House of Commons Hansard #265 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was promise.

Topics

HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

February 15th, 2018 / 6 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today in support of Motion No. 147, which was introduced by my colleague from Saskatoon West, to create a special committee on homelessness. This is one of the most important motions that have been put forward in the House, and I want to speak about the importance of that.

I really appreciate my colleague from the Conservative Party who talked about not everyone having a home. It is really important we bring that up, because it is so true throughout our country. We know in every community homelessness exists, but it does not just exist. It is on the rise. I really appreciate that we are here today. The government talks about what it is doing, where it has been, and what it is doing about this issue. I do not want talk about who is doing what. I want to talk about the people who do not have a home. That is what this is about and what we need to talk about. I do not think the government understands the sense of urgency in our community for people's lives and the families being affected by homelessness. We know it affects everyone.

One thing we do not talk about is that we are all one tragedy away from being on the street. I was in Port Alberni at the shelter and met this wonderful man who had lived a great life. He had worked his whole life, was getting ready for retirement, but then lost his wife in a tragic accident. He does not remember the last three years. It just vanished. He woke up and was in the shelter in Port Alberni when he realized what had happened to him, and he had lost everything. That could happen to any one of us. We are all one tragedy or incident away from being on the street. We are seeing it all the time with people experimenting with drugs, especially with the opioid crisis.

I will speak about my riding because that is what I know best. We do not talk a lot about homelessness in rural communities. Right now, we have a housing crisis in our country. We talk a lot about the greater Toronto area, Vancouver, and the greater Vancouver area. However, on Vancouver Island, we are in close proximity to Vancouver and the spillover effect is having a massive impact in our communities. In fact, we are seeing real estate prices being driven up more than 20% over last year. For people who are marginalized or struggling, it plays out in such a way that they are moving from the mainland to Victoria or Nanaimo, and the people in those communities are being pushed out into more remote communities.

I live in one of those communities, Port Alberni, which was the most affordable place in southwestern British Columbia. It had a disproportionate amount of people living on income assistance. In fact, Port Alberni was 250% above the provincial average for people living on income assistance. The reason being was that people could rent a place for $400 a month, be earning $635 a month on income assistance, and could afford to live there on a meagre income of $235 a month to buy groceries, medicine, and clothing. However, as we know, people living with low incomes, many people living with disabilities receiving low incomes to survive, were gravitating to our communities in Courtenay and Port Alberni because they were affordable.

However, now we are seeing our real estate prices getting pushed up. People living on low incomes often have a transient place to live because sometimes they cannot make ends meet and have to move out. Their landlord moves them out because they could not pay their bills. There is nowhere for them to go now. They cannot afford to live anywhere on their meagre income and are ending up on the street. We have never seen a housing crisis like this, ever, on Vancouver Island.

In Courtenay, for example, the vacancy rate is 0.4% in the Comox Valley. We have incredible organizations working there trying to find people a place to live. However, we have not built one purpose-built place to live for low-barrier housing in the Comox Valley, never, and that is not working right now when we have a housing crisis. We now have hundreds of people living on the street, and we are not prepared. It is great to have a national housing strategy, but we need a strategy focused on people living on the street. They are facing different situations. We need work that is integrated with the provinces.

People living on the street move. We cannot just download it to local government and say it is their responsibility to fix it. This is a national problem, and people who are vulnerable, living on the street, are transient. They are moving around because they have nowhere to go. It is important that we recognize that.

I met a man in Port Alberni at the Port Alberni Shelter Society. He was living in a low-barrier house. I found out about his story. I will call him John. I have told this story in the House, but I want to protect him and his family. His story is this. John drinks every day. He still does. However, he used to drink every day and end up on the street where he lived drunk. He would pass out and the police would get called, or the fire or ambulance. They would take him to the hospital, tying up an acute care bed in the hospital, and they might do X-rays. Other times, they would throw him into a cell at the RCMP, then release him, and he would do it all over again.

To lowball it, let us call it $2,000 a day, because it was every day. I am going to lowball it even more and say it is only $600,000 a year. However, the Port Alberni Shelter Society operates on funds raised by the city, the good people of Port Alberni, the good people in the community, and the business community. People donate because they care. They know that everyone deserves a roof over their heads.

