House of Commons Hansard #112 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was documents.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, it has been very interesting listening to this debate so far. I am happy for the opportunity to participate in this debate as well.

On December 3, Emmanuel Sanchez appeared before the justice committee to tell his story. He said, “I was around five years old the first time I noticed that I was attracted to the same sex.” As he grew older, he noticed the attraction more and more. He was bullied by the other boys at school. He was called crude names. As he sought an escape from the bullying, he found himself drawing near to the girls in a desire for safety and protection.

At times, these experiences, previous abuse and the hurtful words of others caused him considerable confusion. He told the committee he began to question his sexual orientation and gender identity. He hated himself. He hated being alive. He felt lonely and he did not feel safe confiding in anyone. He pursued a dark response to these feelings, but thankfully his suicide attempts failed.

As a teenager, Emmanuel began exploring gay culture. He wanted to understand his sexuality. He wanted to belong. At 16, he began to identify as gay and entered relationships with other men, but he feared rejection from family, friends and his faith community. While he knew that not everyone in his life agreed, he still described them as “very loving, caring and supportive of [him] as an individual.”

Despite Emmanuel's decision to embrace his truth, he described himself as “still very unsettled”. He made the choice to meet with a counsellor. She encouraged him to continue living the life he was living, yet week after week he still felt confusion and not peace. Feeling that he was not getting the support he needed, he made the choice to seek counselling from a pastor. This individual journeyed with him, neither affirming nor condemning decisions related to his sexual identity.

In time, he made a personal decision, his own choice, that he no longer wanted to continue this course that his life was on. He wanted to live his life in a way that was consistent with his faith and beliefs. Had it not been for the guidance and support that he freely sought out and received, he told the committee he did not think he would be breathing today and sharing his story.

This is not a story with a neat and tidy ending. Like every single one of us, Emmanuel is a unique and complex individual. He did not claim that counselling removed his same-sex attraction. He simply said it helped him determine the life he wanted to live.

Emmanuel asked the committee to do two things. He asked that parliamentarians acknowledge that people like him exist, and he asked that they create a well-written bill that truly bans coercive and abusive methods while respecting the individuals' freedom at any age to chose the type of support they want and their desired goal.

While we need multi-party co-operation to do the latter, I can at the very least recognize that Emmanuel and others like him exist. The problem with Bill C-6 is that it writes off people like Emmanuel. It suggests that the choices he has made and the support he has sought are wrong. It removes his agency and tells him that the government knows better than he does what kind of support he needs. Why? The definition of conversion therapy used in Bill C-6 is extremely broad. At present, it could not only capture instances where coercion or violence is present, but also capture something as simple as a good-faith conversation between a struggling teen and a trusted family member or professional.

Let me be very clear. If Emmanuel had described violent and coercive efforts that sought to change his sexuality against his will, this would be an entirely different situation. There is a reason government steps in to protect all of us from those who would cause such harm. It is wrong.

However, that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about a definition that could very well capture conversations. While many members want to pretend that no such problem exists, there were a myriad of witnesses appearing before the justice committee who had the same, or similar, concerns, individuals from the LGBT community, lawyers, medical professionals, clergy. Members might not agree with the view expressed, but when an issue is raised time and again by a diversity of voices, we should at least be paying attention.

Some witnesses warned of potential consequences should the bill not be amended.

Lawyer Daniel Santoro said:

The first problem is that the definition of conversion therapy is overly broad and imprecise. It's likely to capture situations that are not actual conversion therapy and cause confusion. The second problem is that the existing exception for medical treatment is too narrow, because it specifies only one lawful form of treatment: gender transition. The third and final problem is that the exception allowing exploration of identity is unclear and does not adequately protect charter freedoms.

Psychologist Dr. James Cantor said:

We will end up with clinicians...with a chill effect, simply unwilling to deal with this kind of issue; the service will become unavailable. Without a clear indication of what counts as an “exploration” and exactly what that means, anybody would have trouble going into this with the kind of confidence that a clinician needs in order to help their client.

