Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the people of Sherbrooke to speak to the opposition motion moved by my NDP colleague from . This excellent motion reminds us of the importance of housing in Canada and the real crisis that is gripping our entire country.
Although some real estate markets—those that are more saturated, where prices are higher and housing is more scarce—may be harder hit, I can assure members that the crisis is affecting the entire nation, including my riding of Sherbrooke. Every year, in July, there are families who are unable to find affordable housing that meets their needs. Large families are particularly affected.
This is a reality in Sherbrooke, and I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to this issue in order to help find solutions. Our hope is that our constituents across the country, including my constituents in Sherbrooke, will have safe, quality housing that meets their needs and provides them with the ideal environment in which to work, experience personal and financial growth, have a good quality of life and thrive in our country. That would help everyone prosper.
When there is a crisis, we have to take urgent, concrete, immediate and specific steps to resolve it. We see this as a crisis because it is not a problem that can be fixed sometime in the distant future, after the next election, with a 10-, 15- or even 20-year plan. A crisis calls for urgent, immediate action. That is what is lacking right now. I am sure everyone here understands that this is a crisis. The only thing lacking is the government's commitment to treating this as a real crisis that calls for urgent, immediate action.
I do not want to question the Liberal government's intentions on this file. I am sure it recognizes the need for housing. However, it does not recognize that the need to act is urgent. We are glad its strategy includes billions of dollars in investments, but the problem is that none of that money will flow for several years, well after the next election.
That is why we have to wonder whether the government really understands the importance of investing in housing now. That is what affordable housing groups would really like to know. They know there is an urgent need for action, but they do not think the government feels the same sense of urgency.
Just this past Tuesday, back home, the Sherbrooke tenants' association and FRAPRU, a social housing organization that is well known in Quebec, spoke out about the current crisis in Sherbrooke. To meet the needs of the very long list of people waiting for social housing, the association estimates that it will take 300 social housing units every year for five years.
We see the same thing across Canada. Canada's big city mayors estimate that 170,000 people are waiting for social housing. In Quebec, we often talk about low-income housing. In Sherbrooke, low-income housing is the responsibility of the Sherbrooke municipal housing authority. The waiting lists keep getting longer. That is why the need is so great. Unfortunately, nothing is being done to shorten the list. We need 300 units a year for five years to get to the end of this waiting list and finally provide quality housing to all those in need in Sherbrooke.
There are some important statistics on housing that are worth mentioning.
The most troubling one is that some households are spending as much as 50% of their income on rent, just to put a roof over their heads. The higher that percentage goes, the more precarious their situation becomes. Some people in Sherbrooke even spend as much as 70% or 80% of their income on rent. That does not leave them with very much to spend on groceries, just to put food on the table.
We know that basic needs include shelter, food, clothing and the love of family and friends. Indeed, the love of family and friends is crucial in life. When someone has to spend 50% or 80% of their income on rent, that is problematic. It is even said that it should not be more than 30%.
When people have to spend so much of their income on rent, they have less to spend on things like leisure activities, food and clothing. On top of that, heating is sometimes not even included in the rent. That is a problem for many people in Sherbrooke. Sometimes rent costs so much that it is hard for people to find a clean, comfortable place to live that has clean air and is maintained at a reasonable temperature. These are real-life situations.
The Sherbrooke tenants' association reports that even when people do find housing, it is not necessarily safe. Landlords sometimes fail to update housing units and to install air conditioning and proper insulation. God knows that right now, temperatures across Canada are well below zero. Heat is a necessity. No one can live in Canada without some form of heating to ensure that their home has clean air and is maintained at a reasonable temperature.
The disturbing crisis we are seeing in Sherbrooke calls for immediate investment. Every day, the association hears from people in need who cannot find housing or who have been evicted and are looking for somewhere to spend the night. It is vital to consider all emergency resources, which is why we fought for the homelessness partnering strategy, now called Canada's homelessness strategy. It is an important part of this strategy to help people get off the street and into adequate housing.
