Mr. Speaker, at a minimum, obviously we want to have the kind of oversight that the inspector general provided under CSIS, but even that was not enough. I cite the Campbell Clark article from the Globe and Mail today, where Mr. Clark talks about getting warrants. He said that when CSIS applies for warrants, a judge only hears one side of the argument; the judge does not hear a counter-argument to that. It is up to CSIS if it wants to get a warrant. Judges just routinely give these warrants.
We need better oversight of the existing powers of CSIS. These extended powers are not warranted—at least the government has not made a case for them.
I would urge my colleague from Trinity—Spadina and all of his colleagues in the Liberal Party to please not just rubberstamp the bill. I would urge them not be stampeded by the Conservative government and fear of public opinion. I would urge them, please, to take a principled stand and to stand up for Canadians' rights and oppose Bill C-51.
Before we resume debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina, Intergovernmental Affairs.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
I declare the motion carried.
I wish to inform the House that because of the proceedings on the time allocation motion, government orders will be extended by 30 minutes.
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, International Trade; and the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina, Infrastructure.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join this very important debate. I am sure that Canadians who are watching understand how important it is to have positive relationships among one another. That is very helpful when it is possible, but it is quite difficult in this environment. Certainly positive relationships with our provinces would be much more helpful.
As members of this House know, one of the unique characteristics of Canada's federal system is something dubbed by many as “summit federalism”. The key component of this kind of federalism is commonly known as the the first ministers conference, which brings together the Prime Minister, provincial premiers, and territorial leaders. This allows the first ministers to tackle collective problems in a collaborative way that is good for every Canadian, regardless of the province of residence.
I think that makes sense to anybody who is watching. That sounds like the kind of Canada that they would want.
Since 1906, Canada's first ministers have been meeting every year to discuss ideas of pressing federal-provincial concern, to exchange notes and best practices, and, most importantly, to avoid misunderstandings or a misallocation of resources and even duplication. In short, they meet to build a consensus, to craft common policy responses, and to work co-operatively to make Canada an even better place in which to live and work. That has been happening since 1906, and we have had a lot of success up until the last eight or nine years.
Most experts agree that it is critical for these deliberations to be chaired by the Prime Minister, the head of our country, the elected official guided on a broader, more national perspective. Sadly, the current Prime Minister's vision for Canada is much smaller and much more inward-looking than all of that.
As evidence of this, the last time the current Prime Minister met with the premiers and territorial leaders was in 2009. There has not been another high-level gathering of all of the premiers and territorial leaders and our Prime Minister for six years, which means that for six years the Prime Minister has hidden in the proverbial closet and abdicated his national leadership responsibilities to others.
I have to wonder what he is so afraid of that he cannot sit down in a room with all of the premiers collectively. Does the Prime Minister lack the confidence? Is that the issue? Is it that he is concerned he will be challenged on his ideological mantra and be rebuked by many of them?
Previous Conservative leaders have not been afraid to meet with the first ministers, and in many cases their meetings have been very fruitful. However, the current Prime Minister continues to hide in his office and avoid working on any kind of pan-Canadian vision for the future of Canada, as is very evident when we talk to the premiers or territorial leaders on a variety of issues and hear their frustration.
Certainly there are several issues on the federal agenda that would benefit from a national approach. The establishment of a national securities regulator has been talked about a great deal. The government has done quite a job at trying to push that forward, but it requires the co-operation of the provinces and territories.
Infrastructure renewal is a major issue facing Canada. Yes, money has been put into infrastructure, but has it been put down in a collaborative way? Has it been one project versus another? Was it always done in the best interests of Canada as a whole? That is what our job is and that is what the Prime Minister's job is: to do what is best for Canada as a whole and not benefit just one province versus another.
The economic recovery continues to be a significant problem for all of us. That is especially the case in southwestern Ontario, where we are concerned about the manufacturing sector. There has been a lot of emphasis put on the oil industry, much to the detriment of many of the other provinces.
I forgot to mention at the beginning of my speech that I will be splitting my time with my great new colleague from Trinity—Spadina.
Let us talk about employment and the huge unemployment that is facing many of our young people. They are graduating from universities and colleges with debts of $20,000 or $30,000, and there are no job opportunities. Little investment has been done in that area.
The government can talk about creating 1,200,000 jobs, but it does not talk about the 300,000 that have been lost, especially in southwestern Ontario.
These are issues that could be dealt with much more effectively if the Prime Minister would set aside his personal fears and inadequacies and sit at the same table with the premiers and talk seriously about how we can together get Canada to move forward.
