Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on Bill C-87, an act respecting the reduction of poverty, and Canada's first poverty reduction strategy. However, it is a six-page document, and so there is not a lot there.
This poverty reduction strategy is truly a re-announcement of 87 programs either that the government put into place or modified or that had been around for decades. Let us not kid ourselves when we talk about this poverty reduction strategy. It is a re-announcement of things that have happened since October 2015. That is all we are seeing here.
The Liberals talk about the fact that the bill would put in a metric, and the member for Spadina—Fort York talked about using this new measurement. I would like to let him and all Canadians know that this measurement has been used for decades. I applaud the Liberals for actually adopting it as the official measurement, but please do not believe that this was something they concocted and created. This measurement was used by the human resources and skills development department for years.
There are four key things that I will focus on.
I will begin with the current poverty rate. Last week, we had the financial update from our finance minister, and I read the comments from Canadians on Twitter and Facebook. They will support a government that runs a deficit if they believe that the money is being spent well and where it is needed. One the biggest challenges I see here is that we have a government that has announced an $80 billion deficit in its mandate. However, if we look at what it has spent and what the actual statistics are showing, they are two absolutely different stories.
I will start with what the parliamentary secretary said moments ago, that the poverty reduction strategy started the day the Liberals took office. The facts I am going to give members today will compare data from 2014, the last year of the Harper Conservative government, with 2016 data, which is a full year of the current government, noting that it was working on poverty from October 19, 2015. The numbers show that the level of poverty for all persons remained at 13%. Therefore, the data shows that between 2014 and 2016, it was 13% with no variation in those numbers whatsoever. However, there is an $80 billion deficit.
For persons under the age of 18, the Liberals talk about the Canada child benefit, but we have seen a half percentage decrease based on this data, and we see an $80 billion deficit. For persons between the ages of 18 and 64, there have been very minor, insignificant changes. We see a change of about 1%. However the statistic for seniors really scares me, and will scare many members of my caucus, especially since we really focused on seniors and pushed to make sure we had a seniors minister. We thought the Liberals were not focusing on seniors, and we were right. We have now seen a 2% increase between 2014 and 2016 of people over the age of 65 when it comes to poverty. We also see an $80 billion deficit. What I am trying to show here relates to the Liberals' line that they are spending the money on the people who need it.
I am the first one to want to help somebody, but these numbers are not showing any changes. Instead, we are seeing deficit spending and we are not getting the results from it. That is one of the biggest challenges I see here. How can we support something when we are seeing no difference? This comes back to the metrics in the six-page bill, and they are not there. The targets are not there.
We recognize that the government is collecting data, and I will share some information.
I have had the opportunity as the shadow minister for families, children and social development to go across Canada and speak to people on the ground. A couple of weeks ago, I was in Hamilton at the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. One of the biggest discussions there was on the point in time count. We wanted to compare the 2016 and 2018 data. When this came out in 2016, I thought it was really important to collect that data. We need to know what is leading to homelessness. We need to know how many are homeless. If we have these numbers, we can know if we have reduced it or if it has increased. I am okay with that.
However, people on the ground are coming out and saying that they were told to do one thing in 2016, and with the point in time count, they were told not to go to certain areas. I actually heard this from people who were doing point in time counts. They were told not to go to those areas because poverty was flourishing, those streets had people who were homeless and they did not want those people in the count.
This comes down to the people working for the Government of Canada, who were telling them not to go into those areas where poverty had increased.
I also have heard from the people in Kelowna. The trip to Kelowna was really interesting, and I sat and spoke to people at OneSky. They are doing absolutely fantastic work. However, they shared with me the concern that they did the point in time counts in 2016 and 2018, and they also did a name list, something that is really a wonderful measurement on this that we can talk more about in another discussion. They said that the factors they got in 2016 and 2018, through the point in time count endorsed by the government, was in a 24-hour window. Let us say that John, who has been on that street corner for 364 days asking for assistance, happens to not be on that corner that day. His name does not count because he is not there in that 24-hour period.
What we see is that the counts are being done in a very micro amount of time. When the same organizations from Kelowna are going out and doing a name count, we see that those numbers actually almost quadruple. They actually are saying that their point in time count will show less than 100, but when they did a name count of people out on the streets, they are talking about 400 people. That is a huge significant difference.
If we are going to talk about metrics, let us make sure we are getting our metrics straight and let us be sure the measurements we are using are the same from one year to another year and not putting some challenges there so that we get different results.
One thing that I also heard that was really important was, “You keep on counting us but we still don't have a home”. This is something that I want to bring to the attention of the minister, the parliamentary secretary and the government. It is lovely to collect this data; however, the people who are being asked for this data want to start seeing results. They are tired of doing these things and not seeing anything at the end of the day.
