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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was regard.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for London—Fanshawe (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act October 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, in my riding of London—Fanshawe there is a desperate need for affordable housing.

Families are struggling to find housing for their children so that these children have a safe place to live and from which to go to school. Young mothers are struggling to find the housing they need to escape abusive relationships. Seniors whose pensions have not kept up with inflation now need to find affordable housing. None of this needs to happen. This bill would help to alleviate the housing burden placed on people in my riding and across Canada.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation plans to fund only 8,217 new affordable housing units this year. This is down from over 20,000 last year. Alarmingly, CMHC is projected to build only 1,642 affordable housing units in 2007. This significant decrease will put more Canadians at risk of homelessness.

This bill, sponsored by my hon. colleague, would have CMHC profits that exceed 0.5% distributed to the provinces for social and affordable housing, encourage the supply of quality housing at affordable prices, increase housing choices for people, and create and develop housing cooperatives. I would like to stress the importance of each of these.

First, on cooperative housing, the last federally funded co-op, Talisman Woods, was built in my riding in 1993. This project was extremely important to the community. It allowed the people at Talisman Woods to purchase their units from a landlord who had neglected necessary repairs. This community changed a mouldy, leaky, rundown three storey walk-up into homes in which they could take great pride.

More federally funded projects would definitely benefit those in need in other communities. Cooperative housing not only provides affordable housing but it also provides a community for people to come together.

Social and affordable housing is a critical need in many cities across this nation. There are approximately 150,000 homeless people in Canada. This represents close to 0.47% of the Canadian population and does not include people living in substandard, overcrowded or temporary housing. Based on statistics of shelter use across Canada, nearly one person in every 200 is homeless in Canada.

We also need the supply of quality housing at affordable prices. The economy in provinces like Alberta is booming right now--we have all heard about that--and the cost of housing has skyrocketed. The housing market cannot keep up with demand, especially the demand for affordable housing. People are left with few options and no place to live, and winter is coming, winter in Alberta.

Choice in housing is also crucial. Often, affordable or social housing options are relegated to certain neighbourhoods or apartment buildings. This can hinder the homelessness problem rather than solve it. For example, most affordable housing is in apartments which are not always ideal for families. Often more space is needed. By relegating social housing to certain communities, it very often forces families to move out of their own home communities. People are removed not only from their homes and their communities, but also from their friends and the support and safety networks that they need. Children may be forced to change schools.

As members can see, the case for increased housing choice is critical.

There are two more points I would like to make here. First, I want to emphasize the importance of this bill, especially in light of the Conservative government's current assault on affordable housing. The budget for CMHC has been cut by $45 million. This could have a very real impact on CMHC's ability to administer affordable housing in this country.

According to documents obtained by my office, the cuts, we are told, are merely lower than forecasted interest rates and lower than expected inflation. Either the Conservative government is actually making cuts to the program or it is just shuffling numbers. I really cannot believe that the government is touting that it is saving $45 million because interest rates are lower than expected. That is not something that the Conservative government did, nor can it take credit for it. That money belongs to the Canadian people and should be invested in affordable housing and it should be invested now. No one in Canada should have to face a cold winter without a roof over his or her head.

In my riding of London—Fanshawe, the minister responsible for CMHC promised last August that all SCPI funding had been allocated. When that was found to be untrue, after intense community and media pressure, the money was quickly re-promised. We now find today that this money has still not been received by nine of the ten organizations that were guaranteed their funding was in place. These organizations include the London Homeless Coalition, the AIDS Committee of London, Street Connection, the London Housing Registry, Youth Action Centre, and two first nations organizations. The clock is ticking and one by one these organizations will be forced to scale down, lay off workers or even shut down all together.

It is very clear to me that the government is not making housing, shelters or advocacy for the poor a priority.

The agenda appears to be to give organizations their money as late as possible in the fiscal year. By doing this the government makes it impossible for these groups to spend the money before the end of the fiscal year, March 31. This allows the Conservatives to stand up and declare that funding can be cut because these groups did not use all the money they asked for. This is dirty politics and it is simply not acceptable.

