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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was countries.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Edmonton East (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 53% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Homelessness March 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I agree. That is why I have specifically left the definitions out. That should be done in concert with exploring the reasons that the United States has lined up with the definitions that they use.

As I mentioned to the other member, there may be things we want to add, such as other investigative techniques, in order to Canadianize the count. The two most important ones are those who are living raw, out of the shelters, and those who are living in the shelters. Those are the two statistical numbers that should be common throughout North America.

Homelessness March 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. There is obviously more work we can do on a broader scope to find other social problems that we have.

The two sections in the point-in-time count, those who are homeless and not in shelters and those who are in shelters, do not preclude adding other documentation in order to poll other constituencies as well. This has been done in many American cities. However, the two areas that we want to line up with HUD on are the ones without shelter at all and the ones who are staying in shelters. Other issues can be added to the counts.

Homelessness March 24th, 2014

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, one nationally standardized “point in time” should be recommended for use in all municipalities in carrying out homeless counts, with (a) nationally recognized definitions of who is homeless; (b) nationally recognized methodology on how the count takes place; and (c) the same agreed-upon criteria and methodology in determining who is considered to be homeless.

Mr. Speaker, the wording of my motion is clear.

The motion's objective is to get the right amount of social services resources support to the right people. For example, some might see the motion as an attempt to cut supports to those most in need, but the intent is exactly the opposite. As parliamentarians, we all have a social conscience and an undeniable responsibility to those most disadvantaged, in dire straits and need. If we parliamentarians are to be proper and worthy stewards of taxpayer dollars, we should make sure we are getting value for money by being fiscally responsible.

We should also ensure that we are spending what is needed to address homelessness, such that we maximize the number of persons in need who we help. We can only do that if we know with some level of precision how extensive the problem really is. Right now there are multiple counts, multiple methodologies, multiple criteria, and not insignificantly, multiple agendas.

A national point in time would remove confusions surrounding counts of Canadian homeless people presently being done by municipalities, by establishing common definitions, common methodology, and a common count date. It would use the best practices introduced in the United States by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. intergovernmental agency on homeless to ensure a national point in time. To maximize accuracy of the homeless count and statistical analysis so that both countries can collaborate to address concerns, it would provide all levels of government with reasonably accurate data to allow more proper allocation of resources to solving the homeless problem.

The point in time should be established as the last week in January, regardless of local climate factors. This date would minimize the chance of recording those who are merely transient and not truly homeless, those who may choose to live or camp outdoors in warmer weather while visiting the city or visiting friends and family. Major cities frequently have transient warm weather populations who are not truly homeless, but rather, just visiting in the warmer months and saving on accommodation. Many would stay in and pay for low-cost youth hostels, if available, or if allowed to. Many more would camp out and pay if there were any camping spaces in or near the downtown. Few are absolutely homeless. They have homes, but not in Edmonton or whichever city they are visiting.

When counts are done other than in the coldest of weather, many of those counted are visiting, people who do have housing alternatives elsewhere, but for personal reasons are not accessing emergency shelters at that point in time. Counting these people serves to confuse efforts to try to help those who are truly homeless with absolutely no means to attain housing alternatives and are in desperate need.

Different Canadian cities do their homeless counts at different times, making a statistically accurate number problematic. At present, only the City of Calgary conducts its count in January, as does the entire United States, regardless of climate, with others in Canada being conducted variously in March, April, May, and October. There is a notable, dramatic difference in count numbers of the absolute homeless, those literally on the street, in all of the Canadian cities counted. Examples are Edmonton, which does its count in early October when it is still relatively mild, and Calgary, a city of similar size. It is hard to imagine that there are 64 truly homeless people living outside in the cold in Calgary while Edmonton has a count of 1,070 homeless living outside. When the count is done does make a difference.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, states that there must be a common national point in time for counts in the last seven days of the month of January. Further, it states that defining the scope of homelessness has proven controversial since the issue first gained broad public attention during the 1980s. Public debate has revolved around how widely to view the scope of residential instability and how to target scarce resources to address it.

In general, residential stability can be divided into two broad categories of people: those who are literally homeless and those who are precariously housed.

Literally homeless defines the people who, for various reasons, have found it necessary to live in emergency shelters or transitional housing for some period of time. This category also includes unsheltered homeless people who sleep in places not meant for human habitation—for example, streets, parks, abandoned buildings, subway tunnels—and who may also use shelters on an intermittent basis.

