to how he should actually support our budget, because we are doing many things on this issue that he cares about.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest the member go back and talk to housing activists from coast to coast to coast. The first thing they will tell her is the federal government is not pulling its weight on this.

I was briefly the housing critic for the NDP awhile ago and in that short time I had a stack of reports, over a foot high, from every corner of the country, from coast to coast to coast. The first recommendation in every one of those reports was the need for a national housing plan, a national housing strategy, that actually built homes for Canadians.

We do not have that now. We have some maintenance of old programs. We have the Conservatives still living off the avails of the NDP budget that we talked the Liberals into at the end of their term. They cancelled a corporate tax cut and put a billion dollars into affordable housing and homelessness programs. The Conservatives are still living off of that. They implemented it after the Liberals were defeated and they came into power. It is just not good enough.

We need a national housing program that builds homes for Canadians. Other G8 countries have that. Every community in the country that has looked at this has identified the primary failure for our communities and our country to address the housing and homelessness issue is because the federal government is not involved in a serious way. That needs to change.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has outlined a number of the failings or the frustrations with which members on this side of the House find common ground in terms of the government's budgetary priorities.

Could my hon. friend give us the benefit of his insight? He has talked about affordable housing. I agree with him. It is a major challenge that the government has ignored, not only in large urban centres like those in British Columbia but the small rural communities that I represent as well.

One issue the member might enlighten us on is his sense of the government's failing with respect to early learning and child care, making serious investments, not giving a tax break to parents, which may be a very worthy family policy but fails to deliver actual child care spaces right across the country. Has the member a view on the government's failure with respect to early learning and child care?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, all of us know that after housing costs, child care costs are probably the most significant expense for families in our communities. That is certainly the case in my community of Burnaby—Douglas. People there know they are spending a great deal of money on that. They are envious of other places that have better child care and early learning programs.

They look at Quebec, for example, and wonder why we in British Columbia cannot have a similar program, why we cannot nationally have a similar program. The reality is we could if we had the political will to do it.

They look at some of the things on which the federal Conservative government is spending money. They wonder if we would not be better off if it spent it on some of these things that actually improve the lives of families and children in our country.

We know that early learning and child care even out all of the benefits of coming from a wealthy family, that this early start for children is hugely beneficial to the future development of that child and the future development of our society.

The fact is we have been dragging our heels for decades on that. The former Liberal government promised and promised that program and never ever brought it forward. We need that to change and the sooner the better because it will make a huge difference in the lives of Canadian families and in the future of Canadian children.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this chance to speak to Bill C-47, the second budget implementation act.

Everybody, rich and poor, young and old, doing well and not doing well, we are all looking for the same thing: a chance, a real chance. Even the rich who have been rich all their lives, to develop a new product or to break into a new market, at some moment they need a chance, too.

For those who are not rich and for those who are poor who have not had the same chances or who did not give themselves the full chance they needed, what do they do? Where do they go? For them, for all of us, at some moment, government matters.

A budget matters. A budget offers a path to our economic future as a country and for each of us as individuals. However, the impact of a budget is far more than just economic. It can add a piece to a life that up to that moment does not quite work. A budget has often to do with money in the form of an investment, in training, learning, health, research and development, housing, literacy, in things that might not make today much better than yesterday, but which will give us a shot at a better tomorrow.

I have watched the government for more than four and a half years. I have listened as it has brought down several budgets. A budget day offers many announcements about many things, so much it seems is about to be done. Then the next day and every day after that we also begin to see what is not being done. For me, the test for any budget of any government is, what will its impact be 5 years or 10 years from now? How will it make us better off, as a country, as individuals? How much is a budget just stuff and in truth will not have any real impact on our lives at all?

That is my disappointment with the government. More than four and a half years have passed with very little benefit to the future of Canada and Canadians.

Learning, we know, will be central to every country's future. As parents, we worry about our kids. As we look into the future, more than anything we want to know that they will be okay. We see these immense, unimaginable changes ahead and we do not know how our kids will adapt.

We know that passing on to them some money will help a little, but money gets spent. Over time, we have come to realize, to know that in their future their only real security, their only real opportunity is learning. Therefore, when things change, they have in them the capacity to learn and change with them.

Our kids need to learn more and better in their early lives, to have enriched opportunities outside their own homes as well, in early learning and child care, just as they do when they get to kindergarten and beyond. They need to have better chances at college and university so their learning is not interrupted constantly by the need for part-time jobs or years off to limit the debt they incur.

Many adults who do not learn to read early in their lives, who live under the suffocating ceiling of illiteracy need literacy programs to give them another chance at life.

What is the government doing in these regards, in this budget? What has it been doing in these more than four and a half years? Very little. Enough to say in question period and in scrums that it is doing something. Enough to meet its political needs, but not enough, not nearly enough, to meet the needs of those outside government, to meet the needs of Canada and Canadians for the future.

When this recession ends, one thing is certain, the world's economy will not go back to where it was before the recession began. Shifts have taken place. There are new ways to do things, new technologies, especially in the energy sector, new opportunities, new risks. The need for any government, for any company, is to move to where the world is going, not to where it was or is.

In this budget and in the last four and a half years what has the government done to prepare us to succeed in the future? It has done just enough to say it has done something.

It is even more dramatically the case for those who are poor and who need a chance in so many different directions, affordable housing, income assistance, child care, disability supports and even more so still, those who are aboriginal. The government has done just enough to say it is doing something, but not nearly enough to make a difference, to offer a chance at a real life.

For more and more families, it takes both parents in the workforce to make ends meet. We are living longer. We are living healthier. However, as extended families, less often do we live together. What happens when something goes wrong, when there is a major illness in the family, a child or an elderly parent? When lives are closer to the margin, how do we adapt? How do we help caregivers? The government has done just enough to say it is doing something, but not enough to make a difference.

If someone notices just how little the government is actually doing for Canadians, the government discourages those voices. According to how the government thinks, these problems should not exist. If government gets smaller, if a little more money is put into the pockets of people, everything will be fine.

The reality is, however, that life as it is really lived annoyingly gets in the way, unless of course the government does not notice. For the Conservative government, it is the miracle of ideology. If the Conservatives know something already, then they do not have to listen. The government does not have to listen to community groups, so why not cut their funding. It does not have to listen to people who oppose or criticize it, so why not fire or humiliate them. Because we cannot know what is not knowable, the census is cut. Everybody knows that if something is not measured, then it does not exist. If it does not exist, then it cannot be a problem. If it is not a problem, why have government programs to fix what does not need fixing? It is magic, magic for the government but not magic for those who need a chance.

In a time of global economic transformation, in a time of climate change, in a time when the gap between the rich and everyone else has grown, in this more than four and a half years, as exemplified by the second budget implementation act, the hallmark of the Conservative government has been political management, not national stewardship.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, last weekend the member was in the United States and he probably had an opportunity to observe the rally to restore sanity and/or fear. It is a tongue-in-cheek, ironic exercise to poke fun at yet initiate serious discourse on things like the political rhetoric or what passes for political discourse in the United States.

I would be interested in the hon. member's observations on what passes for political discourse here and whether we are in danger of some similar kind of nonsensical conversation.