When people are chronically homeless they must be able to go to an appropriate place where they are safe. In Sherbrooke, organizations such as Partage Saint-François are very important. I supported this organization that helps the homeless in Sherbrooke by donating $15,000 from my annual golf tournament. This organization provides a bed, food and warmth to those in need. We have to remember that.
That is why it is so disappointing to have to move this motion today to point out once again the government's lack of leadership on this crisis. We are particularly decrying the fact that what has been announced does not meet the pressing housing needs.
As I said yesterday, the Liberals are all talk and no action on several files. They like to talk and pat themselves on the back, but when the time comes to take action they are nowhere to be found. They are just big talkers. Talk will not help people find housing.
Parliamentary secretaries are double counting to try to lead us to believe that the government is doing more than it really is. Unfortunately, that is why, today, we are being forced to push the government to do more and invest in the construction of at least 500,000 social housing units. That is what is needed so that every Canadian can have a roof over their heads. When people have a place to live, anything is possible. They can get ahead in life and contribute to the development of our great country and our economy.
Mr. Speaker, it is always a good day when we talk about housing in the House and I want to say a couple of things. It is fair game to quarrel with the words I used to describe the language around the program that we have produced, but the numbers are real. The numbers are very simple: $5.7 billion to date has been invested by our government in public and social housing and that includes 14,703 new constructions. Those numbers go up day by day. It includes 143,684 repaired household units. That keeps people in housing. It is not a fetish.
Second, we have also provided subsidies and this is really important. The biggest part of any federal housing program, the most important part of federal housing programs is the subsidy to make the units affordable and we have, to date, provided supplements to 783,928 households. Again, those numbers go up as we renew and extend co-op operating agreements beyond two years, now to 10.
Additionally and finally, it is important to note that housing people requires supports sometimes, especially for addiction or mental health issues, or seniors who are getting frail and have accessibility issues. We need to support people in housing and the HPS program in particular has supported 28,864 individuals who are homeless.
Totalled up, out of the $5.7 billion we have announced in budgets, we have delivered one million investments into households across the country. Where the rhetoric comes in, if we look “rhetoric” up in the dictionary, it also means effective political communication, not just the popular meaning that has been used to criticize me today. Where we have to understand how our system works and why complexity is such a critical part of it is that these supports for Canadians layer into people's lives depending on how the core housing needs are presented.
For example, if people are in a co-op and aging, they may get no rent subsidy currently because they are not on fixed income, but when they move to fixed income, RGI subsidies kick in. We built the unit with public housing money and we are now subsidizing them, so that is a second investment to support their new housing needs. If at the same time they suddenly become so frail that they have accessibility or mobility issues, we may renovate that unit while we subsidize it, after we have bought it, to become accessible. Now they are being provided with three layers of subsidy at a single unit of housing.
Members may say that is three times counting. It is not. It is three different ways of supporting people and the important part about that is the renovated building and the building itself will be there for the next Canadian who needs it, so it is a permanent investment into accessible and sustainable housing. However, the other side of this is that there may be more than one family member in that household. Most often, Canadian families on average have 2.5 people per house, which means we have reached well over one million Canadians with our housing program with our $5.7 billion investment.
We have been trying to break down how to explain that $5.7 billion on a riding-by-riding basis and make it real for Canadians. If the use of the word “rhetoric” confused people, I definitely apologize. The reality is, and the truth is, and the facts are that more than one million Canadians have been supported, more than one million investments have been made in specific housing units across this country, and we are proud of the complexity and the comprehensive approach to housing that we have put in place.
I would also argue—
Mr. Speaker, let me assure you, it is not the first time a Conservative is confused as to what constitutes good housing policy or facts and figures in the House.
Let me then move on to what the problem is with the NDP motion before us. First of all, it is akin to the way Doug Ford campaigns. It is like the buck-a-beer promise. It is real easy to make, but when we start asking New Democrats to explain it, it begins to get a little fuzzy as to how they are going to deliver it. For example, one of their biggest criticisms is that we are delivering our money after the next election. Ten-year programs in four-year mandates happen to work out that way mathematically, especially if one back-end loads them intelligently and grows the system as one grows the size of the housing program.