I choose not to believe the Liberal government set out to restrict the choices available to Canadians based on their sexual orientation, but that is now exactly what will happen should this bill pass. It is not just these folks who will face limitations. Bill C-6 fails to affirm the right of parents to raise and educate their children in accordance with their beliefs. Whether we are talking about religious beliefs or a secular world view, the state has a duty to respect the values that parents choose to instill in their children.

This is not about allowing violent or coercive actions. The law should never protect those committing such acts against children, but the ambiguity created by this bill creates the fear that parents may not be able to set house rules about sex and relationships. In essence, parents of straight children would not be under the microscope, but parents with children questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity could feel as though journeying with their child through this period could result in criminal penalty. The fact the bill could restrict some parents from fully supporting their child and not others is an issue.

Family physician Dr. Jane Dobson told the justice committee:

My question is: Why is the government telling people what sexual or gender goals they should have? They are effectively doing this with Bill C-6, as the bill broadens the definition of conversion therapy from abusive and coercive therapeutic practices to also include talk therapy, watchful waiting, interpersonal conversations and spiritual practices, widening the net to now potentially criminalize parents, spiritual leaders and medical professionals for simply [raising] tested and tried therapy to help an individual reach their self-directed goals.

These are real concerns that many in this place have chosen to ignore in the name of political expediency. It is political expediency. We know this bill was reintroduced after the Liberal decision to prorogue Parliament. It was originally thought cleared from the agenda. The concerns I have mentioned were flagged to the government at that time, so when it later reintroduced Bill C-6, it could have been improved to ensure wide support, but it was not. The justice minister was fully aware of the changes he could have made to better this bill. He chose not to. It would have made sense indeed.

After the first introduction of the legislation, the Department of Justice put the following disclaimer on its website:

These new offences would not criminalise private conversations in which personal views on sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity are expressed such as where teachers, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors, faith leaders, doctors, mental health professionals, friends or family members provide affirming support to persons struggling with their sexual orientation, sexual feelings, or gender identity.

Why did the department feel the need to clarify if the definition of conversion therapy in the bill is any good? If anything, the only clarity brought on by this clarification is that the bill is in need of much more work. The reality is that a disclaimer on the department's website is not the same as legislation. That is why Conservatives sought to find common ground by proposing reasonable amendments that would bring real clarity to the legislation. These amendments were focused to ensure that voluntary conversations between individuals and their teachers, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors, faith leaders, doctors, mental health professionals, friends or family members would not be criminalized.

Finding a balance between protecting individuals from violence, abuse or coercion while maintaining free and open conversation is a balance I think most Canadians would appreciate. Unfortunately, despite the clear indication the Liberals are aware of the bill's ambiguity, they refuse to support these amendments. In free societies, governments must leave space for individual citizens to make decisions about their lives. This includes the space to seek counsel on personal matters, such as one's sexuality.

Canadians can expect their government to respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the freedoms of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion and expression. Like Emmanuel, those with deeply held convictions, who may want to seek advice and support on questions of sexuality, deserve the right to do that. No one should be be able to be told by the government that seeking guidance, asking questions or helping to reconcile faith and sexual attraction is off limits to them.

I stated earlier that Emmanuel had asked parliamentarians to do two things, which were to acknowledge the people who can exist and to create a well-written bill that protects from violence while respecting the rights of individuals to receive their chosen support. Unfortunately, I find that Bill C-6 fails on both points, and as long as it fails Canadians like Emmanuel, I will not support the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I have been thinking about something all day. If I have a drug or alcohol problem, it is considered a pathology and I have the right to seek treatment. My Conservative colleagues are making it sound as though they see sexual orientation as a pathology.

I would like to hear it from my colleague's mouth. Does he consider any sexual orientation other than heterosexuality to be a pathology?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, the member's question is a good one. The problem with Bill C-6 is that the definition is so cloudy, poor and overly broad that one cannot clearly define what would be acceptable as far as having conversations, or asking for counselling or asking for help from a spiritual leader or a pastor. That makes the bill very ambiguous and it would capture instances of conversations and counselling that I do not think it intended to do.