The Port Alberni Shelter Society is bursting at the seams. It cannot house the amount of people who need a place to live. They found him a place to live in low-barrier housing, at $475 a month. Let us call it $6,000 a year, instead of $600,000 a year. To those people who say we should not be funding people that need a place to live because it is not our responsibility as taxpayers, I say it is prudent as government leaders to protect taxpayers and make sure people who are vulnerable, who are living on the streets, have dignity and a place to sleep, like my friend in Port Alberni. He has a shower every day, a bed to sleep in, and he has dignity. His story is so powerful. All the first responders know him. They know his story, and they know it is the right thing to do.

I met a single mom in Courtenay. She said she was born and raised there. Her parents, her grandparents, and great-grandparents lived there, and she may have to leave her community because she has nowhere to go. She is a single mom. She asked, “How am I supposed to get by?” With rent growing at 20% a year, we know it is impossible for that to be sustainable. That is not just impacting people who are struggling, who feel vulnerable, and who might give up. They might give up because it is too hard, but it affects our culture. It affects our community and our knowledge.

I want to highlight some of the people being affected. We have the highest youth unemployment rate we have seen in decades in our country and on Vancouver Island. We have a housing crisis. We have a really difficult time for seniors and veterans. As the critic for veterans affairs, I had the chance to meet the representative, Deb Lowther from VETS Canada. She says she thinks there are probably easily about 5,000 veterans living on the streets of our country. Clearly, we have a problem when our veterans do not have a place to live, and when our seniors do not have a place to live. We have to fix this.

A special committee would do that. It would put the attention on the people who are the most vulnerable in our society. We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet we have a skyrocketing problem with homelessness. We have an opioid crisis right now, which is impacting every community across our country. When people are living on the street, how are they supposed to heal? How are they supposed to get the rehabilitation they need if they have addictions or mental health issues? They need a place to live.

It is good for the economy. It is good for business people. We have seen crime skyrocket in my community. Businesses are closing because homeless people who are feeding addictions and struggling need a place to live. I outlined the savings to the taxpayers for services, for the criminal justice system, and for the health care system. I could go on and on. It is also good for businesses.

My friend from Kootenay—Columbia talked about how it is affecting his community. It is not just my community. It is rural communities across the country.

The Prime Minister's goal of cutting homelessness by 50% in the next 10 years is not acceptable. Where is the urgency from the government? If the Liberals support the motion, then it shows they back up the sense of urgency and that they understand how urgent this is for the most vulnerable people in our communities.

I want to thank my colleague for introducing this very important motion in the House.

HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There remains only enough time in the time provided for private members' business today for the right of reply for the hon. member for Saskatoon West. Therefore, we will go to her now. She has up to five minutes.

The hon. member for Saskatoon West.

HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, let me begin with a quote, which states:

I would encourage the member for Saskatoon West, as well as all members from all parties and all parts of the country, to become part of the government's nation-wide efforts to ensure that all Canadians have the safe and affordable housing they need and deserve.

Through you, to my hon. colleague from South Shore—St. Margarets, and to all parliamentarians on all sides of this House, I say that her call to be part of the government's efforts is exactly what my motion, Motion No. 147, is all about. It is about including all parliamentarians in our collective leadership to end and prevent homelessness. That motion, to remind Canadians, is to create a national plan to end and prevent homelessness, a plan based on results and outcomes. It is not about the political right or left. It is about rolling up our sleeves, and with relentless focus, ending homelessness in this country.

However, I am at a loss as to how we rally the support of Canadians, ourselves, and parliamentarians and tackle such an urgent issue as homelessness by saying that we will only go halfway. We are going to house only 50% of homeless Canadians over 10 years. We can and must do so much better.

We owe an urgent response to each and every Canadian living on our streets without safety or shelter. They are our children, our loved ones, our families, our friends, and our veterans. I want all Canadians to be able to hold in their hands our plan to end and prevent homelessness and say, “This is where my government is going. This is how they are going to get there, and I can hold them to it.”

I want to thank the countless number of Canadians and organizations who support and endorse my motion, organizations like Raising the Roof, the Peel Alliance to End Homelessness, OUTSaskatoon, Quint Development Corporation, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, the Canadian Housing & Renewal Association, Upstream, the mayor of Saskatoon, the YWCAs of Saskatoon and Lethbridge, the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and the Alberta Federation of Labour, to name a few. I want to thank my fellow parliamentarians who took the time to meet with me to talk about how we can and must end homelessness in this country.