When new housing systems are added to existing ones, and new units to existing units, the subsidies grow over time and the repair bill grows over time. If a program is not back-end loaded, housing providers are put in an incredibly difficult spot. That is what the co-op sector has been telling us right across the country. We funded the co-ops at the start, and then the subsidies started to disappear under Conservative rule overnight and all of a sudden they could not do repairs and could not sustain affordability.
Front-end loading housing systems puts people in extraordinarily difficult circumstances and does not help housing providers grow and sustain a system. It actually shrinks a system over time. Therefore, we reject front-end loading of housing programs. In fact, so does the NDP. Its campaign platform last time was $500 million for new housing, for the entire country I might add. That was the way it addressed the problem in its platform. That $500 million was zero dollars in the second year, zero dollars in the third year and zero dollars in the fourth year. That would have failed as a housing program.
Now the NDP has produced a 10-year program, saying half of it is going to be withheld until five years from now. Check the elections cycle. There will be two elections, minimum, between now and the end of the five-year term in its housing program. This means half the money comes after not one election but two elections. It is the same with ours. Long-term sustainable funding cannot be done within a single election cycle. As well, one-term funding and building a comprehensive approach to housing in this country cannot be done. It will not work. That is why the co-op agreements were 25 years in length.
Now, we have changed the co-op agreements and that approach to subsidies because they were previously tied to mortgages. Many of those co-ops no longer have mortgages. They also expired one by one as those mortgages were basically assigned to these projects, so they were expiring overnight one by one and disappearing. We are putting the whole system on a single timetable so that never again will a federal government be able to walk away from those subsidy programs. As well, we are going to create political clout within the housing system to make sure we comprehensively address and politically support housing providers, in particular, co-ops. It is a good program. The co-op sector is thrilled. All one has to do is ask the presidents. They will say that it is a good program.
The other thing that just astonishes me are two comments. One was made by the member for , who referred to repairs to housing systems as not housing people. The city I come from has a $3-billion housing repair backlog, started by the NDP at Queen's Park I might add. In the middle of a recession, it chose to defer maintenance and lean into building and did not provide long-term funding for maintenance. When Mike Harris downloaded it to cities, he downloaded it with the deferred maintenance the NDP thought was a good idea.
The member for stood here and criticized the for repairing a 150,000 units of housing that would have been lost to the system if they were not properly repaired, the very thing the NDP talks about with indigenous housing. It is a lack of repair budgets that de-houses people, not the existence of four walls and a roof.
The NDP says that it is not a system of housing, and then the member for dismisses it as a fetish to fix housing because that is part of the complexity the Liberals like to explain their policies with. I can assure the House that repairing housing is the most urgent need in Toronto. Adding to housing is the second most urgent need in Toronto. However, providing supports, which are just as critical to get homeless people into long-term sustainable housing situations, is also fundamentally important. All of that has to be done. We have to build, repair, subsidize and support. The national housing strategy does just that.
We have also remodelled programs the Conservatives had in place. One of the members of the NDP said they liked the housing first approach, and the Conservatives often stand and say that it worked. It worked for some, but it will work better under the Canada housing benefit because it is a much bigger program. It does not require someone to wait six months and live on the street before they qualify, and it does not only have to be spent in the private sector. It can also be spent in public housing, which means shallower subsidies can be used and more people can be housed. We also have taken away the arbitrary requirement that 65% of the funding be spent on rents and nothing but rents.
Individuals on the street can still acquire rent subsidies through housing first, but what we have heard in Quebec is that with the very strong provincial program around rent subsidies, the real missing piece of the equation is meal programs, counselling for addiction and mental health services, visits and socialization, and help and support in transferring people from core housing need to self-sufficiency.
This is what we heard as we consulted and talked to housing providers across the country, and homelessness and front-line workers in particular. If we do not have the full range of supports and if there are not people there to support vulnerable populations as they re-house themselves and stay housed, those people cycle in and out of the housing first program and we do not solve the problem.
Most specifically, housing first used to require that people be classified as chronically homeless before they could get support, and that they be in that state for six months before a penny of rent would be paid. That put children and youth in this country in harm's way in a way that no other government ever has or ever should. Youth aging out of care, who are the most vulnerable kids in our communities, were told by the former government that they would not get any help with rent unless they lived on the street or in an emergency shelter for six months. That is appalling. We changed that rule.