As I said earlier, the Department of Justice on its website tried to provide clarification as to the definition. It should not have to do that if the bill were clear. At the end of the day, the legal system will look at what is in the bill, not what is printed on the department's website.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague's leader has unequivocally stated, “Conversion therapy is wrong. In my view it should be banned.” He said, “I want everyone to feel accepted in our society” He further said, “To be forced to change who you are is not be okay” and “if that is the intent of this bill” it needed to be clarified.

It is good to hear that the leader of the Conservative Party believes conversion therapy is wrong, but if the Conservatives will not support him and this bill, then what? What happens?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, perhaps I did not say it from the outset, but I, like all my Conservative colleagues and I believe everyone in the House, feels that conversion therapy that would be violent, degrading, abusive and coercive should be banned. That is what we have been consistently saying, whether it is my leader, the hon. member for Durham, or anyone else in the Conservative caucus or at committee. We are opposed to violent, coercive, unwanted therapies of any kind. However, that is not what the bill clearly identifies. The bill actually muddies those waters by not providing that clear definition of what conversion therapy is or what is meant by conversion therapy.

As Conservatives, we have asked at committee to please let us put forward amendments that would bring clarity to the bill, something we could all get behind. As I said, we do support conversion therapy, but we 100% support a person's desire and ability to retain counsel and to have good faith conversations, whether it is with youth leaders, as the previous speaker mentioned, or with friends and pastors or professional counsellors. We need to protect that right for all Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, there they go again. We are all against violent conversion therapy. Violent conversion therapy? Is violence not already illegal? We cannot inflict violence upon somebody without it already not being illegal.

This is just more of the same rhetoric that we heard from the previous member, going on and on, making it seem as though they really care about this issue. All they are doing, and Canadians see right through it, is looking for justification not to vote in favour of this when the reality is that they are against conversion therapy.

Why does the member just say that he is against conversion therapy? He would be a lot more honourable doing that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, the member for Kingston and the Islands is getting a little worked up. As I have said all along, the Conservatives and all members of the House know exactly what conversion therapy is and we are opposed to it. What we are not opposed to is parents having a conversation about sex and relationships, about pastors, youth leaders, professional counsellor or medical people having conversations about sexuality. For whatever reason, the member does not understand that. I do not get it. Why does he not understand—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Peace River—Westlock.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-6, which proposes a ban on conversion therapy. I want to say at the outset that I too am opposed to conversion therapy.

Coercive and degrading practices should be banned, and I think my colleagues in the House would agree with me on that. We would not find anybody in this place who is supportive of conversion therapy. However, this bill proposes to criminalize much more than coercive and degrading practices, and we need to protect people from being victimized.

I have spoken and consulted with, and received feedback from, many of my constituents and Canadians from across the country regarding this bill. In a recent mailer, I polled my constituents, and the vast majority of them were not happy with Bill C-6. They are opposed to conversion therapy; however, many are concerned about the definition given in the bill. They fear that it is overly broad and that many conversations would be criminalized.

The voices of the people of Peace River—Westlock echo those of many Canadians who are concerned that this bill might and will criminalize certain types of voluntary counselling and conversation. There are concerns that this overly broad definition of conversion therapy will criminalize different supports, and that this will hurt the people we are trying to protect.

The bill seeks to ban counselling that is related to managing sexual behaviour. My colleague from Cypress Hills—Grasslands described that nowhere else in the world has the same definition of conversion therapy that is presented in this particular bill, which would ban counselling for sexual behaviour. No individual should be prevented from getting the mental or behavioural supports they want.

A Nanos poll conducted earlier this year found that 91% of Canadians support the right of Canadians to get counselling of their choice, regardless of their sexual orientation. Canadians are concerned about the lack of clarity and the broad scope of the bill regarding what constitutes conversion therapy, and this has led them to petition the government to fix the definition.

As a member of Parliament, I have tabled many petitions in the House on this very topic to raise their concerns about the legislation. Some of their concerns include that pastors and religious educators might be thrown in jail for teaching or holding traditional views on sexuality. There are also concerns that this bill would restrict the choices and freedoms of the LGBT community by limiting their access to professional services based on their orientation or gender identity.