The precariously housed are people on the edge of becoming literally homeless, who may be doubled up with friends or relatives or paying extremely high portions of their resources for rent. This group is often characterized as being at imminent risk of becoming homeless.

HUD's assistance program specifically targets persons living in shelters or in places not meant for human habitation but not people in precarious housing situations or couch surfing.

It is important that the literally homeless situations are distinct and separately enumerated from couch surfers or other precariously housed persons and are not included as part of the Canadian homeless count, as the count is to determine the level of government services necessary to assist the truly homeless needs. Some may be at risk of becoming homeless, but while they are couch surfing with family or friends or precariously housed, they can be considered to have a home or have the means and wherewithal to access shelter and are not necessarily a draw on social services.

Prisons, hospitals, and special care treatment centres should also not be included in homeless number counts in Canada. These people should not be considered homeless until they are discharged or voluntarily leave and then may or may not be homeless, depending upon their financial means or their own housing alternatives at that specific time.

We should not be postulating on who may be homeless in the future but concentrating on those who are actually homeless at the present time.

HUD's definition of “chronic homeless” is:

...an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, OR...has had...four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

To be considered chronically homeless, persons must have been “sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation (e.g. living on the streets...) OR...in...emergency shelter” during that time.

HUD's definition of an “episode of homelessness” is “...a separate, distinct, and sustained stay on the streets and/or in a homeless emergency shelter”.

Now, HUD's definition of “chronic homelessness” does not include families. Families rarely enter the shelter system. They are given immediate accommodation by social services and funding towards more permanent housing rental accommodation. In addition, to be identified as chronically homeless, an individual must have a disabling condition, defined as follows:

...a diagnosable substance abuse disorder, serious mental illness, developmental disability, or chronic physical illness or disability, including the co-occurrence of two or more of these conditions. ...a disabling condition limits an individual's ability to work or perform one or more activities of daily living.

As can be seen, the United States intergovernmental agency on homelessness, while instituting a national point in time definition, recognizes that the chronically homeless are a priority but need to be carefully defined so the maximum of homeless persons can be helped with the limited resources available.

The easy part is to have Parliament approve the principle of point in time legislation. The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness is calling for national point in time counts and national standards. It is correct in that it is essential to align homeless criteria continent-wise.

The more difficult part is to agree together on the definitions, including when, who, how, and why the counts should be conducted throughout North America.

Also difficult would be to convince Canadian municipalities to accept standardized definitions, fact-based definitions that would provide a common national and international perspective, regardless of local and regional Canadian social welfare variant present models.

There are many contrary agendas afloat. Once an agreement on how to proceed is made, the cost to do so would be minimal or neutral as, presently, the various cities are conducting government-funded counts now.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, as well as individual municipal and provincial planning and priorities homelessness groups, are united behind a call for federal money. They claim that the cost to Canada for homelessness is now $7 billion annually and rising. They say that great savings can be accomplished if the federal government would commit more money. In Edmonton alone, they say, taxpayers will save $2 billion over 10 years, if they spend only $1 billion.

The numbers for the present costs are questionably high. Also questionable is the description of the needs of the homeless population, both current and projected, by variant count methodologies and definitions.

Today, it would be very difficult for anyone to argue against reform of the process to better and more accurately direct resources to needs. It is time for real numbers, by nationally and internationally approved standards being employed, to allow our government to continue its good work in helping the vulnerable population.

There is a great need in Canada to step up to our collective awareness and intelligence of the true homelessness situation and that population's needs. Canada should perhaps have an institution that is comparable to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, to focus on resources needed and to bring about solutions that maximize effort for those in need.

I would like to read where some of the confusion comes in, which is from a book that I brought out in 2000. In six homelessness reports that I reviewed, there were some 36 different definitions of what a homeless person is.

Members might like to hear some of those definitions, as follows: people living in transitional accommodation, ready to be discharged; people expected to be on the street at the end of this day; people expected to be on the street in the immediate future; people having low income; people having no permanent place to reside; people staying in a temporary form of situation; people who have ended up staying with friends; people living in housing that is extremely expensive; people living in overcrowded or inadequate housing; people living in substandard hotels and rooming houses; people living in housing not within easy reach of employment and costing more than 50% of income; people who lack privacy, security, and tenant document rights; people with problems of mental health or social disorganization; people who are not a member of a stable group; people paying more than 30% of their income for rent; people having no home or permanent place of residence; people who have the quality and the state of being homeless; people suffering from the homeless disease.