I now want to switch the page and talk about the national housing strategy. We have had some private members' bills that have come through, so we have had an opportunity to talk about housing in those areas. Let us actually talk about what the national housing strategy does.
Over one-third of this announcement is not new money. It is money that we saw in the 2016 and 2017 budgets. Therefore, when we talk about the national housing strategy, we are looking at old money and we are looking at some new money. A substantial portion requires provincial money. When the Liberal government talks about $40 billion, it is not $40 coming from the Canadian government, but funding that has to be matched. We have to make sure that those provincial governments are going to be at the table. Agreements have been signed, and kudos on that. However, we also have to make sure that these are agreements that the provinces are not being forced to make.
One of my biggest concerns is that the need for housing is now. We have heard our NDP colleagues talk about the need for housing. I recognize that we still see these challenges. We know that shelter use in Canada has actually increased under the government. It has not decreased. It has increased. More people are needing shelters.
What we look at is the strategy that goes from 2016 and then up to about 2029. We have the $40 billion for 10 years. We see that it is end-loaded. The emergency is today. The emergency is not 10 years from now. Are we saying that for a person who has lived on the streets for two years, we will add 12, and that person will get their money then? We also have to look at that. Some of my biggest concerns are around throwing money at things without really solving the problem.
Right now at the status of women committee, we are studying shelters. We have had some fantastic witnesses who have come in. If we are looking at where the housing issues are; we have to look at the actual housing continuum; we have to look at the shelters, we have to look at the subsidized housing; we have to look at affordable housing and supportive housing. Then we also have to look at what is actually attainable for Canadians.
One of the biggest challenges we are seeing, which is something that the government has not addressed, is that we see people being kept in shelters because there is no room to move out of that continuum. Here is just a little news alert: Every day somebody is looking for a shelter across Canada. There are always people looking for help, whether it is women leaving abusive relationships or people who just cannot financially support themselves and their housing. They are looking for places. However, the continuum of housing is broken and the government continues to allow it to be broken and continues to expand the problem. When somebody goes to look for affordable housing, there are problems. One example is a young woman I know of who moved into a place in June, into second stage housing. She is stuck in that second stage housing because there is no housing available. The housing markets are not there.
Therefore, when we look at the national housing strategy we can talk about affordable, but what is the plan to actually get affordable housing built? What is the plan to break it down and make sure that we are working with all our communities, from the developers and the landowners to the people who are actually out there with the hammers? We have seen huge gaps, and the government is not addressing them.
We talk about this all the time, but there are a few quotes that I want to share with the House. The reality check is here.
CBC News posted on June 13, 2018, “Between 2014 and 2017, chronic homelessness in the city climbed by 21 per cent, while the use of emergency shelters rose by 16 per cent.” Under the Liberal government the city of Ottawa has seen an increase in chronic homelessness of 21%. How is the government addressing that?
From the same source, here is a second quote about a report entitled,“Homelessness in Ottawa: A Roadmap for Change”. This report examines how the city's 10-year plan is faring and offers suggestions on how to turn the tide. “While the report contains some good news—577 people were able to move into their homes since 2015, thanks to the city's use of Housing First model—Deans acknowledges Ottawa is not trending in the right direction.”
We are talking about a document that was just put out that looked at housing from 2014 to 2017. The people from Ottawa are saying we are not going in the right direction, and this is under the Liberal government.
I also want to share a few quotes that talk about housing first.
The Liberal government talks about housing first, and let us be honest: the reason it does not like it is that the Conservatives put it in. It is that simple. We have seen many of our pieces of legislation that were done between 2006 and 2015 repealed, only because they were Conservative policy.
I want to read a few items, and these are really important and critical points.
From the Mental Health Commission's final report:
Over the two-year period after participants entered the study, every $10 invested in HF services resulted in an average savings of $9.60 for high needs.... Significant cost savings were realized for the 10 per cent of participants who had the highest costs at study entry. For this group, the intervention cost was $19,582 per person per year on average. Over the two-year period following study entry, every $10 invested in HF services resulted in an average savings of $21.72.
From the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, Tim Richter has spoken on this. People working in housing across Canada will understand who he is. I recognize that the parliamentary secretary knows him as well. He has indicated that we won't prevent and reduce chronic homelessness in Canada without housing first. Removing the housing first investment target could be risky because communities may drift away from the housing first investment, harming efforts to reduce homelessness.
Finally, the last quote is from the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy, which:
strongly objects to the government policy decision to remove the (65%) Housing First investment target.... Reaching Home leaves open the door for federal funding to be diverted toward homelessness interventions that are neither evidence-based nor best practice.