We also know that youth aging out of care need more than just to be given a set of keys and a roof over their heads. They need support in their circumstances to thrive. In other words, they need support with things like income. They need support with things like budgeting and how to live independently, because they have been effectively housed in provincial housing systems that have not afforded many of them that capacity.
We know that when kids aging out of care simply get warehoused in a motel and stuffed into single-room occupancy motels, hotels and inns in places like Vancouver, we end up with people like Tina Fontaine on the front page of the news. Tina lived in a housing program in which a five-year-old child was living alone. Let us think about that. The other teenagers were asked to volunteer time to check in on the kid.
If there is a lack of supports, in particular for vulnerable youth, they do not thrive. They do not succeed in housing even if they have a roof over their heads. If they are denied rent for six months, God help them, because that is the only person looking after them.
In terms of the other programs we put in place as a government to alleviate poverty and address core housing need, such as the Canada child benefit, the change to the GIS, the improvements to EI, the changes we made to CPP, and the reduction in taxes, there has been an across-the-board effort by this government to alleviate poverty. We have lifted 650,000 people out of poverty, close to half of whom are children.
That is also one of the ways to address core housing need. A person can pay the rent with a rent supplement cheque or with their Canada child benefit, but what we need to do is to make sure dollars arrive in those households to meet all of the needs of Canadians: transit, food, housing and health care. Pharmacare will keep people housed. Transit investments will keep people housed. The Canada child benefit will keep people housed. The Canada summer jobs program will keep people housed.
Therefore, yes, our approach to housing is a $40-billion program, largely being spent on construction and repairs. Yes, the majority is going to subsidies, because good housing programs build, repair and subsidize affordability. We have put this in place for the next 10 years. That is the profile of the next phase of investments. However, the first phase of investments, the $5.7 billion, is hard at work in communities right across the country: in Nanaimo, in Victoria, in Toronto and in Winnipeg.
We have heard today that even the NDP members, in a good moment, will say thanks sometimes. The member for downtown pretended that there have been no housing investments in her riding, yet her riding has received some of the most important investments to help people in the most dire situations.
The mayor of Vancouver sat in an office with the and me this week as part of the big city mayors visit to Ottawa. The mayor of Vancouver, Kennedy Stewart, who used to sit on the opposition side of this House, admitted to me that when he was on that side, he used to give me criticism. That was his job. He got the lines. He hammered us, and that's what he did. He said, though, that as the mayor of Vancouver he was now receiving support from the federal government, and he had to say the Liberals' program is pretty good. He wanted to know how he could get more, because it is fantastic.
As he stands there and talks about the housing initiatives that have gone in, and as we think and start to talk about solving the situation with indigenous urban populations, and as we talk about the Burrard Street Bridge project, we are there to help.
The member from Edmonton talked about the need to try to figure out what people in mobile homes or modular housing are dealing with, as they cannot get mortgages. That is an important issue. That is a great topic to have a discussion about. We are here to help, and the complexity of our problem happens to address that.
We do not always have to build a house to house somebody. Housing is not just four walls and a roof. Housing is a system and a process that delivers support to people to make their lives secure and gives them the capacity to participate and make contributions across the full array of areas in which citizens can make their participation and contributions known.
I am very proud of the $40 billion. I am very proud of the million households we have helped. I am very proud of the real housing we have handed to real people with real money being invested in real communities right across this country. I am very proud of the fact that we renewed the co-op agreements and gave hope to those people, in particular seniors, who were being systematically de-housed by the Conservatives.
I will address the issue of this notion that rhetoric is somehow the problem in this conversation. When we live by the sword, we die by the sword. When we live in a political world and use words, sometimes our words are not the perfectly chosen words we want them to be, but at the end of the day I could not care less about the argument, and I could not care less about the words.
I care about the numbers and getting the number of homeless people in this country eliminated as a figure and a dataset. I care about the waiting lists from coast to coast to coast in cities and rural communities. I care about the people in core housing need, and I am focused on the dollars and the figures and the numbers. They have to be strong, and they are; they have to be better, and they must be. We are working hard to make new investments, and we have to make sure that Canadians from coast to coast to coast get housed.
