House of Commons Hansard #375 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was home.

Topics

Vote on the Designation of an ItemBill C-421—Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I wish to inform the House of the results of the secret ballot vote held over the last two sitting days. Pursuant to Standing Order 92(4), I declare the motion in relation to the designation of Bill C-421, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adequate knowledge of French in Quebec), negatived. Accordingly, Bill C-421 is declared non-votable.

Parliamentary Budget OfficerRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to section 79.2(2) of the Parliament of Canada Act, it is my duty to present to the House a report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer entitled, “Canada's purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline—Financial and Economic Considerations”.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, entitled “Improving Transparency and Parliamentary Oversight of the Government's Spending Plans”.

Also, while I am on my feet, I beg your indulgence to allow me to give my personal thanks to a member who has most recently announced his retirement. I am speaking, of course, of the hon. member for Kings—Hants, the former president of the Treasury Board. In my capacity as chair of the government operations and estimates committee, it was always a pleasure to hear the hon. member when he appeared before the committee. I always found the minister to be extremely knowledgeable. I found him to be well prepared and unfailingly polite, and he exhibited his trademark sense of humour on many occasions.

The member for Kings—Hants has distinguished himself in his role as a minister of the government. From a personal standpoint, I will certainly miss his appearances. However, on my own behalf and that of my colleagues on the committee, I wish him the best of luck and much success in all his future endeavours.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, we will be presenting a dissenting opinion on the estimates report. When calling the model parliament, King Edward stated, “What touches all should be approved by all.” Basically, any tax expenditures should be approved by the people's representatives, the members of the House of Commons. That is how the Westminster system was created and why we exist. Unfortunately, the estimates process under the Liberal government is going against this notion that what touches all should be approved by all. We are going backwards in terms of transparency.

We are disappointed that the final version of this report does not contain more comprehensive recommendations based on the actual testimony that was heard throughout the study on estimates reform. Experts, including the last two parliamentary budget officers, provided important insights into significant gaps in the current processes. They made it clear that the Liberal government's changes to the estimates process will make it harder for MPs to analyze spending and hold the government to account.

This report had the potential for making real and effective changes to the way our government reports its spending plans to Canadians. It had the potential to give MPs the chance to fulfill the pledge that what touches all should be approved by all. Unfortunately, this report does not do that. It goes backwards. Instead of eliminating the Liberal slush fund, vote 40, it is actually a cheerleading report for the Liberals' move to take away transparency from Canadians and from members of Parliament.

We hope the Liberals take into account the very valid recommendations put forward by the Conservative Party, which are backed by the current PBO and the last two PBOs.

Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

TJ Harvey Liberal Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-427, An Act to amend the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food Act (excellence in agricultural innovation).

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-427 proposes the creation of an advisory committee for the pursuit of excellence in agricultural innovation, established and composed of persons appointed by the minister, including representatives from the agriculture and agri-food sector, academics and the scientific community, the provinces, and the department itself.

The function of the committee would be to advise the minister on any matters within the mandate of the minister's purview by acting as a centre of excellence for the pursuit of innovation in the agriculture and agri-food sector, including in the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics. The committee would hold a minimum of two meetings every year outside the capital region, and the persons appointed by the minister would participate at no cost to the government. This would be on a voluntary basis.

From my experience in the agriculture and agri-food sector, it is a very broad-based industry but one that is filled with new challenges and is really striving to reinvent itself through the use of robotics and new technology. This is an excellent opportunity for the government to inform itself better.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Public SafetyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I am presenting a petition on behalf of my constituent, Joanne MacIsaac. In 2013, the MacIsaac family suffered a horrible tragedy. On December 2, Joanne's brother Michael MacIsaac was unfortunately shot by a police officer while experiencing the combined effects of a high fever and an epileptic seizure. On December 3, he tragically died from his injuries.

This past April, Joanne created a petition on change.org, which gathered over 21,000 signatures calling for a national database of police-involved deaths and the use of force in any incident in Canada, in response to her brother's shooting. Collecting such information could help police officers in their tactics and training, identify areas for improvement in recruiting, and drive the need for policy and training changes.