It is very clear that this bill needs to pass so that some money will have to be allocated to affordable housing in this country.

Last, it is my grave concern that this same money may in the end not amount to very much. The recent changes to mortgage insurance which opens up mortgage insurance to competition will negatively affect the profits of CMHC. The current system allows for people who cannot afford a full down payment on a home to still have an opportunity to purchase that home.

It allows low and middle income families across the country access to mortgage insurance. This helps provide working families with safe quality housing. The system also allows for community based groups to have access to insurance rates so that they can build and maintain supportive and other special needs housing.

The current system of a lower flat rate available to everyone is necessary for the housing market and critical for affordable housing developers. If the rate of mortgage insurance premiums are too high, it makes it very difficult, if not outright impossible, to build affordable housing.

Mortgage insurance is a good business for the government. It generates money. In 2005 the net income from mortgage insurance for CMHC was $951 million. While the market has already been partially opened to allow a private company to also provide insurance, the government is now opening up the competition to others leaving no protection for low or middle income families and no option for funding affordable housing.

By opening up the market and letting more corporations compete to provide mortgage insurance without any safeguards, fair access for higher risk and rural Canadians may be in jeopardy. Think of those rural Canadians, Mr. Speaker. We need to provide some way to ensure equality of access by region and by income strata.

As a crown corporation, CMHC must be concerned about profits certainly, but since its only shareholder is the Government of Canada, it has the ability to address the welfare of Canadians instead of just the bottom line.

I have seen no evidence that opening up the system to a number of competitors will actually help people who are looking for mortgage insurance. Nor have I seen any studies that have shown the status quo is problematic. A significant portion of CMHC's business is in markets that are not served by the only existing private mortgage insurer. Opening up the market to more insurers will not bode well for CMHC and will compromise its ability to reinvest money into affordable housing.

This bill has the potential to reach out and help more Canadians who need safe, affordable housing. I encourage all members to support it because, what more important use of public resources is there than securing safe and affordable housing for the community that is the public.

Pay Equity September 20th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, yesterday my office received the government's response to a report from the status of women committee, which outlined the need for proactive pay equity legislation in Canada. The government is ignoring the committee's recommendations and is flat out stating that there will be no new pay equity legislation.

The need for this legislation is clear. In May 2004, after three years of research and consultation with over 200 stakeholder groups, the Department of Justice called for the government to replace the current complaints based model with proactive legislation.

The Liberals failed to act on this report, and now the Conservatives are also refusing to draft legislation.

With national women's organizations shutting down due to stalled funding, it is becoming clear that the Conservatives want to take Canada back 25 years. Women who have full time jobs still only earn 71¢ for every dollar earned by a man. This is clearly not equality. This is an embarrassment.

Adjournment Proceedings September 18th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I know all about the $1.4 billion of the $1.6 billion of NDP Bill C-48 money. I know about that and I would like to remind the minister through her parliamentary secretary that this is not a game of words and empty promises. It is about the lives and well-being of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities: women suffering in violent situations, their children, people suffering from mental illness, and seniors who cannot make ends meet.

I want to reiterate that her ministry and the government committed an outrage against Canadians, whom they are obliged to protect with true funding. There is no excuse for what transpired. There is no excuse at all for the failure to unequivocally state that after March 31, 2007, there will be funding in the budget for housing and a definitive program to ensure a national housing strategy that guarantees housing, a fundamental human right.

Adjournment Proceedings September 18th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister responsible for CMHC to clarify what the parliamentary secretary stated in question period on June 20. In her response to my question, the parliamentary secretary stated:

--the minister has confirmed that she has reached an agreement with the province of British Columbia to transfer the administration of federal resources for existing social housing from CMHC to the Government of British Columbia.

I would like the minister to clarify what the agreement made with British Columbia is, in particular, how the federal resources for social housing will be distributed by British Columbia.