It does not matter what words I use. What matters is what dollars we invest. The dollars are real and they are helping real people. They are building housing, they are repairing housing, they are subsidizing housing, they are supporting people with core housing needs, and they have been opened up to be blended with other government programs: veterans programs, mental health programs, addiction services, and immigration and resettlement services.
They have been opened up to work even more effectively in collaboration with other programs, and I do not consider that double counting. I consider that layering in the appropriate needs in the appropriate way, to model support into people's lives so their housing needs are no longer their big concern and they can dream about other things and other challenges to address in their lives.
I will also say that the complexity of the Liberal program is its sophistication, and the strength of the Liberal program is the duration of the investment and its consistency and reliability. Municipalities, indigenous governments, housing providers, provincial and territorial governments, and federal agencies can rely on that long-term investment.
However, the other thing that is critically important is that it grows over time, because as we build a housing system, that housing system needs to grow and accommodate complex needs in Canadians' lives, which change over the time they are tenants in public housing.
If we do not back-end load our money, we de-house people. If we do not back-end load our housing, we leave people with disabilities that are acquired through aging at the side of the corridor. If we do not back-end load our money, inflation takes away the rent subsidy. If we do not back-end load our money, repairs are not done. Hundreds of Canadians, thousands in Toronto, are being de-housed because of decisions made not to repair public housing, and that is as bad as not funding new housing. Our system grows. It is long term. It extends past the election, and thank God it does. It also is housing real people right now.
The NDP may laugh that we have a long-term commitment to Canadians to alleviate poverty, and they may laugh that our investments are working because it shames them into understanding why their housing policy is so deficient.
I will leave New Democrats with one last thought. Part of the complexity of the housing system is indigenous people. I have read the NDP motion, and indigenous people are not mentioned. There is not a single word to address the housing needs of indigenous people on or off reserve, inside or outside of the treaty system.
Something else that is not mentioned in the motion is homelessness. There is nothing for homeless people, not a penny for the homeless, just new housing units that they can hopefully afford. When one builds housing, one buys land in the market, sources materials in the market and pays for labour in the market, which incidentally is often 20% above what the private sector pays for labour. It is a real issue in the housing sector.
When one competes in the market that way, housing cannot be brought in at 30% of income. There need to be subsidies. Homeless people are quite often divorced from the supports they deserve. If there is no subsidy, if we do not provide a targeted and focused approach to solving homelessness in this country, and if all people think they have to do is show them a house and give them the keys, they are fooling themselves. More importantly, they are letting the homeless down.
I know that the NDP members know that, because I know they have told people who have criticized the program, “Don't worry, there's more to come.” I am glad there is more to come, and I am glad the member pushes us to work harder and faster. It is absolutely necessary. It is fundamental to solving this problem.
We do not always get it right. I certainly did not choose my words right this week, but I will be certain to make sure Canadians understand that the money is real, the housing is real, the repairs are real, the supports are real, the subsidies are real and our commitment is real. We have fulfilled our promise, but we are working twice as hard to do even better because, as the so proudly says, and rightfully so, “Better is always possible.”
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
[Member spoke in Dene, interpreted as follows:]
Today I rise to support the motion that my friend, the member for , has put forward to create an immediate and necessary response to the housing crisis in Canada. I am glad to be speaking today as a follow-up to the important call to action that the NDP put forward to the Liberal government to immediately address the crisis in housing in on-reserve and northern homes.
As a northerner, I see the crisis. We need a lot of housing in my community of La Loche. Walking the streets of La Loche, I see people who are struggling without homes and without water and do not know where they are going to get their next meal and where they are going to sleep. When I go to La Ronge, in front of the shelters like Scattered Site in La Ronge, I see people who are trying to get a meal.
It is important to see that the homeless people do not just sit on the streets all day.
