In Debate: C-47 "Sustaining Economic Recovery" Part 2

Economic Recovery Plan Fails Families, Seniors, and Widens Poverty Gap

Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to Bill C-47, an act to implement certain provisions of the other budget tabled in Parliament, blah, blah, blah. The short title is “sustaining Canada's economic recovery” and the blah, blah, blah is about sustaining Canada's economic recovery because, although I will speak specifically to the universal child care benefit and pensions, I want to highlight for people that this so-called economic recovery has not reached from coast to coast to coast in our beautiful country. I want to touch briefly on pensions. Before I do that, this is relevant because it is about poverty...

...HungerCount 2009, put out by Food Banks Canada, has a couple of interesting figures in its report. It says:

This year’s HungerCount survey confirms what we all suspected: food bank use across the country has escalated as a result of the economic downturn. More than 790,000 people walked into a food bank in March 2009, 72,000 of them for the first time. Not surprisingly, food banks themselves, running on shoestring budgets and staffed largely by dedicated volunteers, are struggling to meet the demand. This year’s HungerCount portrays a country in need of change.

Sadly, I only have 10 minutes so I cannot read all of the very good information about poverty in our country, which is resulting in increased food bank usage, but it does say who is turning to food banks. It says:

In terms of household composition, food bank use did not change significantly from 2008 to 2009. Nearly half of assisted households were families with children, split about evenly between two-parent and single-parent families. The proportion of single people turning to food banks for help edged up.

It says that 49% are families with children. It also points out that 12% of those assisted are aboriginal.

That was going to be in the context of pensions, and this economic recovery bill, Bill C-47, does have amendments to the Pension Benefits Standards Act. However, what it sadly does not do is look at increasing CPP, OAS and GIS to some of the poorest, marginalized seniors in our country. What we know is we have the capacity to do that if we only do not go ahead and implement those corporate tax cuts. The $700 million annually that would be required to lift seniors out of poverty and protect pensions in cases of bankruptcy or insolvency could come from those corporate tax cuts, so we could afford to pay for it.

New Democrats do not support the bill and do not see it as a full-blown economic recovery bill.

Mr. Alan Tonks (York South—Weston, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, there are two areas that I would like to ask the member about with respect to impact as a result of Bill C-47 and the budget. One is in the area of green technology and the fact that the government cancelled most of the eco-technology grants. It has suggested that in this budget there is an opportunity through the capital depreciation allowance for green technology that it will make up, but it does not really give incentives to consumers. How does the member feel about that?

The second question is about how this budget fails families. I would like the member to explore that a little, if she would not mind, for the benefit of the House. We have recent data which provides a strong rationale that the poverty gap is in fact increasing as opposed to decreasing. What does this budget do for families and could it be improved?

Ms. Jean Crowder:
Mr. Speaker, those are two very good questions. On the green technology end of it, he is absolutely correct that there are two problems with the approach the government has taken. First, the retrofit program that was in place, which could have been converted to a longer-term sustainable environmental retrofit program for households, is gone. Those retrofit programs would have been one way of reducing our ecological footprint in the country.

I want to talk more about that, but he mentioned family poverty. We know that renters and seniors live in homes that could benefit from environmental upgrades. Oftentimes seniors are cash poor and house rich and they do not have an opportunity to do an environmental upgrade. If we want to help families reduce their heating and water bills, we should provide some funding to help them reduce those costs, which would help their bottom lines in terms of eating, for example.

The other piece with green technology is for businesses we need a long-term fund so they can make 5 and 10 year plans for the kinds of environmental upgrades they need to make their businesses more efficient.

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's remarks and was quite taken with what she had to say about the $100 a month child care benefit. It very clearly has failed. It was a bill of goods sold to Canadians and it utterly fails.

I want to ask her about the studies done by Fraser Mustard, which show very clearly that registered regulated child care provides an important foundation that would allow children to flourish and prepare them for the future. Our kids will be competing with the kids of the world and they will need that good start. Could my colleague comment on that importance?

Ms. Jean Crowder: Mr. Speaker, a couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune to hear some presentations from the Women's Committee of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. It was very difficult to listen to the stories that some of these women had to tell about their struggle with raising their children and ensuring they had the kind of quality regulated licensed child care that was so important to them.

One single mom was telling me that she was the mother of two children and one child was disabled. She is in the position of trying to find two separate kinds of child care because a disabled child needs some additional care. She was talking to me about her struggle and said that the $100 per child simply did nothing to defray the expenses of having to deal with her particular situation. Hers is just one of many stories.

The member for London—Fanshawe has ably pointed out that these children are the future of our country. We want to give them the best start possible and that kind of quality child care is an important part of the best start possible.