I would also like the minister to clarify if she is in negotiations with other provinces to reach similar arrangements, and if so, what deals have been reached.

I am particularly concerned how the federal funding will be used for low income housing if the programs have been outsourced to the provinces. The best way to ensure that all Canadians have access to safe, affordable housing is to set federal guidelines that ensure that access through federal programs.

Finally, in my riding of London—Fanshawe, My Sister's Place, a women's shelter funded through the federal SCPI program, was told its funding was cut and it was faced with closing its doors.

I asked in June for the minister to ensure all housing funding was in place. Despite her assurances, funding for homeless advocates was cut in several communities. Only after intense pressure from the community, the media and the NDP in August did the funding miraculously reappear just a few weeks ago.

This is not acceptable. As I have previously stated, shelters are the last line of defence for preventing homelessness. With funding cuts consistently looming overhead, how is an organization supposed to help the most vulnerable people in our community?

I would like the minister to answer my question. Will the minister invest in a federal homelessness strategy, a true national housing program, and protect the most vulnerable people in this country?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns September 18th, 2006

With regard to government action in response to the fifth periodic report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: (a) is the government addressing the 23 recommendations contained in the report; (b) what action has the government taken in addressing these recommendations; and (c) will the government consult with women’s non-governmental organisations in preparing the next report?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns September 18th, 2006

With regard to House committee reports on the subject of status of women, how has the government provided action on: (a) the 1991 report titled “The war against women : report of the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, Social Affairs, Seniors and the Status of Women”; (b) the 1991 government response “Living without Fear Everyone’s Goal, Every Women’s Right”; (c) the 2005 report titled “Increasing Funding to Equality-Seeking Organizations”; (d) the 2005 government response titled “First Report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women (study on the concerns of women's organizations and equality-seeking organizations)”; (e) the 2005 report titled “Gender-Based Analysis: Building Blocks for Success”; (f) the 2005 government response titled “Second Report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women: Gender-Based Analysis: Building Blocks for Success”; (g) the 2005 report titled “Gender-Based Analysis: Building Blocks for Success”; (h) the 2005 government response titled “Funding through the women's program: Women's groups speak out”; (i) the 2005 report titled “Pay Equity”; (j) the 2005 government response titled “Fourth Report of the Committee on the Status of Women, Moving Forward on the Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations”; and (k) the 2005 report titled “Interim Report on the Maternity and Parental Benefits Under Employment Insurance: The Exclusion of Self-Employed Workers”?

Questions on the Order Paper September 18th, 2006

With regard to government affordable housing programs, is it the intention of the government to: (a) cease funding for the programs after March 31, 2007; (b) renew all programs that are due to expire after March 31, 2007; and (c) renew funding after March 31, 2007, for the following programs, (i) Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative (SCPI), (ii) Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP), (iii) Home Adaptations for Seniors' Independance (HASI), (iv) Emergency Repair Program (ERP)?

Questions Passed as Orders for Return June 22nd, 2006

With regard to the government's agreements with the provinces for funding for affordable housing: (a) what are the exact parameters of the agreements with each province specifically; (b) what restrictions, if any, will be placed on the money spent; (c) how is affordable housing defined; (d) can money be used to upgrade current housing stock or is it strictly for new housing; and (e) will the government maintain previous multi-year housing agreements?

Housing June 20th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, that is one province. This is a big country. The Conservative government refuses to commit to continue funding projects for emergency shelters and homeless people. Shelters are the last line of defence for preventing homelessness and many will be left with no choice but to close down this fall.

Will the minister stand up for Canada, invest in a federal homelessness strategy and protect the most vulnerable people in this country?

Housing June 20th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, today in Vancouver the United Nations has brought together affordable housing advocates to stress the dire need for affordable housing in Canada and around the world.

The Conservative government has no plan for housing in Canada. The one-time payment will not put a dent in the housing crisis. Families are being evicted. People are forced to live on the streets. The need for decent housing only grows.

Will the minister commit today to funding a national housing strategy that would give all Canadians access to safe, affordable housing?