Public reporting of excessive force incidents would increase transparency between law enforcement and the public. It could lead to an increase in public safety and officer safety, and would help Joanne and the rest of the MacIsaac family get some answers about Michael.

Human Organ TraffickingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, at times Canadians take the opportunity to travel abroad and to acquire organs that are harvested in a way that is non-consensual. This is rare, but it happens, and it is inhumane. Therefore, I am presenting a petition that calls upon us in this place to act quickly with regard to two bills that are currently before the House to outlaw this practice that is currently taking place.

AgriculturePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

January 31st, 2019 / 10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jennifer O'Connell Liberal Pickering—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table petitions on behalf of my constituents in Pickering—Uxbridge.

First, with nearly 610 signatures in total, I have six petitions that call upon the House to rescind all plans for an airport and all non-agricultural uses on the remaining federal lands in Pickering, which encompass class 1 Ontario farmland. This issue has been going on for over 40 years, and the residents of Pickering and the petitioners would like to see this class 1 farmland used for agricultural purposes.

Animal WelfarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Jennifer O'Connell Liberal Pickering—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the other petition, which contains 175 signatures, calls upon the House to support Bill S-214 and ban the sale and/or manufacturing of animal-tested cosmetics and their ingredients in Canada.

Tobacco ProductsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by the residents and store owners of Alfred—Pellan.

The petitioners are worried about the consequences of tobacco plain packaging legislation for their business. Indeed, many mom-and-pop businesses depend on premium cigar sales and could be at risk of having to close up shop. Thus, the petitioners call upon the government to exclude premium cigars from the proposed tobacco products regulations.

Human Organ TraffickingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, back in July 1999, the Chinese Communist Party launched an intensive nationwide persecution campaign to eradicate Falun Gong. It is worth noting that lawyer David Matas and former Canadian secretary of state for the Asia-Pacific region, David Kilgour, conducted an investigation in 2006 and concluded that the Chinese regime and its agencies throughout China have put to death tens of thousands of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience. Their vital organs were seized involuntarily for sale at a higher price. Petitioners from Canada call upon the government to do what it can to make the public more aware of this and to take action to prevent it.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Affordable HousingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government is failing to adequately address Canada’s housing crisis and that, therefore, the House call on the government to create 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing within ten years, and to commit in Budget 2019 to completing 250,000 of those units within five years.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Hochelaga.

It has been over three years since the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development was mandated by our Prime Minister to develop a national housing strategy, and just a little over 14 months since the release of that strategy. Many of us, me included, after a year-long buildup to the final reveal, thought we would see a strategy that would be transformational. What we got instead were underwhelming targets for reducing homelessness and most of the funding coming after the next election, well into the future. However, what we needed was a national housing strategy that would be big and transformational, because our country is in a housing and homelessness crisis.

The homelessness and housing crisis of today is the direct result of the withdrawal of both Liberal and Conservative federal governments from affordable housing over the years. In 1993, the then federal Liberal government ended new funding for affordable housing, and thanks to this ill-conceived leadership, many provinces followed suit. Therefore, we managed the problem of homelessness due to a lack of affordable housing with emergency services, shelters and hospitals. It is a very expensive housing system, both in human costs and financially for governments and communities. This is the legacy of Liberal and Conservative federal governments: an expensive and ineffective emergency housing system.

Today's motion is about ending the federal government's rhetoric and its pats on the back when it comes to housing and homelessness and demanding that we face the reality of this national crisis with real federal leadership, real action and real and immediate investment.

There are 1.7 million Canadians who are living in what policy people call “core housing need”. That means a population of Canadians almost twice the population of Saskatchewan are paying more than one-third of their income for housing that is substandard, not in good repair, unsafe and overcrowded. Of those 1.7 million, 400,000 Canadians are paying more than 50% of their income for poor-quality housing. I call that a crisis in need of bold and immediate action.

The national housing strategy so far has overwhelmed us with a lot of fanfare but underwhelmed me, in particular, with actual results. Very little housing has been built. Operating agreements and rental subsidies have been temporarily extended, but many non-profit housing providers, especially those providing tenants with rent geared to income subsidies, remain in precarious financial situations. Unable to fix and repair their affordable units and provide the needed rent subsidies, these affordable homes are at risk of being lost.

