House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aircraft.


Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, we have heard over and over in the House in recent months, particularly in question period, the Prime Minister and other ministers say that a competition to decide on the replacement of the F-18s already took place and Canada was part of it.

I think we have had an admission today from the parliamentary secretary that in fact Canada did not have a decision-making role in that competition that occurred a decade ago.

I wonder if my hon. colleague agrees with the government's apparent position that it is okay to outsource our decision-making process about what is best for Canada to the U.S. and to leave it to the U.S. to decide what sort of aircraft we ought to choose?

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to go to the extreme. I want to pick up on a comment I made earlier and it ties into what my colleague said.

I do not see a great deal of evidence where we are completely dictated to in this particular situation. I understand the fact that we did have a role to play at the genesis of this.

The problem is these things are tailored on a $16 billion-plus contract. It has to be tailored toward specific needs. I am skeptical that this global supply chain is going to answer everything that we require. That is what concerns me the most, which is why I am hoping we engage in this debate. It is why I think it is beneficial to have people in this House who have more experience than I do with this, as my hon. colleague does. I cannot compliment him enough.

Nonetheless, I still need these answers that in my opinion are required about this new way of doing procurement, when we know from the evidence that the cost will likely be larger than we anticipated.

Do the airmen and airwomen have the right equipment? Are we making the right purchase on this particular equipment, given the requirements of our climate and our terrain? That is what we need to do.

Unfortunately this process leaves me a little bit skeptical. Are companies getting security?

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Kenora Ontario


Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, this is a question that just requires a yes or no answer.

Because of our commitment to purchase the F-35s, Canadian aerospace companies have priority access to win contracts for the entire global supply chain numbering as many as 5,000 aircraft.

Is the member willing to put Canadian jobs, aerospace and our military at risk by supporting cancelling this F-35 purchase, yes or no?

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, no.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate about the F-35 and talk about the opportunity that we need to take as Canadians as we make this decision. The government rushed in and pledged to buy these jet fighters to the tune of $9 billion.

I do not think the issue is about whether this is a good plane or not. When one looks at it and says that it is the next generation of x, fine. I defer to my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, who flew CF-18s in Baden-Soellingen and knows all about the technical requirements of a particular jet. I would defer to him as the expert because I think he is.

The reality is we can still ask ourselves a question. Yes, indeed, that is a great aircraft, but is that the one we need for some of the things we are going to be doing here at home? Perhaps it is, perhaps it is not. That question really has to be answered. The question becomes whether we actually need the number that the Conservative government has committed itself to. Perhaps we need less based on the mission requirements or maybe we should have bought something else. The fundamental question for me is around the issue of what our actual needs are based on our operational sensibilities and goals as we head forward.

There is one thing I find lacking. I had the opportunity to attend the defence committee a couple of times. It is the whole sense that we do not really have a major plan, except the extension of the Afghanistan mission. On that there seems to have been a sleight of hand between the red and blue alliance. As we take ourselves through the next 10 years, we have no new defence white paper that talks about what it is we want to be doing and what our people need.

Let me say at the outset that I am never opposed to the men and women of our armed forces or the RCMP receiving the very best tools they need to do their jobs based on what it is they need to do. I will use myself as an example. At one time I was an electrician and I did not use a sledgehammer when the job required a screw driver. I used the very best screw driver and tester because they ensured that I would not be electrocuted. I would not use a 400-volt metre to test 10,000 volts. I would be blown up.

We should provide the very best tools to do the jobs that we are asking our men and women in the forces to do, full stop. That is my belief, has always been my belief and will continue to be my belief. Whether the F-35 is the tool they actually need is part of the debate and I do not think we have had a fulsome debate on that in the House.

That leads me to the procurement piece where the commitment is made and we get into the back and forth of saying, “You made the commitment”, speaking of the previous Liberal government, and the Liberals saying, “No, we didn't”. The Conservatives say, “Yes, you did”. We get into the nuance of memorandums of understanding, which we refer to as MOUs, and what it means when we sign the MOU. Have we actually undertaken to commit to it? I would argue no, we have not. As the NDP critic, the member for St. John's East has said, we are not committed to buying them simply because we signed the MOU.

We have $9 billion ready to be spent on aircraft that perhaps we do not need. Maybe that is not what we want to be doing as we go forward, and we have to ask ourselves that question, in a procurement process which seems at best not to have been forthright, above board and transparent. Did we get the value we should have for this particular aircraft? I am not so sure. In fact, we still have not had a costing done now we are going to buy them. As far as the government is concerned, it wants to buy them. What does it cost to keep them?

As my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, knows, it is extremely expensive to keep equipment operational; I do not care what it is. It is always going to be difficult because the training needed for our personnel to ensure the planes can stay in the air is second to none and should be second to none.

We need to ensure that the folks who are to service that equipment, whatever it happens to be, will indeed be second to none as far as their ability to make it either be in the air, in the water or on land. It is our men and women who will use that equipment and we need to keep them safe at all times and do everything within our power to ensure that happens.

That is expensive. New equipment, with the high technology it has today, is expensive, full stop. It is not an iPod that we bought five years ago that cost $150. Today it costs $25 and does 10 times more than the one 10 years ago. This is not the type of equipment. This is sophisticated equipment to the nth degree that most of us do not quite comprehend in a lot of different ways. It is that type of sophistication.

The problem is there are very few people in this world who can fix it. Therefore, invariably, if it is $9 billion to buy it, it is probably 80% to 85% of that $9 billion to keep it running. Conservatively speaking, probably $7 billion is going to be the cost to actually keep the things in the air. Now we are looking at $16 billion over a period of time.

It is a huge amount of money at this moment in time. It is the single largest procurement purchase we have seen in my memory. I hate to say "ever" because ever is a long time. The economy may be better this year than last, but if members want to come to the riding of Welland, we are not much better off than we were 13 years ago and we have been in this slide a long time. When we start to spend that type of money, my constituents are asking me if that is really what we want to do be doing, if we should be spending this much or are there alternatives. I believe there are alternatives. There are things we should be looking at. There are alternatives that we should have taken into consideration, and we should take into consideration.

