House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cpp.

Topics

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

Vote #160

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

It being 5:55 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from October 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-245, An Act concerning the development of a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about poverty in the abstract, we miss the very personal and the very real stories of everyday Canadians who are struggling to improve their well-being from day to day. I come from Alberta, and my province has lost over 100,000 jobs just in this past year. Hard-working middle-class families are now grappling with poverty as jobs have disappeared and government assistance has completely dried up. My social media feed is now filled with families selling a lifetime's worth of belongings just to afford their rent, their mortgage, and the bills that face their family each and every month. Furthermore, food banks are overwhelmed with new clients. One teacher I talked to mentioned how the quality and the quantity of food that he is noticing in children's lunch boxes is actually diminishing. For the charities in my riding, the drop in the Alberta economy has been joined by a drop in donations, and those who are housing-insecure or are part of the working poor are now having to cope with scaled-back assistance.

Ensuring that all Canadians have the opportunity to live a meaningful and dignified life is one of the great motivations for those of us who are here standing in this place. Our previous government did an excellent job of reducing poverty. The universal child care benefit, increases to other child care benefits, and targeted tax cuts lifted more than 250,000 children out of poverty. In fact, childhood poverty was reduced to the lowest levels in Canadian history under the previous Conservative government. In 1997, 18% of children were living in families with low income. In 2013, however, that number was decreased down to 8%. This was after we clawed our way out of the recession of 2008.

So why did the Conservative approach work? It worked because it put parents in control of their own destiny, it put parents in control of their household budgets, and it reduced the cost of living for everyday Canadian families. The Liberals like to make fun of us for our tax cuts, but the 140 tax cuts that we introduced over our mandate put $4,000 per family back into their chequebooks. In fact, our Conservative government was celebrated internationally for our ability to respond to the recession while at the same time reducing poverty. Let me provide the House with a very important quote:

Canada's governments at all levels need to be commended for protecting many of our children from the brunt of a recession that wreaked havoc on the world's strongest economies. This was the worst economic downturn since World War II, but Canada emerged from the crisis with 180,000 fewer children living in poverty. This is the good news.

The House may be wondering who gave this quote. It is no other than David Morley, the president and CEO of UNICEF Canada. The Conservative approach worked because we focused on creating jobs and generating economic growth as the greatest solution to poverty. When the economy is growing and jobs are on the rise, poverty decreases. It is a natural relationship.

Our Conservative government championed Canadian jobs. We cut payroll taxes and income taxes for small and medium-sized businesses. We signed free trade deals to give Canadian companies new markets to which to export. We cut red tape and reduced the cost of dealing with the federal government. All of these measures created intense demand for Canadian workers. In my province of Alberta, we had some of the lowest unemployment rates that Canada had seen for a decade. Even if people worked at Subway or Tim Hortons, they still made significantly more than minimum wage.

This did great things for reducing poverty of course.

Fast-forward to today and what do we see? Today we see a federal government that has raised income taxes and is talking about bringing in even more taxes. These taxes will be hugely detrimental to our working families. The Liberal government is also a government that is increasing business costs by raising CPP rates and keeping EI premiums artificially high.

The results are not hard to see. Canada's economic performance is teetering on the edge. We could go into a recession next quarter. Economic growth is abysmal and long-term investor confidence has almost entirely dried up.

The Liberal government is spending like a drunken sailor, piling up massive deficits with absolutely no plan to balance the budget. Investors know that this means higher taxes down the road and they are pulling their money out of Canada and choosing to invest elsewhere.

We see this reflected in the job numbers. The Liberals have been in government for an entire year and not a single, net, new, full-time job has been created since they took office. When we consider all of the new young Canadians entering the workforce, there are fewer full-time jobs available per capita today than there were before the Liberals formed government last October. This is one of the reasons we have seen the unemployment rate increase over the last year.

Why do taxes matter in a discussion about national poverty? They matter because they go to the heart of how different parties tackle the issue of poverty. Our Conservative Party put money in the hands of parents and trusted that they knew what was best for their families. We trusted parents to invest in their children's future by involving them in sports and the arts. We knew that with a bit of extra cash, middle-class families could afford to put their daughter in hockey or their son in piano lessons.

The sad reality is that when parents are forced to choose between keeping the power on and putting food on the table or their child's hockey league fees, they have to prioritize the necessities of life. This is why a marginal income increase matters. This is why a reduction in taxation matters. It is the difference between our children being able to play sports or sitting at home and simply watching TV. It is the difference between nutritious food and not-so-nutritious food being put on the plates of our children.

The Liberal child benefit on the other hand delivers less money each month to Canadian families. It does not increase with inflation, meaning that the Liberals are giving Canadian families less money as time goes on. As a result of all of the cancelled tax credits, Canadian families will get less money back at tax time. This is to say nothing of the thousands of dollars that Canadian families will have to pay each and every year under the carbon tax regime being implemented very soon.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, while we all believe in the importance of reducing poverty, the approach that we take in the House is quite different. The bill that has been introduced and is on the floor today is a clear example of how the NDP approaches this problem, which is heavy on bureaucracy and light on action and help towards families. This legislation would establish a national poverty commissioner and a national poverty reduction council in addition to tasking federal civil servants with developing a national plan.

