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House of Commons Hansard #86 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Affordable housingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the issue of affordable housing, which is such a priority for the people of Toronto and my community of Parkdale—High Park. I want to thank my colleague from York South—Weston for putting forward this opposition day motion today on behalf of the New Democratic Party.

To remind people, for those who are watching, this motion states:

That the House recognize that Canadians are faced with a housing crunch of rising costs and growing waiting lists due to chronic underfunding of affordable housing from 1993 to the present, and [therefore this House] call[s] on the government to work with the provinces, territories, municipalities, and with First Nations, Inuit, and Metis, to immediately renew long-term social housing funding and reinvest in the development of affordable housing units.

We face a tremendous housing crunch in this country. I see it on the streets of Toronto every day. I see people whose wages do not allow them to pay the rents in the city of Toronto and people who have other challenges, such as disabilities and mental health challenges. The thing they need most is a roof over their heads. They need housing stability, and that is what is lacking in the city of Toronto and across this country.

A country as large and as cold as Canada ought to have a national policy on this so that we can ensure that everyone is housed and has a warm, safe place to stay. However, in fact, Canada is the only OECD country, the only major developed country, without a national housing strategy. In fact, it has been without a housing strategy since the early 1990s. Why? We used to have one. It was the Liberal government of the time that tabled a constitutional proposal calling for an end to its financial involvement in a number of areas of provincial jurisdiction, including housing.

It is pretty sad for a country as wealthy as Canada to abandon people that way. The Liberals also ended co-operative housing funding, a program that over its lifetime built nearly 60,000 homes for low- and moderate-income Canadians.

Let us look at the picture today. One in four Canadians spend more than 30% of their income on shelter; 380,000 Canadians live in severe housing need, spending more than 50% of their income on shelter. We are also in a situation where Canadians have record-high personal debt levels, where they owe $1.64 for every dollar of disposable income, and where housing prices are skyrocketing, especially in our urban areas.

In the city of Toronto, when houses are for sale, we have multiple bids. So many families are driven out of the housing purchase market because they cannot afford these skyrocketing prices, but there are so few affordable housing options. In addition to that, we have about 200,000 social housing units that will be at risk of closing when the long-term federal funding for social housing expires. That will be a calamity for far too many Canadians.

More and more young people are living at home with their parents. It used to be, back in 1981, that about a quarter of young people between the ages of 20 and 29 lived with their parents. Today that number is up to 42% of young people between 20 and 29 living with their parents. I hear that from young people. I also hear that from their parents, who are so concerned about the next generation and what is going to happen to them.

It is an absolute disgrace that we do not have a national housing strategy and that we are not investing the money we have as a country into building the kind of housing we need.

I want to tell members a bit about my community in Toronto. In Toronto, we have over 167,000 people on the affordable housing wait-list, more than 90,000 households. There are more households on the waiting list for affordable housing than actually live in Toronto's community housing. That is how severe the problem is. We have more people on housing wait-lists than live in some cities across Canada. We have whole cities of people looking for housing.

Let me tell the House about a family I met with who had come here as refugees from a war-torn country. They came here; they finally got accepted. They were living in a bachelor apartment. They were a family of four living in a bachelor apartment in Toronto housing. When I knocked on their door and talked with them, they were so thankful to be here in a safe country like Canada. However, the man I spoke to said that they really needed a better place to live, because they were four people in a bachelor apartment. Their kids were school-aged kids, and they did not have any privacy or a place to study. Surely, we can do better.

I spoke to a family a couple of weeks ago. They were in an apartment, paying $800 a month. They were hoping to move to a two-bedroom apartment. They were in a one-bedroom apartment, but they were a family of five. The two-bedroom apartment was going for $1,100. A month before they were given the new apartment, the ownership of the building changed, and guess what? The rent went from $1,100 to $2,000. It almost doubled. They are going to have to leave because they cannot stay in a one-bedroom apartment and they cannot afford $2,000 a month.

These are the kinds of severe situations that people, certainly in my community of Toronto, are facing. The Liberals cancelled the national housing strategy, but frankly, the Conservatives have made it even worse by not investing in affordable housing and abandoning Canadian families. It is simply unacceptable.