This really boils down to whether this is really the appropriate expenditure at this moment in time for that aircraft. Without the kind of thorough investigation that Parliament should do, I am not sure it is the appropriate decision. With that not happening, it seems we may well be simply signing a cheque that does not get what we actually want.

We then get back to the issue of cost. We have heard from different sides of the House that it is the appropriate cost, the right cost and is good value. On this side, we hear not so much, in the sense that we may have overpaid. The problem always will be, and I am sure the parliamentary secretary will help me with this, that quite often we compare apples to oranges. I understand that. We might say that the Australians bought a similar plane for X dollars, but they might not have X or Y in it, and that always becomes a difficult cost comparative. However, we know that if we go through an open procurement process, we have a sense that at least we received the value for money, if indeed this were the expenditure we made. That did not happen in this case.

I know we will go back and say that it started back in 2001, and that was the open process. I would beg to disagree. That certainly was the start of a process, but it was not necessarily the start of a process that said it was open and this was the procurement process. The Americans decided internally what they wanted to do, and we seem to be in lockstep.

There are other manufacturers. In fact, there are folks in our country who are saying we should be looking at some other alternatives. We owe it to the folks who will pay for this plane. This expenditure is going to be paid by us. We pay taxes as well. The good people across the country, who entrust their money to us, expect us to be prudent, especially now. They always expect us to be prudent, but when we are really at a point where we have the numbers of folks who are not working and who are finding themselves living hand to mouth, month in and month out, worrying about whether they can pay bills or keep a roof over their heads and the heat turned on this winter, we owe it to them. When we look them in their eyes, we will be able to assure them we did the right thing, that we made the right choice and paid the best price. We want to assure them that at the end of the day, we did not overlook other opportunities, or we did not turn a blind eye, or turn our backs on them, that we did not simply say we did not want to see it because we made a commitment.

The commitment is actually one we could get out of. From what I have read to date, and unless I can be shown a document otherwise that has locked us in, we can get out of this one. It is not going to be what happened with the Liberals, with the Sea King, when they decided to sink themselves into that one and then get back out, which basically cost us a fortune. It seems to me there is an opportunity, from the memorandums I have read, that we can extract ourselves from this. It is not too late.

That being the case, if we can extract ourselves, then we ought to take that half step back and take a good, hard look at our military requirements, our requirements for security for the country, because those will determine what we want to do, our requirements elsewhere around the world where we may have commitments, whatever those happen to be through NATO, or NORAD or through any other agreements we have internationally, the UN, et cetera, and what it is that Canadians have asked us to do.

One of the things we quite often leave out of this is what they have asked us to do for them, in this sense of what they expect to see our military do. It is not just up to us to make a decision that we will go in and do X, whatever that happens to be. I am not talking about this week's announcement of no debate, no vote in the House about the extension of the Afghan mission. I am talking about a broader picture of where we are headed in the next 10, 15, 20 years as far as our Canadian Forces and what Canadians would like to see them do.

Canadians have a role to play in the sense of asking what they would like to see their forces do for them. The Canadian Forces work on behalf of all of us. That is what we ask them to do. We are empowered as parliamentarians to ask them to do things on behalf of other Canadians. It really boils down to that.

It seems to me that we ran headlong into this at a point in time when we had to buy materials for war theatre. We were at war in Afghanistan. Some of us did not agree, but neither the case, we understood we were there and we needed to buy folks the tools when they were there. We are now buying a fighter jet. That still takes us, in a way, in a theatre of war, depending on how one looks at it. Is that the need we actually want for our country? I would suggest perhaps not.

When I look at what we have done, in the whole sense that we have run headlong into an expenditure of $9 billion, it reminds me of when I was young and newly married and I wanted to buy a house. My wife and I looked at a house and thought it would be a great house in which to raise a family, although we had no kids at the time. We could afford to buy it, but we could not afford the property taxes. It was a very nice house. The problem was the property taxes were astronomical.

That takes me back to this fighter jet. It is a lovely fighter jet, with all the new accoutrements, the bells and whistles and all the great stuff we can have, but maybe we cannot afford to keep it at the end of the day. The jets are inherently expensive.

If we look at the life of the CF-18, it has been a workhorse for our forces for a long time. The fact is the parliamentary secretary and I had a discussion the other night. I was actually in Baden-Söllingen many years ago as a young man. Without a doubt, they were absolutely an astonishing aircraft to watch take off and land. They have been around a long time and I freely admit that. However, we have done a great deal to continue to keep them operational. We have sunk a lot of money into them to keep them operational and we just put in a lot of money to keep them operational for a great deal longer.

We are not about to be out of the air tomorrow, as much as some folks are intimating that somehow we will fall out of the sky tomorrow. That is not the case. We will continue to fly for an extensive period of time, and that is a good thing. We not only have the largest coastal area, but we have a great deal of airspace. Yes, we do have to defend and make our borders secure for Canadians, and I would be the first to admit it. There is the opportunity we need to take.

When we are going to make the largest investment, and this is an investment in our armed forces, no one makes an investment in a company, their home, their life, or their family without looking at all the opportunities and all the possibilities and weighing them all up.

We have not done that. We have allowed ourselves to be driven along a path starting in 2001. Without a doubt, I agree with my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, the Liberals started us on this journey. They started us down this road and we have continued down it. The problem is along the way, when we were travelling this road, there were opportunities to take a look to the side. There were other opportunities and perhaps other roads to follow. The good thing about this is we can actually take a U-turn. We can go back and look again.

I suggest the government should tell the folks that it does not intend to buy this aircraft at this moment in time, that it will go back and do an open procurement and find the best value for Canadians.

One of the things that I find astonishing about this, as someone who comes out of the manufacturing sector, is there are no guarantees for our manufacturers across the country that they will get work if we buy this aircraft. Yes, it says they have the opportunity to bid. The problem with that is I am not too sure why we did not do what Israel did, which was to say it would get X. We did not do that.

The government is saying that there is opportunity. Opportunity is always a wonderful thing. I was born in Glasgow and as my old gran used to say to me “A penny in your hand is better than the opportunity to find one on the street”.