This country has an annual capital repair deficit in excess of $1.3 billion annually. This affordable housing is a lifeline for seniors, newcomers, people with disabilities, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable Canadians. Most of what we have seen so far is a rearranging of current dollars with nominal new investment, more of a tinkering around the edges of the crisis. Many of the repackaged programs need cost matching from provincial governments. However, after 14 months, only three provinces and one territory have signed the bilateral agreements.

With 10 years of austerity from the Harper Conservatives, the federal government deficit and debt cutting just simply moved that debt to the provinces. Provinces were left scrambling to fund higher health care and social service costs as the federal government cut important support programs. The ability of many provincial governments to match federal investment will be limited and, therefore, the big dreams of the national housing strategy may be greatly hampered.

The national housing strategy is not legislation but a government program. Therefore, it has been very difficult to scrutinize the government's claims about the level of investment and actual outcomes, such as the number of affordable housing units built, repaired or maintained. The government has made it extremely difficult to get a handle on what is being done and what the level of investment has been into housing and homelessness. We have had a lot of marketing-type communications but very little real information provided in such a way that elected officials are able to hold this government to account for the promises they made.

However, there are real life consequences for people for this lack of transparency. What I mean by this is that there are consequences to the government's never-ending announcements with little actual concrete action.

We have heard about the Canada housing benefit, but we have not been provided any detail as to who it will help and how it will work. Unfortunately that did not stop the Saskatchewan Party government in Saskatchewan from quickly ending the provincial rental supplement last summer, citing the federal government's new Canada housing benefit, a benefit that will not come on stream until after the next federal election.

The median income in my riding is just shy of $40,000 a year. I have many constituents who depended on the provincial rental supplement to have a home, to make their housing affordable. With the end of the provincial rental supplement and no replacement any time soon vis-a-vis the federal government, I have many constituents who are remaining in unsuitable, unsafe housing and putting up with slum landlords for fear that if they move, their rental supplement will be reassessed, they will be considered a new applicant and, therefore, will not be eligible for a benefit that no longer exists.

Governing is about priorities. Today's motion is asking the Liberals to make affordable housing for Canadians the priority of the current government, a government that has rearranged and renamed funding programs, a government that has put minimal new dollars into building housing in comparison to what is needed, a government that has underwhelmed us with unambitious targets for homelessness reduction, and a government that has not made affordable housing and ending homelessness a priority.

It is hard not to think about what if. What if our past Liberal and Conservative federal governments had made affordable housing a priority every year? One could imagine if only investment and leadership by past federal governments had been maintained. Instead of ending affordable housing, we would have had an additional 650,000 affordable housing units in this country, perhaps even more.

We can bemoan the past, but what I would rather do is have a government that is seized with this issue and getting down to the hard work and making the tough decisions it will take to pull our country out of this national crisis. The government still has time to step up. Today's motion is not about postponing investment and action but about immediately ramping up our response.

Safe, affordable housing is such a foundational piece for the quality of life for families and individuals, for our chidren's welfare, for healthy and thriving communities and for businesses to grow. When housing is unavailable and unaffordable, businesses cannot recruit employees. When families struggle with housing, we know from research that the state of a family's housing is a factor in one in five cases when children are admitted to care.

I would like to end my comments on a more personal note.

I am here today as an elected member of Parliament in large part because my family benefited from accessible, affordable housing. When my parents were first starting out in Brandon, Manitoba, with a young family, we lived in subsidized housing. That leg-up early in my parent's life together meant my mother was able to finish her post-graduate psychiatric nursing program while my dad began his career. They were able to save a bit of money, even in those early days, which allowed us as a family to weather the inevitable financial ups and downs of life. It meant I never questioned if I would be able to afford university to become a social worker, the education that brought me here today as an elected member of Parliament.

It is for that reason and the many other reasons I have mentioned that affordable housing and ending homelessness must be the priority for the Liberal government. It can start today by supporting the motion, and once again showing federal leadership on the number one priority for Canadians: a safe, affordable place to call home.