I just wanted to bring up that information, because we can sit here and talk about what a great deal the government is doing on the national housing strategy, and applaud, and all of these kinds of things, but we have people on the ground who face homelessness every day, who face clients every day, and these are the reports we are getting back.
Last night I appeared on a panel on CTV. We were talking about the emerging crisis that we have with immigration and the costs. The PBO indicated that over the two-year period from July 2017 to March 2019, if the government stays on track, it will spend $1.1 billion.
We really need to concentrate on the fact that the government has no true policies for the people who come into this country and does not have a plan on how we are going to assist these new immigrants.
Here is a quote from Toronto, which has seen a spike in refugee claimants and shelters this year, with average nightly numbers climbing to 3,191 this month, more than six times the level of two years ago.
Toronto Mayor John Tory has issued increasingly urgent calls for additional funding from federal and provincial governments. He says 41% of those in the city's already-strained shelter system are now refugee claimants. By November, this year is projected to hit 54%. As a result, for the first time the city is temporarily housing people in student residences at two community colleges, spaces that are filling up fast.
With yesterday's PBO report, we recognize that the cost of new immigrants into this country is basically on average what a minimum wage worker would make over the course of one year. That is what the Liberal government is spending because it does not have a plan. I wish it would start listening to what Canadians are saying.
I want to turn now to a positive note. The social finance fund was mentioned in the mini budget last week. Although it was supposed to be an economic statement, we saw a heck of a lot of spending included in it. The fall economic statement would make available $755 million on a cash basis over the next 10 years to establish a social finance fund, with an additional $50 million over two years in an investment and readiness stream. This is something our government started studying in 2011 and 2013. In 2015, it was in our federal budget. Therefore, this is something the Conservatives do believe in. However, part of the problem I have with this is where is the Liberal government going to find this money? We are already talking about an $80 billion dollar deficit, and now we are talking about what we are going to do next. That is one of my concerns.
We also have to remind ourselves that with 10-year programs we have to see where that money is being spent. If we are talking about social programs being financed through this social finance fund to help meet urgent needs, including homelessness, this money is once again back loaded and does not appear for the first two years in this mandate. That is really important. This is money that would be spent after the 2019 election. Like everything else the government proposes, it would be spent after the election so that the government can include it in its platform for its four-year mandate. These are huge concerns to me as well.
The child benefit is something the Liberals constantly talk about. They say that the Canada child benefit has lifted 300,000 children out of poverty. Anything that we can do to help our children, we will always support, but we also have to make sure that what government is doing is on the right track. Part of my concern is that if the Liberals are saying they are doing all of these things and we see less than half a per cent decrease in child poverty, we have a problem.
The current government is truly on a poor track. It has a poor track record, and its program performance is horrendous. We support measures that purport to reduce poverty and provide a fulsome approach. We oppose the carbon tax because we know it will be one more cost for these low-income people. The government is coming out with one of its policies, and it is not a climate change policy. It is an economic and social engineering policy. There is nothing there that says what will happen. I cannot take a supposed train that would not go from my house to my workplace. It does not exist. Like any other consumer, I will be in my automobile, just like the many other Canadians who do not have public transit. We will be in our automobiles and will be gassing up and paying 11 cents more a litre because of the government. I applaud the Government of Ontario for banning this ridiculous carbon tax.
We have something that has come out with 87 different programs in it. In the last few months, we have seen job losses: at GM this week, 2,800 jobs have been lost; at Bombardier, 5,000 jobs have been lost; and we cannot forget about the people in Alberta. One hundred and ten thousand jobs in Alberta have been lost because of the Prime Minister and Bill C-69 and because the ridiculous policies I have cited. The Liberals look at what they want, but they do not look at what Canadians want and need, and they need jobs.
On this entire poverty reduction strategy, how come we are not asking about how we can stay competitive in Canada, how we can retain jobs here in Canada and how we can create jobs in Canada? We do not see that discussed in Bill C-87. We know there are many ways of looking at poverty, and there are many different pillars. One of the pillars is a strong fiscal position and an economy that is creating jobs. We do not see job creation. If we saw job creation we would not have 110,000 people in Alberta losing their jobs. If the government were worried about poverty reduction it would be putting in place initiatives that keep people working in Canada and not putting them in the employment insurance program. Employment insurance is not the option Canadian workers are looking for. They are looking to go to work every day. They are looking at putting bread and butter on the table for their families. Their job is to go out there and get a job as a family member to be able to do that for their families.
Bill C-87 is gutless. It is worse than what Seinfeld would say. It is “filled with nothing.” If they are really talking about helping people out of poverty, where are the guts?