If we are going to have contracts, we need to have an open procurement policy and system. We need to have an open, transparent procurement policy that tell us where we are headed. If we are going to do, it ought to be tied in the way we have done most contracts like this in the past. It ought to be tied to jobs for Canadians and not just for the men and women in uniform who will be around that. We need to have an international body of trade and peace that pulls it together. It sounds somewhat self-serving, but the reality of defence contracts is the way it works in the world, whether we like it or not.

Certain countries simply say that if they are going to buy X from us, they want an X number of guaranteed jobs in their countries, end of story. We ought to be saying that, no matter which one we buy. I would suggest we have to review which one we will buy because this procurement policy just is not up to snuff.

We are about to spend $9 billion and probably $16 billion. If it ends up being $16 billion to keep this aircraft in the air and moving forward through the next 20 plus years of its life span, it will be an issue of what could we have done with that money. If we had bought something at a lesser cost for instance, such as a different plane that met our requirements and commitments, and we had saved $4 billion or $5 billion in that process or even $1 billion in that process, what could we have done with it?

We could have paid down the debt. I am sure the Conservatives would be happy to pay down the debt. I think everyone in the House would like to pay down the debt. I am sure my kids, as they enter into the work world and start paying taxes, would be happy if we paid down the debt and did not leave it to them.

We could have done many other things as well. We could have taken that $1 billion and put them into a poverty strategy that came through a report by my good friend and colleague from Sault Ste. Marie, who has been instrumental in fighting for it for the last 20-plus years.

We could have taken that $1 billion to help folks who are poor, homeless and live below the poverty line. If it indeed had been more, perhaps $4 billion or $5 billion, it would have gone a long way to end poverty in the country. That is what we could have done with that additional money if we had an open procurement policy, if we had an open process, if we had looked at a plane that met our needs, not our wants.

When one is a kid, one always has big eyes when passing the toy store at Christmas. There are always the big wants. The problem is moms and dads can only get what they think they can afford to get. What we saw this time was the big eyes at Christmas with the want rather than asking what our needs were, what could we afford and what should we do.

I ask the Conservative government to take a half a step back, take a look at this and ensure this procurement is an open procurement policy that actually makes sense and saves money for the Canadian taxpayer.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Vancouver Centre, Maternal and Child Health.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta


Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, in his comments, my colleague asked for some help, so I will give him a bit of help.

The cost of maintaining the F-35 will be approximately the same per year as the cost of maintaining the current F-18 fleet, which is about $250 million per year.

This is about jobs. I would invite the member to speak to the Canadian industry. The Canadian industry, the aerospace industry in particular, is absolutely thrilled with this program because it will have opportunities that it would never have had before for the next generation of technology and whatever comes beyond that.

We have looked at the alternatives. I covered that. Yes, we are not locked in. We were not locked into the program in 1997 or 2002 or 2006. We have stayed with the program because it is simply the best program out there. Ten countries have looked at the same program, the same options. We have had subject matter experts, civilian and military, looking at this at a very highly classified level for many years. They have all come to the same conclusion. So, we have looked at those alternatives.

When he talks about no penalties for getting out of the MOU, that is simply not true. We would have to negotiate our way out, which could cost, but probably would not, as much as $551 million. That is not chump change. We would lose our slots in the production line to the point where we may not be able to replace the F-18 on time. We would lose access to the intellectual property that we need to sustain the airplane over its life. If we are not in the MOU, we would not have access to that intellectual property. We would lose a lot of contracts that are in place now. They would be fulfilled for the small number, but we would lose those contracts with respect to following on for the global supply chain of 3,000 to 5,000 airplanes. And there is more.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to put on the record that my friend, the parliamentary secretary, served this country with great distinction. As I said earlier, I had the good fortune of being on the base at Baden-Soellingen, but we did not get to meet, unfortunately, at that time. However, I know he had himself in that seat doing what we asked him to do. He did it with great dignity, great courage and honour. I thank him for that and our country should thank him for that. I witnessed the work they did. I was there for a number of weeks visiting friends who were teaching on the base and I had firsthand evidence of our folks working there back in early 1980, 1981 and 1982.

When it comes to the debate around whether we looked at other opportunities, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary saying that the government did do that. However, some companies out there, Boeing being one of them, said that they had an opportunity to bring stuff forward. I understand that we may disagree about that. The option is that we need to be looking at all opportunities to ensure we get the value for money that Canadians expect us to get.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for raising some thoughtful questions about why we should be careful about moving forward too quickly given that the price of these F-35 aircrafts has gone from some $50 million to now $70 million to $75 million, with some people suggesting that it could be as much as $100 million.

Although I understand that the breakdown of the price to only $5.5 billion is for the aircraft itself, but we do know that the ongoing support over 20 years is also an escalating number. Interestingly enough, the overall cost has been estimated at some $16 billion since day one and yet the projections of the increases continue to go up. Then the parliamentary secretary somehow suggested that we would be out of deficit in 2016 even though the Parliamentary Budget Officer said that there would still be a $9 billion deficit at that time.

The member has raised some important questions. Since it is the largest military procurement in the history of our country, we should demonstrate to Canadians, I believe, that we have looked at it very carefully and that Parliament is prepared to get behind a proposal that makes sense and in fact is at the right price but for aircraft that meet our absolute needs rather than, as the parliamentary secretary said, for Afghan-like missions.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no question in my mind that we need to be prudent when it comes to this particular issue. We will not be in theatre as of July 2011 so we do not need a fighter jet. We actually have one now anyway. It is not like we will be in theatre the year after and we will need it. I want to stress that we have an opportunity to take our time.

Ultimately, this boils down to our needs. We have yet, in my view, to flesh that out over the longer term. We are about to make a purchase that will last as long as 30 years, depending. I first witnessed an F-18 jet in 1980. I cannot remember exactly when it came into service but it has been around for 30 years. If the next one is going to last for 30 years or more, depending, as it is retrofitted, changed and added to, then we ought to know what we want to do in 5, 10, 15 years as a defence policy.

Will this aircraft actually meet our needs 25 years from now? That has yet to be ascertained. If we have not done that, then we ought not to be rushing out to buy it.