Two weekends ago, I held a town hall in my adopted neighbourhood in Ottawa at the Centretown United Church. Despite the snow, the lure of Winterlude, and the Super Bowl, people actually came. The one overriding question that emerged was this: where is the urgency by governments to end homelessness? Only one speaker that day got a standing ovation, and it was not me.

Tyler Palmer works for the Youth Services Bureau as a community developer working with tenant organizations. As a young person who has experienced homelessness, Tyler speaks from a place that most of us can only imagine. He said:

...homelessness is its own place: a world of fear and shame, that often feels impossible to escape.... it is hard to fathom why something so basic as shelter is still as elusive as it is, especially in a prosperous and stable country like Canada.

The face of homelessness is changing. It affects young and old, women, families, and children.

Tyler went on to say:

Many come from privileged or advantaged families. No one is immune.... [Many queer and trans youth] are still expelled from their former lives just for being who they are.... In short, homelessness is not just an economic problem, it is a human problem.... As a society, we are on the same road: all of us can do our part. I firmly believe that, only together, can we end the isolation and grief that homelessness creates.

I agree with Tyler. That is why I ask that we all work together to create a federal plan to end homelessness.

Ten years from now, let us not regret what could have been or how far we could have come. Ten years from now, we will have an opportunity to be proud of our efforts as parliamentarians toward ending and preventing homelessness in Canada. We will have the chance to be thankful that we worked together in 2018, that parliamentarians chose to recognize that housing rights are human rights and that our country refused to abandon the most vulnerable.

An urgent and bold federal intervention into the homelessness crisis is possible. Let us work together to build a plan and make sure we get it right. We need not wait for a more perfect time.

HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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, February 28, 2018 immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to talk about taxes once again. I am following-up on a question I put November 8 to the Minister of National Revenue, specifically on the information that was being withheld from diabetics and Diabetes Canada. They had been requesting information on things such as data, applications, exceptions, and rejections, as compared to two or three years ago. There was a consistent pattern in the fall of the government going after diabetics, and denying their claims for the disability tax credit.

Today, I am following-up on it, because we heard at committee the chair, the member for Malpeque, putting the CRA on notice. He said that he expected the chief commissioner to bring with him the data that will show, as best as CRA can, what the applications were, what the exceptions and rejections were as compared to two or three years ago. He also expected the time frames on applications and the turnarounds on those applications over the past five-year period.

This is information that Diabetes Canada and members of Parliament have requested repeatedly It is information that the CRA admitted to withholding, because it did not want to reveal private information. CRA can provide data on taxation in a way that does not reveal a person's individual information and does not identify them. That information has yet to come to the committee, and that is why I am rising here again today.

When can we expect this information to be given to the committee, to the House of Commons, and to members of Parliament who have diabetics in their constituencies? I have individuals in my riding, as well, who had their applications rejected by the government on a groundless basis saying they no longer needed access to the DTC, the disability tax credit.

When can we expect this information? Can the parliamentary secretary confirm that it will be provided to the committee and tabled in the House?

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to ensuring that Canadians receive the credits and benefits to which they are entitled. My colleague, the Minister of National Revenue, recognizes well that the disability tax credit, or DTC, is important to Canadians who are living with disabilities. That is why last fall she reinstated the disability advisory committee. This committee will increase the agency's understanding of the real challenges faced by Canadians living with disabilities, and help us to improve the delivery of the tax credits and benefits upon which they rely.

The Disability Advisory Committee held its first meeting in January. Its members had a fruitful discussion with the Canada Revenue Agency on the disability tax credit legislation, CRA's current administrative practices, and the objectives of the committee.

The CRA is striving to be more transparent in the application and administration of the disability tax credit. It published detailed statistics on the disability tax credit on Canada.ca. Moving forward, data on the disability tax credit, including the number of people applying for the credit, the amounts claimed, and the number of accepted and rejected applications, will be published annually.

Furthermore, the agency recently established the position of chief data officer, an officer who will provide leadership and oversight as we take steps to enhance our approach to data management. As was announced in budget 2017, our government has made it easier for Canadians to apply for the DTC by allowing nurse practitioners to certify on the application form the medical information and the effects of the impairment.

