House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was uighurs.

Topics

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, those are valid questions. Those are things that we thought about. Where this came from was not necessarily my idea. This actually came out of the rural task force out of Alberta. This is from constituents getting together and asking what the possible solutions are to address these issues. This is one of many solutions they thought would be a start.

This would allow people to afford a system and get appropriate coverage in their house, or to get the appropriate footage on the garage or on the barn, but it also would be a deterrent. I want to make that very clear. When people know that they are on camera they act totally different than when they are not on camera. When they know there is a possibility that their face has been captured and that the RCMP or police would be able to use that and make an arrest and use it in a court of law, it is a way of dealing with these people.

In dealing with them, there are all sorts of things to consider. Is this an addiction issue? Is somebody just a bad person and needs to go to jail, or are a variety of factors behind it? Until they can catch them, they cannot deal with them, so this would help to catch them.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague caught my interest with the discussion around this being not just a rural issue, but that there are pockets, particularly in large urban centres, that have significant crime issues. I think of Edmonton Centre. They call it the red zone of crime.

Does the member think that there would be an opportunity to expand the reach of this bill into those areas where there are significant pockets of crime, and give either businesses or individual residents some security, or at least let them feel that they have some level of support from the government in trying to combat crime and that they have some safety?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is a comment I have heard coming out of Saskatoon. I have heard it coming out of Regina and other areas across Canada. Yes, this would actually go to individuals' businesses, so they could put in the appropriate tools to cover their facilities. It would include garages and barns on the farm, but it could include a garage at somebody's house or a storage area for a business.

I think we can be creative, and I think that is something committee could do. The committee could help to define that a bit better, so that people understand where it can be used and not used.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech about his bill. I do however have some reservations about it. I come from a rural area. We decided to get rid of our home security system because the police told us that the area they must cover is too large for the number of patrols. It is fine to have an alarm system but if there are not enough police officers to respond, it is not very effective. It gives a false sense of security.

Going further than that, I believe that we should invest more in provincial policing, in the RCMP. Money should be transferred to Quebec and the provinces for provincial policing. Moreover, we have talked about violence against women in rural areas at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. I believe that the solution is to implement different supports, such as providing increased assistance to indigenous communities, which also have this problem.

Why not allocate funds to implement the program for murdered and missing indigenous women and girls? I believe that the money would be better spent on other measures than on tax credits.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, again, this is just one part. There are many parts to the solution to rural crime and dealing with the issues in rural Canada, including rural Quebec. This, for example, would allow people to make it more affordable to put in the appropriate cameras. Yes, maybe it will not be an alarm going off or buzzing. In fact they would actually be videotaping the person in the act. I think once criminals realize they are being videotaped, they will hopefully hesitate and say it no longer makes sense for them to proceed down this path.

The member does raise an issue that is very common right across Canada, and that is the lack of police services. In fact, we have situations here in my riding where all of a sudden there are only one or two RCMP officers on duty because of lack of personnel. We have talked to the provinces about that, and they are looking for solutions for that. That includes not only putting more people through the college here in Regina for training, but also having the funding in place to make sure they are actually located in areas that have high crime.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this issue. Some issues that I have ongoing discussions about with constituents seem to never end. For example, I could talk about health care and community health, our public education system and crime. No matter what area of the riding I happen to be in, there is a great deal of concern about crime.

I am interested in getting a better sense of what the member is proposing. In his comments, he makes reference to us listening what our constituents want, or at least that is what he seemed to imply, that we should be saying something to our constituents about his bill.

I do not know if my constituents would support me voting for his bill. There are a couple of reasons for that. If we were to take a look at the area I represent, a significant percentage of people would love the opportunity to invest in security measures.

When I have had meetings with community police officers, they always tell me to ensure we get deadbolts and lighting. Lighting is really important. They want to ensure windows are secure. They often say that if we can get security cameras and things of this nature, it would be helpful.

I suspect that a good number of my constituents, who are concerned about community crime activities, would not be able to get the credit to which the member has referenced. It seems that the member is trying to establish a tax credit, but it is targeted to a group of individuals, people who have that disposable income and came make use of that credit. It is not just rural versus urban or anything of that nature. I am not convinced that this is the way to go.

When I think of the crime in the communities I represent, there is no doubt in my mind that purchasing and acquiring security systems would provide a higher sense of security and a great deal of comfort to my constituents. I am open to that debate, to talk about what government can actually do and what role it might be able to play. I just do not think a tax credit is the way to go on this.

We could have some discussions with municipalities, both rural and urban, and even with our provincial entities and look at areas where there is a greater demand for having these measures and collectively consider what we might be done to support that higher sense of security in our communities.

I often talk about a specific file. I was knocking on doors a while ago. While I was walking away from the house of a lady who lived on Pritchard Avenue, I could hear her banging on the window. It was around two o'clock in the afternoon. I turned around and went back to the door. She had moved the couch, which she had up against the door, away from the door. She feels more comfortable sleeping during the day time. She is scared to even walk out of her yard. As I told her, we should all feel comfortable and secure in our communities. Whether people live in the inner city, or in the suburbs or rural communities, we should have that sense of security.

I applaud the member for recognizing a very important issue and that it is universally applied. It is not just rural Canada. We have what I would classify as hot zones, and those are not words I made up. I have heard law enforcement officers make reference to hot zones. We need to look at ways to provide more support.

Some members have already made reference to policing. I am a big fan of community policing. I was quite upset when we lost our community police office because of cuts by the provincial government a number of years ago. As opposed to having a tax credit, for example, we could look at ways to support municipalities and provinces and, most important, the constituents who we represent. Rather than providing a tax break, I would rather see more community policing. Maybe we can invest some of those scarce tax dollars we get into supporting our law enforcement agencies, whether it is Canada's finest, the Winnipeg police, the RCMP or other entities of law enforcement. My gut feeling is that it would be a wiser use of tax dollars and it would benefit all communities.

