House of Commons Hansard #327 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was need.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, it does not really matter to me whether he takes my tears seriously or not. I do not cry for him. I cry for the children we lose, and I am never going to apologize for that. Our nation should be crying about that.

I have noticed over the years that when my hon. colleague is not picking fights on Twitter, he is always trying to find one line item that he can stand up on and say makes the Liberals better. He is looking at his line items and I am looking at their line items, where what they promised to indigenous communities is so underwhelming.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Spadina—Fort York, ON

We're better than you at keeping promises.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

The poor member is an angry man. He is going to have to go back to Twitter to express himself.

When I look at what they promised first nation communities, it is not even close. I know the member believes that “rural” is anything north of St. Clair, but I would certainly invite him to meet the families in Kashechewan, and then he could see how pitiful the numbers he is crowing about and saying are a great standard for the world are actually a pitiful standard.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Dan Vandal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I deeply respect and admire the commitment by the hon. member to this very important file. I am from the city of Winnipeg. I am deep diving into some of the issues in his community and look forward to working with the hon. member to find solutions.

However, to say that we are not investing in indigenous communities is simply wrong. It is dead wrong. Our very first budget in 2016 had $8.4 billion in new money. Let me stress that it is new money over and above what was in existing budgets for housing, for infrastructure and for getting rid of the boil water advisories. In the Métis community of Saint Boniface, for the first time in history there is a $500-million commitment to Métis housing. I know the burden is so heavy and the challenges are so wide. We need to work together to solve these problems.

How can the member say we are not investing any more money when we have invested—

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the previous Conservative government also invested money, but the Liberals made a great promise that they keep repeating, the $8.4 billion, the $8.4 billion. However, the majority of it is back-ended to the next election. If the Liberals are re-elected, they will get it.

On education, the first commitment the Prime Minister made was $2.8 billion in new funding, but the Liberals turned around and said there was no new funding because they thought the Conservatives had put money aside. The Prime Minister then turned around and shortchanged first nations children of $800 million, but they do not say that. What they are doing is back-ending money further and further into the future, and when people are not paying attention, that money gets repurposed.

With all of the money they promised the communities, I would ask him to talk to the grassroots because they will ask where all the great Liberal promises are. Just like other governments, money gets promised and gets repurposed. On education, housing and water, they are not getting the job done. In Grassy Narrows, where people cannot drink their own water, I would ask him where this great commitment is, because they do not see it on the ground.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am always honoured to rise in the House to discuss things that are important to my riding. It is also always nice to hear the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay, who is an excellent speaker.

I have been representing the people of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for more than seven and a half years now. I have toured the riding, which is one of the largest in Canada. It covers more than half of Quebec. When I met with leaders in the Far North, indigenous or not, the first item on the agenda was always housing, without exception. I therefore find the motion moved by my colleague from Saskatoon West to be absolutely relevant because this is an urgent matter. I thank her.

I want to tell my colleagues first about a student in my riding. His name is Ken Cameron. His Inuktitut name is Papikatuk. Ken comes from the community of Salluit, about as far north as a person can travel in my riding. A couple of years ago, Ken was in secondary 4 when I spoke at his school. Yesterday, he reached out to me, asking why the government does not care about natives at all. Those are his words. Ken wants to know why the government is using the natural resources in his home while treating natives like “dirt”. He wrote:

You tried everything to become a politician in Quebec. When you talk about Quebec in general, do you think about the people in northern Quebec?

The population in the north continues to rise while northern communities have no additional housing. Established northern communities simply cannot accommodate this number of people, which is creating a dangerously high level of overcrowding in our communities. Many housing units have problems with mould, need major repairs or are simply too small for families.

The lack of housing in Inuit communities is at a crisis level. Just over 100 houses are built each year, but never enough to meet the housing needs of the region. Nunavik needs 800 units today to eliminate the housing shortage, and that number is not being addressed. A housing construction program needs to be established to eliminate the overcrowding in Inuit communities.

The Director of Public Health for the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services concluded in his report that “the problems of housing and overcrowding in Nunavik constitute a major risk factor for the population's physical and psychosocial health.” His prediction came to pass in 2012, when there was an outbreak of active tuberculosis in Nunavik, with over 90 cases of the disease reported.

One year ago, the Prime Minister said that, "Housing rights are human rights and everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home”. Those were his words. However, the government has not proven that statement to the members of my riding.

The NDP has long advocated for housing as a human right, in keeping with Canada's obligations as a signatory to the international treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Speaking of human rights, article 21 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes the following:

Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security.

Article 23 of the UN declaration states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.