I do not want members to get me wrong. This is a wonderful piece of equipment. When I first saw a CF-18, my eyes were as big as saucers. It is an amazing piece of equipment. The eyes as big as saucers here are looking at the F-35 but we need to take a step back and understand what we really need.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think what Canadians want when they think of Canada's military is a military that is modern and that has the necessary equipment to fulfill the missions that we as Canadians ask of it. Where there can be some legitimate philosophical differences is what those missions may consist of.

I think certain members of the House think Canada should be playing a role in international aggressive military operations and therefore we need equipment that would fit into that particular philosophy. Others feel, as I do, that Canada should play a peacekeeping role on the world stage and our military should be tight and well equipped in order to protect our borders, participate in peacekeeping activities, participate in rescue missions, help with natural disasters and the like. I am wondering if my friend could comment on where he sits on that philosophical question.

Many Canadians are asking whether the timing of this purchase is accurate. We have a $55 billion deficit. There are many pressing priorities in this country. A national child care program is required. National housing is required. Two million seniors live in poverty. My home province of British Columbia has the highest rate of child poverty in the country where one in four children live in poverty.

Does my colleague think that, in terms of priorities, purchasing 65 of these aircraft for $16 billion is really the best use of money at this particular point in time?

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do agree with my colleague with regard to his sense of where our military should be headed, and it is in more of a peacekeeping role. New Democrats have been clear over the years in the way we have voted because we have always believed that we will have folks in theatre or on missions, such as in Afghanistan. We should articulate the extension of our troops in Afghanistan in a debate here in the House and then a vote if we are going to send folks to these sorts of places regardless of where it happens to be.

When I was speaking earlier, I had indicated that we if had a new defence white paper that talked about where we are headed in the next 20 years and laid out a strategy, we would know what to buy. It is like buying a house or condo. If I buy a condo I do not need a lawnmower but if I buy a house with a lawn I need a lawnmower.

This is about knowing what we intend to do and understanding what Canadians are asking us to do, which is fundamentally more important. It is not about what we want to do because at the end of the day, Canadians are the ones who will be footing the bill. To be honest, this is not the time to spend $16 billion on a fully operational, bells and whistles fighter jet.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate this evening.

We have heard a lot of discussion in this House and in public forums about equipping the Canadian Air Force with the F-35 aircraft. Over the past few months, the debate seems to have focused on three key themes: necessity, cost and procurement. I think it is important to be transparent about these themes and I would like to address each of them in my remarks this evening.

I will start with necessity. Since its establishment over 85 years ago, the air force has done tremendous work, often defying the odds and achieving success where it was not thought possible. It is truly remarkable that over 22,000 Canadian air crew served in the First World War. It was the first conflict in which aircraft played a part. Through the valiant efforts of our fighter pilots, especially our famous air aces, like the legendary Billy Bishop, Canada became known for aerial skills and bravery.

During the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Air Force, RCAF as it was then known, reached over 200,000 personnel, including, for the first time, over 17,000 total members of the women's division. At the time, it was the fourth largest air force among the allied powers.

More recently, during the 1991 Gulf War, the Canadian Air Force, as part of the multinational coalition force, contributed combat air patrols, sweep and escort missions, and ground attack roles with CF-18s, as well as reconnaissance with Sea Kings.

In 1999, Canadian CF-18s were actively involved in the NATO-led air campaign in Kosovo from bombing missions, combat air patrols and providing close air support.

An independent fighter jet capability has proven crucial to Canada. As part of our security, fighter jets conduct daily domestic and continental operations, including in the Arctic and through NORAD.

As part of Operation Noble Eagle, NORAD's mission to safeguard North American skies, CF-18s maintain a constant state of alert, ready to respond immediately to potential threats to continental security.

North American Aerospace Defence Command launched three pairs of fighters on September 28, 2006, from the Command's Canadian NORAD region and the Alaskan NORAD region in response to Russian aircraft that penetrated North America's air defence identification zone.

Fighter jets support major international events in Canada. Of course, the CF-18s provided around-the-clock support during the 2010 Olympic Games in British Columbia, keeping the skies safe for athletes and spectators from around the world. Fighter jets respond to major terrorist attacks. Canadian CF-18s formed part of the immediate response to the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

Just a few weeks ago, Canada worked seamlessly with our American partners to dispatch our CF-18s to interdict a flight suspected of carrying explosive packages designed by terrorists.

Time and time again, events in or close to our air space have shown that Canada needs to maintain a fighter jet capability. The question then is: What kind of plane does Canada need to face the challenges of the decades to come?

We need a robust aircraft capable of handling Canada's geography and harsh weather conditions. We need to be interoperable with our allies. We need to be flexible enough to adapt to whatever challenges Canada may face in the 21st century. We need to provide our men and women in uniform with the best chance to return home safely after confronting those challenges.

A fifth generation fighter aircraft with stealth advance sensors, fusion of central data and external information fits the bill. The joint strike fighter, the F-35, is the right plane for the Canadian Air Force at the right time for our country.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It being 5:15 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, November 23 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it you will find unanimous consent to see the clock at 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is it agreed?

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 20 consideration of the motion that Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing ActPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I consider it an honour and a responsibility to speak in support of Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians.

Our country has so much to be proud of. Canada ranks eighth on the United Nations development program's human development index, but sadly there remain many national issues completely unattended and unnoticed by the government, issues in desperate need of improvement and a meaningful commitment.

We need the government to begin to respect the intent of the veterans charter so that the brave men and women who fight for Canada receive the reparations and services they need and deserve. To do anything less diminishes the efforts and the unlimited risks that our veterans expose themselves to on our behalf.

Colonel Stogran believes that between 700 and 2,000 Canadian veterans are homeless, and this needs to change. I implore all members to vote for this legislation so that the very men and women who have defended our country do not have to sleep on its streets.

Canada has, in the last five years, become the single biggest recipient of international fossil awards and is now known as an environmental laggard. We and, more importantly, our children and grandchildren require that the government make a meaningful commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to reconstituting programs that encourage green building and renovations and to supporting renewable sources of energy for both environmental and economic benefits. When will the government understand that doing so will both create jobs and save our planet?

We require that the government begin to work for lower income Canadians who are left behind whenever the government cuts corporate taxes, like the $6 billion corporate tax cut planned for next year.