I will make it short and sweet. It does not work. At the end of the day we know that the plan that was put in place by the Conservatives did work. Reducing taxes works. Benefits for families with children work. Let us leave the decision with parents. They know best.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today in support of Bill C-245, sponsored by my colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, which would establish a national poverty reduction strategy.

Poverty is, sadly, still very much a growing problem in Canada. Since the unanimous motion by Ed Broadbent in 1989 to eradicate poverty in Canada by the year 2000, very little has been done by successive Liberal and Conservative governments to actually reach this goal.

In the intervening years since 1989, Canada has been proud of its position as the ”best” and “second best” country in the world in which to live, according to various United Nations measurements. However, Canadians living in poverty, including an alarming number of children, are no better off than they were in 1989.

How can this be in a country as blessed as Canada, with natural resources, a skilled and educated workforce? How can we tolerate a situation where our neighbours are struggling to find shelter, put food on the table, and take care of their families?

In my office is a poster that say, “All it takes is political will”. That poster was created to commemorate Ed Broadbent's motion in 1989, which every member of Parliament voted to support. Yet here we are in 2016 and very little has changed. We obviously did not have the political will. Our governments have failed to make poverty reduction a priority.

Poverty reduction is a complex and challenging issue, but we must not let that paralyze us. Too much time has already been wasted by hand-wringing and repetitive consultations that do not produce any discernible improvements for people living in poverty.

Bill C-245 offers a turnkey proposal that the federal government can readily adopt and implement. It calls for the creation of an officer for the commissioner for poverty reduction, as well as a national council for the elimination of poverty and social exclusion.

These are concrete steps that would focus efforts in poverty reduction in a way that is measurable, accountable, and cumulative. Governments have often said that we cannot afford to do any number of things that would reduce poverty. On the contrary, we cannot afford to not do anything.

I would like to give credit where credit is due. The government has put in place the Canada child benefit and increased the guaranteed income supplement by 10%. Unfortunately, these measures, by themselves, are not sufficient to eradicate poverty in Canada in any meaningful way. The Liberals' Bill C-26, which is supposed to increase retirement security for all Canadians by improving the Canada pension plan, actually omits some of the most vulnerable from the enhancement: women who take time out to have kids and people living with disabilities. Whether this omission was an oversight or deliberate, the Liberals have refused to fix the bill, thereby doing absolutely nothing for two of the most vulnerable groups in society.

I come from the great riding of Saskatoon West, a diverse riding that, unfortunately, is no stranger to poverty, and there is a very high cost to poverty. In Saskatchewan, Poverty Costs, a coalition of community-based organizations, calculated that the economic cost of poverty in Saskatchewan was $3.8 billion a year.

Of course, the costs of poverty go beyond the dollars and cents spent on maintaining Canada's social safety net. The lost opportunity costs and the consequences of growing inequality among our residents impact all of us. In addition, poverty costs Saskatchewan $420 million a year in heightened health care service usage. Poverty also causes us to spend between $50 million and $120 million a year more than we would otherwise spend on our criminal justice system.

The same report also found that one in 10 of our population lacked the income needed to afford basic necessities. For a parent working full-time, minimum wage pays just over $20,000 per year. That is almost $15,000 below the poverty line for a family of four. Poverty affects us unequally and the numbers are shocking: 17% of Canadian children live in poverty, 33% of immigrant children, and 64% of first nations children.

Some of Saskatchewan's population, including women, children, newcomers, indigenous peoples, people living with disabilities, and those in rural areas are at greater risk of living in poverty and face systemic barriers that impede their efforts to rise above the poverty line.

Health disparities due to poverty are a direct result of substandard living conditions, inadequate access to nutritional food, and increased stress associated with making ends meet. The stresses of living in poverty can also be deadly.

In Saskatoon, low-income adults were 4.5 times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and 15 times more likely to attempt suicide.

In Saskatchewan, and across the country, costs of living are rising, but wages and salaries are not necessarily keeping pace.

In 2012, Saskatchewan had the second highest inflation rate in the country, and yet, still had the second lowest minimum wage.

The good news is that, overall, there is an increased public understanding about the social determinants of health, and growing support for addressing the underlying causes of poor health. Some 94% of Saskatchewan residents support reducing poverty, with 89% supporting a provincial approach to poverty reduction in Saskatchewan.

Therefore, we had high hopes in Saskatchewan when the provincial government adopted a poverty reduction strategy in 2014. Unfortunately, the Saskatchewan Party has now backed away from this priority, at a time when it is needed most.

The evidence shows that working to reduce poverty in the first place costs less than paying to respond to the effects of poverty later. If we needed proof that poverty is growing instead of decreasing, we just have to look at last week's headlines.

According to HungerCount 2016, a comprehensive report on hunger and food bank use in Canada, Saskatchewan has seen one of the largest increases in the number of people accessing a food bank since last year. The percentage of children using food banks is highest in Saskatchewan. It represents 45% of everyone served.