Because no money is being spent on upgrading housing, we are seeing housing that could be available for people but is going vacant. There is a Toronto community house in my riding, on Maria Street, a three-bedroom house that has sat vacant for a year because there was not the money to do the repairs on the house. When we have 70,000 families on the waiting list, and we have places sitting vacant because there is not the money to make these houses inhabitable, that is also a disgrace.

There is so much we ought to be doing. For those who are concerned about costs, the cost of investing in housing, it is more cost effective to give people a roof over their heads and keep them healthy and well than it is to lock people up in jail. That is what happens when people cannot keep body and soul together and have a decent place to live in.

What we are calling for, as New Democrats, is a co-operative approach from the federal government to work with provinces, territories, municipalities, and first nations to address housing needs together, instead of abandoning everyone to their own resources. We are also calling for the federal government to abandon this take it or leave it attitude that it has had for so long. We need a commitment to work with the social housing sector. We need to renew these operating agreements and to provide one-time capital injections for renovations and to reinvest the savings from expired agreements that do not need to be renewed into developing new affordable housing units.

We need to immediately invest in the development of new housing. This could be in the form of new investment from the federal government, low-cost loans from the CMHC, or tax credits for developers of affordable housing, such as those proposed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

So many Canadian organizations support this, including the Chamber of Commerce, as I said, the FCM, the C.D. Howe Institute, and many mayors across the country. Everyone seems to agree with it except the Conservatives, and we hope we can change their minds with this debate.

People of Toronto rely on it. Canadians rely on it. Let us just do our jobs, do a better job for Canadians, and let us keep a roof over everybody's head.

Opposition Motion—Affordable housingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is kind of unfortunate that we are here in this debate talking about housing, especially for vulnerable people.

In 2014, our Conservative government renewed the homeless partnering strategy, which primarily gave funds to the housing first initiative. I would like to ask my colleague why she and her party voted against that initiative.

In 2013, there were some great initiatives on affordable housing. Budget 2013 committed $1.25 billion to affordable housing. Budget 2013 also committed $600 million in long-term funding to our homeless partnering strategy. However, my colleague and her party voted against all of these initiatives.

In addition to that, if she has time, and I am sure she will because her first answer will not take long, I wonder if she could outline to the House why her party would divert subsidy funds to subsidizing offices for partisan purposes, rather than committing to funding housing for people who are vulnerable?

Opposition Motion—Affordable housingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, let me say I appreciate the insecurity of the party members opposite, but surely they do not want to waste time in such an important debate by exposing their partisan insecurities.

Let me get right to the issue at hand here. According to CMHC, the supply of affordable housing will decline in Canada by 21% between 2007 and 2017. That is unless we get elected in 2015 and we start fixing the problem. However, the current amount of federal funding today, in 2014, is lower than it was in 2007. Therefore, in spite of what we have just heard from the member opposite, clearly the facts speak of something different. Average Canadians are struggling to make ends meet, young families are squeezed, young people do not have a decent place to live, and we have far too many Canadians who face tremendous housing insecurity. I do not believe those Canadians think highly of the brush-off that the government is giving the serious issue of affordable housing.

Opposition Motion—Affordable housingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Opposition Motion—Affordable housingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion—Affordable housingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Opposition Motion—Affordable housingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion—Affordable housingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion—Affordable housingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion—Affordable housingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #140

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion defeated.

The House resumed from May 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-539.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #141

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion defeated.

The House resumed from May 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-571, An Act to amend the Meat Inspection Act and the Safe Food for Canadians Act (slaughter of equines for human consumption), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-571 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #142

Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion defeated.

It being 6:14, the House will now proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The hon. member for Yukon is rising on a point of order.

Official ReportPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to correct the Hansard record at the earliest opportunity. It has been brought to my attention that I made a reference in answering a question yesterday from the member for Toronto—Danforth when I was posing a question to him. The record reflects that I made a comment that in the last election the incumbent from the Yukon spent $20,000 more than he had in the election before and that he had lost by 1,500 votes.