We need a national housing strategy, and we need that strategy to work for lower income and marginalized Canadians now.

Secure housing and early learning and child care are fundamental to eliminating poverty, and while the government abandoned the full early learning and child care strategy deployed by the previous Liberal government, it now has the opportunity to commit to an integral part of the equation, a national housing strategy.

There are gaping holes in our social safety net, through which the most vulnerable Canadians are falling. It is our responsibility as decision makers to close those holes and ensure that all Canadians receive the services they require: universal health care, food security, education and housing security.

The link between these is reduced crime rates, lower social and health care costs and higher productivity, proven time and time again in countries that deploy such strategies. We must demonstrate ourselves to be a compassionate country, committed to helping those in need for moral reasons and, frankly, for economic ones also.

We have an opportunity to pass Bill C-304, which will initiate a dialogue to create a national housing strategy. This will bring Canada closer to meeting its international obligations and will help to ensure that Canadians are protected from the affliction of homelessness and the overwhelming cost of housing.

A recent study on increased food bank use made the following statement:

The need for food banks is a result of our failure as a country to adequately address a number of social issues, including a changing job market, a lack of affordable housing and child care, and a social safety net that is ineffective.

It has been proven that passing this legislation would help to strategically increase the availability of adequate housing, so that marginalized Canadians' health is better protected and that crime is reduced, so that federal and sub-national governments' spending is focused on achieving a clear set of objectives to maximize the value of every dollar spent reducing homelessness, and to help alleviate the pressures on municipalities that are also overwhelmed by the delivery of so many publicly provided services.

My time on the Wellington and Guelph Housing Authority, working with Onward Willow, and on the Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination has affirmed my strong conviction that taking action to create affordable housing is, without question, one of the most effective ways to lift entire families out of poverty and into prosperity.

It is with this experience and these convictions in mind that I am extremely disappointed that Canada is the only G8 country without a national strategy to ensure its citizens have affordable and accessible housing. Housing is enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself [or herself] and of his [or her] family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care...

In 1976 Canada, as a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, committed itself to “make progress on fully realizing all economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to adequate housing” for all citizens.

Despite our clear commitment to providing housing for all Canadians, an astounding number of citizens either remain homeless or live in inadequate housing. More than 300,000 Canadians are homeless, approximately 3.3 million live in substandard housing and more than three-quarters of 1 million families live in overcrowded housing. These numbers predate the recession.

A recent study completed by the Canadian Payroll Association documents that approximately 59% of Canadian employees would “have trouble making ends meet” if their paycheque were delayed by only one week. This means that homelessness and inadequate housing could, should we experience further economic difficulties, be even more protracted, more catastrophic than it currently is.

This is but one reason we must pass this legislation and move toward a national housing strategy, built with all stakeholders' input to incorporate Canada's regional, cultural and economic diversity.

These numbers are staggering and the world is taking notice. On February 3, 2009, Canada was reviewed by the UN Human Rights Working Group. Given the state of housing in Canada, the working group, composed of 45 countries, actually felt compelled to make recommendations on how Canada could better meet its international obligations. In response to its recommendations, the government said the following:

Canada acknowledges that there are challenges and the Government of Canada commits to continuing to explore ways to enhance efforts to address poverty and housing issues, in collaboration with provinces and territories.

The intent of the government has been clearly stated. This is the perfect opportunity for it to join words with action, which it is typically so disinclined to do. Intent is not enough; it must be transformed into action. This means all of us in this House agreeing to create a national strategy and honouring the Canadian response to the working group's review. It means voting in favour of this legislation to create one.

Liberal Senator Eggleton and PC Senator Segal recently published a well-researched Senate report on poverty elimination, entitled “In From the Margins”. They are clear that fundamental to poverty elimination is the need to provide sustained and adequate funding for affordable housing through a national housing and homelessness strategy.

Michael Shapcott, director general of the Wellesley Institute, funding provider for multiple expert studies on housing and health, is clear: Canadians with homes are healthy Canadians, and healthy Canadians mean reduced health care costs. This is yet another reason that we need to pass this legislation.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, currently on the Hill advocating for municipalities, is also clear in its support for this legislation. FCM policy advisor Joshua Bates said in committee that:

Chronic homelessness and lack of affordable housing are not just social issues; they're core economic issues. They strain the limited resources of municipal governments and undermine the economic well-being of our cities, which are the engines of national economic growth, competitiveness, and productivity.

The United Nations, the Wellesley Institute, FCM and the Assembly of First Nations are but some of the bodies in support of this legislation, and from past statements of intent, so too it seems is the Government of Canada. Remember, the government has pledged to “enhance efforts to address poverty and housing issues, in collaboration with provinces and territories”. We need a national housing strategy to do so effectively.

It is not only imperative that we pass this legislation for compassionate reasons, to lift Canadians from poverty and to give the most vulnerable better lives. We must also introduce a national housing strategy so that our housing dollars are spent in the most effective way possible.

Therefore, I am appealing to all members today, on both compassionate and fiscally responsible grounds, to pass this legislation and begin the dialogue that will bring Canada closer to having a national housing strategy, which will bring our country into compliance with our international obligations and reduce poverty and crime through addressing Canada's housing crisis. Members' votes, simply put, amount to doing the right thing.

Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this important bill introduced by our NDP colleague from Vancouver East. This bill has been well received by the opposition parties and, in our opinion, is very necessary. It should also be well received by the Conservative government.

If we wish to be seen honouring our commitments as parliamentarians, and in light of the report on poverty tabled today, I believe we must take this opportunity to act on a measure that has a direct bearing on the issue of poverty.

I would remind members that the purpose of the bill is to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians—for all citizens of Canada and Quebec. I will come back to Quebec because it already has its own measures and initiatives. For some of these, it must share the jurisdiction, or at least the cost, with Canada.

It is fortuitous that the debate to send this bill to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for appropriate amendments coincides with the tabling of a report on poverty. The report is the result of three years' work by this committee, which included parliamentarians from every party in the House.

By the way, since my colleague from Sault Ste. Marie is present, I would like to highlight his hard work in initiating the study, and his dedication and effort in carrying out this project for his party. He encouraged us to work hard as well and we were pleased to be involved.