Steve Compton, the CEO of the Regina Food Bank, added that a job is no guarantee against food bank use. Nearly one in six households helped in Canada are working, yet still need a food bank to make ends meet. A lot of this has to do with the fact that low-wage and precarious jobs with no benefits are the only job growth our economy is seeing. It is no wonder that Canadians continue to rely on food banks, and yet, the finance minister has said that we should all just get used to job churn.

The Liberal government needs to acknowledge that poverty is growing, and use the levers it has to encourage stable, long-term jobs, instead of shrugging its shoulders. A $15 federal minimum wage would be a good start.

I am very proud to say that in my riding, four progressive employers have already committed to paying their employees a living wage. A living wage makes a huge difference for families and individuals and their communities. A truly progressive government would understand this and act accordingly.

Last week, Campaign 2000 released its annual report card on child and family poverty. It is heartbreakingly sad that an organization whose goal it was to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000 is not only still in existence today but that they are farther than ever from their stated goaI. After decades of advocacy for children and families in poverty, Campaign 2000 is still calling on the federal government to create a national anti-poverty plan.

Its 2016 national report card, “A Road Map to Eradicate Child and Family Poverty”, provides the latest statistics on child and family poverty in Canada, and clear recommendations for federal government action and leadership to end child and family poverty.

Bill C-245 can be the first step. It has already been studied at committee, and the Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development has acknowledged it is an excellent bill.

The Liberals have stated many times in the House, and at various committees, that the federal government has a role to play in reducing poverty in Canada, and that Canada needs a long-term, collaborative strategy to combat poverty.

Safe and affordable housing, affordable child care, accessible health services, a living wage, and a basic income for everyone are all important factors that contribute to the well-being of all Canadians.

It is my hope this excellent bill will be passed without delay, and it will be part of a truly comprehensive and collaborative strategy that will finally tackle all the different factors that contribute to poverty in this country.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-245. It has a lot going for it, but it certainly deserves to be debated and discussed. Bill C-245 is about developing a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada. It was introduced by our colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, and I congratulate her on this initiative.

The purpose of the bill is to encourage everyone to participate in poverty reduction. The bill talks about promoting inclusion as a way to fight poverty in Canada, which is certainly a worthy objective. Once again, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her tremendous work in preparing this bill. I would add that the excellent work she has done is in line with our government's agenda to reduce poverty in Canada. I have to add the fact that Bill C-245 is perfectly consistent with our government's direction on this issue.

We share the same vision, the vision of an inclusive society in which everyone can fully participate. However, the bill would provide for the appointment of an independent poverty reduction commissioner and also the establishment of a national council on poverty elimination and social inclusion. The bill would also amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to add social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Let us be clear, the government is determined to fight poverty and the Liberals agree with the intent of Bill C-245. However, as my colleague knows, we cannot support it at this time. This position is not adversarial, but rather based on logic and common sense.

The reality is that we are not supporting Bill C-245 because some of its initiatives have already been or are about to be implemented. In other words, the work has already started. We sincerely believe that the government's initiatives were specifically designed to achieve the same objectives as those of Bill C-245.

I do not have enough time to list all current and future initiatives, but I will talk about some of the most important ones. To begin with, there is the study of poverty reduction strategies undertaken by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. The committee will criss-cross the country to hold in-depth consultations with key stakeholders and the general public.

It is absolutely vital that we wait for the committee's report and listen to what it has to say before making any important decisions, such as appointing an independent poverty reduction commissioner.

Our government made an absolutely fundamental promise to Canadians. We promised that our decisions about policies and programs would be based on facts and consultations. Today, we must keep our word, just as we have in the past and will in the future. It is as simple as that.

I mentioned the study of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. In fact, that study was part of something much bigger. I am referring to the very broad mandate of my colleague, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. He was entrusted with this mandate by the Prime Minister of Canada, who asked him to lead the development of a Canadian poverty reduction strategy that includes very specific targets as well as performance indicators that will tell us whether we are achieving the stated goals.

The minister recently appeared before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. He tabled a discussion paper on poverty in Canada entitled “Towards a Poverty Reduction Strategy”. That document was designed to open a dialogue on the subject of poverty reduction in Canada.

This is a valuable tool that will help the committee to carry out its work. It will also help us, as a government, to develop our strategy. As a result, it would be premature to make any decisions about a specific approach, such as the one proposed in Bill C-245, until the discussions and analyses are complete. That does not mean that Bill C-245 does not deserve our attention and respect, quite the contrary.

As I said earlier, the member did an excellent job on this bill, which contains many good suggestions, such as the consultations with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, indigenous communities, and many other stakeholders and partners. What we are saying is that we should consult people and listen to what they have to say before making a decision. In other words, all in good time. There is a time for everything.

It is also important to point out that last spring the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development began discussions to develop a Canadian poverty reduction strategy. He initiated this important conversation with his provincial and territorial counterparts as well as with many stakeholders in various regions of the country.

In September, our government launched the tackling poverty together project. As part of this project, the government will conduct case studies in six communities in order to obtain a regional perspective and a better understanding of poverty in communities in Canada. It will also allow us to hear directly from Canadians living in poverty and receive recommendations from organizations that deliver poverty reduction programs. The tackling poverty together project will also be a valuable tool for developing our strategy.