Mr. Speaker, I want the record to reflect that he did not lose by 1,500 votes. He lost 1,500 votes between the 2008 election and this election. I would like the record to accurately reflect that, and that there was no effort to mislead.

Official ReportPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the clarification on that.

The House resumed from April 1 consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

Pan-Canadian Palliative and End-of-life Care StrategyPrivate Members' Business

May 14th, 2014 / 6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to speak today in favour of this important motion brought forward by the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay to establish a very necessary pan-Canadian palliative and end-of-life care strategy.

The motion speaks to a real and growing issue that will impact more and more of us as our population ages and as we approach a period when not only are Canadians living longer lives, but as baby boomers reach retirement age, more Canadians than ever will be in that top tier of older age.

No one wants to think about end-of-life considerations. We all want long, happy, and healthy lives for ourselves and for our loved ones. However, mothers and fathers and sons and daughters fall ill, often unexpectedly. The onslaught of a debilitating or even terminal illness will turn lives around, regardless of age, and bring about incredibly tough questions. It is emotional. There is no doubt about that.

There are a great number of us who have had this experience. We all have stories to share.

Mine is my father Mico, a vital and active man, a long-distance runner in his youth, an established businessman and leader, and one of the longest-serving aldermen in Guelph. It shook the foundation of my entire family when he developed Alzheimer's disease. The disease and the toll it took on him fundamentally changed not only his quality of life but also altered how my brothers, sisters, mother, and I related to him.

It is impossible to live through an ordeal like that and not consider any number of options. However, I can say that as terrible as the disease was, the whole experience drew us that much closer to him and our family that much closer together. I learned through experiencing it so intensely that the process of dying and everything associated with it can most often be a process as much for the benefit of the living as it is suffering for those dying.

In that time of need is found a time to serve those dying and a time to possibly attend to unresolved issues. It is a time that would otherwise be lost if we do not care compassionately for our elderly and ailing loved ones.

This might not be the same experience for everyone. We are a diverse country with an incredibly diverse populace. This is why I believe that not only must we work with the provinces to create an integrated and flexible framework but that such a collaborative model is the one way we can fully account for the geographic differences between provinces, between cities, and even between urban and rural divides, as well as our many cultures and communities, from Canada's first nations, Metis, and Inuit, to those most recently arrived, so that good palliative care does not depend on one's area code.

The Canadian Medical Association defines palliative care as:

...an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with a life-threatening illness. It involves the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification, assessment and treatment of pain and other physical, psychosocial and spiritual symptoms.

I believe now, as I believed when I first began working with the member for Kitchener—Waterloo and the member for Windsor—Tecumseh as co-chairs of the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care, that if people are given a reason to live, feel their lives are relevant and significant, truly do not feel that they are a burden on society or especially on their families, and are enabled to live pain-free, they just might be less inclined to turn to more desperate measures as a relief from the emotional, mental, or physical pain from which they suffer.

I call to mind a beautiful and comprehensive quote from esteemed Canadian Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, which accomplishes better than I might the importance of giving people who may be suffering from a serious or terminal illness a reason to carry on. He says:

Each of us is fragile, with deep needs for both love and a sense of belonging. We begin and end our lives vulnerable and dependent, requiring others to care for us. ... In our states of dependence, our need cries out for attention and care. If this need is well received, it calls forth the powers of love in others, and creates unity around us, the gifts of the vulnerable to our world. If our cry and our need are unmet, we remain alone and in anguish. ... The danger in our culture of productivity and achievement is that we easily dismiss and ignore as unproductive the gifts and the beauty of our most vulnerable members, and we do so at our own peril, dehumanizing ourselves.

To accomplish this, to elevate those suffering from their solitude and anguish, we must create a framework whereby this can be addressed while also incorporating the possible cultural and regional differences that might be present.

Over the course of our study and in the creation of our non-partisan report, we travelled across Canada, and hundreds of informed Canadians travelled to Ottawa, where we heard from witnesses from coast to coast to coast who shared their stories and experiences with palliative care, elder abuse, and mental health to assist in drafting our report, appropriately entitled “Not to be Forgotten”.