The poor condition of the housing, overcrowding, major renovation needs and lack of suitability for traditional lifestyles in Quebec's far north have a devastating effect on Cree and Inuit communities. The inadequacies are changing the way of life. Overcrowding is associated with the spread of disease, higher rates of suicide and gender-based and family violence in those communities.

Many local leaders have already suggested solutions and innovative initiatives developed right in their communities. They only want to be consulted and given the support to implement them. We must apply a policy of free, prior, and informed consent to housing. Conditions cannot be improved in the north without having meaningful consultation.

Once people have appropriate housing, attendance at schools goes up and gender-based violence and suicide rates go down. A variety of social issues are addressed when people have secure housing.

The NDP is asking the federal government to forge a partnership with the first nations, Inuit and Métis to assess housing needs and design durable housing suited to traditional indigenous lifestyles and climate conditions. Culturally appropriate, on-site construction trades training would not only achieve these objectives but also help create jobs within the communities.

The remote nature of northern communities is not just their defining feature, it is often their most complicated problem. The north has an infrastructure deficit that many southerners do not consider. The vast majority of northern communities are inaccessible by road year-round.

Communities know what needs to be done, and we need to work with them. For example, Grand Chief Harvey Yesno, of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, said, “The ultimate goal is all-weather roads.... to network the communities.... a regional infrastructure strategy by both levels of government.”

Ice roads can cost 60% to 70% more than all-weather roads and are substantially more dangerous to traverse.

Patterns of land use in northern communities have gone through extensive changes. This is intensified by southerners imposing ideas, imposing legislation and imposing regulations on territories and communities that face a very different reality than the south. Relocation, settlement and the introduction of a wage-based economy have permanently altered existing indigenous land use and cultural practices.

In Val-d'Or, we see a large shortage of affordable housing, making the cost of providing for one's family more and more difficult. Throughout northern Quebec, we hear the same stories. In Eeyou Istchee, there is a shortage of approximately 2,560 units. Members heard me right. That is 2,560 units to support northern Quebec James Bay Cree. Over the next 10 years, an investment of $1 billion is required for infrastructure to address the housing backlog and projected needs.

I am on a waiting list in my community of Waswanipi, and according to the rhythm of construction of houses in my community, I probably will not get my house before I am 82. That is a long time from now.

Let me conclude by saying that this situation has created many social problems in indigenous and northern communities. I wish to finish today by quoting my dear friend Cindy Blackstock.

“Children only get one childhood. They can't wait for studies.... The government knows what to do for this generation of children, they just have to get down and do it”.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to stand in the House with the member opposite and hear his good words, his truth and his demand that we do better, and we have to do better on precisely the issues that were referenced.

I am asking this question not to take the focus away from the challenges in northern Quebec in different indigenous communities but in the honest pursuit of advice from a wise soul.

Urban indigenous housing programs are just as deficient, particularly in cities where a number of indigenous members of both the Cree nation and the Nunavut Inuit nation come south for school, for hospitals and for a whole series of reasons. There is not a structured way to get at providing housing through a first nations or Inuit or Métis lens in some of these communities in urban settings.

I wonder what my colleague's advice would be as we embark upon putting together that urban indigenous strategy. What would his advice be as a good way forward for us so that we could realize their housing needs in parallel with the housing needs he described in rural Quebec?

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my good friend for what is an important question.

One of the things I have said over and over in the past is that in any national housing strategy, there needs to be a distinct and clear indigenous component. That is important to do. This needs to be done in collaboration and in co-operation with indigenous communities and people throughout the country, those who live in urban settings. We all know that a very high percentage of indigenous people do not live on reserves but live in urban areas.

That is the importance of taking that component seriously and having a good discussion with indigenous people themselves.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague and neighbour, I often go to the largest city in his riding, Val-d'Or. Many indigenous people from the Lac Simon reserve end up moving there because it is the closest city and they want access to services, groceries and stores. However, this municipality has had one of the worst housing shortages in Abitibi—Témiscamingue for decades. Indigenous and non-indigenous people alike live in terrible, unaffordable housing.

If I told the hon. member that I was going to give him the number of housing units it would take to meet the needs of Val-d'Or, what would that number be?

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that great question. I imagine she knows as well as I do how difficult things can be for indigenous people who decide to move to Val-d'Or.

We have done the math, and I can share some numbers. We need 2,560 units for Crees, about 1,000 for Inuit in Nunavik, and about 300 for the Lac Simon and Kitcisakik Algonquin communities. Kitcisakik has neither electricity nor running water despite being located right next to a hydro dam. This is 2018; this is Canada.