Canada is at its best, and all of society benefits, when everyone is included. That is why our government is committed to ensuring greater accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with disabilities in their communities and workplaces. I can assure everyone that the Minister of National Revenue remains strongly committed to improving the CRA's services and ensuring that Canadians who are eligible for credit and benefits do receive them.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member was able to say that the minister recognizes a bunch of things, but it does not answer the question of where the data is. There is this chief data person, but we were told at committee that one of the difficulties is that it is mostly on paper. We told them to collect information and go through the applications manually. There are civil servants there, and the committee serves like a board of directors demanding information.

There is a Yiddish proverb that says, “Out of desperation, one finds.” At this point, both the committee of the House and the diabetics being refused their DTC applications are desperate for this information.

I ask the parliamentary secretary again. When can we expect that information? When will it be provided to the committee, and why is the minister hiding the information that Diabetes Canada wants?

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, we will continue our government's work to ensure that the Canada Revenue Agency treats Canadians as important clients and not simply as taxpayers.

It has always been the minister's priority to ensure that all Canadians receive the credits and benefits to which they are entitled. That is why she reinstated the Disability Advisory Committee.

I, for one, am proud of our government's commitment to support Canadians with disabilities and their families. Our government has consulted with over 6,000 Canadians on the development of new federal accessibility legislation. Canadians can rest assured that we will continue to work on making the disability tax credit even more accessible.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Calgary Shepard for that excellent Yiddish proverb. It has been a while since I have heard one from him.

I too am rising on a issue involving the CRA and the disability tax credit.

On October 27, I asked the minister responsible for the Canada Revenue Agency if she could explain why she is hiking taxes on people suffering from type 1 diabetes. The response was frankly nonsense because she said that her department was not changing anything at all. She has repeated this assertion 11 times, both in the House and in committee, that neither the law nor the interpretation of the law has been changed, but we know that is false. Doctors themselves have come forward with letters from the CRA which clearly state that it is restricting eligibility for the tax credit, taking it away from people that had typically qualified for it in the past.

Under the law, those with type 1 diabetes have been eligible to receive the credit for at least the last 10 years as long as a doctor certified that they required life-sustaining therapy at least three times a week totalling 14 hours on average. The government is now taking the tax credit away from diabetics even when doctors certify they are eligible under the existing law and policy, neither of which apparently has changed. This new direction appears to have happened secretly, with no public notice or consultation with the diabetic community.

A family in my riding sent me a desperate plea for help. A family member needs seven needles every single day to manage his disability. On top of running the house, working all day, ensuring that her family member is healthy and receiving the medication the family member needs, this mother has to worry about this Liberal tax grab.

It is not just diabetes sufferers whom the Liberals are targeting for tax revenue. We have heard that sufferers of autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other mental health issues are also being targeted by the Liberal government.

The Liberals like to talk about their middle-class tax cut, but thanks to their tax rampage, eliminating credits like the children's fitness tax credit, the education credit, and the public transit tax credit, and now changing the eligibility for the disability tax credit, net incomes are dropping. With the elimination of the income-splitting credit, Canadian families can see even more earnings being clawed back.

The Fraser Institute states that eliminating the income-splitting tax credit effectively means an average $949 tax hike on middle-class families, and that simply put, eliminating just the income splitting tax credit more than offset the benefit of the tax rate reduction.

The Liberals can wax poetic about how amazing they are and how they are the champions of the middle class, but their actions clearly indicate it is all smoke and mirrors.

Diabetes medication is a matter of life and death. This is not a choice for those suffering from it. Diabetics do not get to decide that they just will not take their medication, check their blood, or take a break to eat something. These are all things they have to do to stay healthy.

It appears the government's priorities are more focused on looking good than doing the right thing. We have over $8 million spent on a temporary hockey rink, $200,000 for the PM's illegal vacation on a billionaire's island, $100,000 on the previous minister of health's Twitter account, and $22,000 on Snapchat filters, and yet somehow, for some reason, the government's response to this waste of taxpayers' money is to target people suffering from an incurable disease.

There is an aphorism called Hanlon's razor that says not to attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence. I have to ask the minister, which is it with her handling of the government's attack on diabetics, malice or incompetence?