As legislators, it is of utmost importance that our bills and definitions are clear. We should not write bills that are imprecise or overbroad and that would be quick to lead to court challenges. I note that the Bloc member who sits on the committee repeatedly brought this point up. He said that we should get this definition right, and I commend him for his work on the committee.

When most people talk about conversion therapy, they think of coercive, harmful, degrading practices such as electroshock therapy, chemical castration and forced lobotomies, among others. These horrific practices should, and have been in many cases, banned. However, this bill would very well criminalize counselling and conversations that are freely sought if they seek to limit or change a person's behaviour, orientation or expression.

The bill before us was first tabled as Bill C-8, but as a result of the prorogation of Parliament, it was reintroduced as Bill C-6. For Bill C-8, there were concerns that the definition of conversion therapy was overly broad, and because of the prorogation there was time for the justice minister to offer greater clarity and a precise definition. However, the bill was retabled without the definition being fixed, and after being introduced and having a short amount of time in debate at second reading, Bill C-6 went to committee.

Many members of this chamber voted to send the bill to committee so that the definition could be amended and given more precision. In its meetings, the committee heard from many witnesses and made some amendments to the bill, but it did not fix the definition. Furthermore, gender expression was included.

There are indeed concerns that people have expressed with the bill before us, including many Canadians who want to maintain the freedom and ability to make their own choices.

We heard recently from my colleague for Provencher about Emmanuel who had shared his story about how he was engaged in a lifestyle where he was bullied and shamed by his school peers, because he was gay. Because of this, he hated himself and even tried to kill himself. After his failed suicide attempt, Emmanuel decided to embrace his identity. Throughout this, Emmanuel's family supported and loved him, and because his Christian faith was a big part of his life, he sought counselling in this area. While he found a diversity of approaches, he finally found a counsellor who became a real mentor for him. Emmanuel said that the mentor counselled him in ways he wanted to be challenged, and he credits his counselling for being alive today.

Now, Emmanuel is clear that he is firmly opposed conversion therapy and supports laws to prevent it, but he is also clear that anyone seeking answers on their sexuality should be free to choose the support that they want. He is concerned that the current definition, unless fixed, would prevent this. In the justice committee he said that:

I stand with you in your efforts to see LGBTQ+ individuals protected and loved. Therefore, I ask that you create a well-written bill that truly bans coercive and abusive methods while respecting the individual's freedom at any age to chose the type of support they want and their desired goal. I trust you will make a decision that will benefit and protect the citizens of Canada while upholding fundamental rights and freedoms.

With the passing of Bill C-6, there are many fears that religious counselling would be banned. Many different faith traditions have teachings about human sexuality. Several teach that there is a difference between behaviour and orientation and that they are not the same thing. There is a variety of reasons why someone might not want to act in a particular way, including their personal faith tradition or just not wanting to do something. If a religious leader offers counselling, sharing their experience or a teaching on sexuality, there is a fear that Bill C-6 would criminalize that conversation.

Canadians may have a variety of reasons of why they might want to reduce a particular behaviour, which may be unwanted or undesired. I know people who have porn addictions, and reducing their sexual behaviour is something that they desperately want to do. It is important that we do not remove or eliminate the tools and resources that enable people to be able to seek the support that they want—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

I have to interrupt the hon. member. He will have about one minute and 20 seconds to finish his speech when the bill next comes up for debate.

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

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, the Liberals have one thing among them of which we can be sure: that they will always help their friends to jump the queue, to secure that sole-source contract, to get that insider access and to make sure they are always appointing Liberals to the bench.

Time and time again, the names that are found atop the list of judicial appointments are also found atop the Liberal donor list. This time, the justice minister let it slip that one of his own major donors, not just a donor to the general election fund, but to the minister's nomination campaign and then to his local election campaigns directly, will be receiving an appointment to the bench. This creates the appearance that if lawyers want to be a judge in Canada, they had better start giving to the Liberals instead of focusing on the quality of their work.