The results give hope to those living in inadequate housing. The report contains measures that reflect the opinions of the people we consulted across Canada. In three years, we travelled to every provincial capital and we heard from people who were familiar with the circumstances of those who are poorly housed.

There is a direct link between housing and poverty because we need to remember that, of all the burdens related to poverty, housing tops the list. There is no getting around it. If we do not take measures to ensure that housing is affordable for low-income earners, the cost of housing will inevitably take up the largest portion of their income.

There are people who spend 50% or even 60% of their income on housing. We have seen some people spend as much as 80% of their income on rent. Some even spend more than 80%.

It is widely acknowledged that once you spend more than 30% of your income on rent, you begin to slide down a slippery financial slope because the extra money you are putting towards rent has to be squeezed out of your budget for clothing, heating and food.

And that leads to the results we have found, notably in terms of food bank usage. In recent days, we have seen a number of situations where food banks have been short of food for months, trying to meet the needs of the people and families that are struggling to feed themselves.

Poverty has a new face these days. More and more working people are turning to food banks. On average, 13% to 14% of people who use food banks have a job. Surprisingly, when we look more closely at the figures by geographic region, we see that the largest percentage of working people who use food banks is in western Canada, in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The figure is as high as 17%. Why? Because it is not enough for people to have a decent income; they need to live in a region where the cost of living is reasonable compared to income levels. In regions where most workers have high incomes, the cost of living is also high.

More than 870,000 people use food banks every month. We should be concerned about that. That is more than the population of Ottawa. Imagine: more people than the whole population of Ottawa use food banks once a week. That is an alarming statistic. It should also tell us that something is wrong with the system.

Despite the fact that on November 15, 1989, the House of Commons unanimously voted in favour of eliminating child poverty by the year 2000, we are still in the same situation today, with a motion reiterated in November to achieve the same goal. What happened? Since 1991, there have been draconian cuts to a number of social safety net programs. One of these programs was social housing.

Typically in Canada, when a municipality or a region has a vacancy rate of less than 3%, we start to see serious problems with housing the least fortunate. With upward pressure on the cost of housing, the less fortunate can no longer afford the rent. We end up with people who are very poorly housed and large families in apartments with only three, four or five rooms and everything that entails.

In the riding of Chambly—Borduas that I have the honour of representing, there are 12 municipalities. Out of these 12 municipalities, 11 have a vacancy rate of less than 3%; 9 have a vacancy rate of less than 1%. Just imagine how that affects people with low incomes. They end up in very precarious situations because most of their income goes toward paying for housing. This is a major cause of poverty.

What caused this? From 1991 to 2001, for 10 years, the Canadian government stopped supporting social housing development.

Today we have an opportunity to remedy the situation. That is why I am calling on all my colleagues in the House to vote in favour of referring this bill to committee, in order to make the necessary amendments to have all hon. members vote for this bill.

Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to speak to the bill, in particular because we are at third reading of it and it has been a long journey. I was very lucky to follow the bill throughout its journey as it winded its way through the House.

When the bill was introduced by the member for Vancouver East, a tireless housing advocate for not only her own community but also for people across Canada, I was lucky enough to be the NDP housing critic. I have been there from the beginning. I have watched it grow and change in order to get it passed through the House of Commons and get it to that other place.

It has been really exciting to work with so many civil society organizations that have a vested interest in seeing the bill make its way through the House. They have engaged with us right from the beginning. They talked about amendments to the bill so we could make it even stronger than when it first started out.

I would like to single out, in particular, the work of Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, CERA. It was there from the beginning. It came up with great solutions to some of the legislative problems that we had with the bill. It really did such amazing work to make the bill so much stronger. I was very honoured to work with that organization.

A couple of other groups that I would like to single out are FRAPRU and the Evangelical Christian Fellowship. Both organizations did excellent work with us on the bill.

Therefore, we are at third reading in the second hour of debate. We are so close.

The support for the bill across Canada has been tremendous. Today the Federation of Canadian Municipalities was on the Hill meeting with parliamentarians today. I met with representatives of municipalities across Canada. The first thing they wanted was an update on Bill C-304. They wanted to know what they could do to help it get through the House. There is really strong support from FCM.

As well, I was welcomed to Mount Saint Vincent University to talk to the Sisters of Charity there. All it wanted to hear about was Bill C-304. That was the topic of conversation for the entire time. We had a great discussion about it. It was so relieved to hear that we were getting to third reading.

This weekend met with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Halifax. This bill as well as the bill introduced by my colleague from Sault Ste. Marie on poverty elimination were the two things it wanted to talk about. It understands how important both these bills are to Canadians.

Everywhere I go in my riding people actually know the number of the bill. They know Bill C-304. They know there is a call for a national housing strategy. People want updates when I am in my riding.

As well, this summer I was lucky enough to travel across Canada, doing a health tour. Housing was right up there as the number one issue. The support is tremendous. People support it because they understand the impact that the bill will have. They understand that it is a solution to homelessness, that it is a solution to precarious housing, that it is part of the solution for so many other things, that housing is linked inextricably to health outcomes, that if we expect to have a healthy population, there must be housing for people.

A report from the HUMA committee, entitled “Federal Poverty Reduction Plan: Working in Partnership Towards Reducing Poverty in Canada”, was introduced in the House yesterday. This is an incredible report. It talks about housing. It talks about the need for us to act when it comes to housing if we are to deal with poverty. It is about poverty. It is about women. It is about people with disabilities and newcomers. It is about our communities. Therefore, it is important that we talk about this in the House and that we are able to move the bill forward.

Homelessness and precarious housing hurts our communities. I have a copy of the Halifax report card on homelessness 2010. This is put together by the Community Action on Homelessness organization in Halifax. If we look at this report card, it has a really interesting chart, looking at homelessness numbers when it comes to Halifax and my community.

The Rebecca Cohn Auditorium is an auditorium where someone comes to do a performance, where the ballet performs when it comes to town, where there is theatre and music. There are 1,075 seats in the auditorium. It seats a fair number of people. I have been there. People looking around are impressed by the number of people sitting there.