Opposition Motion—Affordable HousingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak about housing and once again pay my respect to the member opposite who has been a tireless advocate for better and stronger housing policies and has sustained the debate in the House. For that I give her thanks, because for all of us who are fighting to create the strongest national housing program possible, we need the good ideas of members on the sides opposite as well as the voices of people, as the member has said, who have come through that lived experience.

The question I have for the member opposite is with respect to the details of the NDP program and it is a question that really needs to be answered.

I recognize that the NDP is calling for 500,000 housing units, half of which are to come after five years, which is not after one election but after two elections. CMHC and housing advocates and housing suppliers across the country pegged the cost of providing a house at 80% of market value at $350,000 on average across the country. Of course it is much higher in Vancouver and Toronto where land values drive a different equation. Based on the simple math that the NDP has produced, that means its housing program would cost $175 billion, half of which would have to be spent this year. I am curious as to where her party is going to find that money.

Second, the NDP has said it is going to subsidize every Canadian in core housing need, which that member has said is 1.7 million people. What is that dollar figure and where is her party going to find those dollars this year?

Opposition Motion—Affordable HousingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his questions, comments and acknowledging my work in the House and in the community.

We are asking the government to face the issue of the crisis in housing with an actual plan that matches that crisis. Making housing a priority around the cabinet table I understand means making difficult decisions, having to do some things and not others. I do believe the minister and the parliamentary secretary understand there is a housing crisis and that they are making that case around the cabinet table. I am asking them to make a better case and to bring their colleagues along.

I think the money is there, that we have to make decisions, that we have to ask everyone to pay their fair share of taxes because it is a crisis and that is where I believe the money will come from. However, the first place it comes from is a government that makes it a priority and makes decisions to do that instead of other things.

Opposition Motion—Affordable HousingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank my colleague for her tireless advocacy for affordable housing across Canada.

Yesterday was mental health awareness day and in question period, I raised the particular challenges faced by people with mental illnesses around housing. I met with a woman in one of the communities in my riding who is living in a storage unit. I had that confirmed afterward by some of the municipal people. I wonder if the member could talk about the need for enhanced funding for both mental illness and housing and the relationship between the two.

Opposition Motion—Affordable HousingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the opportunity to comment on how foundational housing is and how it is interrelated with many other issues we face in our communities.

When I was a social worker, we talked about the impact of homelessness on people's mental health. That was a long time ago, 30 or 40 years ago. What has happened is that when we pulled out the support for affordable housing, those who were most vulnerable were impacted first and we developed a very expensive system of picking up people's lives, almost literally, on the streets, bringing them to hospitals, helping them and putting them back out on the streets.

When we talk about making housing and homelessness a priority, we start to prioritize the people in our communities who are most vulnerable now. Not having stable, safe, affordable places to live has a big impact on people's mental health and prevents them from moving forward in their lives, to become healthier or to deal with mental health issues.

It is a key foundational piece. We could make a huge difference in this country to so many people if we made housing and homelessness prevention a priority.

Opposition Motion—Affordable HousingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to be giving my first speech in this new House of Commons. I am even more delighted that this speech is about an issue that is so close to my heart, as everyone knows, an issue I have been working on for seven years now, on behalf of my party, here in the House, as well as every day in my riding of Hochelaga. The issue I will be talking about today is housing. What is more, I will not stop talking about it until the right of every person in Canada to secure, adequate and affordable housing is upheld. There is still a long way to go before that happens.

I want to thank my colleague from Saskatoon West for tabling the motion we are debating today, and I commend her for the work she has done on this issue.

The motion reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government is failing to adequately address Canada’s housing crisis and that, therefore, the House call on the government to create 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing within ten years, and to commit in Budget 2019 to completing 250,000 of those units within five years.

The NDP endorses the principle that housing is a human right. About 43 years ago, Canada ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In so doing, the Canadian government formally recognized a set of rights, including the right to housing, and committed itself and its successors to continue to formally recognize that right and take measures to ensure that the entire population is able to enjoy it.

