Vancouver East NDP MP Libby Davies recently spoke (February 13th) in the House of Commons in support of Bill C-400 and the need for a national housing strategy.
The NDP is encouraging organizations and constituents to endorse the bill and sign the petition here.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak briefly today to Bill C-400. We hear the passion in the speeches today about why we have to get this bill through, a bill for an affordable housing strategy in our country.
I want to thank my colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador and others who have spoken in the House today on their experiences and perspective about why the bill is so critical. It is critical because we understand that safe, appropriate, affordable housing is a basic human right in our country. If people do not have it, as the hon. member just said, there is not much else they can do in their life. Whether it is work or income, if people do not have safe, affordable, appropriate housing, it is very difficult to get by.
The bill has had a very long history. I first introduced the bill in 1998. I was so hopping mad when I came to Parliament in 1997 because it was the Liberal government in 1995 that cut out our very successful national housing programs. When the member for Winnipeg North got up on his high horse and said that the Liberals had shown leadership and this was a great issue, it was his government that cut our programs. They were good programs and, yes, we could go back to the seventies and the eighties. They were housing programs that municipalities and non-profit societies used. We had excellent co-op housing, not-for-profit housing, seniors housing, special needs housing and what did the Liberals do? Balancing the budget on the backs of poor people, they cut out housing programs. Ever since that historic day, we have suffered because we have not had a national housing program.
The bill in the last Parliament was almost passed, but the election happened and the bill was died. Here we are again. However, we are determined and committed to keep this issue alive and not give up on the fact that we need a national housing strategy. It is a responsibility of the federal government to work with the provinces, territories, first nations, municipalities and other housing providers to bring about such a strategy. The bill is all about that.
I have heard all the arguments from the other side that government is doing it. The fact is the government had some money for about two years as part of the recession economic plan. However, since then, it has not put any money into an affordable housing plan.
I recently dealt with a group in my riding that was trying to get some money under the homelessness strategy, which does still exist. This was a church group which had its own money, land and needed some support from the federal government, but it was turned down. Why? The group was told that its development was affordable housing and therefore it could not be supported because it was not homelessness.
What kind of crazy system is this? Yes, we need to provide shelters. In metro Vancouver we have a dire situation of growing homelessness, particularly among the aboriginal community, people who cannot find shelter. However, we also need a longer term program. We cannot have people living in and out of shelters. Shelters have become permanent housing for people. That is no solution whether it is in Toronto, Vancouver or Mount Pearl, wherever it is.
I want to congratulate my colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, for bringing forward the bill again. The New Democrats are here today to say that we will fight tooth and nail to get the bill through. There is tremendous support in the community. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, major organizations, over 60 organizations have supported the bill, not because they like us, because they know this has to be done. This is about a fundamental issue in our country of people who are suffering simply because they do not have access to safe, appropriate and affordable housing. We will keep this going and ensure that the bill gets through.