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View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2019-06-04 20:42 [p.28546]
Mr. Speaker, people in Vancouver East expect their government to make life affordable, sustainable and fair for all Canadians. They expect their government to be on their side.
In Vancouver East, I have heard from my constituents time and time again that we need real measures to make life affordable for Canadians, that we need immediate and urgent actions to protect our climate and environment. On behalf of the constituents of Vancouver East, I have been strongly advocating for measures such as affordable housing, public universal pharmacare, environmental protections, climate action and tax fairness. Instead, we now have a country faced with many crises.
We have a climate crisis, where if we do not take immediate action our planet will not be inhabitable for our future generations. We have a housing crisis, where people are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and getting priced out of their own communities. We have a criminal crisis, where billions of dollars in profits from criminal acts were laundered last year in Canada. We have an opioid crisis, where Canadians are dying every day.
We have a humanitarian crisis, where so many indigenous women and girls have gone missing and are murdered. The impact of colonialism is so deep and so rooted in systemic racism and failures that the national inquiry on the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls has declared that is a genocide.
It was deeply disappointing to see how budget 2019 failed to meaningfully address our many crises, never mind the many other challenges faced by Canadians.
For many constituents of Vancouver East, the number one issue facing our generation is our climate and environmental emergency. To meet our goals under the Paris Agreement, Canada has to lower its emissions to 325 million tonnes by 2030. According to the government's own performance report, we will only get down to 500 million tonnes, which means we are not even close.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report stated last year that we have 12 years to avert climate disaster through a drastic overhaul of all our current economic systems. We now have only 11 years left to achieve this. As the clock ticks, people have been demonstrating persistently for immediate action for climate protection and the preservation of natural resources from our leaders, especially our youth, who will be most affected by the consequences of our inaction. The government has a responsibility to create the systems and frameworks to protect our environment and our future generations.
Many scientists have stated that the technology already exists that can maintain quality of life without further impacting our climate and environment. We simply need the political will and courage to change. And yet here we are, buying leaky pipelines and adopting the previous Conservative government's weak carbon emissions target, as if we do not have a climate crisis at our door.
On another critical issue, we are still waiting on government action to address our housing affordability crisis.
Housing has long been declared a basic right by the United Nations, and Canada has signed and ratified a number of international human rights treaties that identify the right to adequate housing as a fundamental human right.
In our national housing strategy, most of the funding in that new strategy had been announced years earlier and most of that funding, a full 90% of what was announced in budget 2017, has been off-loaded for spending after the next election. Even at that, the vast majority of that funding will not flow until 2024. It is a cynical communications strategy that plays politics with people's real struggles.
The government, in an attempt to inflate the result of its limited housing programs, has even resorted to double-counting the results for “rhetorical advantage”. Instead of playing numbers games, what we need is for the government to make real investments now. To that end, the NDP is calling for a commitment of 500,000 units of affordable housing across Canada.
In addition, despite decades of promising a national pharmacare program, after being lobbied by big pharma 680 times, the government has once again let big pharma win the day.
I recently met an individual who told me that she is taking her daily medication every other day in an effort to save money. This is wrong. No more excuses. Canadians need and deserve comprehensive public universal pharmacare coverage now.
On a related matter, we also need accountability for the opioid crisis. While the U.S. has successfully taken on big pharma for misbranding OxyContin with the intent of defrauding and misleading, here in Canada, the government is refusing to take action. Instead, budget 2019 continues with the blanket tax break for the richest corporations.
Tax havens are still in place and will continue to take over $16 billion every year from much needed programs for all Canadians, and of course, big oil continues to receive subsidies. In fact, the “2019 Spring Reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development” was highly critical of the government's accounting of tax and non-tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
As we now know, 47 billion dollars' worth of profits from criminal acts was laundered last year in Canada. It is extremely disturbing that money laundering has so extensively permeated the country. Equally disturbing is the fact that the report by Dr. Peter German, in B.C., revealed that no federal resources are being used to tackle money laundering. Literally, in the federal money laundering unit, no one is working on the issue of money laundering. This explains why there are so few prosecutions and convictions in money laundering cases.
During last year's statutory review by the finance committee of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, numerous expert witnesses agreed that to combat tax evasion and money laundering, the federal government needed to work with the provinces to establish a central public registry that would provide the identity of the beneficial owners of corporations and trusts. The Honourable David Eby, Attorney General of B.C., argued that this kind of registry is needed, in part by citing a study from Transparency International Canada. The study showed that it is impossible to determine the true owners of more than half the real estate properties for sale.