My friend is correct. There are many rural communities in which a great deal of theft takes place, whether it is on a farm or in a cottage environment. We hear about it every year, especially once things start to warm up. There are ways that governments could work together and prioritize and put in additional resources to support enhancements for our communities, particularly those hot spots.

When we talk about the broader issue of taxation and tax credits, we have to be very careful when we start to have special taxes that help some more than others to the degree that it becomes somewhat unfair. I liked it when we got rid of some of those boutique taxes from the past in favour of giving a straight tax cut for Canada's middle class. One of the very first pieces of legislation that the House of Commons voted on was the reduction of taxes for Canada's middle class.

When we talk about dollars, there are ways we can invest those monies. If we look what we have done over the last five or six years, we have the balance right where we have recognized ways to increase disposable income in a fair fashion for all. We can ensure we invest in areas that will provide that additional level of comfort. We could see government spend on resources to increase community policing or to increase programming for more young people to put them on a better course where we have less crime in our communities.

As much as the bill comes across as being very proactive, it has somewhat missed the mark even though I agree with the member that crime in our communities is a very serious issue. I thank him for taking the time to bring this bill forward.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-234.

This bill amends the Income Tax Act to create a home security tax credit.

First, I wish to inform you that the Bloc Québécois will be voting against this bill. Our party and I recognize the challenge of home security, especially in rural areas. I come from a rural village called Saint-Jean-de-Matha. I commend the great passion that the hon. member for Prince Albert, for whom I have a great deal of respect, put into his speech.

This issue is very important, but we believe that the solution proposed in this bill is not effective enough.

We believe that the bill would only push people to spend more on security systems that would not adequately protect them. I am talking about keeping people safe, not property. As far as property is concerned, I do not know if the same thing happens in Saskatchewan, but in Quebec when we install security alarm systems, our insurance costs go down. There is also compensation for this. I will therefore focus on personal security.

Instead, we think that the money that would go towards subsidizing the purchase of these kinds of systems would be better spent by giving it to provincial police, indigenous police and the RCMP, as members have pointed out in discussions on this bill so far. I remind members that first nations police services are in serious need of resources and that the government needs to start funding them properly to help remote communities.

This bill would amend the Income Tax Act to establish a non-refundable personal tax credit for purchasing a home security system. The credit is for a maximum of $5,000 a year and includes the total of all amounts spent on home security. We have heard a number of arguments in support of this bill. One such argument is that crime in rural areas has risen higher than in urban areas. The member shared some compelling stories about people with addictions who resort to crime after losing their jobs. Since these areas are sometimes poorly served by law enforcement, residents may choose to install security systems, such as cameras or alarms.

The argument I want to advance here is that, as we see it, if the police are already having a hard time responding, investing in a security system that alerts the police would be an ineffective way to protect people, as I said, because police intervention is too slow to prevent the crime and keep people safe anyway. Let me reiterate that we appreciate the significance of this issue, but we think it would be better to invest more in supporting the RCMP, police services in Quebec and the provinces, and first nations police services. We think that introducing this tax credit will encourage people to spend money on systems that will probably not do much to prevent crime. From our perspective, it will actually give people a false sense of security.

I also want to reiterate that indigenous communities are sorely lacking in resources and are often poorly served by police forces. We think the money tied to this bill would be better spent on community security and safety, especially in first nations communities.

More fundamentally, the Bloc Québécois believes that the best way to fight crime is to fight inequality too. For example, although Quebec's social safety net is not perfect, it acts as a good foundation to ensure Quebeckers are protected. We have social programs to support families and the those most in need, including support to help women access the job market through family policy, such as subsidized child care and parental leave, which help combat poverty, since the two are linked. There is also the public school system, which has been mismanaged in recent years, not to say decades, but which is very important and has a wealth of knowledge and competence.

On that topic, this week is Hooked on School Days, so I salute all the young people and encourage them to continue their studies. I also commend the commitment of teachers in this mission.

Quebec's social safety net is part of a strong state that redistributes wealth. As we know, the Quebec model lies somewhere between those of northern Europe and western Europe. I actually have two books to recommend to any of my colleagues who would like to understand more about the importance of the state in the fight against inequality and in crime reduction.

The first one, which I do not believe has been translated into French yet, is called Combating Poverty: Quebec's Pursuit of a Distinctive Welfare State. Published by the University of Toronto, this comparative analysis explains how Quebec moved away from Canada in its approach to its social safety net in response to the federal government's budget cuts of the Chrétien and Martin years. Despite those cuts, Quebec managed to create important and bold new programs in health and social services. Elsewhere in Canada, services to the public were declining because of federal disengagement, but Quebec expanded its offerings.

The Bloc Québécois is obviously watching very closely to ensure that the current deficit is not reduced through the same Liberal practices as those used in the second half of the 1990s.

The second book I will refer to that could be of interest to my colleagues was written in 1990 by the Danish economist and sociologist Gosta Esping-Andersen. In The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, he explains the various reasons behind Quebec's choices regarding the best ways to establish public policies to fight social inequality, which, I should mention, the Bloc Québécois believes is directly linked to the crime rate.

I believe that rather than covering the cost of security systems, the money that would be allocated under the bill could be put to better use by increasing transfers to the provinces and to Quebec for police services, especially those in indigenous communities. In that regard, the Speech from the Throne took a first step by recognizing the latter as essential services. They were the only ones not deemed essential up to that point. The First Nations Chiefs of Police Association, supported by the Assembly of First Nations, called for this recognition, as well as for funding provided in a more stable manner than through agreements, which only last two to five years and must be constantly renewed. We expect that recognizing these police services as essential services will be accompanied by the funding required to ensure they can continue their operations and work on crime prevention.