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, let me first start by asking the hon. member if the Fraser Institute mistakenly or blatantly forgot to calculate the benefit of the new Canada child benefit which helps nine out of 10 Canadian families, when calculating the positive benefits that this government has put in place to help the middle class and those working hard to join it, but I digress.

I am always happy to help my hon. friend understand more fully information on the disability tax credit, which has already been shared, as I know he is aware, on multiple occasions this week in the House.

Let me be perfectly clear. Our government is determined to improve the services provided by the Canada Revenue Agency. Our objective is for the CRA to treat Canadians like important clients and not just as taxpayers.

Unlike the previous government, our government is committed to ensuring that Canadians with disabilities not only receive the credits and benefits to which they are entitled, but are also able to advise the CRA on how best to serve them.

One way we have done this is by reinstating the disability advisory committee, which the previous government abolished in 2006. After more than 10 years without a voice, Canadians with disabilities, stakeholders, and experts are able to engage with the CRA and provide insight on how best to ensure that they receive the benefits to which they are entitled.

Additionally, through national consultations, our government has engaged with over 6,000 Canadians to help inform the development of new federal accessibility legislation that we hope to table this spring.

In addition to hearing from Canadians with disabilities directly, our government has taken practical measures to make it easier to apply for the disability tax credit.

Nurse practitioners can now certify medical information and the effects of an impairment on the application form, making the process much easier and more accessible.

Contrary to what my colleague is claiming, the majority of the applications received by the CRA are approved, allowing more than 700,000 Canadians to claim the disability tax credit on their annual tax return.

Last, our government is committed to ensuring that not only Canadians with disabilities but all Canadians receive the benefits and credits to which they are entitled. That is why the CRA is working hard to better serve Canadians. For example, the new file my return service enables eligible Canadians, particularly those with a low or fixed income, to file their returns by answering a few questions over the phone. This year, paper tax filers will be mailed their T1 forms directly through the mail.

The CRA and Service Canada are working closely together to ensure indigenous communities across Canada receive the benefits to which they are entitled.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have asked repeatedly in the House about the disability tax credit being changed.

The Minister of National Revenue stood in the House and in committee 11 times and said that it had not changed and that the interpretation had not changed. We have a letter from May 2, an internal CRA memo, that states very clearly the various changes and the way it will take away this tax credit.

I realize the government was hoping the issue would stay out of the public eye, but I can assure members that constituents in my riding who rely on this credit are not letting go that easily. It is a shameful tax grab by the government. It is time to put Canada's most vulnerable ahead of a temporary hockey rink on the House lawn.

Again, will the minister do the right thing and commit to rolling back this terrible tax on diabetes sufferers?

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, all 11 times the question has been raised, the minister, the parliamentary secretary, and our government has been unequivocal that we are committed to ensuring that Canadians with disabilities receive the credits and benefits to which they are entitled.

Canada is at its best, and all of society benefits, when everyone is included. That is why our government is committed to ensuring greater accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with disabilities in their communities and workplaces.

More Canadians were approved for this important credit last year than ever before. That is good news, and we hope to see that trend continue.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to talk tonight about the Canada food guide and the changes to it.

The government is proposing massive changes to the Canada food guide. However, farmers and producers had not been allowed to have input in it, which seems a little strange. Producers have the science and knowledge, and the government says that science is important, but they were excluded from the process up until just recently.

The government talks about liking to consult. The Liberals consult with everybody. They are always talking about consulting. However, for the food guide, they wanted to exclude the producers, the guys with the science, the guys who know what they are doing. They wanted to exclude those guys and go on ideology instead.

For a government that supports supply management in agreements with the EU, in the TPP and NAFTA, all those products under supply management, it does not want to have the producers it is protecting be part of working on the food guide. It seems a little strange.

What is the apprehension about listening to the producers? What did the Liberals not want to know about the science from the producers, the guys with the knowledge of what they are doing? Why were they afraid of listening to those guys in their hearings? This has recently changed, but for months they stonewalled and did not want to listen to the producers. That is where the science is.

We can talk about the things the Liberals want to change. When they want to make changes to meat protein and lump it in with plant protein, it creates confusion out there. The meat producers know that the protein-to-calorie ratio of meat is really strong when compared to that of common vegetables. With the amount of peanut butter we would have to eat to match what we would get from a meat protein, we would be pretty big if we ate that much peanut butter, compared to the calories and the protein from meat.