My point is that our partners expect a real collaborative effort from us. They expect to be consulted. In fact, they demand it, and rightly so, and that is what we are doing. Therefore, supporting Bill C-245 and its initiatives would go against the approach we promised to adopt, namely to hold consultations.

As I said at the outset, our government made a solemn promise to Canadians. We promised to do things differently, to work together, and to consult Canadians, and we intend to keep our word. I would remind the House that we are already working on budget 2017, which will also include many commitments. We made commitments in 2016, and there will be more in 2017. We are also implementing our plan for a stronger middle class.

In closing, I would like to say that we can see right away that Bill C-245 is positive because it shows that the fight against poverty is something that every party and every member in this House cares about. It also shows that, despite our different political affiliations, we can share the same vision. When we share the same vision, we can join forces and work together to achieve that vision. In this particular case, it is the vision of an inclusive society in which everyone can fully participate. It is the vision of a country in which inclusion leads the fight against poverty, and this is already quite an accomplishment.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

November 30th, 2016 / 6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the member who brought this private member's bill forward. I sit on the human resources committee with him, and as we have heard on the floor of the House tonight, we are working on a poverty-reduction strategy as we speak.

We all want to eliminate poverty, if possible. That is something we can all agree on. We are certainly concerned about families that are affected by poverty and cannot put food on the table or heat their homes. We have heard a lot of heartbreaking stories about poverty in Canada. However, I am concerned that this bill will create another level of bureaucracy instead of dealing with the issues of poverty.

As Conservatives, we had a good record to this effect. In 2004, poverty was at a record low, at 8.8%, which was dramatically down from 11.4% in 2004. What really affects Jane and Joe Taxpayer is lower taxes, because we are able to leave more money in their pockets and they can afford more at home. It is a Conservative principle that we like to leave more in taxpayers' pockets.

Some interesting testimony has come before us at committee. One that dramatically affected the committee, on all sides, was the testimony given by Mark Wafer. I do not know if the chamber has heard his story, but he has several Tim Hortons stores. One thing he has done that has really set the bar high for a lot of establishments is hire disabled persons at wages equal to those of the everyday people who work for him. There is no disparity between the disabled versus non-disabled people in his workplace. It is a great story. There have been hundreds employed, hundreds who essentially were taken out of poverty. They were sitting at home with no place to work and no place to go, and he gave them jobs. I asked him the number one way a person can get out of poverty. His answer was that the number one way to get a person out of poverty is a paycheque.

It seems like a very simple concept that a paycheque would help someone out of poverty, but that is as simple as it gets. It is more than just a paycheque. It is a way of life. It is hope, and it is a future. He gave an example of a person he hired who had a disability who had not had an opportunity before. After getting a job at Tim Hortons, he went on to work for a major accounting firm in Canada. We look at solutions like that as real solutions to poverty, not just another bureaucracy.

A Conservative principle that needs to be understood is that Conservatives care about people in poverty. The analogy I use is the old one we all know: Give a person a fish and you feed that person for a day; teach a person to fish and you feed that person for a lifetime. My concern is that this particular bill will establish a bureaucracy that attempts to study how to give a person a fish.

We want to look at real solutions to get people out of poverty. Mark Wafer is an example of someone who creates real change for people in poverty.

What concerns me about the different political parties' views on the way to get people out of poverty is that it is about larger bureaucracies and money through programs to help people out of poverty. What we on this side of the aisle are concerned about are Jane and Joe Taxpayer, regular people who are possibly watching tonight who are just home after a hard day's work. I was a former carpenter. Maybe Joe is a carpenter who is sitting at home trying to have a meal with his family, maybe Kraft Dinner again. It is the end of the month. Maybe they are stuck and that is all they have to eat, or maybe they have nothing at all. We are asking that same family to now pay for another program that will cost millions of dollars and will add more of a burden.

If we are talking about taxes, again the contrast is between the Conservatives reducing taxes as the true way for poor people to change and get out of poverty, and the reverse, which can also happen.

What I am going to refer to is more of a burden to Jane and Joe Taxpayer, but we seem to talk around it in this place. Indeed, I have not heard it mentioned tonight that much, and here I mean the carbon tax.

The government talks a good game. It talks about wanting to see people come out of poverty. I absolutely believe that the NDP as well as the Liberals want people to get out of poverty, but when we continually ask people to pay more, we know that people who are already close to poverty or in poverty will be disproportionately affected by these taxes, and the lower the income the greater the effect. If we put in place a carbon tax, the person who is at or below the poverty line would be much more dramatically impacted than someone who is not.

Taking a simple look at the carbon tax, guestimates have been made of its impact: $1,000 on individuals and $2,600 and upward on families. Of course, we have not factored in the inflationary effects on food prices, and the extra cost of clothing and absolutely everything. I think a fulsome conversation about carbon reduction has to consider taxation and the reverse effects of pushing people into poverty.

It is always assumed that Jane and Joe Taxpayer can always bear more. The effective tax rates of individuals is 50% in some cases. For some people, half of their paycheques are going to tax, whether provincial, municipal, or federal taxes. Now we will be asking them to pay some more for another governmental program.