Canadians want judges to be appointed on their merit, not on how much they have donated to the Liberals and, specifically, not on how much they have donated to the justice minister. Canadians want a culture change in Ottawa, one that shifts appointments and contracts away from Liberal insiders and back to those who, on their merit alone, are the most deserving. Canadians deserve better.

We have seen it over the last six years. Very notably, as the government spent all kinds of money in aid to folks during the pandemic, the Liberals found themselves at the front of the line. It was not just the WE scandal, the former minister of finance being besties with the Kielburgers or the Prime Minister's ill-fated trip to billionaire island. What about the then fisheries minister and “clam scam” or the then finance minister and his forgotten French villa. On and on it went with ethical lapses of “Oh, I forgot” and “We're not really that close friends and that's why I thought it was okay.”

Here we have a situation where the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, for a second time, has found himself on the front page of the newspapers because his donors find themselves on top of those appointment lists. Most notably in this more recent accidental outburst of honesty from the minister in a now-deleted tweet, we see a donor to the minister's nomination campaign. To outsiders, that might not mean anything, but folks know that when they run to be the candidate of record for a party, it is usually friends and family who find themselves donating to those nomination contests. First is the donation to the nomination and then the donation to the local election campaign. The link is quite clear.

What Canadians want and what Canadians deserve are judicial appointments that do not give the appearance that they are based on anything other than merit. It does a disservice to the lawyers who are nominated, it does a disservice to the Canadians who bring their cases before the courts and it does a disservice to this place when there is the appearance of anything other than the most upright and forthright actions by all members in this place. Canadians have grown tired after six years and now they demand better.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, if we take a look at what has taken place over the last number of years, we see a government that has a appointed more than 450 judges. I would suggest to members that they were exceptional jurists who represented the diversity and strengths within Canada. I see that as a very strong positive. In fact, since 2019, 58% of judicial appointments were women, 5% were indigenous, 16% were visible minorities and 9% were LGBTQ2. Canada is a diverse country, and when we look at the appointments, I am very proud not only of our government's track record in making outstanding judicial appointments, but also of the open, transparent and independent process we put in place to select them.

The member seems to be of the opinion that, if there was a political contribution of some sort, that person should be completely disqualified. I wonder if he would apply that very same principle, if there were appointments that were made of a person who gave a contribution to the Conservative Party. In the Conservative world of Stephen Harper, that might have been one of the criteria, back then, but that is not the criteria that is used by this government and this Prime Minister.

Our appointments are always merit-based; they are also based on the needs of various benches, the expertise of various candidates and the recommendations of independent, and I would like to underline the word “independent”, judicial advisory committees. Our government made important reforms to the appointment process, strengthening it to make it more transparent and more accountable. Under this process, qualified candidates for judicial appointment complete a questionnaire that is submitted to the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs.

The appropriate judicial advisory committee is then required to assess all applications on the basis of three categories: highly recommended, recommended or unable to recommend. The results of these assessments are provided to the Minister of Justice.

Judicial advisory committees are fully independent. They are broadly representative, including three representatives of the public who are chosen through an open application process. Committees are designed so that the assessment of judicial appointments is made by those closest geographically to the court in question and who therefore possess in-depth knowledge of local circumstances and needs.

The point is that there is a change that has taken place between Stephen Harper and the current Prime Minister and government. We finally have a government that is more transparent and more accountable. We have seen over 450 appointments in the last number of years, and these appointments are based on merit. It is the advisory committees that are putting forward these names for recommendation.

Is there a chance some of these members might have contributed to a political party, whether it is Liberal, Conservative, NDP or perhaps even the Bloc? That member probably knows better than I, because I have not done that sort of research, because it was not necessary. Our appointments are based—

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The hon. member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, what the parliamentary secretary is saying is disingenuous.

I would draw his attention to articles from last year in the CBC, The Globe and Mail and a former Liberal staffer even saying, “I denounced practices that raised serious ethical issues. I would have much to say on the topic and feel it would be in the public interest.”

