Alistair spoke about Business of Supply and Natural Resources in the House
September 28th, 2018 - 5:41am
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
As always, it is a great honour to stand in this House on behalf of the wonderful people of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford and talk about an issue that is very near and dear to my heart, but that is also consistently one of the top issues that is raised by people where I live.
I got into politics because of the work I used to do as a former caseworker for former member of Parliament Jean Crowder. I worked in her office for seven years and really got to see how the policies and legislation that were enacted in this place affected the people on the ground. There were far too many occasions when I was sitting across the table with tearful constituents who were at the end of their rope because they were having to make a decision about whether they could pay the rent or put good quality food on the table. In a country as wealthy as ours, that is a shameful thing that it is still going on today. These are problems I was dealing with in the last decade. They are still going on and it is 2018.
We have this motion today because we have this sense of urgency. This was an urgent issue 10 years ago and it was an urgent issue in 2015 when the Liberals won the election. However, there has been a delay, and we have not seen the action live up to that urgency. As members of Parliament, we all have those stories. We all have to sit in our constituency offices and try to explain why we are not doing enough to meet it. Therefore, let us look at the motion before us, because it has two very important constituent parts.
One part is going to call upon the House to recognize the right to housing as a human right. Right away I want to acknowledge the hard work of my friend and colleague the member for North Island—Powell River and her attempt earlier in this Parliament to put that into law through Bill C-325, which was unfortunately voted down by the Liberals. That bill would have basically enshrined the right to housing in the Canadian Bill of Rights. I know the Liberals at the time criticized it. They said that using a legal avenue, a rights-based approach, would not be effective. I think members were saying that we need to have a plan. The point they were missing is that when people have a legal avenue, that is how they hold their government to account. When they have a legal avenue they can go to the courts, they can make sure that not only the legislature but the executive branch is actually living up to that legal obligation. I know it is not the only answer.
However, it certainly is a very important constituent part of the issue that we are trying to deal with today.
The second part, which is probably the critical part of the motion, is that we want the current government to bring its funding commitment forward and spend it before the 2019 election.
The Liberals are absolute masters of the long promise. They will announce something that is usually made up of previously announced funding, it is grossly inflated to include both territorial and provincial funding announcements, and when we look at the fine print we see that it is spread out over a whole bunch of years and the funding is not going to come into effect in a big way until after the next election. Yes, the national housing strategy was rolled out with great fanfare. However, when we look at the budgetary numbers, it is all back-ended to fiscal year 2019-20 and beyond, so we have to wait until the next Parliament. Although there is federal money being spent now, it is nowhere near enough to acknowledge the crisis that exists on the ground. Therefore, what we are calling on the government to do is to move the spending up, treat this like the crisis it is and get those units built.
I want to talk about some of the amazing local initiatives that are going on. In the absence of this critically needed federal funding or the fact we have to wait for it, I look at associations like the M’akola Housing Society and the Cowichan Housing Association, that are really trying to lead with local efforts to get the ball rolling. In fact, where I live in the Cowichan region, the Cowichan Valley Regional District, we are going into municipal elections this fall and we will have an important referendum question on whether we are going to allocate some funding to the Cowichan Housing Association so that it can start taking firm action.
I am really heartened by the incredible work being done by constituents in my riding. They have seized the issue. They have done homeless counts. There is also that part of the housing crisis that is frequently not talked about which is housing insecurity, people who are one paycheque away from being evicted, have threats from their landlords or are couch surfing. It is a big issue.
I do not want to prejudge what the referendum question is going to be, but I hope that the voters in Cowichan Valley look at this question, treat it with the seriousness that it deserves and try to recognize the local efforts being made on this issue.
The Liberals in questions and comments are going to come up with all kinds of facts and figures and say they really are doing something, but the really bad thing is that the government is prepared to spend $4.5 billion of taxpayers' money on an old pipeline to deliver diluted bitumen to our coast, something that flies in the face of our climate change commitment.
Furthermore, the Liberals want to expand the export of diluted bitumen. It just makes an absolute mockery of our climate change commitments.
The Liberals can find that kind of money pretty quickly and easily, but I am left trying to explain to my six-year-old kids, whose future we are trying to work on in this place, what the current government is doing and try to put that in the context of the housing crisis we are having.
It is always very helpful in this place when we are talking about particular issues to bring in personal stories because that is ultimately why we are here. I want to talk about a couple of constituents who wrote to me and gave me permission to use their names and talk about some of the things they are going through.
I would like to talk about Wilfred Stevens. He is a single father who can barely make ends meet because he is trying to prove that he is the primary caregiver to his children. He has been struggling to get the child tax benefit and all of this financial difficulty is not allowing him to have that kind of security in making his rental payments.
There is a woman named June Thomas in my riding who has been waiting for quite a long time to get her GIS application processed. She is currently couch surfing, at her age, in different family members' homes to try and make ends meet. It is absolutely unacceptable that our seniors, the people who in previous generations and previous decades built this country to what it is today, are still having to live in such abject poverty and trying to find a place to live, one of the most basic human needs.