Obviously, we are not all on the same page about what it means to keep an international commitment. One need only take a little walk around the streets of Ottawa or those of my Montreal riding, where the situation is worse, to see that not everyone is lucky enough to have a roof over their head. However, that does not seem to bother my colleagues opposite. When it came time to vote on the bill introduced by my colleague from North Island—Powell River, which would have recognized the right to housing, the Liberals opposed it. What is more, when they announced with great fanfare their housing strategy, which is supposed to coordinate government housing efforts, they also committed to formally recognizing the right to housing, but we are still waiting for that to happen.

We are still waiting not only for legislation that officially recognizes housing as a right and provides recourse to people in need of housing, but also for 90% of the funding this government promised when it announced its housing strategy, funding that has been deferred.

Why are they playing these political games at the expense of people in need?

While the government announces its lofty principles and bombards us with fictitious numbers to try to convince us that it is doing everything it can to guarantee the right to housing, the actual state of housing in the country continues to deteriorate. This will persist until the government takes responsibility and actually does something besides making empty promises.

Canada is in a full-blown housing crisis. Rental and purchase prices continue to rise. There is a shortage of rental housing across the country.

The fact is, since the early 1990s, both Liberal and Conservative federal governments have pulled back from funding social and co-operative housing. The statistics clearly and irrefutably show that too many Canadian families spend over 30% of their income on housing. In 2018, the rental housing vacancy rate fell to 2.4%, which is below CMHC's 3% equilibrium threshold. That means the supply of rental housing is too low to meet demand, which puts upward pressure on rental rates, which is not helpful at all. As a matter of fact, average rental rates in all provinces increased last year. That is a direct consequence of the fact that, as I found out, only 10% of new housing starts over the past 15 years were rental units.

I think we can all agree that the situation is clearly not helping to curb soaring rental rates, which are going up faster than people's incomes, unfortunately. That means even more people are living in housing they can no longer afford.

According to the 2016 national household survey, a quarter of all Canadian households, whether they rent or own, spend more than 30% of their total income on housing. That is not affordable, according to the CMHC, which considers these households to be in core housing need.

Currently, 1.7 million Canadian households spend too much on housing.

When it comes to renters, specifically, two out of five families spend more than 30% of their income on rent.

Even more alarming is that, today, one in five Canadians spends more than 50% of their income on housing. We can all agree that this can hardly be called affordable housing, and it is easy to see why a growing number of these people are just one paycheque away from living on the streets. This could well be one of the causes behind the growing number of homeless people. It is a direct result of the housing crisis in Canada. It is very worrisome, and we are not the only ones to say so.

In 2016, Canada's big city mayors estimated that there were more than 170,000 households in their municipalities that were waiting for subsidized housing. We are hearing that current social housing programs in rural areas are simply not tailored to the needs of the communities.

The motion we are debating today seeks to provide a lasting solution to this crisis by increasing the stock of social and affordable housing in Canada. We want a firm commitment from the government to quickly bring in measures that would stimulate the construction of quality rental units for families in need. We are calling on the government to provide for incentives in the upcoming budget to help build 500,000 social and affordable housing units in Canada over the next 10 years, with half to be built by 2024.

I would now like to talk a bit about the unacceptable housing situation of indigenous people, both those living on reserve and those living in urban or rural areas.

First, I strongly believe that the government should develop a Canadian housing strategy specifically for indigenous people. It would be designed for them and with them. The housing would be adapted to their cultures and different weather conditions. I also believe they should be offered on-site training, which would create jobs.

Article 21 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes the right to housing and affirms that states shall take effective measures to ensure continuing improvement of housing problems. Indigenous people living in urban areas are eight times more likely to be homeless than the rest of the population. Nevertheless, the 2017 budget only allocated $225 million over 11 years, or about $20 million a year, for off-reserve indigenous housing. That is not a lot of houses to meet such a great need.

The Liberal government promised to invest in first nations communities, which is not a bad thing, but we must also remember that half of Canada's indigenous population lives in urban areas. The housing situation in indigenous communities is a total disaster.