As members can see, there is a wide variance of opinions on who is homeless, and this manifests itself in one homelessness count after another. Unfortunately, as I said, the homelessness plan developed in Edmonton was to cost $1 billion over 10 years, and it is doubtful that it will do what it claimed, which is to end homelessness. It would help the homeless people, but $1 billion, in my opinion, would not be sufficient to end the homeless situation in Edmonton. We need to come up with proper definitions and how to approach it. We need a proper way to count them, so we can be together from one end of the country to the other.

We could also be aligned with what the United States is doing. Many of its northern border states are within 100 or 200 miles of our cities in the southern part of Canada. It is imperative that we too experience it and go forward in sync. Hopefully, Ottawa can work with Washington to come up with progressive plans to help this problem and to help homeless people.

Henry Taschuk March 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I pay tribute to a dedicated educator and family man who touched the lives of many, leaving an indelible mark of excellence in his community. Henry Taschuk was a teacher, a math consultant, a principal for Edmonton public schools, and a hockey and softball coach in the community. He was profoundly admired, respected, loved, and appreciated by the thousands of students he taught and mentored during his 35-year career.

A loving husband for 46 years to Jean, a devoted father to daughters Stephanie, Jennifer, and son-in-law Martin, and adoring granddad to Cassidy and Jude, Henry was a true family man, always taking great pride in his Ukrainian heritage and rural upbringing and delighting in traditional gatherings with extended family and friends. We have many fond memories of Henry's brilliant sense of humour and his genuine love of family and children. I am proud to have called him not only my brother-in-law but my friend.

On February 28, Henry Taschuk passed away. Henry, rest in peace. You are greatly missed.

Ukraine February 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, twice in 10 years I stood on stage in Ukraine's Independence Square speaking to hundreds of thousands gathered in revolt against, ironically, the very same president, Yanukovych, for the same reason: cheating Ukrainians of their democratic rights. This revolution, though, had one important difference: linguistic inclusivity. Russian-speaking and Ukrainian-speaking people all gathered together with one voice of protest at Euromaidan, representing eastern Ukraine, western Ukraine, the Crimea, representing linguistic national unity.

As Ukraine's parliament guides the path of the nation's future, may they project a positive message of national consultation to address all concerns of linguistic inclusion to forge a common agreement. Language is the heart and soul of the person, of the family, of the community, and of well-being. Excluding a community or region's first spoken language in governance would needlessly divide. Linguistic fairness is essential as Ukrainians journey together through the national challenges that lie ahead.

Slava Ukraini.

Ukraine February 26th, 2014

Mr. Chair, the difficulties that Ukraine has been going through sourcing its fuel and its gas supplies was mentioned earlier. The challenge was to turn away from the sources supplied to Russia to being supplied, or helped out, by the European Union. Earlier today, at committee meeting, there was a discussion on this and it evolved around the knowledge that Ukraine has huge resources of shale gas and other gas supplies that have not been developed. I felt that Russia holding Ukraine up for that trade contract over gas was repulsive.

This resource that is in the ground is being numbered into the multi-multi-billions. Does my colleague think perhaps that resource could be mortgaged, or bridge financed, to give Ukraine the short-term financial assistance it needs? This would not be just a gift to Ukraine, but an actual investment by some of the western countries that know how to put these financial packages together. With some $15 billion in resources sitting under the feet of Ukrainians, it would do well to have $10 billion of that released by some form of mortgaging by international companies that could co-operate on it.

What does the member think?

Ukraine February 26th, 2014

Mr. Chair, I would agree with my colleague across the aisle, that for those who think it is a divided nation wanting to turn its back on Russia, it is just not so.

From a trade perspective, when I was in the Euromaidan, I spoke on stage there. Part of my speech to the group there was that we stand with them for freedom and economic and civil trade engagements, not just with the east, not just with the west, but with the world, as truly a nation of the world.

Newspapers have been writing that somehow this was a decision of whether to trade with Russia or trade with the rest of the world. It was not. One-third of Ukraine's trade now is with Russia. Another third of its trade is with Europe, and the other third is with the world. Ukraine plainly wants to maintain that. The arrangement with Russia would have stopped the other two-thirds from happening, by having an emphasis on open borders with Russia and more exclusivity in trading with Russia.