We have cabinet ministers, Liberal MPs, plugged-in lawyers and provincial Liberal Party presidents being consulted on judicial appointments. The PMO tracks these using the Liberal research bureau and the internal party database Liberal list. That is not merit-based selection; that is insider dealings. It is unacceptable, and it undermines Canadians' confidence in the judicial system and in this legislative body.

We deserve better.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the government has delivered better. If we do a comparison between the era when Stephen Harper was prime minister of the Conservative government and what we have today, the member will see that there is a better, more accountable and more transparent appointment process. Our government has appointed over 450 judges, as I said. They are exceptional jurists who represent a diversity of strengths within Canada. The member might not like to hear what I have to say, but that is the reality.

Our appointments are made based on merit, and our advisory committees do a phenomenal job in the canvassing that is necessary to provide recommendations to the government. Since October 2019, 58% of judicial appointments—

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The hon. member for Vancouver East.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, a 2019 report from CMHC shows that 11% of metro condos are owned, at least in part, by people living outside of Canada. According to Andy Yan, director of the SFU city program, who did a further analysis into the numbers, of the 965 billion dollars' worth of residential real estate in the Vancouver census metropolitan area, $75 billion is tied to at least one non-resident owner. Out of that 75 billion dollars' worth of residential real estate, at least 34 billion dollars' worth is owned by non-residents in Vancouver. Since Vancouver's residential real estate is estimated to be in the range of $341 billion, this means that about 10% of the residential real estate in the city involves non-residents.

Andy Yan also indicated that foreign ownership is particularly high in the condo market. In the case of Richmond, one in four recently built condos has a non-residential owner. Yan's analysis shows that one in five of our new condos is being purchased by those who do not even live in the country. He notes that it has taken 10 years to get this information, and he rightfully asks this: Now that we have the data, what are we going to do about the fact that one in five of our new condos is being purchased by those who don't even live in the country?

The government, in the first budget that has been tabled in two years, responded with a 1% tax on vacant homes owned by non-Canadians living outside of Canada. The idea is to target people who are solely interested in contributing to and profiting from the unsustainable increases in Canada's housing market. While it is a step in the right direction, it is merely a passing nod to the uncontrollable cost of housing. Given that the cost of housing in Canada increased in 2020 by 31% alone, does the minister believe that a 1% tax on vacant homes owned by non-Canadians living outside of Canada will deter foreign investors from fuelling and benefiting from the housing market?

The NDP believes the tax should be much stronger and that we can do better. We are concerned that 1% will not be much of a deterrent given that the cost of housing increased 31% on average in 2020 alone. Even the parliamentary secretary to the minister of housing recently admitted that things are not working for Canadians. He said that Canada is “a very safe market for foreign investment but we’re not a great market for Canadians looking for choices around housing.” Meaningful action needs to be taken to address this growing concern.

For comparison, in B.C. the tax on foreign-owned properties, combined with the speculation vacancy tax, amounts to 2.5% annually, plus a 20% foreign buyers tax in metro Vancouver. The government's proposal is very narrow and must be increased. The government should, at the very least, expand the initiatives in B.C. nationally.

This must also be combined with other measures to address the housing crisis. The government needs to step up in supporting the provinces and FINTRAC with resources for combatting money laundering; must introduce other measures, such as a beneficial ownership registry, to increase transparency about who owns real properties; and should make tax avoidance of capital gains on secondary residences more difficult. The government should also take action to stop tax evasion on the capital gains tax for secondary homes.

Urgent action is needed. We need a comprehensive package to address the out-of-control costs for housing, including home ownership. The time to act is long overdue.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Vancouver East is absolutely correct on almost all of what she just said. I did say in an interview a few weeks ago that we have found ourselves with a housing system that makes it easier for foreign investors to purchase and own property in this country than for Canadians to achieve their dream of home ownership, particularly for first-time homeowners.

That situation must change. It is why we have introduced the vacant home tax for offshore owners. It is also why we are working with the Province of British Columbia on money laundering and making sure that FINTRAC has the resources to uncover that part of the investment portfolio, which not only is illegal but is also driving up home prices for Canadians. It is why we have taken steps in the recent budget to move forward on beneficial ownership disclosure. It is a complex issue, based largely on the way the secondary mortgage market operates, but we have work to do there. I agree that work must be done.