Just yesterday, four of my colleagues held a press conference to talk about the mould crisis on reserves and in the north. That will do nothing to help the existing housing shortage in first nations and Inuit communities.

In 2011, nearly 41% of on-reserve households were living in homes in need of major repairs, and mould was reported in 51% of the units. In 2016, figures were already showing that the on-reserve housing shortage would reach 115,000 units by 2031. The department's data already indicated that 20,000 on-reserve units would be needed to lower the average number of people per household to four and that 81,000 homes would be required to reach the Canadian average of 1.5 people per household.

The Liberals know all of this, but apparently, taking action is not their forte. As evidence of this, even though departmental officials were aware of the situation, the government decided to fund the construction of only 300 new housing units per year in 2016 and 2017, which is only 3% of what is needed. It is time to pull our heads out of the sand, roll up our sleeves and do what is necessary. This is not rocket science. There is a shortage of social and affordable housing all across the country, and families are struggling to make ends meet. We need to create incentives for the construction of new rental units across the country. That would be a good investment.

Opposition Motion—Affordable HousingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to speak to the issue of social housing.

I will also extend my gratitude and respect for the member opposite. She gives good competition to the member for Saskatoon West for sustaining an important dialogue in the House and in the country. I have attended many of the seminars and public events with her to push for strong housing policy.

I am glad she raised the issue of indigenous housing, as it is not contained in the bill that was presented. I am assuming there may be more NDP promises coming on indigenous housing. I do not believe for a minute this is the end of the parade of opportunities to discuss different housing policies.

However, two days ago in the House, the member's party said that the repair of housing was not the same as housing. In other words, the fact that we have repaired 157,000 units over the last three years, with new investments as part of the national housing strategy and our budgets, was dismissed as not being housing.

I also heard the member for Kootenay—Columbia say that there were complex needs to house people. For example, sometimes they need housing and supports to stay in that housing, housing and a subsidy to make that housing affordable.

Would the member agree that a multi-layered approach is the right approach and that sometimes when we make a million investments in housing, two or three of them have to land at the same address in order to make that housing viable for the person in question? In other words, we need to fix housing, subsidize housing, build housing and support housing, not just simply construct affordable housing, in order to make our housing system work.

Opposition Motion—Affordable HousingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to return the compliment. My colleague also works very hard on the housing file.

I completely agree that investments in housing should not be used only for construction work. They should also be used to do renovations. My colleague has been a member of the House for quite a while now, and he knows full well that I moved a motion in the House of Commons in 2012 calling for new investments to renovate social housing.

I have a problem with what the member said earlier. The NDP completely agrees that the government needs to invest in the renovation of social housing, but when the government publicly announces figures and is double dipping, it is not being honest with Canadians.

If the member and his Prime Minister want to tell us exactly how much has been invested in housing, they need to give us the real numbers. They gave the same figures twice, saying that they helped millions of people with a $5-billion investment, but really they helped only about 115,000 people. They need to be careful about what they are saying in the media because it will come back to bite them eventually.

Opposition Motion—Affordable HousingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Hochelaga, for her long-standing work on resolving the housing crisis in Canada. She mentioned the issue of co-operatives.

I am fortunate in my riding to have a huge number of co-operative units available to my constituents. During the 1970s and 1980s, the federal government provided a lot of support to the creation of co-operatives, which now provide very important housing, affordable housing for seniors, for immigrants and families.

The Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, on behalf of the 900 housing co-operatives in Canada, has made specific requests to the government. One of those is to provide $7.5 million in funding per year to re-enrol housing co-operatives. We know that the co-operatives are old and they need to be retrofitted, and they want to become energy retrofitted. However, there is a possibility of municipal land in all of our cities, certainly in my city, where we could build co-operative housing now if the government would commit long-term funding.

Could the member speak to those asks?

Opposition Motion—Affordable HousingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have several answers to that question. My family has been involved in the co-operative movement, so I have known about the benefits of co-operatives for a long time. There are many housing co-operatives in my riding. The first thing I want to say in answer to the member's question is that co-operatives in general and housing co-ops in particular are a very good idea, but we have not really talked about this since I was elected in 2011.