We Conservatives want to see poverty eliminated in Canada if at all possible, but we also want to acknowledge the things that work.

Another witness who came to the human resource committee this week was a man named Kory Wood. He is from a little town about two hours away from my hometown in Chetwynd, B.C. He was a young guy who grew up in poverty. He did not even see himself as growing up in poverty, but just in a difficult situation. He now runs a energy company called Kikanaw that has a yearly balance sheet of $10 million.

This guy says he is not in it for the money, but to make a difference. He is a guy who gives people hope, gives people jobs, but he also sees himself and a lot of those employees he is hiring, and without having a program to tell Kory what to do, he is helping people out of poverty by establishing a business.

He is an aboriginal person, but he does not want to be known for just that. He wants to be known as a businessman, but he gives people, especially in aboriginal communities close to his own, a way out of poverty. He gives them hope for the future.

I used to teach some of these kids in high school. When people do not have job and all they can see in the future is high unemployment, with no opportunities in sight, poverty becomes a destiny rather than something that is optional. Kory gives a person like that a way out of these circumstances, much more along the lines of a Conservative real-life approach, a real way out of poverty.

To summarize, bureaucracies are fine and bills like this are fine and sound great. They establish things that sound great to people, but I am concerned about poor people being really affected by this, and I see it as a limited thing. Just having another policy will have very limited success.

However, I am really concerned about Jane and Joe Taxpayer who bear the burden of one more governmental programs, one more tax that pushes them closer and closer to poverty.

Although I acknowledge the hon. member's best intentions in putting the bill forward, and I think we all agree that we want to see people come out of poverty, we just do not think this is the right direction. We want to see actions that really take effect and really do provide a pathway out of poverty.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in the House today to support Bill C-245 put forward by the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. It is a progressive piece of legislation that would create the social democratic infrastructure for eliminating poverty in Canada.

The Prime Minister's mandate letter to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development prioritized “the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy that would set targets to reduce poverty and measure and publicly report on our progress, in collaboration with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.” Moreover, the Prime Minister said, “Our strategy will align with and support existing provincial and municipal poverty reduction strategies.”

As I said, these are the words of the Prime Minister. However, more than a year into their mandate, the Liberals have yet to take on any action on providing a poverty strategy for Canada. I cannot help but think that Canadians who are struggling to find work, to feed their families, and to keep a roof over their heads might be having a hard time believing in sunny ways.

There is, however, some very good news here today. New Democrats have done the heavy lifting, as we have done in the past with medicare and workers' rights. The research is filed, Canadians have been consulted, and the experts agree. Bill C-245 would be a framework for fostering social inclusion. It would pave the way to creating the Canada we all know is possible. All that is left now is to make it happen. All that remains is political will on the part of the government.

Thanks to the tireless efforts and consultations of our New Democrat brother Tony Martin, who sat as the member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie between 2004 and 2011, we have before us a plan for poverty elimination that is considered, sustainable, and more critically necessary today than it was when first introduced in 2010. Tony's spirit and heroic efforts resonate in Bill C-245.

I applaud the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and her staff for their efforts in bringing this very important issue to the House, and for the recognition that poverty elimination would firmly set us on the path to the social justice Canadians deserve. I also offer my profound thanks and respect to Tony Martin for the work he has done as a champion of this cause over his lifetime.

In 1989, this House unanimously adopted Ed Broadbent's motion to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. The turn of the century has come and gone without Y2K ending the world as we know it, and without any substantive progress in ending child poverty in Canada.

The fact that we have reached 2016 without achieving our objectives with regard to poverty is shameful. It is shameful because it is something over which our governments have control. Not only are we no further ahead, it can be argued that the forces of neo-liberalism and globalization embraced by Conservative and Liberal governments alike have left us worse off instead of better. Post-secondary education has become the privilege of the elite; our health care system is in danger because of underfunding and corporate greed; and our finance minister has told workers and youth to suck it up and resign themselves to a lifetime of precarious and temporary work. When workers and young Canadians challenged the government for espousing these views, the Prime Minister chose to take a patriarchal approach and chided young workers for being disrespectful. Furthermore, the income gap has widened and continues to grow, leaving more and more Canadians unable to make ends meet, forcing them to choose between paying rent and paying the bills.

Taking an intersectional approach to poverty reveals that it has the biggest impacts on Canadians who have historically been disadvantaged. Women, seniors, senior women, children, disabled Canadians, immigrant Canadians, and Canadians of colour all experience poverty at rates higher than the average. Colonialism has entrenched Canada's indigenous peoples in poverty, which continues unchecked because of the government's refusal to honour the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The fact that we have done little to nothing in the way of fighting poverty in the 21st century in Canada is especially shameful, because the evidence is clear and undeniable. We all, rich and poor, individuals, families, and even the corporate elite, all of Canada thrives when we make efforts to reduce the impacts of poverty.

The cost of poverty in Canada is staggering, placing unnecessary burdens on our systems of health care, education, justice, and social welfare. The Canadian Medical Association has cited poverty as the number one social determinant of health, observing that society, governments, and health care providers, all have an obligation to address poverty, inadequate housing, and nutrition.