Again, from our point of view, this bill does not really help reduce harm. Instead it offers a tax credit to those who install these devices, which could lower their property insurance premiums, as I was saying at the beginning of my speech. In Quebec, having an anti-theft system may lower our insurance bill by tens or hundreds of dollars a year and reduce the risk of theft when we are away.

However, what is even more dangerous than having someone break in while the homeowner is away, to steal valuables or commit the crimes my colleague from Prince Albert was mentioning, is to be home when it happens. Even with the best system, the danger is not reduced if the police fail to show up.

In closing, I want to reiterate that we are of course very sensitive to this issue. I have a great deal of respect for all the remarkable work that my colleague from Prince Albert does, including in the area of agriculture. It was clear from his speech that he is listening to his constituents. However, we do not believe that a tax credit is the best solution. Again, we are more in favour of additional support for law enforcement, starting with indigenous police services, and we strongly encourage ramping up efforts to reduce social inequality, which would reduce crime.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 18th, 2021 / 6:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on Bill C-234, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, home security measures.

I want to start by saying that I have a lot of respect for the member in question. I have worked with him, and I disagree with him profoundly on many issues, as he is well aware, but I respect the work he brings to the House of Commons. Also, having travelled through his riding numerous times, going into northern Saskatchewan and coming back as well, I understand the importance of this issue of folks feeling secure in their own community.

I will preface my remarks by saying that I certainly understand why the member has brought forward the bill. However, that being said, we believe that it is the wrong direction to take, and I will explain why.

First off, when we are talking about a non-refundable tax credit, we are actually talking about a tax credit that benefits those who have higher incomes. This is the same problem we are seeing with the disability tax credit, which is non-refundable. As members are well aware, it means that many people with disabilities, often the poorest of the poor, cannot access the disability tax credit because it is non-refundable.

As a result of that, and we saw this most recently during this pandemic when so many people with disabilities were struggling, in so many cases, they are not able to access the $600, which is a minimum amount to actually provide supports for those people with disabilities. Therefore, when we are talking about non-refundable tax credits, we are talking about people at the higher income threshold who will benefit from them.

That being said, this proposed tax credit for home security measures has been evaluated at costing close to $250 million. That is the starting point. The evaluation by the PBO is at $220 million, but that is rising, and with inflation we are talking about $250 million. However, if we are going to spend a quarter of a billion dollars, then what is the best way of making investments to protect and support our communities right across the country?

I will reference the valuable report that was put forward, and the NDP's complementary report a little later, but I do have to flag, because it is important, how a smaller amount made an extraordinary difference in community safety right across the country. That was with the crime prevention programs, which were actually stopped by the former Harper government when it cut $100 million from crime prevention programs and basically wiped them out right across the country. However, crime prevention programs, often staffed by very dedicated volunteers, made a huge difference in ensuring that community safety was paramount.

Every dollar that was spent in these crime prevention programs actually saved six dollars in policing costs, court costs and prison costs. So every dollar spent in crime prevention saves six dollars elsewhere and prevents crimes from being committed in the first place. I am a strong supporter of crime prevention programs. The ones we had in New Westminster and Burnaby, and the ones that existed right across the country, were an extremely important way of providing more safety and security for everybody in the community.

The former Harper government slashed and eliminated those programs, and the NDP caucus spoke out vehemently against that. It made no sense at all. It certainly was not cost effective. We know without crime prevention programs, the costs in policing and court costs are much higher than it would be to actually make those investments in the first place. It is important to note that for less than half the cost of this particular income tax measure, we could be seeing far more safety and security right across the country.

This is a stain on the record of the Harper government, which I do not think will ever go away. However, it is surprising to me that a new Liberal government, now five years later, has never acted to put back in place the crime prevention programs that were so effective right across the country. It is a tragedy.

The NDP, which has presented a building safer communities policy, has believed all along in those investments. Because they are cost-effective, and because they demonstrably lead to better community safety right across the country, they are the way to go. We disagree with the old parties that believe in being simply punitive after the fact. We believe the best route to public safety is ensuring that crime does not take place in the first place. That means removing the massive and growing inequalities we are seeing across this country.

During this pandemic, Canada's billionaires have increased their wealth by over $60 billion, yet so many Canadians are struggling to make ends meet. Investing in crime prevention programs, reducing inequality and putting in place a broad social safety net are all tools to ensure a broader level of community safety and security for everyone.

Earlier I said I wanted to reference a report on the topic of public safety in rural areas. This is very important, because this topic was studied by a House of Commons committee a few years ago. I want to reiterate that we are talking about a quarter of a billion dollars. Better investments could help make everyone safer.

The NDP's dissenting report was quite clear. Former NDP MPs Georgina Jolibois and Christine Moore were also part of the process. Our report addressed the indigenous situation and suggested investing to ensure that indigenous communities have the resources they need to improve quality of life, health and safety in each of these communities. The report also spoke about awareness raising and suicide prevention in rural areas. This is a problem that is becoming increasingly serious across the country.

My colleague, the member for Timmins—James Bay, also called for a national suicide prevention action plan. Rather than spend a quarter of a billion dollars on a tax credit for the wealthy, investing in a suicide prevention plan can make a huge difference.

There is also the issue of supporting victims, meaning women in rural areas who are victims of sexual or domestic violence. As we know, on any given day, 400 women in Canada are unable to find shelter from this kind of violence. That is appalling. This is something the NDP caucus has been calling for for a long time. Keeping people safer means making those investments. We have to invest to ensure that those 400 women have a safe place to go. Even if they are experiencing violence, that would make a huge difference. That is the kind of investment that counts.

