Madam Speaker, I am truly honoured to stand here today to speak about such an important piece of legislation introduced by my NDP colleague. Bill C-245 is an act concerning the development of a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada. Regardless of where one sits in the chamber, I believe everyone here wants the same thing. We want what is best for Canadians, but we have different ways of getting to that goal.
The purpose of this legislation is to create a national poverty reduction strategy, an independent poverty reduction commissioner, a national poverty reduction advisory council, and to alter the Canadian Human Rights Act to add social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination. Those are the key points in this bill. As my colleagues had said, these are very important facts and when we come to a national strategy and look at what we can do for Canadians, everyone in the chamber needs to be onside.
However, I have some observations and concerns about the bill. I too have had the opportunity to speak to the sponsor of this bill and know she has great passion and focus and has done her homework on this, so I appreciate all of the work she has done.
In this bill, many of the measures are open-ended. A big concern I have is that it would create permanent levels of red tape. There are also some financial considerations that we should look at in the bill. When we sit in the chamber, we have to recognize that debate is not about saying it is good, bad, or ugly, or anything in that sense. Rather, it is important that we have this dialogue so that we do what is best for all Canadians. This is where we start to differ in some of our approaches to poverty reduction.
The effects of Bill C-245 cannot be accurately forecasted because there are a number of issues that need to be considered. First, we need to look at how a strategy is going to be implemented, at the number and salaries of employees of the commissioner and the 16 members of the national council, and what the spending estimates are for those.
Data from six federal offices allow us to make an estimate of what the costs will be. This is what I find very difficult to comprehend. The costs range anywhere from $7.6 million to $719 million. That was the forecast spending that we just received. I believe it was on October 25 or 26 that the report was released. Just on that, there is a gap of almost $700 million. That is a big concern for me, because $700 million could do a lot. It could put more people into job training or put more food on people's tables. At the end of the day, it would put more money into the pockets of Canadians if dealt with properly.
Another of my concerns is that duplication could occur. The one thing this government is very well known for is its duplication. Many studies have been done over and over again. Studies are really important to do, but unless action follows these studies, they are truly worthless.
Starting in June of 2016, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities adopted a motion to study poverty in Canada. The committee is currently studying four main areas, including government administered savings and income support programs, education and training, housing assistance, and community initiatives.
As of now, the study will continue until, I believe, June 2017. Indeed, I had the opportunity to sit in committee as a spectator, because I sit with three other members on that committee who are doing a great job, and it is very important that we allow the study to continue and for witnesses to bring forward some of their ideas for a strategy.
It is being studied and continues to be a major issue for Canadians, and there is a reason it is being studied. Poverty has continued for decades and decades and there needs to be a stop to this issue. We know that a reduction of poverty could strengthen the economy, reduce health care spending, increase the level of children's education, and reduce crime. I would like to commend the committee for doing this study and looking at some very important key points that would help all Canadians.
I am not denying the importance of any of these factors. However, as I said, Conservatives on this side of the House have different approaches to this. We believe that the government should develop a dynamic solution that relieves the pressure felt by many seniors and those with disabilities. We must work with our provincial and territorial governments and communities to coordinate, by integrating education, job creation, and employment strategies as part of this plan.
People do lots of studies when in government, whether federal, provincial, or municipal. There was a study completed in 2010 by the human resources committee. We have all of these studies, but we need to look at them and ask, “All these facts were found, how can we start implementing them into action?” That is something we need to start doing.
Creating more bureaucracy does not eliminate poverty. That is one of the biggest concerns. We can continue to study, but we need boots on the ground doing the work. Canadian Families need to have the skills and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, and we must target support for those who face barriers.
Reviewing the bill in its entirety, there a few recommendations I wish to be considered. Rather than creating a new position of commissioner, this role should be under the deputy minister of the Department for Families, Children, and Social Development, since many of the programs, such as our income support programs, old age security, and CCB, are monitored by this department. This would become part of the deputy minister's role. It is also very important because in the same department they are looking at the disabilities act. It is also responsible for the guaranteed income supplement, which is very important to many people suffering from poverty in Canada.
Through the duties of the deputy minister, he would have access to and the ability to review all of these programs. The information on how much is being spent is available there, and how many families are receiving the benefits. There is a great link in that regard, and he or she, working as the deputy minister, would have access to all of these programs and have insight that is second to none. He or she would also have the ability to prepare reports from the data available, providing a measurable benefit for Canadians. As the member who sponsored the bill noted, we do not always have the appropriate data, so we need to make sure that when data is collected, we put it together so we can look at the intersectionality of it all so that it is best for all Canadians. The deputy minister would be able to develop and monitor, as well as report the findings from, the poverty data to the minister and to the House.
We also need to ensure that the council is not just made up of anti-poverty organizations. Just a few weeks ago, I went to a poverty panel and there was not one person in the room who talked about job creation. That has to be part of the conversation. What else can we do for Canadians? Therefore, job creators have to be at that table as well. It just cannot be people talking about poverty; we need to involve those people who are going to be part of the solution at the end of the day. We need to take action and work together to reduce poverty in Canada, but adding more bureaucracy and red tape is not the solution. We must provide lower taxes and put money back in the pockets of Canadians.
Can we do more? Absolutely, and I think all of us in the House recognize that we can do more. From 2004 to 2014, we did see a reduction in poverty from 11.4%, as reported in 2004, to 8.8% in 2014.
The one concern I have with this is that we need to make sure we do not have a one-size-fits-all approach. We see a lot of programs implemented throughout Canada, and not all Canadians are the same. Not every region is the same. Whether rural, urban, or on reserve, we need to recognize that communities and the people who reside in them have different needs. We have to recognize the differences between the provinces as well. Even cities in my own riding are very different. I am very fortunate to represent Elgin—Middlesex—London, where I have a number of communities, ranging from 100 people to 380,000 people, so I recognize that even in the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London, there are communities that are very different.
I know that the sponsor of the bill truly has pure intentions, but I fear a new level of bureaucracy that will do nothing for those who need assistance now. We need more action and opportunities for Canadians, and we need to focus on how we can help them. This role, I believe, should be under ESDC and be that of the deputy minister.
This is a very important conversation we are going to have, and I appreciate all the work that has been done by the member of Parliament on this. I continue to look at the good work that is going to be done by the human resources committee, but I think that some of the considerations I put forward should be looked at if we are to support this bill.