Housing co-ops need funding, but most existing co-ops are having problems because they are old and in need of renovations. Many of them lost their funding a few years ago. The Liberal government temporarily restored part of that funding, but many co-ops that lost their funding still do not have it back. They have fallen through the cracks, and if they do not get help, people will end up homeless.

Canada's biggest housing co-op is in Montreal, and most of the residents are subsidized. The federal government must help these people stay in quality, affordable housing units large enough for their families.

Opposition Motion—Affordable HousingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Québec Québec

Liberal

Jean-Yves Duclos LiberalMinister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted and grateful to be able to speak to the motion moved by the hon. member for Saskatoon West, whom I would like to acknowledge.

It is always a pleasure, an honour and a responsibility to inform the House of important and decisive measures that our government has taken and will continue to take to provide more Canadians with a safe, affordable home.

In the past couple of weeks alone, Canadians have been able to see the impact of these actions first-hand.

We have seen new affordable housing projects break ground in Chilliwack, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Montreal. We have seen a tiny home community in Whitehorse giving at-risk individuals much-needed housing and more. It is also providing the support services they need to live independently.

In Calgary, we saw new transitional housing being created that will provide a safe haven for some 100 women who otherwise would be experiencing domestic abuse, poverty and homelessness. We have seen work on a new development in Porters Lake, Nova Scotia. This will be a place where seniors can age in place with services that allow them to live independently for longer, and happily.

Last week, I also had the opportunity to meet Claudette. She was very proud to show the Minister of Official Languages and me her new home, which is one of 78 units in the Première Porte complex located in the riding of Ahuntsic-Cartierville in Montreal. This complex provides newcomers with housing and services to help them fully participate, as best they can, in life in their new community.

We also attended the launch of a new Habitat for Humanity project which will let families in Prince Albert realize their dream of owning a home. I enthusiastically lent my rudimentary manual skills to a Habitat for Humanity build last year. This activity allowed me to see first-hand the deep sense of pride and joy of the families and the entire community.

In each of these cases, people benefit from a place to live. However, it is much more than just bricks and mortar. It gives people dignity, a new chance to feel a sense of belonging.

Last week, we also announced a 10-year housing partnership agreement with Premier MacLauchlan in Prince Edward Island. This agreement comes with a joint $15-million investment in affordable housing for the province. This is just one of several agreements made with our provincial and territorial partners over the past few months, with more to come.

Each one of these announcements is a direct result of the focus that our government has placed on housing from day one of our mandate. From day one, we have understood that housing matters, and we are delivering, literally from coast to coast to coast.

As our Prime Minister said, all Canadians deserve a safe and affordable place to call home, a place where they feel safe, where they can have confidence in their future and focus on themselves, their families and their communities. To build a strong middle class and an inclusive society, we must have quality, affordable housing.

Canadians know, and too many of them first-hand, what years of federal neglect on housing have brought. We see the challenges faced by some 1.7 million Canadians who live in houses that need repairs, are overcrowded, or are unaffordable. We see how these challenges affect some 25,000 Canadians who each year experience chronic homelessness. We also see how failure to address needs at one end of the housing continuum affects people all along it.

That is why one of our first priorities was to get the Government of Canada back into housing. We acted decisively, and since 2016, we have invested more than $5.7 billion to make housing more affordable across Canada. It is already having an important impact, helping nearly a million families since 2016 to gain access to a safe and affordable place to call home.

We specified that these investments were but the first step. As we are implementing these significant investments, we are also developing the very first national housing strategy, a 10-year, $40-billion-plus plan that will help more Canadians find a safe and affordable place to call home.

My colleague from Saskatoon West is calling for the creation of 500,000 new housing units. She should know that the national housing strategy would fill the housing needs of more than 530,000 Canadians and cut homelessness by half. Our plan may be ambitious, but it is realistic. It was developed based on amazing consultations with people in the industry, Canadians, and housing experts.

I want to name just a few: the National Housing Collaborative, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, the Réseau québécois des OSBL d'habitation, Canada Without Poverty and YWCA Canada.