These are serious, urgent issues. That is why we moved this motion. The Liberal government's latest budget allocated $500 million over two years for indigenous communities. That would cover the construction of about one house in each of Canada's 600 communities. Construction costs in the Far North are so high, it might cover only half a house per year. That is why this motion is so urgent.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Kitchener—Conestoga.

I am happy to have this opportunity to speak to this motion today. Housing is a basic need, and I have no doubt that the importance of having this need met is recognized on all sides of this house. If we agree that all Canadians should have a realistic opportunity to own their own homes, and all Canadians should have access to safe and affordable housing, the question then becomes how we meet these goals. How do we empower vulnerable Canadians to help lift themselves out of poverty, and what action will have a long-lasting and meaningful impact?

To start, the very first line of this motion identifies a significant problem with the Liberal government's housing strategy. The problem is that 90% of the funding the Liberal government has announced is scheduled for far beyond the next federal election. This is not the first time we have seen this. There seems to be a pattern with the current Liberal government. The Liberals make a great big funding announcement with the intention of spending that money well beyond their mandate.

For the most part, what the Liberals have offered Canadians in their housing strategy are promises. Unfortunately, we know that failing to deliver on their promises is the norm. Therefore, action should be taken today in the medium term and in the long term to strengthen our communities. For this action to be successful, the federal government cannot go it alone.

The text of the motion we are debating today calls on the federal government to take specific action, but what it seems to be missing is the inclusion of the roles of other levels of government and the private sector in addressing housing needs in Canada. Social housing falls under provincial jurisdiction, and this is not recognized in the motion. The federal government certainly shares some of the responsibility when it comes to housing in Canada, but again, I would state that the exclusion, or even the downgrading, of the involvement of the provincial government from the motion before us is problematic.

Another concern that I know has already been raised by many of my colleagues today, but I would like to reiterate, is the language used in the text of the motion relating to housing being a human right. The legal implications of this language could be tremendous. The recognition of a right to housing in federal legislation again conflicts with jurisdiction on this issue. I would caution that its adoption could have many unintended consequences.

While this motion offers opportunities for the federal government to spend money, this approach is probably too simplistic. A discussion on access to safe and affordable housing must recognize that a need for housing is often a symptom of poverty. A fulsome debate must also consider poverty reduction and the barriers many face in lifting themselves out of poverty: education, addictions, health issues, disabilities and so on.

A strong economy is key to reducing poverty. In fact, a strong economy is key to making housing more affordable and accessible for all Canadians today and in the long term. First, any government-funded social program is dependent on a strong economy to ensure that funds are available in the long term. When the economy is succeeding, government revenues are available, but if we tax our economy to death and chase away investment and opportunities, the shelves will be bare for social programs. That is why it is so important to have a realistic plan, a plan to create jobs and opportunities for economic growth. Unfortunately, there is no such plan.

The Liberal government has been failing Canadians when it comes to the economy. Its high-tax agenda is chasing away business and investment opportunities. The energy sector is a perfect example of lost economic opportunity.

Prior to the current Liberal government, there were three private companies willing to invest in three pipeline projects. These projects would have created tens of thousands of jobs and generated billions of dollars in economic activity. However, now the Prime Minister's disastrous policies have chased away all of the investment interest. Not only is the government not succeeding in growing the economy, it is actually hindering it.

The average Canadian is paying more and higher taxes with less money in their pockets to spend on their priorities, which includes less money to spend on their rent or their mortgage. Canadians want to work, provide for themselves and make meaningful contributions to our communities. The federal government should not be creating barriers to that goal. Unfortunately, the failed policies of the Liberal government are hurting Canadians.

The availability of rental housing has also been part of the discussion today. If home ownership were encouraged and achievable for more Canadians, it would have the potential to address the vacancy rates in Canada for rental housing, but the Liberals have not encouraged home ownership. In fact, they have discouraged it. The current Liberal government made changes to mortgage rules that make it harder to qualify for a mortgage, and essentially make home ownership out of reach for many Canadians, particularly young Canadians. A federal housing strategy should also recognize the need for measures to increase affordable and responsible home ownership across the country.

When it comes to homelessness reduction, it is important to consider programs and strategies that have already seen some success. One such program is the housing first approach, which was introduced by our former Conservative government. This program reversed the traditional approach of addressing homelessness by providing a home first with no strings attached to a homeless individual and then made social programs and services available to them. The pilot program of this approach was successful in helping many move along the homeless continuum into independent housing and ultimately become self-sufficient. The success of this pilot program was followed with an expansion of it.

The expansion of the program and the housing first approach received widespread support from stakeholders across the country, including the support of the sponsor of the motion, the member for Saskatoon West. At the time, the member stated that, “We're most excited about the emphasis on housing first, getting people into safe, affordable housing and bringing support services around them so people can stay housed.”

