Guest post by Amber Grant.
Amber Grant was in the Commons to observe the second reading debate on Bill C-400, draft legislation to create a national housing plan for Canada. The bill is a Private Member’s Bill, which means that there will be a ‘free vote’ – ie. the political parties will not require their MPs to follow party lines. The bill is scheduled for second reading vote on Feb 27. Here is her report, along with links for more information:
Bill C-400 states that every Canadian has the right to adequate housing, drawing on Canada’s international housing rights commitments. Under Parliamentary protocol, a Private Member’s Bill cannot impose financial requirements on the government. So, instead of setting out a specific national housing plan with the proposed number of new homes, financial resources and so on, this draft legislation imposes a procedural requirement on the federal government – setting a deadline for the federal government, working with numerous partners, to create a national housing plan.
If this bill is passed, it would require the federal government to meet with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, as well as Aboriginal governments and non-profit housing providers, in order to develop a national housing strategy that meets the housing needs of all Canadians, especially those who are unable to find a healthy and affordable housing in either the private ownership or private rental housing markets.
During the second reading debate, MPs focused on some key issues, such as family, shelter, food, career and health. Imagine having to eliminate one or more of these essentials in order to sustain your family. This is the dilemma that Ryan Cleary, MP for St. Johns South – Mount Pearl brought up the Commons debate. He emphasized that there is an immense housing crisis occurring in St. Johns, one of Canada’s boom cities.
Representing the other side of the country Libby Davies, MP for Vancouver East also spoke compassionately about the housing crisis in Vancouver. She illustrated that without the right to adequate housing; it is extremely difficult to get by. She noted that this crisis is severely affecting the Aboriginal population in East Vancouver. Davies, speaking in favour of the Bill, believes this has been an issue in Canada for far too long and Canada needs to have a national housing strategy immediately.
Official Opposition Finance Critic Peggy Nash, MP for Parkdale – High Park focussed on statistics and the greater gap between the rich and the poor. She addressed that this gap between the rich and the poor, as well as the increase in housing in Toronto has caused many citizens to experience homelessness. Nash accentuated the housing crisis in Toronto and supports Bill C-400, ensuring adequate housing, to all Canadians.
The MPs who spoke addressed a largely empty chamber as most elected officials had left before the C-400 debate began (this, unfortunately, is a common occurrence during Parliamentary debates when no vote is scheduled).
The Wellesley Institute’s Precarious Housing in Canada sets out recent research and analysis on affordable housing and homelessness.
The full text of the Parliamentary second reading debate on C-400 is posted here.
More background information on C-400 is available here.
A Wellesley Institute research report posted here documents the links between housing and health.
Amber Grant lives in Toronto, Ontario. She is studying Environment and Urban Sustainability at Ryerson University in Toronto while working for Me to We, a social enterprise that believes in making change for a better world.