Moreover, in the NDP's dissenting report to the committee's report, we brought up access to 911 emergency service. That service has to be available so that people in rural areas can call to get emergency services.

Although relatively inexpensive, all of these things could make a big difference in the safety of people living in rural areas.

Clearly, if we are talking about $0.25 billion, $220 million and then $250 million over the next few years, there are much more effective ways to spend that money on safety in rural areas and for everyone. Of course, this begins with using what has worked in the past, such as crime prevention programs. They were cut by the former Conservative government. The NDP will surely reinstate them if it ever gets the chance.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks, I want to take a moment to talk about my friend and Conservative colleague from Prince Albert who introduced this private member's bill, Bill C-234. I know that my colleague from the NDP touched on a lot of different areas, but this bill focuses on one issue that can make a difference.

Since he was first elected in 2008, the member for Prince Albert has worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents. I have worked with him in some of these areas, particularly on crime, and witnessed first-hand his commitment and enthusiasm on the many issues near and dear to my constituents as well, whether it be agriculture, international trade, or anything else he has worked on with regard to the United States, including transport, and now this particular rural crime issue.

Across the Prairies, we have seen a steady increase in criminal activity in recent years. Criminals are no longer just stealing gas and diesel for their vehicles, but more expensive items such as farm machinery, tools and trailers.

In the last Parliament, my colleague from Lakeland, Alberta, passed her private member's motion, which instructed the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to undertake a study on rural crime. In response to that study, I held five rural crime town halls throughout my constituency to get a better understanding of the types of crimes being reported.

Being proactive in these five town halls, I actively sought people's policy proposals to improve public safety, not only for themselves but also their entire community. Soon after, I wrote the public safety committee outlining 13 proposals, because it was doing the study at the time, and one of them happened to be this very bill we are debating here today.

Before I speak about why I am supporting this legislation, it is important to highlight what happened with the public safety committee study on rural crime back in May 2019, almost two years ago. After eight committee meetings, the Liberals at the time used their majority to ensure that the report would contain absolutely nothing of substance.

In all my years in politics, I have never seen a committee report that was that thin. The Liberals did not allow a single recommendation to be included in that report, and after hearing from a multitude of witnesses, the entire report was just two and a half pages long. I do not know how much it cost to do, but I imagine it was almost $100 a word.

Worse yet, due to the committee's report being so short, the opposition filed a dissenting report that was no longer than the report itself, which prevented the opposition parties from including substantive additions to the report to improve it. I cannot think of any better example of how little time the Liberals have for some of these prairie issues. It was clear from the results of the last election.

Having said that, every MP in the Prairies knows this is a growing problem, and it is not just a prairie problem either. For example, police-reported crime rates are higher in rural than urban areas. In some cases, and I know my colleague from Joliette mentioned this in his speech tonight as well, crime is even 30% higher in rural areas than in urban areas.

In my constituency, we have seen an increase of property crime violations. We have also seen a rise in break-and-enter crimes. I met and spoke with individuals who were the victims of these crimes and they shared how violated they felt after someone broke into their home, farm or business.

In one instance, the thief was brazen enough to break into the home in the middle of the night while the family was sleeping, stole the car keys and drove away with the vehicle. While luckily no one was hurt in this instance, the fact remains that someone broke into their home while they were sleeping in their beds. They woke up the next morning with the frightening realization of how vulnerable and exposed they were.

People living in rural and remote communities know that due to their distance from major urban centres, response times by the RCMP, fire and ambulance are not as quick as they are in communities like Brandon or Prince Albert. Thieves and criminals also know that, which I believe is part of the reason they are now preying on rural communities.

Those who have ever lived on a farm or in a small town know that the relationship and connection with those in their community is something truly unique. They rely on their neighbours, they look out for each other and they make sure that when something needs to be done, they raise their hand to volunteer and get it done. That is what has been happening across the Prairies as rural crime watches have been resurrected.

People are now taking extra precautions, such as taking notice of vehicles are entering people's yards and reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement. I know many who used to pride themselves on not having to lock their doors or even leaving the keys in the console of their vehicles. Sadly those days are pretty well over.

The reality is that criminals are getting better organized. We found out that they are even using drones to check out people's farmyards to see if anyone is home, or to go hunting for what they want to steal next. No one who lives on a farm expects the RCMP to be able to respond to a call within 10 minutes.

This private member's bill will provide a financial incentive for families to better protect themselves. By creating a non-refundable tax credit for home security measures, it will help reduce the costs of getting a system installed. This tax credit would be applied to the installation, maintenance and monitoring of a security system installed on an individual's property to monitor structures such as homes, garages and barns.

As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By making it just that much more difficult for thieves or criminals to go undetected, it will undoubtedly discourage future crime from occurring and provide valuable evidence to help solve a crime. By increasing the risk of the criminal getting caught, either by catching their face or a vehicle on a camera, or by alerting law enforcement of the crime in real time, this bill is a common sense bill that will produce results.

If this bill is passed, it is my hope that the security companies will also help communicate this new tax credit to the public, in the same vein as what happened with the home renovation tax credit. I firmly believe encouraging this conversation about steps families can take to better protect themselves and their property will have a tangible impact on crime rates.

This bill is just one step to curb the rising rural crime rates. Our Conservative caucus knows there is still so much more work to be done. Solving this rural crime epidemic will take all three levels of government working together.

I want to applaud the Government of Manitoba for adopting one of the recommendations that came out of my rural crime town halls. Under the leadership of the former minister of justice, the Hon. Cliff Cullen, it established a dedicated RCMP rural crime task force in Manitoba, which the province calls the RCMP crime reduction enforcement support team.