Peter Emeny-Smith is having problems with the CRA and so on. These are all issues that relate to people's ability to find housing and when they do not have that kind of security it affects their entire life, their outlook on life, the way they are able to function in society, their ability to hold down a job. That kind of stress wears people down and it can lead to further costs down the road in their mental health and their physical health, so there are real tangible economic costs to not solving the housing crisis.
Maybe my Conservative friends will argue that it is too costly a venture. I would argue that it is too costly not to do things.
Given that my time is running out, I will end by saying that I recognize how critical this issue is. I am going to be hosting two town halls on housing during the October constituency week to try to juxtapose what the traditional federal role used to be in housing with what it is now, and what more we could be doing from the senior level of government.
I hope all hon. members will look at the spirit and intent behind this motion, recognize its urgency and support us in addressing this very critical issue.
Madam Speaker, the intent behind the motion is pretty broad. It is trying to get the government to specifically act on something right here and now.
The member's comments about seniors, however, are very welcome. Many seniors are on fixed incomes. They are very much the most vulnerable members of our society. They are less able to adjust to economic shocks, which is why we have to pay particular attention to them when we are designing policy in this area.
Madam Speaker, I did not hear the full question. I think it was about wishful thinking by the Liberals. Yes, I referenced in my speech that they are masters of the long promise and a lot of what they announce is kind of predicated on re-electing a Liberal government. They like to package these things up, bring them to the electorates and make it seem like they are actually doing work, but when we get down to the fine print, we can expose the inaction for what it really and truly is. We see that on their environmental commitments and housing.
I really hope the Liberals understand the intent behind this motion, which is that we are seeking to have the funding allocated in later years spent now, because here and now is the crisis, and here and now is when the money needs to be spent.
Madam Speaker, I think I need to provide my friend and colleague with a map of Vancouver Island showing the electoral areas, because then he would realize that Nanaimo is, in fact, not in my riding. That is a bit of an oops.
I love the Library of Parliament because when one submits a question, one gets a clear and concise answer. I am holding in my hand right now a response from the Library of Parliament that says there are zero dollars announced or committed in the riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.
Mr. Speaker, earlier this year, on April 27, I rose in the House to convey the concerns B.C. coastal communities had about the foregone conclusion made by the government on the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.
The former parliamentary secretary to the minister of natural resources said that the review “was the most exhaustive in the history of pipelines in Canada” and that the “additional steps...made the process more rigorous.”
One of the problems I have with this government is that its representatives can keep standing in this place and make such preposterous claims.
First, the ministerial review panel in question admitted that it lacked the time, the technical expertise and the resources to fill the gaps in the National Energy Board process. lt ended up with little more than questions that remained unanswered. It kept no public records of hearings, admitted that the meetings were hastily organized and confirmed that it had a serious lack of public confidence in the National Energy Board and its recommendations. I attended one of those meetings when it came to Victoria in 2016, so I witnessed how bad it was first-hand.
Next, we have the internal memo from the office of the former natural resources minister, which described the negotiations with first nations as “paternalistic”, “unrealistic” and “inadequate”. We now have evidence that the government had made up its mind to allow Texas-based Kinder Morgan to build a major pipeline and that it regarded consultations with first nations as simply an item to check off a grocery list.
The government maintains that it fulfilled its legal duty to consult first nations about the project before it announced that it was approving the pipeline on Nov. 29, 2016. However, it has been revealed that at a meeting in late October 2016, a group of about two dozen senior staff were invited to Vancouver and were told by a senior government official at that meeting that their job was to find a way to get the pipeline approved.
The NDP, and our leader Jagmeet Singh, have repeatedly told the Liberal government that its consultation process for the Trans Mountain pipeline was completely inadequate and destined for failure. Unfortunately, our enquiries were repeatedly met with the same old Liberal arrogance. However, we found vindication last month as the unanimous Federal Court of Appeal ruling on Trans Mountain found that the National Energy Board's review of the project was so flawed that the federal government could not rely on it as a basis for its decision to approve the expansion. The court also concluded that the federal government failed in its duty to engage in meaningful consultations with first nations before giving the green light to the project. ln their consultations with indigenous communities, the government's representatives limited their mandate to listening to and recording the concerns of the indigenous applicants and then simply transmitting those concerns to decision-makers. There was no meaningful two-way dialogue.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that no relationship is more important than that with indigenous people, but the government's approval process for Trans Mountain exposed a calculated and predetermined strategy to get to a yes decision on this project.
lndigenous people are entitled to a dialogue that demonstrates that the government gives serious consideration to the specific and very real concerns they have. Is the parliamentary secretary prepared to still say that this project is going to be built in spite of these concerns?
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's response. The fact of the matter is that the government, the taxpayers of Canada, are now owners of the $4.5-billion pipeline. The government has repeatedly stated that it wants to get the project built and I think that puts the Government of Canada in an inherent conflict of interest in the negotiations with first nations.
The Liberals have yet to credibly explain where all of the international buyers for our increased bitumen exports are lining up. They have yet to credibly state how this project is in any way going to aid our country in meeting its climate change goals. We are in 2018 and climate change is arguably the issue of the 21st century. It is shameful that we are letting down a young generation that is going to take this country and one day lead it through some of the biggest challenges. We are not setting them up for success and I just hope that the government reconsiders that fact in the negotiations that go forward.