Ukraine does not want to turn its back on Russia. Ukraine has a long history with Russia, but Ukrainians want to have the opportunity to trade with the world as they wish.

Ukraine February 26th, 2014

Mr. Chair, I have not heard of any specific numbers.

Given the circumstances, it is comparable to the Orange Revolution. I believe we had some 1,000 Canadians over there for the Orange Revolution. There was a tremendous number who travelled to monitor the election.

As I was saying earlier, this would be an opportune time to have as many parliamentarians as we can have so that they can interact with parliamentarians there, perhaps across the region. I never travel on these types of election monitoring missions unless I am engaged in other activities while I am there. For example, on the last one, I had the time to visit universities and talk about theology and religious backgrounds. I wanted to delve into the impact of religion on politics in Ukraine. It does have an impact there.

I would again strongly suggest that perhaps an official program be set up so that our parliamentarians can be engaged to interact with the parliamentarians there, and take some time while they are there to help answer some of the questions their parliamentarians have, to give them some guidance and direction, as well as for our parliamentarians to learn from them about how they conduct their political affairs so that we can both gain knowledge from it.

Ukraine February 26th, 2014

Mr. Chair, I do. I think it will be part of what we can do to help. We can see it from the interns who have been coming here to our offices. I have had an intern from the Ukraine for 10 to 12 years now.

I might add that when I returned to Euromaidan and spoke to the crowd there, I was ushered around the square by various interns who have been here in offices in this country. Without their help, I might have had some problems, particularly as my Ukrainian is non-existent.

It worked out very well. We contacted the former intern from my office before I left. I might add, I went on my own nickel. It was very good to have him help us out. Absolutely, I would encourage all parliamentarians to please invite interns to work in their offices if they have not had one previously.

Ukraine February 26th, 2014

Mr. Chair, first I would like to express my deepest condolences and sorrow for those heroes who lost their lives or were badly injured in Ukraine, and for their families. I join with others in my great concern for the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. The true price of freedoms and democratic values is paid too many times with the blood and lives of patriots.

I have visited Ukraine 10 times and been there for eight elections. I will take us back and reiterate some of the points I have seen progressing on this. This is the second time in 10 years that we have seen what I would call a revolution. There was the Orange Revolution, and now we have the Euromaidan revolution. The tactic then was the same as it is now with the same actors and the same players. It was Yanukovych and Putin both times. Yanukovych was removed both times.

The tactics at that time included ballot-box stuffing. I was at a prison in southern Ukraine and have pictures of an empty ballot box brought into a voting area and a bag of ballots. I have the actual picture of it. It was incredible. At that time, there was no consideration or thought that they were doing anything really wrong. As a matter of fact, no one in the area said anything until the person who brought in the ballot box saw me standing there, whereupon he quickly ducked into a corner and put a coat over it. Of the 20 other people who were in that area, no one said anything. It was just another act of the day.

Things have changed since then. Now in the current circumstances after the election of 2010, we have the same actor, but one who now knows how to keep the cheating invisible. They know enough now not to do it visibly like that, where people can take pictures and report it.

During the Orange Revolution in 2004, when I stood on stage in front of 500,000 people, I felt very comfortable being there because I saw the cheating and could directly speak about how their vote was stolen.

After the 2010 election, he was duly accepted by the international community. However, during that election the opposition, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, split the vote. That was really the problem they had; they could not get together. They lost because they could not bring their factions together. All they did was fight among themselves, which was very unfortunate.

Now Yanukovych is in power. What does he do? He drops all of his promises and commitments, and changes the constitution so that he can have even more power to do more wrong, against the people's wishes. This of course led to Euromaidan and to the beginning of the unrest. The second problem was that the demonstrators were fewer in number. It was said that they were going to disappear and tire of demonstrating, but he could not wait. He had to send in his thugs, who split skulls and spilled blood. That brought out the veterans from Afghanistan who were there to protect their children. That still could have been negated. He still could have made concessions and maybe slowed that down, but as we all know, he accelerated his hideous crimes to the point where he eventually brought out his snipers. That was just revolting to the entire world. He became a pariah to the world, and that made it very easy for them to remove him as a president, which is the way it should be.

Where we do we go from here? We are into an election now. What can we do? Some comments have been made here and ideas suggested. There are a number of things we can do, but certainly most Canadians here in this room, and I would say on all sides of the House, are committed to doing what we can to bring this issue forward and return Ukraine to being a country with the international status it deserves, and shall have some day.