This program was helping Canadians through proven, evidence-based homelessness reduction programs. If a program is helping to reduce homelessness, it should be continued and even expanded. That is why I, like many, was discouraged when the Liberals diverted 65% of the housing first investment target to other programs. While the Liberals' housing strategy commits a lot of taxpayer funds to address the need for housing in Canada, there is a reason to question the strategy's ability to make real progress in this area.

I thank the member for Saskatoon West for tabling this motion and providing the opportunity to have this important debate. Moving forward with measures that will help provide a better quality of life for vulnerable Canadians and all Canadians should always be a priority. Access to safe and affordable housing is essential to a better quality of life.

As the federal government looks to address the housing need in Canada, the focus should be on proven and evidence-based programs. We need to identify and remove barriers from home ownership. We need to take concrete action to support the Canadian economy, and we must acknowledge and address the cause of the housing need and not just address the symptoms. We have to not only respect the provincial jurisdictions over housing, but also work co-operatively with other levels of government and the private sector.

As I said at the beginning, let us look at solutions that can be implemented today and not down the road.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. This is obviously an issue that the NDP cares a lot about. It is also particularly relevant to Longueuil—Saint-Hubert since housing is part of everyone's daily life.

I want to point out that this is the 10th anniversary of all of the social developments in the greater Longueuil area. There are three key founding members, namely Sonia Jurado, Mary Claire MacLeod and Hanh Lam. These three individuals were directly involved in absolutely fantastic projects, such as Terrasse Mousseau, a community housing project that is currently under way. It involves the renovation of 170 units that were in a state of complete disrepair. These homes were unfit to live in, but they are being fixed up little by little by relocating people, renovating the units and creating a new living environment. The project is currently in progress. We hope that everything continues to go well because it is a really well-run project.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the situation that she talked about at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

It is important to remember that, from 2006 to 2013, 45,000 social housing units were affected by the expiry of CMHC agreements. In 2017, the number of households affected was over 140,000. I am thinking, for example, of a woman I met through FRAPRU. She was about 82 years old. She told me that she had been evicted because she lost her social housing subsidy.

When will the CMHC get involved in that case? What does my colleague think about that, since it is her government that is asleep at the switch on this?

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I believe that if we had investments in our economy and we allowed the private sector to flourish, it would be generous. I see this in my riding of Battlefords—Lloydminster a lot. For example, there is a program called Habitat for Humanity. When we see the economy being allowed to prosper and grow, it gives back to communities. In my riding, even the town I live in, Lloydminster, we have many situations where housing works with the provincial government, and whatnot, and actually donates so people can have places to live. They literally get the keys and they can live there. Especially in Lloydminster, with the energy sector and lack of interest the government has in it, I have seen how that has affected the private sector being able to give back. However, when the private sector has that ability, it is very generous.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

I could not agree more with the point that was made by the NDP member with reference to the surrendering of operating agreements and the damage that did to people with disabilities, to seniors on fixed incomes and to the most vulnerable Canadians living in co-op housing. The fact that the Conservatives allowed those agreements to expire and literally booted people to the curb is unexplainable and unacceptable. That is why we renewed those agreements and have protected them going forward as part of the new national housing strategy. It is the absolute right thing to do for the most vulnerable Canadians who live in the best co-op housing in our country.

My question for the member opposite though is a different one. She has referenced that she does not like the change in profile for the homeless partnership strategy, now called “reaching home”, and that we no longer require that all programs must spend 65% of the allotment on rent. The reason that was changed was very simple. In Quebec, for example, there are very strong rent supplement programs. It did not need new rent supplement programs. What it needed was supports for mental health treatment and for addiction treatment, meal programs for seniors and attendant care for people with disabilities. It wanted to use that money so people could afford to stay in housing they already had with the provincial supplements.

If we are going to respect provincial jurisdiction, does the member not agree we have to listen and give flexibility to a program, recognizing that housing first works? It is still absolutely an option. The province could spend 100% of the money, but it does not have to absolutely be 65% of it. Does she not agree that provincial jurisdiction should be respected and flexibility should be a cornerstone of this program, to allow local housing systems to meet the needs of the people who have housing requirements?

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, an interesting point that needs to be taken into account is Canada is a very diverse country. Different areas have different socio-economic problems. In my own experience, especially in my riding of Battlefords—Lloydminster, I feel the government does not take that into account. We are not seeing any funding for any of this until after its mandate.