I want to say more here about people who do not have houses. They do not have much with them. They do not have clothes or food or shelter or anywhere to sleep. People who are struggling with addictions, with alcohol, need housing too; they do not have housing. Youth and students who are away from their homes to attend school do not have homes when they are attending schools or university. People who are low-income wage earners who make money and single mothers who are often with young children and babies are people who do not have homes, and they are struggling too. Men of all ages are struggling as well. Those people do not have homes, and they are struggling too.
Elders and seniors across northern Saskatchewan are more likely to be abused, and they are less likely to report the abuse they experience. They will not tell the RCMP, because they feel the RCMP will not help them. The cost of living is higher for seniors and the costs of medication and transportation to see a doctor are increasing. Even food is expensive. Money is scarce, and they do not have much. One elder I know from Montreal Lake is living in a shelter. The federal government and provincial government are ignoring her. She is forgotten by a system where nobody wants to help her.
People with low incomes and people who make lots of money are struggling to buy and maintain homes in the north. To borrow money is hard for them too. The cost of supplies and to transport lumber to the north is expensive. Maintenance costs are only increasing for the average person in the north. The cost of food for everyone is increasing. For those earners who have children, the cost of food, clothes and education is up too.
People who are working are in poverty too. What people in the north want is different from what the government is providing.
In my own community of La Loche, I see homeowners where I am living. I am a renter. I feel like I am living in a homeless place, because there are no places to go.
It is hard to talk about these kinds of things. It is kind of embarrassing too.
People on reserve have a tough time too. They try really hard to talk to the government about how to build houses and how to put money away for housing issues. It is difficult to do that too. In Saskatchewan, sometimes people get evicted and lose their houses. In Sandy Bay, dozens of families are victims of the cost of living. They do not know where to go. The government took the money and could help the people of the north. Furthermore, people who are struggling with housing and also people who have houses, whether working or not, still need a lot of money for housing and property.
The Conservatives, when they were in power, cut off funding for a lot of people, and there is no more money for that. The Liberal government is the same, cutting the funds for housing. It is hard for people in the north to ask for help with funding. They need a lot of money for housing.
People wait quite a bit for housing, at least 10 years. For people living in housing, on reserve and in municipalities, many of the houses are in bad condition with, for example, mould and they get diseases from that. None of the government departments is providing answers or hope.
It is kind of confusing for people, young or old, to find a house, to just try to live. They need funding for housing. They cannot buy property without money. That is why I am proud today to support a motion today that provides a measurable goal that means something to people, because funding formulas are always changing and confusing Canadians' measure of the success of housing. I am happy to be here to talk about this.
Speaking Dene about housing issues is a huge thing for me. People living on reserve, Métis people and far north people need money for housing and to be supportive of them and the way they think about housing. We need the government to reach out to the people who need housing. When government thinks about the funding, it thinks about what is best for them.
Kids are going to suffer, and when they get older they will not know where to go. To also think about those kinds of things, we need the government to help the Dene people. That is why I am here to talk about housing for the people. That is why I am standing here today asking.
Mr. Speaker, everybody makes mistakes. All is forgiven.
Again, I am very proud to rise in the House today to debate and support the motion moved by my colleague from . This motion deals with a very important issue, the housing crisis in Canada. The motion calls on the government to do much more than it is doing right now. We are in a crisis situation. Many people are living on the streets and are forced into homelessness because they cannot afford housing, when that should be a right.
Canada is experiencing an unprecedented housing crisis. We are seeing skyrocketing house prices, rising rents, rental shortages, long waiting lists for social housing, and a rise in homelessness.
An RBC study shows that the average cost of home ownership in major cities amounts to 48% of a household's income. Half of the household income goes to housing. Generally speaking, for housing to be affordable for an individual or a family, they should be investing a maximum of 30% of their after-tax income. The study shows that on average, households spend half their income on housing. That is truly exorbitant. It is very hard to get by. In Vancouver, that number spikes to a whopping 88%. People in Vancouver have a hard time surviving when housing costs nearly 100% of their earnings. It is therefore not surprising that far too often, many graduates and young workers can neither buy a home nor find a decent place to rent.