We have also taken steps to build bridges for home ownership for first-time buyers with the first-time home buyer incentive, which has now been modelled around, for the very first time in CMHC's history, regional housing markets to support the acquisition of homes for those people choosing to own their homes.

We have also done things like portfolio funding for Habitat for Humanity to help with targeted approaches to equity-seeking groups and equity-deserving groups in the home ownership market, to make sure that others who have different barriers to home ownership also have an opportunity to make that choice, if that is the choice they want to make.

What has been disappointing is that the Conservatives, who often talk only about market housing, have opposed every single one of our reforms in market housing. While the NDP has spoken very strongly and is a strong supporter of our national housing strategy, it is good to see it now taking on the challenge of market housing—

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

I am sorry. There was some interference, which seems to have stopped.

Could the hon. parliamentary secretary repeat the last two sentences?

Please proceed.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Spadina—Fort York, ON

I will just conclude by saying that we are very pleased that the NDP is now recognizing that housing affordability and affordable housing are paired as critical issues. We look forward to the NDP supporting our budget and the measures we have taken this year. We look forward to working on this file with the NDP and other interested parties, because the impact of high housing prices is a land value issue, and that land value issue is now making affordable housing harder to build in the social sector.

We need to address both issues simultaneously in order to give Canadians the choices they deserve. Our government is committed to exploring all of the options and moving on all of these files to make home ownership a possibility for all Canadians, if that is their choice.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, the Liberals' national housing strategy aims to create 150,000 to 160,000 units of new affordable housing over 10 years. As stated by Tim Richter from The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, the budget has “[l]ittle new dedicated affordable and supportive housing construction”. He goes on to say, “To have a fighting chance at ending homelessness and addressing housing need, Canada will need to build at least 300,000 new deep subsidy, permanently affordable and supportive housing units”.

The Liberal plan consistently falls well short of what housing advocates are calling for to address the housing crisis. The NDP wants to see a commitment of 500,000 units, and we will continue to push the federal government to increase investments for the construction of new social and non-profit housing. The NDP is also calling on the government to limit the ability of REITs and large capital funds to acquire properties and contribute to the financialization of the housing market. Given the ongoing housing crisis across the country, urgent action is needed now.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Spadina—Fort York, ON

Madam Speaker, the member for Vancouver East and I have run in two general elections at the same time, and I would compare our party platform side-by-side to the NDP platform with her any single day to compare the differences. Not only have we promised more, we have delivered more. Not only have we built more, we are building more. Not only are we talking about repairs, which the NDP's platforms have never done, we are also talking about making sure that all the co-ops and subsidized housing in the federal programs get restored.

Our program is real. It is building real housing for real people. If building housing was as easy as booking a trip to Disneyland and figuring out how to pay for it later, I am sure the member opposite would have some advice. The reality is we are not interested in those sort of hairy, ridiculous schemes. We are actually interested in building real housing for real people in real time. The rapid housing initiative is just the latest installment of what has been a very successful national housing strategy, almost doubling the targeted number of housing starts. We are back at it again with rapid housing 2.0.

Success is on the horizon, and we are pursuing it. Our platform will pursue it because our budgets are pursuing it and because our housing starts speak for themselves.

Tourism IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tako Van Popta Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Madam Speaker, last month I put a question to the Minister of Transport about his unilateral decision to extend the cruise ship ban for another year, until February of 2022. The effect of that ban is that no passenger vessels can come into a Canadian port until at least February of 2022. That ban started with the pandemic, of course, and killed the cruising industry in Canada, particularly in my home province of British Columbia on the west coast. It killed it last year, and it is probably going to kill it completely this year. The concern is this. What is the ban going to do to the industry next year and going forward?

The answer I got from the minister was inadequate and missed the point, so I am happy to have this opportunity to expand on it.