In response to a 2011 report from the National Council of Welfare, which placed the cost of poverty to our economy at $24 billion, the Conservative government of the day responded with its economic action plan. That government has come and gone, and all that remains of that important plan are some tattered signs, and a level of poverty unacceptable in a country as resource rich as Canada.

Poverty and income security are issues that need to be addressed at all levels of government. While the federal government has a fundamental role to play in establishing a strategy, provinces and municipalities are in many ways closer to the issue, and have expertise in delivering social services essential to communities.

Bill C-245 seeks to reach out to the other levels of government to harness that expertise in an effective way. It will strengthen Canada's social and economic safety net, and promote the involvement of the general public as well as public and private sector stakeholders in poverty reduction. It will ensure that every Canadian has access to affordable, secure, and adequate housing.

In addition, the bill seeks to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to recognize social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination, and in doing so, promote equal opportunities for Canadians living in poverty.

Recognizing that a full life is a human right, my community of London, Ontario has adopted a municipal strategy on poverty whose goal is to end poverty in a single generation, thereby allowing our community to reach its full potential. Entitled “London for All: A Roadmap to End Poverty”, the report includes 112 recommendations broken down into eight categories, including income and employment, health, housing, transportation, education, and food security.

I would like to remind the House and the government of the proud social democratic roots that the foundation of our country is based on. Social democracy provides balance in a capitalist economy with the recognition that core values of access to decent employment, health care, affordable housing, education, pensions, food, and union representation are not commodities to be marketed away at the whim of the corporate elite or government.

The Liberals campaigned on a platform that, if we were to believe the promises, veered left of Tommy Douglas on a social democratic scale. The Prime Minister, in his victory speech on election night, paraphrased the words of Jack Layton when he declared he had beaten fear with hope. Well, with all the evidence to the contrary, it appears to me that hope is waning and the Prime Minister is neither a Tommy Douglas nor a Jack Layton.

In fact, the Prime Minister is towing the Harper line on climate change and health care transfers to the provinces, revoking citizenship without a hearing, forcing veterans to go to court to fight for their benefits, defying the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, and continuing to underfund indigenous children's education. Where is the promised end to the 2% cap on education, and where is the promise of electoral reform? It certainly sounds like the current Prime Minister is backing away from his promise on just about everything.

Canadians put their hope for social democracy in the Prime Minister. It was he who called on Canadians to step up and pitch in, to get involved in public life, and to know that to be optimistic is to be positive. While I agree with those sentiments, I wonder why Canadians have had to wait more than a year for any kind of change.

Today, we have an important bill that looks to that social democracy that I was talking about. I urge the House, the government, and the Prime Minister to take the gift that we are offering in Bill C-245, and run with it. Put Canada back on track to becoming the country we all know is possible.

I would like to thank the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, and I thank Tony.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to a private member's bill that deserves recognition. Bill C-245 is an act concerning the development of a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada. It was put forward by our colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. I would like to commend the hon. member for the great work she has accomplished with this legislation, and for the passion I know she has for this issue.

The truth is that this bill pairs well with our government's agenda. We share the same vision, a vision of an inclusive society in which people will be able to take part to their fullest. Bill C-245 provides for the development and implementation of a national strategy to reduce poverty in Canada. It also provides for the appointment of an independent poverty reduction commissioner and the establishment of the national council on poverty elimination and social inclusion.

Lastly, Bill C-245 provides for the amendment of the Canadian Human Rights Act to add the term “social condition” as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

As a government that is determined to fight poverty, we welcomed Bill C-245. Unfortunately, we just cannot support it. Not now. It is a matter of timing. Let me explain why we feel compelled to oppose Bill C-245.

A number of poverty reduction initiatives are already being advanced by our government and are still in various stages of development. We strongly believe that they are designed to achieve the same objectives as Bill C-245.

The first one that comes to mind is the study on poverty by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, also known as HUMA. The hon. member has been attending many of those meetings along with me. This study will take the committee across the country through in-depth consultations with key stakeholders, as well as the general public. We must wait for the committee's findings. We need to hear its recommendations before making any major decisions, such as the appointment of an independent poverty reduction commissioner.

Our government made a promise to Canadians that our decisions, policies and programs would be evidence based. We have to be true to our words.

I talked about HUMA's study, but this study is just part of something much bigger. What am I talking about is the mandate of my colleague, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. He was asked by our Prime Minister to lead the development of a Canadian poverty reduction strategy that would set targets and measures to reduce poverty.

In fact, the minister recently tabled, in front of HUMA, a discussion paper entitled, “Towards a Poverty Reduction Strategy”. This document opens the dialogue on the subject of poverty reduction in Canada. It includes perspectives that could be helpful as HUMA conducts its work. That will help us develop our strategy.

It would be premature to decide on a specific approach, such as the one prescribed by Bill C-245, while discussions, engagement, and analysis of these initiatives are still under way. Bill C-245 makes numerous suggestions that could warrant consideration, such as consultations with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, indigenous communities, and various stakeholders. We have to ensure that such engagement happens prior to deciding on a specific approach, including the one outlined in Bill C-245.