I alluded to this earlier today. Mental health, addiction and disabilities all need to be taken into account, but people are resilient and want to work. When they are given the opportunity to do that, when they are able to actually do it themselves and lift themselves up, that is a great success and shows the great resiliency that people have in them.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Essex, public services and procurement; the hon. member for Regina—Lewvan, the environment; and the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, natural resources.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to speak to this NDP opposition day motion on housing. First, let me read the motion in its entirety:

That, given that a housing crisis is raging in Canada and that 90% of the funding for the government's national housing strategy will only flow after the next election, and that much of the funding depends on collaboration with provincial governments and the private sector, the House call on the government to: (a) recognize the right to housing as a human right; and (b) bring forward 50% of the strategy’s funding before the next election to invest in (i) housing for Indigenous communities, (ii) the construction of new affordable housing, new social housing units and new co-ops units, (iii) a plan to end homelessness, (iv) the renovation of existing social housing and old housing stock, (v) the expansion of rent supplements, (vi) the administration of programs that meet the special needs of seniors and persons with reduced mobility.

The Conservative Party believes that all Canadians should have a reasonable opportunity to own their own home or to have access to safe and affordable housing. That is why we support broad-based tax relief, income support programs and tax incentives to make home ownership and rental accommodation more attainable and accessible.

Rather than support these broad-based, grassroots initiatives, the current Liberal government seems intent on not only ignoring these willing small business partners but actually placing additional roadblocks in their way or even destroying their business altogether.

The Liberal war on small and medium-sized business will have a huge detrimental effect on the construction industry, and we are already seeing its effects. This will negatively impacts housing starts.

Small construction companies, whether pouring concrete foundations, framing and scaffolding, or installing heating and ventilation, and plumbers, electricians, and roofing contractors, many of whom are self-employed and are at the same time employing five or six workers, will be forced to lay off workers and scale back their operations. Worse yet, they may have to wind down their business altogether. This will result in fewer contractors available to build and therefore will drive up the cost of housing even higher than it is currently. So much for making housing available at a reasonable cost and free of barriers.

While I support the premise of this NDP opposition day motion to do all that we can to ensure proper housing, there are far too many questions left unanswered for me to support the motion.

The NDP have long advocated for the government legislating that housing become a right, but this approach attempts to simplify a very complex issue and ultimately will not solve the problem that we are facing in Canada.

It is our belief that the government should get out of the way of private enterprise and instead partner with respective jurisdictions of provincial, territorial and municipal governments and private business initiatives, and work with social agencies and non-profit organizations in dealing with housing needs.

This motion makes no mention of empowering local stakeholders or marketplace workers, who could potentially increase housing stock availability and therefore make housing less costly.

We agree with helping Canadians who need it the most. However, the government can help through partnering with all levels of government and the private sector to ensure the creation of sustainable, responsible and fair solutions.

This motion does mention the private sector, but only in the preamble. It then ignores it in the body of the motion when it comes to taking action to resolve the problem.

Last winter, during the Conservative caucus listening tour, I visited beautiful Sault Ste. Marie and sat down with local business owners, stakeholders and community members. My round table with real estate professionals was eye opening. I heard that the new regulations introduced by the Liberals are best described as “using a bulldozer to kill an ant”. Housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver are different from Sault Ste. Marie, so it does not make sense that rules meant to cool down those hot markets would be forced on smaller northern communities.

People are working hard to save for a down payment on their first home and the government is making it much more difficult to be approved for mortgages.

Also last year, following consultations with real estate agents and mortgage brokers in Kitchener-Conestoga, I sent a letter to the Minister of Finance asking him to immediately reverse decisions he has made to make home ownership harder in Canada, especially for those looking to purchase their first home.

As part of that consultation, I was made aware of the website www.newruleshurt.ca. I encourage all my colleagues in the House to visit that website and read real life stories about how, under the Liberal government, home ownership has become a pipe dream for hard-working Canadians. It is really disturbing as most young married couples have a hope of purchasing their own homes, but that is increasingly less of a possibility for many of them.

I have spoken about how I have met with brokers, real estate agents and other people in the business of getting people into homes. Let me tell the House about a charitable group in my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga that builds and helps to get people into affordable housing, MennoHomes.

Currently, MennoHomes owns and operates 105 units and it recently partnered with another group to create an additional 25 units in Waterloo. This organization partners with the region of Waterloo, the Ontario government and the federal government. It brings all kinds of private money to the table, partnering with other levels of government to leverage that money so they can actually create these units. In addition to creating the units, they have a personal support worker who helps those people who inhabit those units, to ensure they are able to maintain them and continue in them for a long time.

As I said before, I cannot support this motion. I believe the issue of affordable housing is best solved through private enterprise and incentives from government. I am grateful for MennoHomes and many others like it in the Waterloo region that work in close partnership to address this issue.