The total number of firefighters in HRM is 1,100. There was a fire in May 2009 in my riding and the total number of Haligonians forced from their homes by that fire and others in the area was 1,200. That is a lot of people. It had a huge impact.

The total number of physicians working Halifax is 1,284. That is a lot of physicians. There is a major constituency in my riding. I talk to physicians all the time about the health care needs facing my community.

The total number of students at Citadel High School, one of the two high schools in my riding, a pretty big school, is 1,392. What does this all mean? These are big numbers I am talking about, but the total number of homeless individuals who use shelters in my riding of Halifax is 1,718.

I look around the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium and it looks like a pretty big audience. I talk to doctors because they are a pretty big constituency. There are more people who have used shelters in my riding than the other numbers and those people are literally homeless and have to go into the shelter system.

Housing is about so much more than people who are on the streets. Housing is about people who might have housing but are precariously housed. As members probably know, CMHC has set a guideline of spending no more than 30% of one's income on shelter. People who spend more than 30% of their income on shelter are at risk of homelessness. They are spending too great a portion of their income on shelter to be able to pay for the other things they need in life.

Currently in Nova Scotia people making minimum wage and working 40 hours a week would have to use 43% of their salaries just to rent the average bachelor apartment. This is in Halifax. An average bachelor apartment in Halifax is $638, if anyone can believe it. A one-bedroom apartment is $710 and a two-bedroom is $877.

Community Action on Homelessness prepared a really interesting chart. It looked at other professions, took the average income that people would make in certain professions and applied that against the average cost of an apartment in Halifax to see whether people could actually afford their housing when they were working. This chart is really interesting.

A lot of people in high school think they would like to be hairstylists. They go to school and pay tuition to become hairstylists. If we look at the wage of hairstylists on the chart, they cannot afford a bachelor, one bedroom, two bedroom or three-bedroom apartments costing only 30% of their income. Hairstylists in Halifax are precariously housed. How can they possibly afford to raise their kids if they are precariously housed?

The Community Action on Homelessness looked at cooks and it is the same thing. They cannot afford a bachelor apartment, one bedroom or two bedroom. It is the same thing for light duty cleaners.

People may think they need a bit more education in order to earn a little more money. Social service workers with average incomes can live in bachelor apartments. That would be about 30% of their income. They could deal with a one-bedroom apartment, but if they have kids, they cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to this. Nurses aides cannot afford it.

It is not just about people who are literally homeless. This is about people who are paying too much for their housing. We need a national housing strategy. We need it for the health and well-being of our communities. We need it for our constituents, neighbours, family and friends. That is who we are representing with this bill.

Therefore, I urge all of my colleagues in the House across party lines to support this private member's bill because this could change everything when it comes to homelessness and housing in Canada.

Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing ActPrivate Members' Business

November 18th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to this bill that we in the NDP are proud to present. I thank my colleagues for the work they have done to move this critical bill forward at a time when Canada needs it so much.

Why do we need a national housing strategy? We need a national housing strategy because three million Canadian family households live in insecurity. They pay more than 30% of their income toward housing.

Furthermore, Canada is the only major country in the world without a national housing strategy. It has fallen behind most countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in its level of investment in affordable housing. Canada has one of the smallest social housing sectors among developed countries. Fewer Canadians qualify for the high cost of home ownership. In essence, the government has systematically pulled away from the critical and basic need for housing.

Recognized internationally, Canada is falling behind other countries around the world that are truly showing leadership on something as basic as housing. This has a particular impact on communities across the country where the state of housing and security varies across our country.

Earlier this afternoon I had the opportunity to speak with municipal councillors who are part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. They spoke about the five key issues, one of which was the need for a national housing strategy. These councillors were from rural areas, urban areas and metropolitan areas and they all spoke about that need.

As the member of Parliament for Churchill, I am honoured to represent a diverse number of communities, all of which have a specific housing need.

I would like to begin with possibly the most egregious state of housing that exists in our country and that is the one that exists in first nations communities. First nations, who have the fastest growing populations and the highest number of young people, have the greatest need for housing. The federal government has systematically underfunded bands and first nations when it comes to providing the most basic need, which is housing.

I have visited far too many houses on first nations that are overcrowded. I remember a house in Pukatawagan that had 21 people staying in it. The house was built below standard in the first place and is now engulfed with mould. Its infrastructure is falling apart at a much quicker level. Houses in first nations communities often do not meet the needs of northern climates, which makes people vulernable to sickness and, as a result of overcrowding, leads to all sorts of social instability and social tension.

Every time I go door to door in first nations communities across my riding, whether it is Nelson House, Norway House, Sagkeeng, St. Theresa Point or Pukatawagan, all 33 first nations that I have the honour of representing have raised the r critical need for housing. I have spoken in the House in the last few days about the third world state of housing in first nations communities that no Canadian across the country should have to put up with in a country as wealthy as ours.

There is also the need for affordable housing for low income people and students in the communities we represent.

Communities across Canada hope to provide educational opportunities and training opportunities for people in first nations communities and Métis communities but some of these communities have no affordable housing. Rental rates are completely beyond what many can afford. This is often a deterrent to their ability to access education, to access a way of furthering themselves and contributing to their community, to our economy and to our country. That is a shame.

By having a federal government that works with the provinces and communities to ensure affordable housing, these people would be able to become greater participants and greater contributors to our country moving forward.

Seniors housing is also a major concern and another area where we need a national housing strategy. I represent communities where increasingly people stay and retire. People want to be with their families but they have no seniors housing available to them.

The federal government has been negligent. We saw under the previous Liberal governments that they cut back the role the federal government ought to play when it comes to housing. This has left seniors in the cold, seniors who have built up our country, built our communities and now are often working with so little as a result of the government's failure to support them through OAS, GIS and the increasing instability of many of their pension plans. Housing is increasingly difficult for them to find at an affordable level and to meet their needs as seniors.

I also want to speak to the failure of the federal government, not only to act when it comes to housing but to act in terms of supporting communities, supporting their need to have a job, to contribute, to be able to afford their mortgages, to rent their homes and to survive. Nowhere is that more critical than what we are facing right now in my home community of Thompson, a community that over the last few years has been working hard to contribute to the profits of what was previously Inco and now Vale.