Paul Kershaw of Generation Squeeze, which is based in British Columbia, conducted a study in 2016. He found that while the cost of housing had doubled across the country since 1976, and tripled in metro Vancouver, incomes had fallen for younger Canadians. After adjusting for inflation, full-time earnings for a typical Canadian aged 25 to 34 had fallen over $4,000 since 1976. This drop in earnings makes it even harder to buy a home, especially in major urban centres.
In the 40 years between 1976 and 2016, the rate of home ownership among young Canadians dropped 24%. Between 1976 and 1980, it took five years of full-time work for a person aged 25 to 34 to save a 20% down payment for a house. Because wages are down and housing prices are so much higher, it now takes younger Canadians nearly 12 years of work to save a comparable down payment. In short, it is becoming harder and harder for young people to put a roof over their heads, even working full time.
Immediate action is needed to combat Canada's housing crisis. The lack of social and affordable housing is deeply troubling. In a country as rich as ours, it is unacceptable that so many people are desperately searching for social or affordable housing.
I want to remind members that housing is a right and that Canada signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, or ICESCR. The first paragraph of article 11 reads as follows:
The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent.
As a signatory to the ICESCR, our country has a duty to take concrete action on this right to housing. This means that the government is required to provide a sufficient number of low-cost housing units and to guarantee access for the poorest citizens. This is absolutely not the case right now, since 1.7 million families are living in inadequate, unsuitable or unaffordable conditions. The problem with the national housing strategy proposed by the Liberals is that 90% of the money allocated will not be spent until after the next election.
The money was announced two years ago, but 90% of it will not be spent until after the next election. There is no light at the end of the tunnel for people living with stress, anxiety, depression and addiction issues, because the funds are not flowing. The government is handling this crisis as though it is no big deal, as though it is not even a crisis.
Even government members, following the 's lead, boast about making housing available to vast numbers of Canadians. The harsh reality is that there may be as few as 15,000 new units and about 100,000 repaired units. All of the money that has been spent had already been earmarked. That is not tackling the crisis; that is just maintaining the existing housing supply.
The member for grudgingly admitted that the Liberals inflate figures to rhetorical advantage. That is absolutely scandalous. We know that families and children are suffering because of the nationwide housing shortage. What should I tell Claude, a constituent of mine who is having a hard time making ends meet while he waits for housing? The Liberals just see housing as something to be used to rhetorical advantage.
I will outline the situation in the biggest city in my riding. There is a desperate lack of social and affordable housing in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. A family making less than $21,000 must spend between 40% and 70% of its income on rent and hydro. Thousands of people back home in Salaberry—Suroît are in that situation.
Claude, whom I mentioned a moment ago, is a young man in his 40s living with an illness that has kept him from working for the past two years. He gets some assistance from the provincial government, but nothing from the federal government. His monthly income is a little over $1,000, which is not very much. Half of his income goes to his rent and hydro. After he pays all his bills, he has only $80 a week left to buy food and clothing or to get a haircut. He has requested subsidized housing, but since he just moved to Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, he will have to wait for several months before he can even apply. Even once he does apply, he will be on a wait list that is between three and five years long.
In a country as rich as Canada, why do our vulnerable citizens have to wait so long just to get a roof over their heads, when housing is a right?
This has been going on in Canada for decades. The Conservatives and the Liberals have let the situation deteriorate. No, the right to housing should not be fodder for rhetoric. We are talking about the lives of millions of Canadians, among them thousands of people in my riding. Anyone who does not believe me can talk to people working on the ground, like Christina Girard, the coordinator of the Comité logement Beauharnois, who says that there is an urgent need for new social housing units.
This housing crisis is particularly hard on women, whether they are by themselves or have children. Salaberry-de-Valleyfield has a very high rate of single-parent families, or 32.4%, compared to all of Quebec, with about 25%. Women are strongly affected by not being able to afford rent or the possibility of ending up on the street, which can cause mental health or addiction issues. The most common solution to this instability is to provide single-room housing, in spite of the health risks associated with this type of housing. The bathrooms and kitchens in these buildings are shared and are rarely in good shape.