The real barriers to home ownership and affordable rental units are unnecessary government red tape, high taxes and the lack of incentives for the private sector to produce good quality, smaller housing units.

The strategies of the motion will not necessarily resolve the fundamental issue of the housing crisis, which is fuelled by the restrictive supply and government regulations. There needs to be assurance that people are able to move out of subsidized housing or subsidized rental units into market-rate housing and that they have the appropriate incentive to do so.

We need to ask what the reasons are for the housing crisis, which this motion says are “raging in Canada”. I believe it is the economic policies, or it is probably better to say the lack of economic policies, of the government that are leading to the loss of jobs.

We have just heard today that there has been a 66% increase in investment in the U.S. in the last three years, but 50% less investment in Canada. We have also heard that over 100,000 jobs are not being realized as a result of the cancellation of energy east and the failure to get the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion under way. If my colleagues want to look at additional causes, 500,000 jobs potentially will be lost because of refusing or being unable to negotiate NAFTA. As of yesterday, possibly another 100,000 jobs will be lost if the tariffs on automobiles go into effect. These are all as a result of the failed economic policies of the government across the way.

Small and medium-sized businesses in Canada are very seriously considering relocating to the U.S. I hear this frequently in my own riding and in the region of Waterloo where small businesses that may employ eight, 10 or 20 people are actively being instructed or encouraged by their accountants to consider the possibility of moving if they are able to survive at all. That is a very worrying trend because not only will those businesses be moving but the jobs go with them. All of this leads to the ability to afford a house. If people do not have good jobs, it is very unlikely they will be able to afford a house for a long time.

Job creation needs to be at the forefront of any endeavour to reduce homelessness so people have the means and the incentives to improve their social standing, including access to good quality housing.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I have heard the member rise a couple of times today and say that the real solution to the housing crisis is to get a job. The reality is that in Canada the two fastest growing groups that are having housing challenges and the largest growth in homelessness are children and seniors.

I know Doug Ford has some crazy ideas, but I do not think repealing child labour laws is on the agenda. I am going to hold my breath on that one.

However, for seniors, for 90-year old people who may need attendant care to live independently, to have meal services or to have people help them with functions because of their frailty they just cannot complete, is the Conservative Party really suggesting those people go back to work and get a job building a pipeline in order to get the housing they need? Is that really what I am trying to understand from the member opposite?

Obviously, for the bulk of people, 80% of Canadians get their housing needs met through the market. Obviously, a strong economy like the one we have produced, with 500,000-plus new jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years, is a good example of how to get those people housed.

On those two other examples, I will add one last thing. He is proud of housing first. Is he aware that his government, under housing first, would not fund rent supplements for people if attendant care was on the site? Does he understand the impact that had on people with disabilities? Does he understand the impact that it had on senior citizens? Does he understand how that de-housed people and forced them into shelters or into substandard care? Will he ever take responsibility for that, let alone his challenge to the child labour laws?

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is almost comical to think that my colleague would suggest that children are buying houses. To infer that somehow I am keeping children out of housing by suggesting they get a job is ridiculous. We know we are talking about the parents of those children who need a job. Children do not go out and purchase homes.

What good does it do to promise hundreds of millions of dollars to be invested in housing 10 years down the road when, in the meantime, we create an economy that is leading to the loss of thousands upon thousands of jobs thereby putting people out of the housing in which they are currently living? That makes no sense.

When it comes to the housing first, Tim Richter from the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness said:

The Housing First philosophy and Housing First programs are essential to preventing and reducing chronic homelessness, in fact, we won’t prevent and reduce chronic homelessness in Canada without it.

That is pretty high praise for a program that the Conservative government initiated and was doing a great job. In my own area of the Waterloo region, I have countless examples of how housing first helped dozens of people.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for sharing his point of view, although it reflects a bit of an alternate reality. It is possible to see things from another perspective.

I would remind members that for Quebeckers who need social housing, it was Paul Martin's Liberal government that decreed that every Canadian had a right to suitable housing and decided to take action in that direction. The situation has only deteriorated since then. When it comes to funding for social housing, it has been nothing but a downward spiral.

According to FRAPRU, the right to housing is the cornerstone to ensuring that a number of other rights are respected. It can help meet many other needs, which is consistent with my colleague's vision regarding housing first. However, that is not the reality. At the Longueuil municipal housing bureau, the wait list for social housing is not counted in weeks or months, but rather in years. No joke.

We hear the Liberals crow about their royal benevolence on every possible issue and towards all of their subjects in Canada.