In fact, last spring, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development did discuss the development of the Canadian poverty reduction strategy with his provincial and territorial counterparts, as well as with stakeholders from different parts of the country. This past September, the minister officially launched the tackling poverty together project. This important research project consists of six extensive case studies across Canada. This will help us better understand the impact of poverty reduction programs in communities that have identified poverty as an important issue.

What I am trying to say is that our partners are expecting us to engage with them, and they want to engage with us too. Supporting Bill C-245 and its proposed initiatives could be seen as contrary to the approach we have pledged to take.

Mr. Speaker, could I ask for a clarification? If I do not finish my remarks, I understand that I get 10 minutes. Is that correct?

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Unfortunately, you have about one minute and 12 seconds left, and that's the end of the debate.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for your clarification. I will cut to the chase then.

As I draw to a close, I understand that it might sound like Bill C-245 is not a good thing, but it is a good thing. It is a good thing because it clearly demonstrates that this government is definitely going in the right direction. It is a good thing because it clearly demonstrates that our priorities are similar to those on the other side of the House. It is a good thing because it clearly demonstrates that we share a vision, a vision of a country where everyone works together to fight poverty and where everyone works together to make sure that no one is left out and that everyone is on an equal footing.

Once again, congratulations to my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. We appreciate her efforts in this regard.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I now call on the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for her right of reply.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear that, at this point, we are not making any decisions. The second reading vote is simply about sending the bill to committee.

We just heard that the Prime Minister and his cabinet will vote against the bill because they vote against all private members' bills. By definition, those bills are not part of the government's agenda. They have even voted against Liberal private members' bills.

However, I sincerely hope that the other Liberal members will be able to vote freely because a second reading vote is an opportunity to show openness. In his mandate letter, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development was instructed to lead the development of a poverty reduction strategy. That is exactly why I introduced this bill. I wanted to contribute to the process.

Tony Martin and Jean Crowder held consultations for nearly 10 years. I took their findings and turned them into this bill. I wanted to contribute to the government's deliberations on developing a poverty reduction strategy even though I am well aware that a committee is in the midst of a study on poverty as part of that process.

Voting in favour of Bill C-245 at second reading does not mean that it will be put to another vote next month. We will have time to read the report that comes out of the study on poverty and see the results of the minister's work on the poverty reduction strategy. We are simply asking that Bill C-245 be allowed to contribute to the process and the discussion on what needs to be done.

Similarly, I have discussed the issue with the two Conservative poverty critics, and we managed to agree on certain amendments. Earlier I heard my colleagues talking about human dignity and I heard them say they would like to see full employment. We agree completely, but we are well aware that full employment is not going to happen overnight.

In the meantime, this bill does not create any new programs or offer any concrete solutions. I am the first to support concrete solutions, as I have worked in community-based organizations my entire life. Clearly, concrete solutions on the ground are what is needed to lift people out of poverty. However, this bill is simply saying that a poverty reduction strategy requires specific targets.

Where do we want to be in five or 10 years? We need to measure the effectiveness of our poverty reduction measures every year. For example, we have to ask ourselves whether the government's actions from the past year helped reduce the level of poverty or caused it to increase. We need to check on our progress because, unfortunately, a growing number of people are ending up in poverty.

Canada's food banks issued their report last week. They made it clear that a growing number of families are using food banks. By all accounts, the actions we are taking are causing poverty levels to increase, not decrease. We have to keep a check on our progress.

I urge hon. members from both sides of the House to vote in favour of Bill C-245, so that it can be given consideration by the committee that is studying poverty and by the minister, who is tasked with developing a poverty reduction strategy.

I introduced Bill C-245 because I fundamentally believe that we can work together. Poverty is not a partisan issue. Every one of the 338 members of the House can see it when they return to their ridings. There is poverty in every one of our regions. The face of poverty is the same everywhere in the country. We need to work together and that is why I introduced this bill.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

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

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

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

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those opposed will please say nay.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, December 7, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, revoking someone's legal status in Canada is a very serious issue and carries significant ramifications for the individuals impacted. I have no doubt that the minister knows this and yet the Liberal government is continuing with Harper's unconstitutional process to strip people of their citizenship due to fraud or misrepresentation without ensuring that they have the right to an independent hearing. The minister said that this is wrong, but, to date, the Liberals have failed to fix this.

On top of that, Liberals are aggressively revoking people's citizenships without ensuring that there is procedural fairness. In addition, cessation applications continue to be brought against permanent residents who came to Canada as refugees if, for whatever reason, they travelled back to their countries of origin.

Based on these current laws, the Minister of Democratic Institutions could have her citizenship revoked for misrepresentation. Just imagine if she were in the process of obtaining her citizenship and cessation proceedings were brought against her, given the fact that she was born in Iran and had travelled back to Iran. Do members think that is the right thing to do? Of course not. Some 300 others are faced with this unjust law.

Mr. Nilam is a taxi driver in Vancouver. He is a refugee from Sri Lanka. He has committed no crime and violated no immigration laws. In fact, he has complied with all requirements to maintain his permanent resident status and has passed the knowledge and language tests to earn his Canadian citizenship.

