House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was colombia.


7:05 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Madam Speaker, let me reiterate the facts for the benefit of all members.

The University of Prince Edward Island is receiving funding under KIP to update the essential physical infrastructure on several of its campus buildings. The total cost of these upgrades is $4 million, of which the federal government is providing $2 million.

KIP is also providing funding to Holland College to undertake a major renovation of the Charlottetown Centre and construct a new centre for applied science and technology. The total cost of this project is $17 million, of which the federal portion is $8.5 million.

Taken together, federal funding for P.E.I. under the KIP program totals $10.5 million over two years. This funding is generating jobs and other economic benefits to the island while at the same time renewing important infrastructure at centres of learning.

I also note that budget 2010 included $135 million over two years to renew the National Research Council of Canada's regional innovation clusters program.

This too, is good news for Prince Edward Island as Charlottetown is home to the nutrisciences and health cluster initiative, a partnership between the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, UPEI, the P.E.I. BioAlliance and its private sector members, and provincial and federal governments.

7:05 p.m.


Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to start this question to the government with a story. When I was a law student, I did a placement at Dalhousie Legal Aid Service doing poverty law work, and I worked with a lawyer on a case involving a young man who was involved in the criminal justice system.

Nova Scotia has an excellent restorative justice program for youth and this young man was diverted from court to a restorative justice contract where he had to fulfill certain obligations like going to school or doing volunteer work. This young man missed many of his restorative justice appointments. He was hardly ever at school. He did not even come close to completing his contract. He actually missed a court appearance and an arrest warrant was issued.

When we finally tracked him down, he did not have much to offer by way of why he could not complete his contract and he seemed resigned to the fact that he would go to jail. However, this was not the kid who we knew. This was not the kid who had made a mistake, had owned up to it and who was eager to learn from his mistake.

Eventually it came out that he and his mom had been kicked out of their apartment and they were homeless. They were couch surfing from friend's house to friend's house until she could scrape enough money together to put a down payment on a new apartment.

I think a lot about this young man, even now, years later. How was he supposed to go to school and concentrate on it when he did not have a home? How was he supposed to follow his bail conditions when he did not have a home? How was he supposed to concentrate on righting his wrongs when he did not have a home? How was he supposed to contribute positively to his community when he did not have a home?

This story is all too common. We know from a recent report of the Conference Board of Canada that 20% of Canadian households are not able to afford their housing. This means people are spending more than 30% of their income on housing. We know some Canadians spend 100% of their income on housing, forcing them to access food banks and soup kitchens in order to eat and to heat their homes with their ovens because they cannot afford heating. Heat is not a luxury, especially in a country like Canada; it is a necessity. Housing is not a luxury.

Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are on the brink of losing their homes. We need action. During this parliamentary session, we have the opportunity to set up a national framework that would ensure Canadians are housed. This is Bill C-304, which has been reported back to the House and awaits third reading.

This bill, introduced by my colleague from Vancouver East, would create a national housing strategy and would bring together all levels of government in order to set standards for housing across the country and ensure secure, accessible, affordable and sustainable housing for all Canadians.

The Conservatives claim they have already done enough. They cite stimulus money spent on housing as a sign that they are truly engaged in the issue. Every time we talk about housing in this place, they come back to the stimulus budget, but that is not a strategy. It is a piecemeal approach. It is visionless and it is not coordinated.

Two weeks ago we learned that only 300 housing units were promised to Inuit communities when we know the need was 1,000 units. We know what the solution is, so why should there be a shortage at all?

Time and time again the Conservatives defend their appalling record on housing. Despite having the opportunity to bring Canada in line with all other G8 countries, all those countries that have national housing strategies, they resist. They remain silent on their reasoning and they obfuscate on nothing more than ideological grounds, not based on social policy, on research, but on cementing an us versus them approach to Canadian politics.

Canadians want answers and they want solutions. They do not want their members of Parliament to refuse to see the woods for the trees. When will the government support our national housing strategy?

7:10 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan


Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, it is certainly with great pleasure that I rise to respond to the member for Halifax.

There is no question that our government believes that housing is indeed an important step toward self-sufficiency and full participation in the economy. Having a home is very important. That is why our Conservative government has a multi-pronged approach to provide housing to Canadians.