Did the parliamentary secretary or the Minister of Families bother to meet with the people who walked for four weeks with their backpacks, sleeping in school gymnasiums every night, to reach Parliament Hill? Do they not think that perhaps they should have met with those people?

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of things to respond to there.

I agree with the first part of the NDP motion, which points out that the lion's share of the promised funding for the housing strategy that the government announced with great fanfare will not even be possibly implemented until after the next election. Therefore, it is pretty rich to try to pretend we have solved the housing problem by promising money down the road.

If we look at the track record of fulfilling promises by the government, I could go on for another 10 minutes and list many of the broken promises from only three years ago let alone looking at a program that telescopes into the future 10 years.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to share with the House that, yet again, View Magazine in Edmonton has chosen me to be its favourite member of Parliament in Edmonton. It is a great honour and I am humbled by it.

I will be splitting my time with the member for Essex.

I too will speak in support of the call of my colleague, the member for Saskatoon West, for rapid action on housing and homelessness, particularly the aspects raised in this motion, which are that 90% of the funding for the government's national housing strategy will not flow until after the next election and that most of the funding depends on collaboration with provincial governments and the private sector. However, equally so, my concern is that the government still refuses to honour proposals by my party.

Some of my colleagues tabled proposals in the House to make the right to housing a human right. The New Democrats will continue to raise that matter. I hear from my colleague across the way that Liberals are working on that, thinking about it and consulting on it. I am hoping to hear an action word on that before the end of the year.

According to Homeward Trust, a mechanism that deals with a lot of the problems with homelessness in my city, the number of people experiencing street homelessness was reported to have decreased substantially since 2008 when the numbers were at an all-time high. However, according to a 2016 homelessness count in my city, almost 2,000 people were still experiencing homelessness and indigenous individuals were nine times more likely to experience homelessness. I point that out because it is my understanding that the constitutional obligation to respect the rights of indigenous Canadians is not restricted to those living on reserve, but indigenous Canadians no matter where they live in our country. Seventy-four per cent were male, 25% were female and 48% were identified as indigenous, yet only 5.4% of Edmonton's overall population identify as indigenous. That is of deep concern.

There is a critical need for housing to be provided to indigenous Edmontonians and the numbers are rising. Edmonton has one of the largest populations of indigenous people in Canada, and it is terrific to have them. Yesterday, we honoured a Métis poet from Alberta, who is a Rhodes scholar. It is important that indigenous Canadians also be provided the opportunity for decent housing.

Twenty-nine per cent of the homeless population is under the age of 18 in Edmonton. Women make up 40% of those provisionally accommodated. Apparently that means people who are couch surfing. Three per cent were recent immigrants or refugees, which is reprehensible, and 70 people were veterans of the military or RCMP. However, based on my personal observations during the heat wave this summer, I was delivering clothing to one of the homeless shelters, the Bissell Centre on the north side of the river, and to my horror, I discovered several hundred people trying to sit in the shade to get out of the heat.

I went home and came back with cases of water, only to discover the new Mustard Seed shelter across from my office also had 50 to 100 people trying to seek some kind of shelter from the heat. Right now, the Mustard Seed is trying to get support for the only housing shelter for the homeless on the south side of the river, an ongoing struggle. It is not enough just to give money. We need community support that would benefit those less fortunate.

Julian Daly, who is the executive director of the Boyle Street centre and has been delivering services for the homeless for decades, also contests these lower numbers. He says that based on his direct observance, the need is far greater than the one-off counts. In 2016, he advised the count could merely be seen as anecdotal and did not reflect what workers saw on the front lines. They found 800 people living rough in the river valley, a 43% increase, and from my experience because I live in the area, most of them are indigenous. He also suggested another key indicator of the homeless was the doubling of people using Boyle Street Community Services as their mailing address. Therefore, they have no place to even receive mail. It is difficult to seek employment when people do even not have a place to receive mail. When applying for jobs, people have to give a street address.

That same year, Homeward Trust officials expressed concern about the low reported number of homeless; they thought the numbers were much higher. People in a wide range of occupations in my city, including restaurant servers, retail clerks, hairstylists and barbers, cannot afford even a one-bedroom apartment on their single incomes. Regrettably, a lot of apartments are being converted to condos and very few of the private developers are interested in building rental properties. They want to build the condominiums because they are easier to sell.

A diverse mix of Edmontonians experience homelessness, including young men, families, teenagers and seniors. In 2014, children and youth under 24 accounted for 29% of the homeless. At one point, working families were actually camping in our city parks. Matters have improved since then, because we have a dedicated mayor and council, but that is how critical it was, even in a province known to be one of the wealthier ones.