Denis Howlett, of Canadians for Tax Fairness, emphasized that the registry must be “in an open, searchable format”. Barrister and solicitor Mora Johnson added that a transparent public register would enable those searching the database to track the most common methods taxpayers use to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and to find individuals involved in money laundering. However, when all was said and done, the Liberals and Conservatives chose to join forces and ignore the recommendation of the majority of witnesses that a public register be established.
I also strongly believe that we need to increase oversight of home sales to ensure that sellers are not falsely reporting their secondary investment properties as primary residences, as this rule-skirting allows people to avoid paying capital tax gains.
I raised this issue when I was still the MLA for Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant. One way to address this is to ensure that proof of residency through income tax filing is provided at the completion of the sale transaction. With increased oversight and crackdowns on this behaviour, the increased tax revenue could be set aside in an earmarked fund dedicated to increasing the affordable housing stock in Canada.
Canada needs to put significant resources and effort into law enforcement, prosecution and adjudication to effectively tackle this problem. We can do this. We need to do this.
I have gone on also about the immigration issues that call for the government to not jam through the refugee determination process in this budget omnibus budget bill. The Liberals refuse to listen and are going ahead with it. Experts have already called on the government to stop this now. It would put people at risk, and most particularly, it would put women and girls at risk. For a feminist government, this is not acceptable. It still has a chance to do that. I hope that the government will listen to the experts.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Adam Vaughan Profile
2018-11-27 12:38 [p.24014]
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to stand today to support the initiatives of our government that are expressed through the bill as we implement the budget promises we made last spring, and to deliver real hope, real change and real possibilities for growth in the country for some of Canada's most vulnerable populations.
The main focus of my comments will be on the poverty reduction strategy. It is Canada's first-ever poverty reduction strategy with real targets and real tools to measure not just poverty as it exists across the country, but also as it exists in specific regions, centres, and within specific populations.
The new strategy is critical, because one of the goals of the government—and we hear the phrase repeated often—is not just growing a stronger middle class, but the support that is required to help people join that middle class, to lift themselves out of poverty by giving them the tools they need, the support they require and the opportunities they desire to make sure their lives are transformed. This is critical for the success of our country, because as we build stronger families and healthier communities, we also build more resilient children. That gives us hope for the future that the next generation will have the capacity to provide much more support for all of us as we move forward together as a country.
To set the context, we need to understand that the poverty reduction strategy, while it is a new strategy enunciated in policy, is not something we just started to begin work on. The day we took office, we began making investments right across the country to make a transformational change in people's lives. In fact, well over 600,000 Canadians have been lifted out of poverty as a direct result of the steps taken by our government. That does not include the close to 500,000 new full-time jobs that have been created, which have also created a situation allowing people to avoid poverty. I say this because the prevention of poverty is just as important as its alleviation.
The $22 billion we invested includes about $5.6 billion invested in housing. As soon as we introduced our first budget, we tripled the transfers to the provinces and doubled the investments in community organizations that are leading the fight against homelessness.
We also introduced the Canada child benefit and changed its profile. Not only is it a more generous benefit, but it is also now tax free and means-tested, which means that those with the greatest need will get the greatest support. Unlike the previous government, we do not send the cheques to millionaires and we do not tax the dollars after they have arrived in families' bank accounts. This has probably been the most profound change in social policy in this country in a generation, and probably the most important component of lifting those children I just referenced out of poverty.
Additionally, changes have been made to the CPP as we move forward to secure people's retirement funds. We have also boosted the GIS to make sure that single women, in particular, who are often alone at the end of their lives, get the boost they need to make sure that their incomes are better supported, giving them the capacity to maintain their living standards.
In addition, $7.5 billion has been invested in early learning and child care. These transfers were delivered directly to the provinces, who since the collapse of the previous national day care strategy have evolved their programs and now have a more asymmetrical situation across the country. As we invest that $7.5 billion over the next 10 years, it has already started to sustain existing spaces, provide new capital for expansion, and also provide that critical expansion of the child care system. In fact, in Ontario, 100,000 new spaces of subsidized, quality, affordable child care have been created as a direct result of the investments in partnership with the provinces.
For the first time ever, child care support has also been directed toward indigenous organizations to make sure that distinction-based programs, led, designed and delivered by indigenous communities for their children, are now part of the program. We have also made those investments, which are having an impact on families outside the mainstream programs that have existed for a generation in our country.
