Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill C-323.
I was here when the sponsor introduced the bill. I really liked his speech during the first hour of debate because I have seen and visited most of the buildings he mentioned. Needless to say, his speech made me feel quite nostalgic. I thank the member for York—Simcoe for this bill, and I want to start off by pledging him my support.
Historic buildings in the riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou are a valuable part of our heritage, our history, and our culture. I am in favour of maintaining our historic buildings, but the cost of repairing and maintaining are at times prohibitive, especially in my riding's northernmost communities.
For example, Village-Minier-de-Bourlamaque is a site of definite historical value. It is on the Canadian Register of Historic Places because of its connection to the 1930s gold rush in Abitibi.
Between 1927 and1950, many men looking for work came to Abitibi hoping to find a job. Village-Minier-de-Bourlamaque was built in 1935 by Lamaque Gold Mines Limited to house the miners. It has a very particular architectural style. The next time you are passing through Abitibi, Mr. Speaker, I invite you to stop and visit the mining village. The site has two kinds of residential structures, namely, the workers' houses and the posh homes of the former mine managers, who were called “boss” at the time, even in French.
Everything still exhibits the unique character of the1930s village. Most of the houses in the village are still inhabited today, and the owners are responsible for maintaining the historic character when they do renovations. Conservation and original appearance are important to safeguarding the heritage and drawing tourists to the village, not only for the city of Val-d'Or but the entire Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.
Very few people know that one of the first buildings in the Abitibi region was built in 1836, namely, the Sainte-Clotilde church in Kitcisakik. Still standing today, this church was built on the fur trade with Algonquin trappers from the area. It is now a designated religious heritage site in Quebec. It is one of the first buildings built in my riding. Dating back to 1836, it is nearly 200 years old.
In Whapmagoostui, which is at the limit of James Bay and Hudson's Bay, we find sites such as the Church of St. Edmund, constructed in 1879. Historic sites are important to maintain. It is critical that our history is understood and remembered, so that we can maintain an understanding of our past so that it is not forgotten.
Additionally, promotion of restoration efforts will create good, skilled jobs and promote economic development, while at the same time encourage tourism and promote respectful development while restoration efforts can help reduce environmental impacts of new building construction. This act would allow those struggling to afford the costs of rehabilitation projects to move forward.
However, it would also provide handouts to wealthy people who are not in need of assistance whatsoever. It does not seem reasonable to me that we should subsidize costs to rehabilitate these historic buildings while there is also a housing crisis in this country. I want clarity that the revenues lost from this bill will not impact Canada's ability to address the need for social housing in this country. As an indigenous person, I am very sensitive to that issue.
This bill gives me a chance to talk about the different priorities that a government needs to balance. A government has a responsibility toward the people who live within its borders. We all know that in Canada we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees all people the same right. However, Canadian governments have shown that their priorities do not include ensuring the same standards of programs and services for indigenous people that they provide to other Canadians.
In general, I question the government's housing policy. However, today I question more specifically how a bill like Bill C-323 will respond to the current housing needs in indigenous communities. Unfortunately, due to Canada's colonial history, forced relocation, land appropriations, and poor government infrastructure in indigenous communities, we do not have many heritage properties. Therefore, if we are to implement a bill like this one, which will potentially reduce government revenues by millions of dollars annually, what will this mean for the indigenous people and indigenous communities in desperate need of housing? Will the government increase revenues elsewhere to ensure that the human rights of indigenous people are upheld?
Through the rules of the Indian Act, colonial governments have created the housing crisis that indigenous communities are experiencing. Under the act, restrictions on land ownership often prevent the development of housing programs. It is estimated that by 2031, the housing shortage on reserves will rise to 115,000 units. In order to bring the number of people living in each home on reserve down to the Canadian average of 2.5 persons per home, an additional 80,000 first nations homes are needed right now, yet the 2016 federal budget provided funding for first nations housing of just $206.6 million, which is enough to pay for 300 new homes, the servicing of 340 new housing lots, and the renovation of about 1,400 homes. To use the housing problem in my riding of Nunavik as another example, the aboriginal peoples Senate committee hearing on housing was told that Nunavik needs over 1,100 houses immediately. The $50 million included in budget 2016 is less than a quarter of the funds needed to address that shortage.
I have been asked many times by many colleagues on both sides of the House what the most important issue is facing indigenous people today, and what the government should do now to make reparations of historic injustices. Indigenous issues in this country have been neglected for so long that every single issue has become a priority.
I have one minute left. I just want to say that the NDP will support Bill C-323 because we believe in restoring historic buildings that are part of our heritage. Obviously, we also believe that it is important to understand how expensive these renovations are.
We will seek to amend the bill during review in committee in order for the tax credit to also be offered to people with a low or medium income. A billionaire can afford to renovate an old building, but it is harder for the average Canadian or low-income earners.