A study shows that the rising use of single-room housing, where the other rooms are shared, exacerbates women's inequality. The authors of this study observed various types of abuse against women in this type of housing, including lack of security, difficult living conditions, paternalistic rules and even employees demanding sexual favours in exchange for providing access to the women's mail. Abusive acts coupled with women's unstable situations make them more vulnerable to eviction and force them to challenge such abuse.
In 2015, in the Suroît area, 8.6% of families with children between the ages of 0 and 17 lived below the poverty line, after taxes. In Salaberry-de-Valleyfield alone, the average cost of housing is $678 a month. The Valleyfield housing committee intervened 533 times in 2017. In 2018 there were 366 homeless persons and 1,176 people at risk of becoming homeless in the Suroît area.
The situation is so urgent and alarming that housing issues are part of the social development plan of the Beauharnois-Salaberry RCM. Reeve Maude Laberge invited me and other municipal and provincial elected officials to discuss a strategy and to ensure that housing, among other things, is a priority. When a rural area is not a priority, as is the case with our area, it is difficult to obtain funding for affordable housing, since we are not a major urban centre. All the money is spent in major urban centres, and regions like Salaberry—Suroît are left with the crumbs. We have the data to prove that rural areas have a desperate need for housing, and it is about time that the minister woke up and changed the funding.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to share my time today with the amazing member of Parliament for .
Notionally, I support the bill. Who would not support better housing for those who cannot afford it? We have a housing affordability issue in Canada. We have an issue regarding too many regulations, which are adding costs to housing and slowing down the development of housing. Local municipalities are limiting the amount of supply. We have higher interest rates, which are pushing people out of the market. We also have an affordability issue, period, in Canada.
We have a Liberal government that sits smugly, day after day, telling us, in the face of all the evidence, that everything is fine, the economy is great and not to worry. It reminds me of the black knight in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He has and arm and a leg chopped off, but he is bouncing around on one leg saying that everything is okay and that he is fine. It is the same denial that we hear from the current government.
Meanwhile, we have investment fleeing from our country at record rates and interest rates are on the rise. Just recently we heard that almost 50% of Canadian families are just $200 a month away from not being able to pay their bills. We are creating fights with our international partners: America, China, Australia and Japan. Despite what the government says, evidently we are not okay.
Let us look at how the government is making things unaffordable.
It is killing jobs. I want to talk about Alberta. The has stated again and again that Alberta needs to phase out the oil sands. The Liberals are doing a great job on it. They killed northern gateway, which would have brought Alberta oil to the northern B.C. coast and then to overseas Asian markets. Let us not be fooled by their claims that this was done by the courts. This was killed by a government order in cabinet.
Despite the member for , a senior cabinet minister from Alberta, being at the table, he did not raise a complaint when the government killed northern gateway. Before he was punted from cabinet, the member for stated that he would pound on his desk at the cabinet table to make sure a pipeline got built, yet he sat quietly and did not say a thing while northern gateway was killed. Just a couple of weeks ago, the member for stood in the old place to say that he was proud of the pipeline-killing Bill . He was proud of the government for banning tankers off the northern B.C. coast only carrying Alberta oil. He was proud of that record.
The Liberals killed energy east. Do not be fooled again by their saying it was a business decision. They killed it with regulatory changes that made us consider upstream and downstream emissions from that pipeline.
Did they make the same requirements for the Saudi oil coming in? No, they did not. This is the same Saudi Arabia that the was bashing on Twitter regarding human rights. Nevertheless, the government can bring in the oil no problem without the same regulations as are in Alberta.
What about Venezuelan oil? Were there any issues? Of course there were not. The government is happily bringing in oil from Venezuela without the same regulatory requirements or emissions testing as exist for Alberta oil.
The government put Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain project into a coma and then nationalized it. Members have to ask themselves, who in the world, with such immense oil reserves, has the problems that exist in Canada and has to nationalize oil? It is Venezuela and no one else.
The government nationalized it to the tune of $4.5 billion, and we just heard form the PBO that it overpaid. It was published in the paper that the Liberals overpaid by $1 billion. That is $1 billion if it gets built. If it is blocked, which is what I am sure the Liberals want, the existing pipeline would only be worth $2 billion.
In response to an earlier question, the