The cruise industry is a very important segment of Canada's tourism sector, especially on the west coast in British Columbia. I said in my intervention last month that, every time a cruise ship stops by either the ports of Victoria or Vancouver on its way up to Alaska from Seattle, another million dollars gets pumped into the economy. These are the bus drivers, tour operators, taxi drivers, restaurant and store owners, and farmers, who grow the food that provision the ships when they come in, so it is a big industry and a lot of people are hurting.

In his answer, the minister said his major concern was the health and safety of Canadians and seeing Canada through the pandemic. Of course, we agree with that, but here is the thing. The Americans are now looking at a way to at least salvage the second half of the cruise industry in Alaska for this year. They are as frustrated with the minister's unilateral decision as we are on our side of the border. They were not consulted at all and this is an international endeavour, because cruising is cross-border.

The Americans have figured out a way around it. They are going to amend their legislation, which was designed initially many years ago to protect American jobs, and I do not know if it ever had the effect of doing that, but inadvertently it had a very beneficial impact on Canadian tourism. That American legislation required vessels to stop at a foreign port before stopping in another American port. That is what kick-started the tourism industry in Canada. I guess we thought that was maybe a safety check for us, but the Americans have figured out a way around it. This is American legislation. They can amend it, and they did amend it.

I told the minister about this three months ago, back in March. I said that the Americans were contemplating it, and I do not think he took it seriously. Now, the Americans have done it. Both houses of Congress, in an uncharacteristic time of unity, passed it unanimously, and President Biden has now signed it into law.

The Americans will salvage the second part of the cruising season. They figured out they are ahead of us in vaccinating their citizens of course, but we are catching up, so we are looking for a more creative solution than just an outright ban. The Americans were telling us our minister did not consult with them. He just went ahead and made this announcement. It is very frustrating for them.

My questions for the minister are as follows: First, why did he not consult with his American counterparts before coming up with this unilateral decision, knowing how important co-operation is for this industry? Second, is there any chance the second half of the Alaskan cruise season could be rescued? Third, what is the plan going forward? Do we know if there will be a cruise industry in Canada going forward?

Tourism IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

June 7th, 2021 / 7:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I will do my best to provide an answer for my friend.

There are a couple of things I would call into question, in terms of accuracy. For example, the member said that the U.S.A. is ahead of Canada on the vaccine front. I might question that. In fact, today, if we look at the first dosage, Canada is number one in the G20 countries. The United States is a G20 country. On a per capita, on the first dose, Canada is doing better than any other country in the G20. Anyway, that is not the subject matter.

When we think of the cruise industry as a whole, the Government of Canada is very much aware of it. It is sympathetic and wants to do whatever it can to protect the longevity of that industry.

It is important for us to realize that the federal minister responsible does listen to public health officials. That goes beyond the public health officials here in Canada. The minister listens to provincial public health officials and territorial health officials. Consultations are done with indigenous and Inuit groups.

I would like to remind my colleague that at present our borders remain closed. This also has an impact on those exemptions.

In regard to the cruise ships on the west coast, while exemptions to the current interim order prohibiting cruise ships are in fact possible, the granting of any exemptions would only be considered once public health officials have advised us that it is safe to do so.

It is not that the minister just wakes up one morning and decides to do something. There is a great deal of background work, keeping in mind the importance of consultations taking place and the feedback that is coming into the department concerning the industry specifically.

If we look at the tourism industry and the supports the government has provided, business, tourism, and the arts and culture sectors have received an estimated $15.4 billion in federal emergency liquidity support through such programs as the Canada emergency wage subsidy program, the commercial rent subsidy program and the lockdown supports since the beginning of the pandemic.

The government has been there in a very real and tangible way, because we understand how important the tourism industry as a whole is to Canada. We want to be there for the people who are dependent on this industry. We want to be there in that tangible way.

When the time is right, when the health care experts, and the provinces and territories, and people are on side, saying that it is safe to do so, we will move forward. We will be in a better position to do that. Statistically, our numbers clearly demonstrate that, in terms of the return to work, where it has actually taken place in the past. In comparisons, Canada does a very good job. We will continue—