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View Peter Julian Profile
View Peter Julian Profile
2018-11-27 16:16 [p.24047]
Madam Speaker, I am going to start where the Liberals just left off. The Liberals said, unbelievably, that somehow Canadians who are in the immense turmoil that exists currently with the housing crisis in so many parts of this country are happy with the government. I can say first-hand, from living in New Westminster—Burnaby, which is, in a sense, in the epicentre of the housing crisis, that tonight there are women, men and families wondering whether they can keep a roof over their heads. As rents rise, and they have limited pensions or are working at minimum wage, they do not believe they can keep up. There are women, men and families worried about whether they will ever have housing again. That is why so many shelters are filled to the brim. It is a national tragedy, yet what we have heard today from the Liberals is that everything is just fine. It clearly is not.
We need a federal government that understands the principle of a roof over every single Canadian's head and that will make the required investments so that housing becomes a priority again in this country. That is certainly something Jagmeet Singh has been speaking to right across this country as he talks with Canadians. There is no doubt in his mind that the housing crisis is critical and that we have to respond with the kind of effort we did after the Second World War.
I have mentioned this before in the House. We built 300,000 housing units in the space of 30 months. Governments at that time understood that the men and women in service overseas were coming back to Canada and deserved to have a roof over their heads. That is why in places like New Westminster, like 109 Glover, which is my address, those houses were built in 1947, 1948 and 1949. We built hundreds of thousands of units. Today the government pretends that it has done something. It has manufactured, in a bizarre way, some cooked-up figures, as if it is actually addressing the housing crisis. It is a tragedy that the government does not understand the importance of this. There is nothing in this budget implementation bill that addresses the housing crisis.
There is nothing in the budget implementation bill that addresses the crisis in pharmacare, either. The lack of pharmacare is something so many Canadians feel acutely. One in every five Canadians, as my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, has mentioned numerous times in the House, has no access to medications. They simply cannot afford to pay for them. Businesses have to pay billions of dollars a year for drug plans. The good businesses, of course, provide drug plans to their employees. Businesses that care less choose not to do that, but then those employees become part of the one in every five Canadians who cannot afford medications.
These are the big, glaring errors in this budget implementation bill. When the government could have chosen to take action, it chose, instead, to do nothing. It aggravated it, appallingly to me and to so many Canadians, with a massive $14-billion corporate tax writeoff scheme. That is $14 billion of taxpayers' money. Stunningly, when I talked to the finance officials and asked if it was true what I was reading on page 58 that plush corporate jets and stretch limousines were included as part of these massive corporate tax writeoffs that could go to Bay Street companies, they said yes, it was very true; stretch limousines, absolutely; plush private jets, absolutely.
The government is not prioritizing the needs of Canadians by putting in place single-payer universal pharmacare, putting in place housing in this country at a time when it is in crisis or responding to the needs of indigenous children. They are profoundly underfunded and disadvantaged for life because of the up to $10,000 funding gap per pupil per year in indigenous schools because of the chronic underfunding by the federal government.
Instead of responding to all of this, we have what is before us. What is before us had some good intentions. Pay equity was a very good intention. The federal government slapped itself on the back and said it did a good job. It was then referred to committee, which heard from witnesses. It heard from the Coalition for Pay Equity, CUPE, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Canadian Labour Congress. It heard from a wide variety of activists who have been fighting for pay equity and making sure that women are paid equally for work of equal value for years. Each one of them said that there were major flaws and that this bill had holes that must be addressed.
The pay equity coalition was particularly eloquent in this regard. It said that unless these flaws were fixed, women would have to go back to court so they could actually get equal pay for work of equal value. That is a compelling argument. Parliamentarians from the Liberal Party were at the committee and heard from the Coalition for Pay Equity, the teamsters, CUPE, PSAC and of course, the CLC, all of them saying the same thing, to fix the flaws. Every single one of them said that if these flaws were not fixed, women would have to return to court. Therefore, the Liberals cannot brag about bringing pay equity. All they can brag about is bringing a flawed bill to the floor of the House of Commons.
The NDP, because we are the worker bees in this House, went to work. We worked night and day. We came up with dozens of amendments to fix all the flaws. The Liberals put forward a flawed bill. However, our job, as parliamentarians, is to fix the flaws. When I went to committee last week, my full expectation, despite the fact that the Liberals were bulldozing the bill through committee, was that the Liberals would accept the amendments and fix the flaws in the bill, even though we did all the work. Unbelievably, the Liberal MPs who sat at committee and heard about the massive flaws that would lead to women having to go back to court to achieve pay equity refused to entertain any amendments whatsoever.
Now we are left at report stage with a deeply flawed piece of legislation. Not a single Liberal can get up and say that the government has fixed pay equity, because it has not. The Liberals had a chance. We did the work for them. We were willing to let them take the credit, because the only thing that seems to concern them is who gets credit. We do not care. We just want this fixed. We want pay equity to be a reality. We do not want women to have to go back to court. The Liberals said no. Therefore, we are left with a bill with all the massive flaws identified by witness after witness. Not a single Liberal MP was willing to stand up for pay equity at committee. Not a single MP was willing to fix the flaws.
That is just one issue in a very sad narrative. I only have 10 minutes. I could speak for hours on this, because there are flaws identified in other parts of this massive omnibus piece of legislation. It is the biggest in our history, at 850 pages. It was thrown at the House of Commons with all kinds of flaws and mistakes written in, yet the Liberals were unwilling, even when other parties did the work for them, to entertain any fixes to the flaws.
Unfortunately, what that means is that this will be exactly like what we saw with the Harper government. Half a dozen times, a court threw out the legislation, because the Conservatives steamrolled it through the House of Commons rather than listening to elected representatives and experts so they could fix the flaws. Tragically, we are going to see women being forced to go back to court to throw out a piece of legislation on pay equity that could have been fixed. We did the work for them.
The most frustrating thing is that the current Liberal government does not have the character to understand that it is not who gets the credit; it is that the work is done right. We have always believed that the work needs to be done right. That is our role in Parliament, as Canadians chose in the last election. Up until the next election, we will continue to do that work.
I must oppose the bill at report stage. There are huge errors in this bill, and the Liberals rejected dozens of amendments that we proposed. They refused to improve the bill, and this is why I will vote against it.
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