It has already been involved in numerous province-wide operations, including the seizure of $76,000 from illegal goods and 150 weapons, and more than 20 recovered stolen vehicles. The team's good work and investigations have led to criminal charges against 43 people. This concept is something that both the Alberta and Saskatchewan governments have already implemented, and I suspect they are seeing similar results.

In closing, I urge all of my colleagues in the House to support this legislation. It is time for action and leadership on this issue. The Liberals are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a very ill-thought-out buyback program, which only impacts law-abiding firearms owners and sport shooters. Instead, let us spend time and resources on something that will make a big difference.

I thank my colleague from Prince Albert for all of his efforts on this file. I will be voting in favour of Bill C-234. As I said earlier, this is only one of the solutions in a vast suitcase of things that can be done and differences that we can make, but I think it is a big one. I believe that my colleague brings this forward in a responsible manner, which will be able to an impact on rural crime across Canada, never mind just on the Prairies.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. The order is now dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

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

Families, Children and Social DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to talk about the importance of affordable child care, not just in my riding but across Canada.

This is related to a question that I raised in the House of Commons around the need for a national, universal, affordable and accessible child care program that is also a quality program to be developed here in Canada.

We have been hearing, for 50 years, from the government that it plans to develop a program for early childhood education that is universal: right across the country. We have not seen the government do that. We keep hearing more and more lofty commitments. The government's secretariat, which they have announced they will spend $20 million on over five years, just does not cut it.

We know that provinces like British Columbia are looking for federal commitments on this front so that we can deliver a child care program not just in British Columbia, but right across Canada.

What I am hearing from small business owners is that they do not need the removal of red tape or lower taxes. Their priorities and needs are for affordable child care and affordable housing. They want to see pharmacare and dental programs to help support their workers and themselves. Costs for private insurance are going through the roof. We know that it saves money when we invest in people. Their priority is a healthy environment, because they are on the ground and they care deeply about their communities.

We saw what it was like under a decade of the Conservatives. They did not prioritize social infrastructure. They did not understand the importance of that for the local economy. We have heard a lot of lip service from the Liberals when it comes to affordable housing. We have seen non-market housing fall in the last 27 years, under the Liberals and Conservatives, from 10% to 3%. In Europe, they are upwards of 30% in most jurisdictions.

When it comes to investing in strong supports, we have also seen strong economies in those areas as a reflection of that. We know that the government is considering a tax cut instead of investing in and opening up child care spaces. We are hearing from stakeholders across the country, including economist Armine Yalnizyan, the Atkinson Fellow on the Future of Workers. Regarding a federal tax credit, which we know the Liberals are considering, in a Global News report from February 13, she states:

I think it is the path of least resistance, because it means they don’t have to get involved in the quality or the standards of care, but it does not create one more new space that is high quality.

We need the government to actually commit to quality, affordable and accessible child care.

The Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce in my riding has identified it as the number one priority. In Quebec, when they brought in a child care program that was universal, 70,000 women went back to work. The GDP went up 2%.

We know that the majority of job losses have affected women, and that women have been disproportionately affected. If we are truly going to have a recovery, we need to create more spaces for affordable child care. The NDP has been calling for that in our budget submission. We cited the importance this would have to any economic recovery regarding the pandemic and post-pandemic. This is going to be critical for women especially who are participating in the workforce.

We have seen other countries do it, and it has worked. Whether it be in Sweden, Norway or Slovenia, other countries have seen how important it is to have that stability and that infrastructure in place, not just for the economic makeup of their economy, but for their recovery.

The NDP is calling on the government. As the critic for small business and tourism, I want to express how critical this is for our commitment to small business in Canada.

Families, Children and Social DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I want first to acknowledge how refreshing it is to see someone who has a business portfolio in a critic's job and be talking about child care. We do not build strong businesses in this country if we do not tap into the full array and spectacular diversity of our workforce, and we cannot get that if we do not support families and women as they move to make sure that those with skills can access the best jobs possible. We do not do that if families are not fully supported, and child care and early learning is a critical part of that.

I will also say that child care and early learning are essential to developing a future workforce. Every study shows that the sooner we get kids into early learning environments, including head start programs, and attach child care to educational systems, the better the outcomes, and we know this.

With knowledge, once we know something, the choice is in how we act on it. Our government did not wait for the pandemic to invest in child care. In our very first mandate, we put a national child care accord together. We negotiated with the provinces and territories, and now all provinces and territories have signed on to a $7-billion program. That is already producing results in communities right across the country, but what the pandemic showed us is that this is not enough.

I agree with my colleague opposite, and I could quote to him from the throne speech where we commit to a national system of child care, a national system of early learning and to working with provinces and territories to deliver this, but also to working with cities and communities and, most importantly, indigenous communities, because for the first time ever, our government has established an early learning and child care strategy with, by and for indigenous communities, led by and for indigenous communities right across the country.

That said, the issue is knowing the next step. The member opposite has suggested that we are looking at a series of tax credits to achieve this goal. I agree with him that tax credits will not achieve this goal. We do not build child care capacity if we do not build child care spaces, if we do not fund training to a high quality and make sure we achieve on that front. We also do not do it if we do not understand that close to 83% of the cost of child care is salaries, and therefore training and developing the workforce has to be part of a national strategy.

Let me assure the member opposite that the commitments that have been made in the throne speech are serious and that the budget submissions our ministry has made to the process are just as serious, and we intend to deliver on this commitment in a very profound way.

I will also say this: It was refreshing to hear the leader of the New Democrats in the House stand up and say that he will not defeat the government just as we get to the finish line on this critical issue, and it gave me hope that this system will come into existence. That is good news.

While neither one of us was an MP in the House in 2005, I was a journalist covering the fall of the Martin government. When we lost that government and when that government was not re-elected, for whatever reason we lost a fully funded national child care plan, and we have never recovered from that moment in time. I am glad to hear that the NDP is going to put good policy in front of politics and is going to put kids into child care spaces. I am glad to hear that the NDP is not looking at putting New Democrats into the House as a way of achieving this, but instead is looking at working with us to deliver the commitments we will fulfill in the upcoming budget.

