Libby speaking out for the right to housing

Libby’s bill for a national housing strategy was debated at Third Reading in the House of Commons. The following is the transcript of Libby’s speech.

House of Commons

Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, as amended, be concurred in.

Ms. Libby Davies
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak at third reading stage of Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians.

There has been tremendous support for this bill right across the country. Yesterday on Parliament Hill many folks came out with their red tents. They were taking part in a campaign organized by the red tent campaign to end homelessness in Canada. Rallies were held yesterday in Halifax, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, and right across the country. The reason was because people know that there is a housing crisis in this country, whether in large cities or smaller communities.

Anybody involved in the housing business, average people on the street, will tell us about people they know who are homeless. They will tell us about families they know who are paying 50% or 60% of their income in rent. They cannot find an affordable place to live. They will tell us about people who are threatened with eviction.

About three million Canadians live in what we call housing insecurity. One of the reasons we have this predicament is because we do not have a national strategy and a national framework around affordable housing in this country.

Canada has had a history of good housing programs, but many of those programs have been lost. I do not want to go into the history of that today because we do not have time.

Suffice it to say that the efforts that we have made have been piecemeal. Even the money in the last budget that was related to the recession was only one time stimulus money for housing and that money is not getting into the local communities. There has been a real vacuum in this country. There has been a social deficit around a housing plan. People understand that.

This bill is very straightforward and clear. It calls on the federal government, in partnership with the provinces, the territories, first nations, municipalities and stakeholders, to develop a strategy that could take us forward and move us into a situation where we have a real plan with objectives, targets, outcomes, and deliverables. That is why so many people have signed on in support of this bill.

The list of organizations that are supporting this bill is really quite phenomenal. The organizations are non-partisan and are located across the country. The list includes: ACORN Canada, Amnesty International Canada, Assembly of First Nations, Campaign 2000, Canada Without Poverty, Canadian AIDS Society, Canadian Association of Social Workers, Canadian Federation of University Women, Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, Citizens for Public Justice, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, National Aboriginal Housing Association, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Social Rights Advocacy Centre, Wellesley Institute, and YWCA.

These are national organizations and they represent millions of people in this country. These organizations have signed on to support this bill because they know that work needs to be done. They know that the federal government needs to take a leadership role in bringing the partners together in developing a plan.

I am proud that in my own community in Vancouver East, where this began, key organizations like Pivot Legal Society and the Citywide Housing Coalition did a lot of organizing to support this bill. I want to thank those individuals who have worked so hard to bring this bill now to third reading in the House.

I would also like to thank my colleagues in the House from the Bloc, the Liberal Party, and there have even been some Conservatives who have supported the bill. The support across the House, across parties, is a reflection of the work that has been done at the grassroots. Right across the country there has been tremendous campaigns to contact members of Parliament to let them know about the bill and the work that needs to be done.

I am very hopeful that this broad support will continue for the bill. I would like to thank the members who have supported the bill and say that we can move this forward. We can realize an achievable plan. We can get the federal government to work with the partners across the country to truly develop a national strategy that builds on the success that we have had in provinces.
The province of Quebec has a tremendous housing program. It can build on the success that we have had in local communities because many municipalities have done tremendous work in providing affordable housing. However, we will not get where we need to be unless we have the federal government showing that political leadership.

I have seen letters from the government saying, “Do not worry. We are doing what needs to be done”. Unfortunately, that is not the case. All of these organizations recognize that is not the case, otherwise they would not be supporting the bill.

I want to suggest to members today that we can move the bill forward. We can adopt the kind of strategy that we need and we can say that housing is a fundamental right. We can say that wherever we live in this country, we should have access to safe, appropriate, and affordable housing. No Canadian should be on the street destitute. No Canadians, no families, should worry about whether they can pay the rent, whether they will be evicted, or whether they are living in substandard housing that they cannot get upgraded. To me, this is just such a basic issue and it is the reason I ran in 1997, to bring forward the issue of the need for leadership from the federal government on housing.

Let us build on the programs that we used to have. Let us build on the success story that Canada was with social housing, co-op housing, and special needs housing. We did have tremendous programs. The bill does not actually create those programs. The bill creates the debate, the discourse, and the plan, led by the federal government in partnership with provinces and territories, first nations and municipalities to actually develop that strategy.

This is a very basic thing we need to take on, so again, I want to thank members for their support. We are now at a very critical point in the bill. It has gone through second reading. It has gone through committee. We heard great witnesses. We made some changes to the bill and we are now at third reading.

Let us recognize the support that it has. Let us listen to our constituents. Let us listen to the people who are on the front line every day, dealing with people who are in desperate situations and do not know where they will go. Let us listen to the people who are trying to find that affordable housing for families in large cities as well as in smaller communities.

We have a responsibility to do the right thing. The bill is not rocket science. It is not earth shattering. It is very straightforward. It is very clear. It is calling on the federal government to work in a way that is delivering a mandate for those fundamental human needs.

I am very pleased that we are here debating Bill C-304 and look forward to what I hope will be ongoing support from the members of the House to make the bill a reality.