On top of child care, substantial investments have also been made in indigenous communities, both on and off reserve, both inside and outside of treaties, both in rural-remote regions and urban centres. These investments have led to cleaner drinking water, better housing, better education and, most importantly, better health programs being provided. In particular on Jordan's principle, in comparison with the approval and enrolment rates under the previous government, which in 10 years managed to get only one child served under Jordan's principle, we are talking about thousands and thousands being served every single year.
These are transformational changes, which have set the base for an even more aggressive push to eliminate even more of the poverty we see in our country, because we cannot sustain poverty in a country as rich as ours with a clean conscience.
As we set the new poverty standard and come across a standard way of measuring it so that we can have a common base to understand exactly whom we lifting out of poverty and how our programs are having that impact, we are often criticized for not having announced new programs simultaneously to our establishing this poverty line.
Let me assure members that there are already programs and investments forecast into the future that have not been included in the 650,000 calculation we have already used to address the people we have lifted out of poverty. For example, we have the signing of bilateral agreements. I was just in the Northwest Territories doing exactly this, signing bilateral agreements on the Canada housing benefit.
The Canada housing benefit is a new way to subsidize people's living arrangements, giving agency and choice to low-income Canadians to choose the housing that best suits their needs. Those subsidies do not kick in until next year, but will have a dramatic impact on the quality of life and alleviation of poverty among those people who are in core housing need. In fact, when one includes all the other components of the national housing strategy, we seek to support well over 650,000 Canadians, and closer to 700,000. Then we get into repairs and some of the other programs that are part of the 10-year forecast.
Those dollars are locked in and are built on top of the $5 billion we have already spent. We have also reprofiled those dollars to make them more flexible, in particular in the way in which they impact women and children, to make sure that those housing needs are addressed specifically through a national housing strategy. They were not in the previous iteration of the program. The new national housing strategy re-profiles that $40 billion and projects it into those people's lives as yet another way to alleviate poverty.
This particular bill also addresses pay equity. I have heard the members opposite complain that the bill is too big. It covers seven distinct pieces of legislation, but the piece on pay equity covers the entire breadth of federally regulated and federally administered pay programs. It is a big, complex bill because pay equity touches virtually every corner of the government, as well as significant parts of the country's private sector. That is why the bill is 850 pages long.
The bill is a comprehensive all-of-government, all-of country approach to pay equity. We are very proud to push that forward, because pay equity, again, is one of the most important tools we can put together to ensure that we reduce poverty, in particular of women but also of families and Canadians right across the country. Pay equity, giving a fair chance to everybody, in particular women, benefits us all. As women's economic situations solidify and strengthen in this country, small and medium businesses and all our social dynamics strengthen as women become more powerful. That is one of the most important reasons to support pay equity. It is good for everyone, even those who are not women.
Additionally, we have also included an indexing formula in the Canada child benefit so that it will grow over time for families to ensure that inflation does not claw back the good, strong investments we have made to eradicate child poverty. Again, those dollars are not calculated as part of our poverty reduction plan, which was in place prior to the strategy, but will have an impact afterward.
Then of course there is the national housing strategy, the $40-billion investment. I have heard some suggest that the way to do a housing program, which we have seen in the platforms of previous parties as they tried to get elected to Parliament, is to put the money upfront and just let the program drift off into the future. As someone who has done much of the consultation work with the minister and CMHC to put this strategy together, I can say that the reality is that the advice we were given by academics, housing providers, municipal partners and provincial agencies was that the best way to build a housing program was to invest heavily to start and then grow the investment as the system gets bigger over time.
In other words, if a riding were to receive a thousand units of public housing this year, a thousand next year and a thousand the year after that, its housing needs would go from 1,000 to 2,000 to 3,000. Repair needs grow with that, as do subsidy requirements, and if the program is not back-end loaded, one will not be able to build a successful system while building good, strong housing programs. That is why the program not only lasts 10 years, past two elections, but also grows over time to support a bigger, stronger, more robust capacity to house Canadians in need.
Put together, this constitutes our government's strategy for housing, poverty and improving the lives of indigenous people, women and many of the marginalized and racialized communities in this country. We have focused our programs based on data, the information we have received from stakeholders, and partnerships with indigenous, municipal, provincial and territorial governments. In total, the early investments, the project investments, the new tools to measure, study and drive data into the system to alleviate poverty are the reasons this bill is large, why are ambitions are just as big, and most importantly, why the achievements are so profound.
We are very, very proud of this particular piece of legislation. I hope that all of Canada can support it. I hope that everyone in Parliament can support it. This is delivering real change, real housing and real support to Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and I encourage all parliamentarians to support it as such.
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