Rather than risk confusion for the Canadian consumer, we should keep it simple, keep the meat protein in there, and listen to the producers who have the science and knowledge. Plant protein is great, but meat protein is fantastic.

As we move forward in studying the Canada food guide and developing this program, having the producers, who have the knowledge and the science, speak to it is critical. Now that the Liberals have finally changed their mind and will listen to them, they should take that science-based knowledge and use it in developing the food guide, and not just use ideology. We do not want to see dairy products like cheese labelled with a warning sign. That is wrong.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is great to rise again, and I thank my colleague from Bow River for the opportunity to speak.

The member will know that there are two tenets upon which the government makes its decisions. One of those is following evidence-based policy and science, and the other is ensuring adequate and extensive consultation with important stakeholder groups. As the member mentioned, the minister has taken those two things into full consideration in the development of the Canada food guide.

I would like to reassure the member that Health Canada is not proposing to remove meat from Canada's food guide whatsoever. Rather, the objective of Canada's new food guide would be to provide a foundation for healthy eating that promotes health and reduces the risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases, which is a foundation that includes a wide variety of nutritious foods. Now more than ever, Health Canada is committed to supporting the nutritional health and well-being of Canadians, with the goal of reducing the rates of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

In Canada, the rate of obesity and chronic disease has reached devastating levels. Today, more than one in five Canadians suffer from a chronic illness, and that rate rises every year. These diseases have high social and economic costs. Every year, our health care systems spends billions of dollars treating these chronic conditions. Those costs are no longer feasible.

Science has established again and again that poor diet is a primary risk factor for these conditions. This is why Health Canada launched the comprehensive healthy eating strategy in October 2016. The healthy eating strategy is made up of complementary, mutually reinforcing initiatives, which will make it easier for Canadians to make healthier choices for themselves and their families.

The strategy follows through on the important commitments set out in the mandate, namely to promote public health by imposing restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy food to children, eliminating trans fats, reducing sodium, and improving nutritional information on packaged food.

However, if we want Canadians to make better food choices, then they need up-to-date guidance based on the most recent scientific evidence, as well as relevant, useful tools to help them in their choices. That is why updating Canada's food guide is a key component of the healthy eating strategy.

The goal of revising Canada's food guide is to update our healthy eating recommendations based on the latest scientific evidence and to communicate our guidance in ways that better meet the needs of different users like health professionals, policy-makers, and the general public.

One of Health Canada's proposed recommendations for the food guide is to promote the regular intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and protein-rich foods, especially plant-based sources of protein.

It is important to note that Health Canada does not suggest that Canadians eliminate meat from their diet.

Health Canada has provided examples of protein rich foods that can be part of healthy eating, including both plant-based foods and animal-based foods. Indeed, the revised food guide will continue to encourage Canadians to choose from a variety of nutritious animal-based foods, including eggs, fish, other seafood, poultry, lean red meat, lower fat milk and yogurt, and cheeses lower in sodium and fat.

An important part of the work is considering the views of stakeholders, experts, and the general public. That is what the minister and this government are doing to finalize recommendations. Certainly the guidance and the recommendations will be rooted in science.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the length of the list. All the things the member included were great. I agree there are many great plant proteins, but keeping meat proteins and dairy are really important in keeping people healthy.

Producers were excluded. They were told they were not stakeholders and could not participate. That was wrong. I am glad the government will at least let them be part of it. The science they bring to it is important.

The proposed labelling of dairy products with a warning label is saying it is like tobacco. I really disagree with that.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing more important in government decision-making than making decisions based on science after lengthy consultation with important stakeholder groups, and that is going on. Today's food environment certainly makes it difficult for Canadians to make healthy food choices. That is why it is important to consult broadly and base these decisions in science.

We know healthy eating can be challenging due to several factors, some of which are beyond the control of the consumer. This is why Health Canada is taking action to make the healthier choice the easier choice for all Canadians.

We are committed to using the best and most recent evidence in our decision-making. We believe in a future where better food environments allow Canadians to make healthier eating choices as part of a healthy eating lifestyle.

In closing, let me thank my hon. colleague from Bow River for the chance to talk about this issue, which is so important to so many Canadians right across the country.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Pursuant to an order made on Wednesday, January 31, the House stands adjourned until Monday, February 26, at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:45 p.m.)