The NDP talks about notions like a housing strategy, but that is what it is, talk. What Canadians care about, and what Canadians expect, is action. And taking action is what our Conservative government is all about.

Our government provides $1.7 billion per year in federal funding in support of almost 625,000 low income households living in social housing. Our government has also committed $1.9 billion over five years to combat homelessness and provide housing to vulnerable Canadians. Our economic action plan adds even more to these impressive investments.

We committed over $2 billion to repair existing, as well as build new, social housing. This includes: $1 billion for repairs and upgrades, $400 million for seniors housing, $75 million for persons with disabilities, $400 million for first nations reserves, and $200 million for housing in the north. The member may say that these are just talk about funding, but these are significant amounts for specific sectors of society. They are doing very specific things, steps that need to be taken.

In addition, the economic action plan includes $2 billion in low-cost loans to municipalities for housing-related infrastructure. Overall, Canada's economic action plan provides $7.8 billion to build high-quality housing, stimulate construction activity, support home ownership, and enhance energy efficiency.

Our investments are showing results. Our investments in housing have resulted in over 3,500 projects currently underway and over 100 low-cost loans being provided to municipalities across the country. Our investments are helping Canadian families, creating tens of thousands of jobs, but do not just take it from me. Listen to those on the ground who have praised these investments. They are more than just steps that are taken and not integrated. They are steps about which those who are stakeholders have something positive to say.

Nicholas Gazzard from the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada said, “The federal government's financial commitments on affordable housing are impressive”.

Tim Richter of the Calgary Homeless Foundation stated, “This is the largest federal investment in social housing in more than two decades, which is very positive”.

Geoff Gillard of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association said, “The recent five-year renewal of the three federal housing and homelessness programs ended more than a decade of short-term housing funding announcements. This was a welcome shift--”.

The Wesley Institute stated that our government's investments in affordable housing and homelessness “are making a positive difference in the lives of many Canadians...there are substantial economic benefits--including jobs”. Hardly an appalling lack of action. The comments speak for themselves and there is more positive feedback that I could be providing.

The NDP keeps pretending to care about this issue, but actions speak louder than words. Shamefully, the NDP has voted against each and every single investment our Conservative government has made in housing. The hon. member has to answer to her constituents and to all Canadians who are benefiting from these investments. She has to explain to seniors living on fixed incomes, to Canadians with disabilities, to aboriginal Canadians, and to all vulnerable Canadians why she and her party voted against all of these investments, and why she does not think they deserve access to affordable housing.

The member can talk about a national housing strategy but what is required is action and not talk.

7:15 p.m.


Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, a strategy is action. It would force the minister to develop a strategy and to act on it.

I would note that regarding the stakeholders that the government has put forward as being supportive of the stimulus spending, of course they are supportive of it. It was the first time we had seen money for housing for quite some time, but those same stakeholders actually testified at the hearings on Bill C-304. They have come out strongly in support of a national housing strategy.

They have come out strongly in support of Bill C-304. They have called upon Canada to honour its obligation when it signed, in 1976, onto the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, saying out loud to the world that there is a right to housing in this country. Yet, we have seen no action on it. These same stakeholders are calling on us to honour our international obligations.

A national housing strategy would provide for a more productive and healthier workforce. It would provide stability for countless adults and children. It would cement housing as a right.

Why does the government continue to resist our housing strategy?

7:15 p.m.


Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, the government has a housing strategy. The strategy involves taking steps and making investments. A strategy without spending a dime or taking a step does not mean very much. Over 3,500 projects are under way across the country thanks to the investments in housing we have made through the economic action plan.

Canadians are getting help and thousands of jobs are being created. However, the member and the NDP Party voted against affordable housing for seniors, voted against affordable housing for Canadians with disabilities, voted against affordable housing for aboriginal Canadians both on and off reserve, voted against low-cost loans to municipalities and voted against $1.9 billion over five years to fight homelessness. How do they explain that to those individuals? How do they explain that to the people who need housing, the people who need a hand up, that need some help to ensure they have a home? How do they explain it to them?

7:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The motion that the House do now adjourn is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:19 p.m.)