Among our conclusions after hearing from these diverse witnesses was precisely what this motion seeks to accomplish by creating a national palliative and end-of-live care strategy. It would be flexible and integrated for maximum impact on those living through end-of-life events and on the 80% of care provided by families who take up that important yet difficult responsibility.

Through collaboration, the various levels of government and health and well-being stakeholders can develop and implement a nationally recognized framework with standards of care that would improve the quality of life for patients reaching end of life, providing the necessary tools to manage pain and providing more dignity. These tools may come in the form of meaningful tax relief or employment insurance payments for those who leave work to care for their infirm loved ones or in the form of better home care provided by personal support workers, whose jobs are quickly becoming the jobs of the future, or in the form of a national standard for hospice care uniformly applied across Canada.

As the member for Timmins—James Bay highlighted in his speech on this motion, “...what we are seeing across the country is a real patchwork of services”. This was one of many conclusions reached in our report. He went on to highlight the inconsistency of strategies or even provision of services in cities across Canada. This exemplifies why the strategy must be a national one and why we must start the ball rolling here. We can start here to coordinate with the other levels of government to facilitate collaboration in research and information and to dismantle the series of silos that normally operate in isolation across the country.

For instance, one such strategy is pain management. There has yet to be a comprehensive pain management treatment strategy upon which people can rely. It is currently a hit-or-miss experience with family doctors who are yet to be completely trained in the area of pain management.

We have a responsibility as a national leader and the chief communicator in raising awareness of the issues surrounding end-of-life and palliative care, particularly given the complexities brought forward by the mix of health, emotional, financial, and social pressures. These complexities and failing to deal with them properly, whether by offering help to caregivers or hope for the dying, lead to devastating consequences of their own, consequences I examined quite specifically throughout the committee's report. It became obvious that these pressures in today's society intersect and could lead to family breakdown and even elder abuse.

Beyond this primary leadership role, it is the federal government that sets the standards for universal high-quality care. The provinces are certainly responsible for delivery, but it is delivered best in conjunction with national benchmarks. This is an issue that does or will impact every Canadian at some point, so it is the Government of Canada that needs to step into the role.

My colleague, the hon. member for Vancouver Centre, pointed out in her remarks on this topic that tens of thousands of seniors die each year in Canada, and not all of them are able to get the kind of care they need as they approach end-of-life issues.

I applaud my colleague from Timmins—James Bay for bringing this motion to the floor of the House and for helping to continue the great work done by parliamentarians from all parties on palliative care.

This motion is not the end of the conversation. I think this is just the beginning. I hope that all of us here in the House can get behind that conversation and then bring it home to our ridings and genuinely create the framework necessary to put a national palliative care strategy together.

Pan-Canadian Palliative and End-of-life Care StrategyPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to stand in this House, having been given the honour to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay who put their trust in me.

I want to thank my colleague from Guelph for his support for our motion, my motion, Motion No. 456, but also thank the New Democratic Party for its push to establish a national palliative care strategy.

This is an issue that transcends partisanship because it touches each one of us, and it touches us in our most personal and sacred space, which is the moment between life and death and the moment when a family deals with the loss of a loved one.

I would be remiss if I did not thank for their excellent work all the parliamentarians of all political parties in this House who have worked on the issue of palliative care.

Certainly, the language of the motion comes from the work of the all-party committee, with my colleague from Kitchener—Conestoga, my colleague from Guelph, and my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh.

My colleague from Guelph talks about the need for a conversation. I think this is what a motion is. A motion is a statement of principle and a statement of intent by the Parliament of Canada. It can be a very profound moment when parliamentarians are asked to say what it is that we need in order to move forward as a country. Certainly, we recognize, in this federal House, that the delivery of health services in this country is better served at the provincial level. We understand the jurisdictional divisions in the country, and they make sense because, as we move health care closer to the ground level, we can certainly see more proactive and better results.