Child care is critically important to families in this country, critically important to women in this country, and critically important to a pandemic recovery that is just for everybody. We will not recover from this pandemic if we do not understand that. I join the member opposite in demanding a national child care program, and I do that as the parliamentary secretary to the minister who will deliver such an accord.

Luckily, because we took action in our first mandate and because we invested $7.5 billion, we have an accord that we can build on to deliver this program quickly and we have a table with first ministers right across the country, including with indigenous governments, to work on this and deliver the results that the member opposite spoke to, for exactly the right reasons and for exactly the issues he raised.

Let us put the past behind us. I will not talk about 2005 if he does not talk about whatever decade of broken promises that were there before my kid came along. She is now out of university, but I mean the promises made before she was born. She is now graduated. I would have loved to have had a child care program in 2005 for my son, trust me.

Let us put the past behind us, let us look to the future and let us make sure that the future is female.

Families, Children and Social DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, while it is encouraging to hear my colleague talk about the importance of building a child care program, what we do not want to see is a program that is rolled out over decades.

We have heard this talk for six years. I do not want to go back; as he said, let us move forward. However, what we need is an actual commitment from my colleague that he is willing and that his government is going to commit to a universal child care program that is affordable, that is accessible and that is of high quality for all Canadians, not just in certain pockets and with a long rollout.

We have heard the Liberals talk about affordable housing. Even their recent announcement around urban centres and was talking about being years and years from now. We need to know that they are going to absolutely commit to a universal child care program in this budget so that we can help build an economy that is going to bring women back to work, that is going to bring greater participation in the workplace for all Canadians, all parents, and ensure that young people get the early childhood education they so deserve, because we know that inequality often starts between the ages of three and five years old.

Families, Children and Social DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Spadina—Fort York, ON

Mr. Speaker, as committed to in the throne speech, we are working on a program that will start as soon as the opposition supports our budget process. We are in a minority Parliament, so the parties on the opposite side have responsibilities to these aspirations, not just in stating them and championing them with bumper sticker slogans, but in actually working with us to deliver programs.

We are not going to talk about the past, but the vote in 2005 was profoundly destructive to the goals and programs the member opposite speaks about. He has given us his word that he is not going to spring an election on the budget. I am giving my word that we are doing everything we can to deliver the day care system that he speaks about and dreams of.

We all need to work together to get this done. Voters have given us a minority Parliament. Let us make it work. Let us make it work for children and for child care, and let us not let them down.

We have a commitment from the member's party. We have my minister's commitment to deliver on the accords we have built. Let us move together to realize early learning and child care, and let us make sure we work with the provinces and territories to realize this dream as soon as possible.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Green

Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am raising an issue today in our Adjournment Proceedings that I originally raised on December 10 during question period.

We have been blaming the pandemic for the financial anxiety and poor living conditions people are facing, but the truth is that these conditions were already there. The pandemic certainly exacerbated inequalities, but they were already there. The poverty, the financial anxiety and the homelessness exist in every riding across this country, and I am sure my colleagues can relate to this with the calls they receive in their offices on a weekly basis. The ones that break my heart and that I lose sleep over are the ones for which there is no solution except to implement a guaranteed livable income.

Why do we need a GLI now? At the beginning of this pandemic the government made it clear that Canadians who found themselves suddenly without work required $2,000 per month to live. Does the government realize that in my home province of New Brunswick I have constituents living on $564 per month?

The pandemic has inflamed income insecurity, particularly for low- and minimum-wage workers. It has resulted in a run on rents, as my colleague, the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith, has been saying. Those who qualify for government relief benefits are doing okay, but what about those who never qualify or those whose benefits are about to expire?

The Prime Minister often says that no one will be left behind, but in truth this patchwork approach to financial support is leaving countless Canadians behind, and at a high cost to taxpayers. I am more than confident in saying that a GLI is the solution to so many of the problems we face. In one swoop, the government could end poverty.

I think of the person living on a fixed pension or on disability benefits for whom the cost of living goes up every year, outpacing what little inflation those benefits receive. I think of the people trying to sleep in Wilmot Park in Fredericton, who are being moved along by police. They could be able to afford rent. I think of the senior who spent years of her life providing unpaid care for everyone around her, now scraping by on pennies in her elder years. I think of the woman fleeing intimate partner violence for whom escape no longer needs to mean poverty or the risk of losing her children.

A GLI is also the solution to some systemic inequality. Our current patchwork programs have problems with systemic racism, ableism and misogyny. If the government is truly serious about addressing these insidious issues, a GLI is the most effective way to start that work.

Let us not ignore the economic benefits. A GLI would reduce Canada's growing poverty crisis, thereby reducing the demand for social services, law enforcement and health care. A report by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis shows that a GLI could be a sustainable investment that grows our economy by $80 billion per year, creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and supports Canada's businesses, all while lifting 3.2 million Canadian families out of poverty. We have seen this work with the child tax benefit. It is time to take it a step further.

Finally, I also believe a GLI is the best opportunity to fight for our planet. There is an innate privilege in the environmental movement because people cannot get involved in fighting the climate crisis if they have to focus on their basic needs and day-to-day survival. Individuals and communities cannot make changes to how they live and work, to transition from fossil fuels and to build a sustainable and low-emission economy while building back from COVID-19 and living in crushing poverty. A GLI would provide a financial safety net for all persons in Canada, especially through major economic shifts, natural disasters, major industry automation, job loss and global pandemics.

We are told to brace for more, but without adequate universal supports, what do we expect people to hold on to?