Yesterday we heard that Vale will be cutting 600 jobs in our community. We are fighting to not let this happen. We are calling on the federal government to be at the table, to ensure that people in my community do not lose their jobs, because what that means, and we hear their voices on the ground, is that our housing prices are going down, that people are going to leave and that people will no longer be able to contribute to their economy, whether it is by buying a home, renting or contributing to our businesses. Business owners will not be able to survive. Service providers will not be able to survive. A community that is a quintessential Canadian community, one that is like so many communities across our country, will become weaker and devastated.

All of this is because our federal government, to this point, has failed to stand and say that it has a role to play, to stand up for Canadian communities like Thompson, to stand up for local economies, to stand up for local economies, to stand up and ensure that Canadians are able to contribute and that Canadians who are part of contributing to a profitable economy are given that chance.

As the MP for Churchill, I have been appalled by the responses by the Minister of Industry in this House who talked about the benefits of the deal that was put forward by Vale. While other communities of this country are benefiting by that announcement, my community is not. When Thompson is not, when our part of Manitoba and our province is not benefiting, then Vale's commitment to Canada of a net benefit is a false commitment. That is why we demand that the federal government stand up to Vale and save our jobs. It should be part of the solution. It must recognize that as a national government, it has a role to play in housing, a role to play in supporting our municipalities and a role to play in working with first nations.

Year after year, the government steps away from that role. It is stepping away from its basic responsibility to look out for the well-being of Canadians. As it steps away from that role, we see our quality of life diminish and our jobs and our livelihoods being threatened.

This is unacceptable. and that is why we are calling on the federal government to support this housing bill, but most of all to support the idea that it needs to take leadership in ensuring that Canadians are better off.

Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in private members' hour.

Bill C-304 is currently being referred back to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for the purpose of reconsidering clauses 3 and 4 and to add new clauses with a view to clarifying the role of the provinces, specifically Quebec, within the jurisdiction of the bill. That is the mechanics of what is happening with the bill at the current moment.

There is an interesting history with regard to social housing in this country. From a Manitoba point of view, up until the NDP was elected under Premier Ed Schreyer in 1969, there was really very little, if any, social housing in the province or in the city of Winnipeg. The government of the day started an immediate program of building social housing.

I believe from 1969 on the housing was cost-shared 50:50 with the federal government. Pierre Trudeau was the prime minister at the time when the Liberals were in power. We certainly took advantage in a big way by developing social housing. In one of our provincial constituencies. which had, I believe, about 10,000 residents, land was fairly inexpensive in that area and I believe we were in the process or had already developed by 1973 perhaps a dozen senior citizens buildings in that particular area.

We followed that up with a number of multi-storey townhouse types of construction as well. Initially the buildings were pretty much all bachelor suits and they were very high, 10 to 12 storey buildings, which all stand today. However, it is interesting how, when the demand was satisfied by 1977, the NDP lost the election and the Conservatives, under Sterling Lyon, won and everything stopped. It was just night and day. There was not one development started under the four year Sterling Lyon government, which was, by the way, one of the reasons that his government only lasted four years, I believe he was the only premier in Manitoba history to survive only one term.

Interestingly enough, one of the last programs that the Schreyer government initiated, building projects, was at 5355 Stadacona in my riding. While we approved it before we left office in 1977, it was 1986 by the time we had our ribbon-cutting ceremony. I was there to cut the ribbon for the opening of that building. By that point in time, that was one of the first buildings to have one bedroom and some two bedroom suites. We were finding the demand shifting over to those types of suites. People wanted to move out of the downtown area where the buildings were all bachelor suites and move into the one bedroom apartments.

What we have had over the last 10 years or so are a number of the bachelor suites being taken up by people with addictions and newcomers to the country who need short term housing.

That is an example of what a government with commitment can actually do. The NDP government of Ed Schreyer took on the problem full force. The construction cranes were everywhere. It is true that the federal government was putting up half of the funds, but to us it seemed almost unlimited activity. This took care of a huge demand where people were moving into the city from farms and retiring. Seniors, who were living in substandard housing, were also looking for places

However, because the demand seemed to be satisfied, as we know, the federal government got out. Surprisingly, it was the Liberal government that got out of the funding in 1993, according to my chart. We have seen very little activity since.

Of the buildings that we built in 1970 to 1973, many are now deteriorating. They need renovations. Where it had been unheard of, we now have constant bed bug problems being documented in the housing. A lot of repair work has to be done.

The effect of the federal government getting into social housing is that it provides an even application across the country. That is why we have a country in the first place, to provide similar services across it. When the federal government takes itself out of a program like social housing, then it is basically the old laissez-faire system of survival of the fittest.

I hate to pick on my neighbours two doors over, but the province of Alberta has been known as a province that has money. My colleague says, “...used to have money”. One would say that social housing should not be a problem for Alberta because it is a very rich province and can build the buildings. However, a province that does not have the resources is pretty much stuck, not being able to do much to solve the problem. That is why fundamentally this country needs a national housing strategy.

Another reason we do not have and will not have a strategy as long as we have Conservatives running the government, and to a lesser extent the Liberals, is that they philosophically disagree with the whole idea. The approach of those parties is private sector. If there are bucks to be made for the private sector, that is the way we have to proceed. The real estate and construction industries have somehow convinced the successive governments to leave that market to the private sector.

In a number of years past there was a program where the government was going to provide subsidies to people. However once again, it was going to be private entrepreneurs who would be building the buildings and renting them out with a view to making money.

As long as we have that Conservative mentality that somehow free enterprise is going to solve all of our problems with the old trickle-down economic theories, we are never going to see the national housing strategy that we should have in this country.

Clearly, before that happens, we are going to have to see a major change in the political structure in this country with the removal of the Conservative government and the election of a more progressive government. Or, we may have a situation develop out of desperation, and in the need to continue its political longevity, we may see some deal as we did with the Martin Liberals where we were able to get a billion or two for social housing. However, that is a piecemeal approach for a long-term problem.

I have a lot more to say about this issue, but I guess I do not have time.

Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Given that the sponsor is not here to take advantage of the five-minute right of reply, we will move to the question. Is the House ready for the question?