However, in terms of palliative care, we are faced with a problem because there is a patchwork response right now. All too often, on the issue of palliative care, we see it is considered some form of charity or it is volunteer work, as opposed to an essential, fundamental principle, in terms of where we need that health care in the 21st century. Particularly as we deal with an aging population, as my colleague from Vancouver East has pointed out again and again, the future of health care will be moving more and more out of the hospitals and into the need to have an understanding of ongoing care to ensure that all Canadians have the quality of life they need, particularly when they are faced with a traumatic illness.

Therefore, the mission statement that we are asking for, as all parliamentarians here, is to say that in this House, this federal House, we have a role to play in talking about what palliative care should look like. It is not to dictate how it will be delivered, but we can play an essential role, a powerful role, as a federal government in saying there are models that work.

We see in various parts of the country that the delivery of palliative services is done in an integrated fashion, and where the services are integrated, families are able to receive the care and the support they want and need. However, where the services are not integrated, this money is still being spent. In fact, I would argue, and medical doctors would agree, that we are spending more money and yet people are still falling through the cracks.

So, the palliative solution is the common-sense solution staring politicians in the face. They just need to say, at this time, that we need a political will to talk about end-of-life care.

I would like to say that when we mention “palliative” to Canadians, they suddenly think, “Oh, God. Why are you talking about death?” It will do us good, I think, to look at some of the fundamental definitions, for example, used by the Canadian Medical Association.

When it talks about palliative care, the word “death” is not there. It is about life. It is:

...an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification, assessment and treatment of pain and other symptoms, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.

I would also point out the definition of “dying with dignity”, which has been a term that we see often in the media. The Canadian Medical Association says:

“Dying with dignity” indicates a death that occurs within the broad parameters set forth by the patient with respect to how they wish to be cared for.... It is NOT synonymous with euthanasia or physician assisted death.

This is a very powerful statement that the Canadian Medical Association has brought forward for us.

I would like to speak a little bit about the amendment that was brought forward by my colleague from Vancouver East, who has been so committed to the issue of ongoing care and has done much more work on the issue of palliative care than I have over the years. In her amending language to this, she would clarify:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should establish a Pan-Canadian Palliative and End-of-life Care Strategy by working with provinces and territories on a flexible, integrated model of palliative care that: (a) takes into account the geographic, regional, and cultural diversity of urban and rural Canada as well as Canada’s First Nation, Inuit and Métis people; (b) respects the cultural, spiritual and familial needs of all Canadians; and (c) has the goal of (i) ensuring all Canadians have access to high quality home-based and hospice palliative end-of-life care, (ii) providing more support for caregivers, (iii) improving the quality and consistency of home and hospice palliative end-of-life care in Canada, (iv) encouraging Canadians to discuss and plan for end-of-life care.

Tonight, I would just like to focus for a second on the importance that we recognize in the House the cultural, spiritual, and familial needs of families. This is not just about the individual. The death of a loved one and the passage through to that other place is one of the defining moments in the life of a family. When there is palliative care and support, it can be a very transformative moment. When the support is not there, it can be a moment of crisis that families sometimes never recover from.

I would like to say that this motion, as I said at the beginning, is not about the partisanship in the House. This has been a very bitter and toxic Parliament, but we all need to say that we are going to put some of our own political agenda aside.

I know that some of my colleagues in the Conservative Party are made nervous by the word “strategy”. The strategy is the language that came from the all-party committee, and I certainly believe that the notion of strategy is important. Some of our Conservative colleagues would prefer to use the word “framework”. It does not matter to me if it is a strategy and/or framework. What matters is that we stand in this House and say that we will support this.

I would like to try to find a way that, tonight, we can make an agreement. I would like for us to find the language that makes everyone comfortable so that we will all stand in the House. No matter what happens with this motion, we have to show Canadians that we understand this.

The simplest way to do this is to ask for unanimous consent for the following motion: that, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the amendment to Motion No. 456 standing in the name of Ms. Davies of Vancouver East be deemed adopted, and that the main motion as amended be further amended by adding after the word “Strategy” the words “and/or Framework”.