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I get to answer a question from the new member.

I worked in a newsroom with someone called Bob Hunter, He was the person who termed the phrase “Greenpeace” and in fact had membership card no. 1. He never joined the Green Party. Part of the problem was the wonky approach the party used to have using Conservative-style tax credits to achieve environmental goals and nothing else. I am glad to see the Green Party joining the social justice conversation with good ideas and with individuals who have broadened the conversation around what justice looks like in a social context. Therefore, I welcome this question and the idea.

The member talked about seniors, people with disabilities, the homeless and people stuck in the gig economy, whether the tech gig economy or the seasonal employment that defines parts of New Brunswick.

She also talked about the success of and what the child benefit had taught us, because it is a form of guaranteed income. It guarantees income for all families. It is means-tested in a way that is sensitive. It has delivered hundreds of thousands of kids out of poverty because it is there for them day in and day out, month in and month out. Those are policies the Green Party supported in our first budget whereas the NDP did not.

I was the parliamentary secretary to the minister who was in charge at the time, but he is now the head of the Treasury Board. He talked about changing the social safety net into a trampoline, about pulling the cords apart to understand which ones needed to be thicker, not to catch people but to bounce them back up. The federal government provides several different forms of income supports that when looked at as a collection is a form of basic income. However, because they are separate programs, there are cracks between them, and those are the very cracks the member opposite is talking about people falling between. We saw this with people with disabilities during the pandemic.

The federal government did not have a coordinated single database of people receiving the benefit because of this patchwork of tax credits and provincial programs, veterans benefits and CPP. When we knitted that back together again, we found we could do more with a cohesive and coordinated approach as opposed to that patchwork approach or those single strands in the social safety net, which are good enough for some but not good enough for all.

Therefore, we have started to look at seniors pensions, boosting the OAS and looking at how seniors poverty rolls through generationally as seniors grow older. We are taking a look at the disability pension and have done it through the lens of the disability rights legislation we passed in the last Parliament.

We have strengthened the national housing strategy from the $40 billion the Prime Minister referenced earlier this year now closer to $72 billion, and the rapid housing initiative is filling those gaps and making a difference in the lives of people in Fredericton and New Brunswick in particular.

Regarding the gig economy and the child benefit, I agree. We had a meeting today at the human resource committee of Parliament. We looked at the way EI does and does not function. It is built for an employment structure from the last century, with a computer system that is almost even older than that. It is time for a massive reform. Whether we call it basic income, guaranteed income, universal income, the name is not so important. I do not care about the bumper sticker; I care about the policy. It is time for all of us as parliamentarians to take a look at how the new economies have emerged in our ridings. Whether in the north, the remote, the coast, downtowns, small towns or small municipalities across the Prairies, we have to find a way to reform EI, to restructure the income streams of the federal government supports and to achieve the goals about which the member has spoken.

Who gets the credit, whose bumper sticker is best, I could not care less, but the issues the member is raising are the right ones. The issues we are working on are the same ones. I hope she sees us moving toward that goal even if we do not achieve it necessarily under the banner she has given us. What COVID has taught us through this process is that we can do better because “better is always possible”, to quote the Prime Minister.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Green

Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am very grateful for the words the parliamentary secretary just shared, and I feel that momentum. Really, though, the question for me is this: What kind of society do we want to live in and raise our children in? That is what we are grappling with right now, especially as we face the COVID-19 recovery.

For me, we should be making government decisions based on quality of life measurements. Every Canadian has the right to live in dignity, with access to a livable income; accessible and affordable housing; food security; expanded health services, including mental health services; and the resources they need to meet their basic human needs, no matter their status in life. A GLI is a pillar to ensure well-being.

Without the creation of the CERB and other emergency benefit programs, millions of people in Canada would have been in dire straits. It is not a leap to suggest that the CERB kept people alive. Even with these emergency benefits, too many people are still falling through the cracks without support as the pandemic continues, as the member mentioned. The question is this: What will replace these benefits when they are gone?

The parliamentary secretary mentioned reform, and I feel a GLI is here for us. There have been many pilot projects and we have lots to draw from.

A common criticism of a GLI is that it may make it difficult to recruit workers. We know, based on study results, that this is not true. We could actually see a 17% increase in part-time workers, according to an Alaskan study.

Once again, the momentum for building a GLI across party lines and within civil society is there. However, we cannot rebuild a house on a foundation—

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We will have to leave it at that.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

COVID-19 Emergency ResponseAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Spadina—Fort York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage my colleague to reach out to the member for Markham—Stouffville. As a provincial minister in Ontario, she built a basic income pilot project in Hamilton, only to see the Conservatives destroy it, despite the fact it was showing great promise. Before it was allowed to report out fully and had its work destroyed by the Ford government, one of the early findings was that it actually encouraged people to work and that people actually saw a way to use social benefit to improve their standing in their own lives.

I agree with her that the time has come for concerted action, and I hope she would reach out and discuss the findings of that report, because the member in our caucus is a wealth of information, as is the minister from the treasury board. It is his life's work, as a professor in Laval. His thoughts on it are absolutely phenomenal.

The issue is that basic income alone will not solve problems. Basic income alone does not create a housing system that someone can afford just because they have the rent money. We have to design systems for basic income to work within. Housing in particular is one of the key drivers of poverty. It is one of the key drivers of health outcomes, and of the justice of which she speaks. Without the housing system in place, and without intentionally building affordable housing, if we put all the money into basic income and do not spread it through those other systems, access to child care, access to health care, access to housing and access to this country's wealth are limited for far too many people.

While we have to achieve on income reform, we also have to build systems around it to make that income reform work better, work harder and deliver real results to those people.