As he was waiting to be called to the oath ceremony for his citizenship, he found out that his citizenship application had been suspended because cessation proceedings had been brought against him. Why are cessation proceedings being brought against Mr. Nilam? It is simply because he travelled back to Si Lanka twice after the civil war had ended, once to marry his wife and the second time to be part of a special wedding reception as per the customs of his culture and faith.

As a result of the cessation proceedings, his wife's immigration visa to Canada was cancelled. Mr. Nilam had to hire a lawyer to fight this and even though he was successful in getting his wife's immigration application process resumed, he is still waiting for the re-approval of his wife's application so he can reunite with her. In the meantime, because there are cessation proceedings against him, he has had to travel to a third country in order to see his wife. To say this is absurd is stating it mildly. The emotional stress of this is unbelievable, not to mention the financial burden.

As for Mr. Nilam's Canadian citizenship application, even though his lawyer was successful in filing an mandamus application, the minister is appealing that decision and is actively trying to stop him from becoming a Canadian citizen. This is so wrong on so many levels. Mr. Nilam's life has been so significantly disrupted and he has done nothing wrong.

Then somewhere along the way, a punitive government, the Harper administration, retroactively brought in a law that put Mr. Nilam, unbeknownst to him, in violation of the cessation provisions. Why is the Liberal government continuing with the Harper government's unjust laws? Why are law-abiding people having to fight these unjust cessation provisions that even the current government has condemned?

Instead of carrying on with this absurdity, I am calling on the government to stop all actions against those with cessation proceedings against them.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Vancouver East for her question.

As the member is aware, our government is already moving forward with its commitments to repeal certain provisions of Bill C-24, including provisions relating to the revocation of citizenship on national interest grounds.

That said, while we want to ensure that citizenship requirements are fair and flexible, Canadians also want to protect the program from abuse. I understand the member's comments related to both citizenship revocation and cessation provisions, and I will address both of those.

On the citizenship revocation, that is available under four grounds: misrepresentation, fraud, knowingly concealing material circumstances, or where national interest grounds are at stake. As part of Bill C-6, which has been voted on and passed third reading in this House, provisions relating to citizenship revocation under national interest grounds are being repealed, which is a step in the right direction I think we would all agree.

With respect to the other grounds related to misrepresentation, fraud, and knowingly concealing material circumstances, the most serious cases are prioritized, such as those involving serious criminality or organized fraud. There have been several large-scale fraud investigations across Canada, which have led to the increase in citizenship revocations.

Canadians are proud of their citizenship, and our government is committed to upholding the integrity of that citizenship. The ability to revoke based on fraud has been in place since the inception of the act in 1947, and will continue to do so.

This tool is very important in ensuring that the program remains effective, as the Auditor General indicated in his report.

As things stand now, the minister has the authority to revoke citizenship in basic fraud cases, such as residence fraud, identity fraud, and criminality. The Federal Court has the authority to decide on more complex cases where the misrepresentation is in relation to concealing facts relating to inadmissibility for security violations, human or international rights violations, or organized crime.

With respect to the revocation process, which has been underlined here by the member opposite, under the authority of the minister, once individuals receive a notice of intent advising them that their citizenship may be revoked, along with the evidence that the notice is based on, they are given the opportunity to provide submissions and evidence relating to the case to the decision-maker, which can be taken into consideration.

These are some of the due process components that have to be emphasized to the member opposite. While we are open to suggestions on how to improve the due process protections, certain protections exist at present. In certain circumstances, for example, an oral hearing may be held. Personal circumstances of the individual, including any hardship that may be caused, can be taken into account by a decision-maker.

With respect to the cessation provisions, I know the member opposite has spoken about this. She is an advocate for this provision. We are looking at the cessation provisions, because certain aspects of those cessation provisions, including the retroactivity component and including the ability to revoke not just the refugee status but also the permanent residency of an individual, are aspects that are concerning to this government. We will, indeed, be analyzing those very provisions that have been raised by the member opposite.

I want to underscore, once again, there are due process protections in place for revocation of citizenship, including what I have outlined, but also the fact that a judicial review can be sought with leave to the Federal Court of Canada.

The minister has said publicly many times in this House, and in the Senate where Bill C-6 is currently, that we are open to considering enhancements to the current process for revocation for citizenship fraud, and that is exactly what we will do should those suggestions be made.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister has said that he would bring in legislation to adopt the amendments that I had proposed, and we have yet to see those. The fact is there are scores of people who do not have due process right now.

Stripping law-abiding former refugees of permanent residence status simply because they travelled back to their country of origin is wrong. Cessation proceedings waste millions of dollars of taxpayers' money, and scarce resources that could be put to much better use. Mr. Nilam and close to 300 others do not deserve this kind of treatment from their Canadian government.

I have drafted a private member's bill that would repeal the cessation provisions. I am calling on the government to adopt my bill as a government bill, and to halt the proceedings against current cessation cases.

As we wait for the government to get into action, and bring these laws in place, there are scores of people whose lives are being impacted right now. The government can actually stop the court proceedings against them until there is a process, and until there is a revocation of the cessation provisions.

I call on the government—