These are just a very small number of the wonderful stakeholders that have helped us build this historic, first-ever national housing strategy.

Our plan does indeed respond to the real need for new affordable housing. To get us there, the plan includes major initiatives to repair and increase the housing stock, including a $13.2-billion national housing co-investment fund.

To maximize the results of our investments even more, we are making up to $200 million worth of federal land available to community housing providers at a discount or at no cost.

Many housing units are in need of urgent repairs or renovations after years of neglect by the federal government, among other factors. Much of Canada's affordable housing stock is aging and has suffered from many years of underfunding. Families are living in overcrowded housing and in unsafe conditions, but the national housing co-investment fund will provide funding to renovate and repair up to 240,000 housing units and create 60,000 new units.

We opted for a co-investment fund because we know that a top-down approach does not work. We wanted to invite the provinces and territories, community housing providers, municipalities, the private sector, and indigenous governments and organizations to work with us to find lasting solutions tailored to the needs of their communities.

The co-investment fund advances housing priorities that matter to all Canadians by prioritizing projects that go above and beyond mandatory requirements for affordability, energy efficiency and accessibility. It focuses on people, communities and partnerships and includes specific targets to protect and support survivors of violence, seniors and people living with development disabilities, among many others.

Our major partners in housing are provincial and territorial governments. For me, an important accomplishment in our national housing strategy was reaching a historic housing partnership framework agreement with them, the first in more than a quarter of a century.

This framework includes $7.7 billion in funding that will be cost-matched and invested in programs that will meet the unique needs of Canadians, whether they live in a remote community in Nunavut, an urban centre in British Columbia, a small town in Prince Edward Island or any point in between. These partnerships will unlock further initiatives, such as the Canada housing benefit, a direct benefit that will give at least 300,000 households an average of $2,500 per year to help meet their housing costs.

Our agreements with the provinces and territories will also help keep some 330,000 community-run housing units affordable for 330,000 families. This is another critical measure that will give low-income Canadians the means to pay rent in the housing they already occupy.

The affordability of federally-run community housing will be maintained through the national housing strategy, as we are extending subsidies for some 55,000 additional households.

Last summer we also launched a new homelessness strategy, a $2.2-billion plan to cut homelessness by at least half. The reaching home strategy will provide more funding, tools, and flexibility to a greater number of communities to fight homelessness in their own way. One of my colleagues will talk about that strategy a little later today.

Together, this work represents a very important achievement for our government. I am proud of how we have been able to collaborate with Canadians and many stakeholders to launch programs that will make a lasting difference.

Of course, there is much more work to do. As mentioned previously, we are working hard with provincial and territorial partners to sign all bilateral agreements by April 2019.

I am also working closely with the Minister of Indigenous Services, indigenous leaders and organizations to develop the first-ever distinct first nations, Métis and Inuit housing strategies. These strategies will meet the unique needs of each group and will be anchored in the principles of reconciliation and self-determination. One of my colleagues will also speak to that progress in more detail later today.

We have also launched major research initiatives to fill the data gaps that exist around housing. I look forward to seeing the resulting research and to learning how we can continue to make progress on creating better housing for Canadians.

Finally, we are currently drafting legislation to protect the human rights-based approach to housing that is the moral and philosophical foundation of the national housing strategy. This will bring us much closer to the progressive realization of the right to housing in Canada, as called for in the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This bill will ensure that affordable housing remains a priority for all future Canadian governments and will benefit all Canadians for generations to come.

I have said it before and I will say it again: The Government of Canada is back in housing, as a leader and as a partner.

Canadians are on board with our new approach. Reena, a foundation that promotes dignity and inclusion, praised the national housing strategy, saying that the federal government is to be applauded for recognizing the importance for all citizens to have a home and for implementing a plan that will improve the quality of thousands of people's lives, and calling on provincial and municipal leaders to align behind this effort and create local solutions to serve communities across the country.

I second that call.

I urge members on the other side to join us. Working together, we can deliver an inclusive national housing strategy that will launch a new era in housing in this country, improve the lives of Canadians, and strengthen our communities and the economy for years to come.