In 2009, the City of Edmonton, to its credit, launched a 10-year plan to end homelessness, and it outlined a number of initiatives to lower homeless numbers, including providing housing options and reducing shelter use, yet as reported in 2016, the demand for affordable housing has more than tripled since 2014. The waitlist for the group that provides social and affordable housing now sits at 4,300, compared with just 1,200 in the fall of 2014. In March 2016, the Alberta government, to its credit, changed the rules for those applying for affordable housing. Albertans now no longer need to declare their disability or education savings plans as part of asset testing. It is much easier now for them to claim some kind of a subsidy for affordable housing.

It is important to also hear from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Its members have said:

Housing is more than just a roof over your head. Safe, affordable housing makes our cities and communities welcoming places to live, work and start a business. It's also important to retaining workers and attracting newcomers to enrich our neighbourhoods and drive economic growth.

The federation commended the government for the announced November 2017 national housing strategy, saying that it responded to the federation's recommendations. However, this past May, Canada's big-city mayors, chaired by my mayor, Mayor Don Iveson, again issued the priority call for federal financial support for municipalities. Top of their list was support for affordable housing. Despite major commitments from Ottawa and a number of key issues, Mayor Iveson advised that municipalities were still waiting for results, particularly on affordable housing. He said:

On paper we’ve made huge progress with the national housing strategy, but none of us have actually seen any dollars flow yet from that strategy into our communities.

He added that decades of underfunding had created an acute backlog of social housing. Although Iveson noted that the federal government had “stemmed the bleeding” in recent years by reversing the cuts, the mayor and others have raised the concern that the budget before this one, the 2017-18 budget, was a lost opportunity. He said:

The housing crisis, particularly in our largest cities, continues to be a sore spot.... We haven’t been adding to the social housing inventory in this country for really 20 years in any substantial way so that backlog is real.

The mayors of Canada's biggest cities say they do not need the federal government to pony up more money for affordable housing units; they just need the cash to move faster.

As others have noted in the House, we look at the chart in the budget, and yes, there is some money in this budget but the vast majority, 90% of it, will not flow until the next election. Not just the big city mayors but the mayors of smaller communities and rural areas and indigenous leaders are saying that a good part of that money ought to be released now. We are calling for at least 50% of that money now. They have expressed concern that the Liberals' housing plan outlines billions in federal cash and matching funds from the provinces and territories, but much of the money will take years to flow.

The big city mayors caucus has pressed the finance minister to loosen the federal purse strings so that money for repairs is spent in the coming fiscal year while details are worked out in cash for new construction.

There is a great appreciation from the co-ops. I have a lot of co-ops in my riding. I am very proud that the vast majority of co-op housing has been built and operates in my riding. We have co-op housing for the artistic community and for the disabled. There is a Ukrainian co-op. Co-ops are providing very important housing.

They really appreciated the agreement to continue that funding, but there is the concern that still there is not going to be that additional funding to continue to support low-income people in that housing.

During questions, I will be happy to share many of the incredibly innovative programs in my city alone that could move forward expeditiously if we can simply flow that federal cash more expeditiously.

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kent Hehr Liberal Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on her award from Vue magazine and her passion for homelessness and affordable housing.

In my city, we have had an issue with homelessness and affordable housing. However, I was very proud of the hon. minister coming to Calgary and making an investment in the community of Glamorgan of $13.1 million in an affordable, accessible housing project in that city that is directly related to our national housing strategy. Therefore, I can tell the member that the money is beginning to flow and that those plans are moving forward as quickly as we are able.

I was struck by what the hon. parliamentary secretary to the minister stated. Our plan going forward is to build capacity for affordable housing structures and to build capacity with groups, but ensure that we do not spend the money right up front, because that will leave a gap and leave our non-profits and other affordable housing institutions unable to cope. Was the member struck by that argument? Does she not see the logic in us proceeding in this fashion?

Opposition Motion—Housing as a Human RightBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, on capacity, here is a simple example.

There is a partnership between the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and a construction company in the capital city region where they are giving low-income Edmontonians living in affordable housing an opportunity to train as apprentices. They are building a new affordable housing project in the Londonderry neighbourhood in northeast Edmonton. I know that a lot of indigenous communities are keen to develop the skills so that they can be building quality housing in their own communities.

I think that it is high time that the government, when it sets the parameters for the next contracts to build housing, particularly for affordable housing and particularly in northern and indigenous communities, set parameters so that the housing is sustainable and energy efficient, because one of the highest costs for those communities is the energy bill, and they are suffering with diesel oil contamination. As I recall, that matter has been in the budget for a long time, and we have not yet seen those dollars delivered.

Those are the kinds of initiatives I would like to see in building capacity.