I look forward to our conversations.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I originally asked the minister about the government's promise to plant two billion trees to combat climate change, and I know there have been a lot of concerns about that program, including the fact that no trees were planted in the first year and whether the trees planted would be in addition to those that would seed themselves. I agree that nature-based solutions will have to play an important role in our efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and trees are a logical place to start.

There have been some high profile contests, for example those sponsored by Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance and by Elon Musk, to find ways to remove carbon dioxide from the air and put it to good use. While those contests may highlight important new innovations, the organizers could just as easily have saved their time and given the millions of dollars in prize money to trees.

On the face of it, planting trees is a great idea, but we have to have a plan to make sure we are not duplicating the efforts that nature would provide and the efforts industry is obliged to provide after harvest. To truly bring down our carbon emissions through tree planting, those efforts have to be additive. We have to plant the trees in the right places, where they can grow quickly but where they would not be planted without our efforts. We have to plant the right species of trees to match not just the present environmental conditions, but projected future conditions after climate change.

Most of all, we must remind ourselves, and all Canadians, that simply planting trees is not a magic bullet to fix climate change. For one thing, there is a 20- to 30-year delay in positive carbon sequestration when we plant trees in new forests. We are now at over 700 megatonnes of carbon dioxide in emissions. We need to get to zero in 30 years. Calculations show that even if we did everything right, our new trees would not make a significant impact until after 2050, and even if we did everything right our two billion trees would only be sequestering about four or five megatonnes of carbon, according to expert testimony we heard at the natural resources committee.

It is a small step. It is an important small step, perhaps, but certainly not a big part of any climate action plan. It may help us after 2050, but we should not point to this as one of the actions that will help us meet that “zero by 2050” target. If we want to spend money wisely with nature-based solutions, let us invest it into finding the best land management practices that will yield the best results for climate action, and promote those through co-operation with the provinces that manage our forests.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Sudbury Ontario

Liberal

Paul Lefebvre LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to discuss our government's commitment to plant two billion trees, especially with my colleague from the natural resources committee, the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay. I know that he has committed his professional life to the environment. In fact, he and his siblings have followed the path of their late father, Stephen Cannings, recognized as one of British Columbia's many great environmentalists. I raise my hat to him.

Our government shares the member's deep concern about our planet's future and especially about the existential threat posed by climate change.

That is precisely why we recently announced a tougher plan for fighting climate change so that we can exceed the 2030 Paris Agreement targets and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Planting two billion trees in 10 years is an important part of that plan.

We know that nature is part of the climate solution. A nature-based climate solution, like planting trees, takes full advantage of nature's ability to fight climate change by absorbing and capturing greenhouse gases, protecting coastlines from tides, storms and erosion and by lowering the temperature in cities, while improving water quality and enhancing biodiversity.

In Canada, we are fortunate to have vast, healthy and resilient forestry ecosystems. They provide us with recreational opportunities, whether that means taking a walk in a wooded urban area or a hike with the family in a provincial or national park.

Our forests also contribute to absorbing greenhouse gases. This has allowed Canada to increase its carbon sinks. That is why our government is working hard to begin implementing this Canadian solution.

The project to plant two billion trees is huge. It is a complex undertaking. The plan will include urban and rural regions of Canada. The number of trees planted in Canada will increase by 40% a year. There will also be significant benefits. By the tenth year, our country's forest cover will be twice the size of Prince Edward Island. That will cut overall emissions by 12 megatonnes in the next 25 years, while creating more than 4,000 jobs. There are additional benefits, such as the creation of more habitat for wildlife and improved biodiversity. All of this will enhance our ability to restore habitat for species at risk, such as the boreal caribou and migratory birds.

As I said, this is a complex undertaking and there are obstacles to overcome. We need partners in the production of seedlings, which, as the member said, will take about two years to grow.

We also need partners in order to identify the areas of land and the types of trees to be planted and to prepare sites and monitor trees for survival. Despite these challenges, I want to assure the House and all Canadians that nothing in the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report last month should raise any doubts about our determination. The fall economic statement provided just over $3 billion, but we have always said that an initiative of this scale requires strong partnerships to succeed.

Our intent for cost-sharing has always been a key feature of this initiative. An article published in the Scientific American last week says it best. If we want to fund an initiative that will not just plant trees but enable people to live sustainably in the landscape over time, “it’s going to take unprecedented collaboration between governments, organizations and local people.” That is why our government has and will continue to actively engage with provincial and territorial governments, indigenous peoples, industry and non-governmental stakeholders to realize this commitment. We will stay the course because there is no path to net zero that does not include our forests.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of my main concerns with the two-billion-tree plan is that it might simply serve as a distraction from the hard work that we have to do to reach our climate targets. There will be real benefits if we do this right, but those benefits are small in relation to the task at hand. On the other hand, there are greater benefits to be had if we change the way we manage forests, and we should explore those with the provinces.

Every year in British Columbia, for instance, we burn forestry waste. This slash burning puts as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as all of the cars in British Columbia combined. Let us stop doing that. When we are measuring the benefits that forests can provide us in our fight against climate change, remember that it is not as simple as how many trees we plant. It is much more complicated than that. It includes how and where we harvest trees, what we do with forestry waste and what products we produce from the trees we cut.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Lefebvre Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe that Canadians just need to look at our track record to recognize that healthy forests are a crucial part of our clean air future.

Early in the pandemic, we pledged $30 million to help small and medium-sized businesses, including tree-planting companies, to offset COVID-19-related health and safety measures.

This commitment is helping to protect workers and communities. It also supported the planting of 600 million trees during the 2020 planting season. Our government is also funding two separate programs that support the planting of 150 million new seedlings by 2022.

Finally, we also helped fund the Highway of Heroes tree campaign, which has already planted more than 750,000 of a planned two million trees between Toronto and Trenton, Ontario.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:39 p.m.)