As an Ontario MP, I know that the manufacturing sector alone has bled more than 300,000 jobs since the premiers last met six years ago. Middle-class families are in trouble, and they are looking to government for leadership and help.
Imagine what could have been done to stem the tide if the first ministers, including and led by the Prime Minister, had set their collective minds to stabilizing the manufacturing sector instead of ignoring it for nine years. Instead, the Premier of Ontario was forced to deal with this crisis and many more. Only recently did the Prime Minister squeeze in a brief meeting on the way to a hockey game. It shows how much respect there is for the Province of Ontario.
It is no secret that the Prime Minister does not play well with others. He prefers the bully pulpit over the conference table. However, after six long years of locking the doors of 24 Sussex to the rest of Canada, surely it is time to plan for the collective and long-term success of the nation.
I understand that the Prime Minister detests these meetings because he cannot control conferences or those sitting around the table. One never knows what is going to come out of them, although usually they are very positive things. I understand the preference for absolute and total control over a situation, environment, and message, but that is not the way to move a country as big as Canada forward. It cannot continue in this way without serious harm being caused.
There has been a regrettable inclination on the part of the government and the Prime Minister to rely on reference cases and the Supreme Court of Canada to resolve federal-provincial disagreements, but this is hardly an optimal way of dealing with these disputes and it is hardly the way to manage a country.
As we speak, there are several pressing policy issues on the table that demand a more collective approach. Pension security is one of them. Others include infrastructure spending, the environment, changes to employment insurance, health care funding, and many more, not to mention that the premiers should have the right to speak to the Prime Minister directly on issues such as the status of the comprehensive economic and trade agreement, the CETA, with the European Union, which they will all presumably have to ratify at some point. Clearly Newfoundland and Labrador has some very serious concerns that are going to have to be listened to, one way or the other.
The Prime Minister needs to take a leadership role and start working with his provincial and territorial counterparts. By hiding in his office in the Langevin Block or on the Hill, he is undermining the proper functioning of a federal state and weakening the federal government's central role in the process. He is also forcing the premiers to move collectively to fill the gap and to move ahead with their own policy initiatives. For example, on the pension front, Ontario is relegating the national voice to a whisper on the sidelines.
Perhaps this is all part of a well-known firewall strategy. As the Conservatives move deeper and deeper into their bunker, who will speak for Canada as a whole? Why would any political leader not take advantage of the impending first ministers meeting to re-establish the federal government's role and the desire to be part of the process, unless there is no desire to be part of it?
The Prime Minister assumed office by promising open federalism. It is long past due for him to sit down and meet with the premiers and territorial leaders. Refusing to do so is an admission of his own failures and shortcomings and is no way to run a country.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the response from my friend from Trinity—Spadina. In response to his response to me, I would just point out that in '06 it was not the NDP that threw the Liberals out of power; it was the Canadian people who decided the Liberals needed to be removed from power.
More importantly, moving to ground that we agree on, particularly as it relates to southern Ontario and our shared economy around the Golden Horseshoe, I certainly agree with everything the member has said in terms of the government's record with respect to the steel industry in Hamilton. I think it is fair to say that we could probably apply that right across most of what has been happening in southern Ontario: the lack of concern and the lack of caring.
The member talked about local members. I do not like to attack local members unless there is a really good reason. This is a really good reason. There has not been an adequate response from the government members in our area and from the government. The jobs that matter and the pensions that matter were all treated in a cavalier fashion by the government in terms of the unilateral actions it has had. To this day, the government will still not make public the actual document it signed that has put these jobs and pensions in jeopardy.
Order, please. It is awfully noisy in here this afternoon. The hon. member for Parkdale—High Park is in the process of responding to the question from the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina. I am sure that hon. members would like to hear what she has to say.
The hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support this legislation put forward by my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie. I want to thank him for his excellent work on cycling safety. This is an issue near and dear to my heart.
Bill C-603 would make side guards mandatory for heavy trucks manufactured in Canada or imported into Canada. As my colleague from Guelph has said, it is about encouraging people to cycle and about encouraging better cycling safety.
Canada should be looking at greater cycling infrastructure, so that we are encouraging people to cycle. I put forward a motion calling on the government to have a national strategy to encourage cycling infrastructure in communities across Canada.
People have to know that they can cycle safely, and installing side guards on heavy trucks would make cycling safer. It would save lives. Too many tragic accidents have taken place in communities across the country. In 2011, there was a tragic case in my own community. A mom was on her way to pick up her five-year old son from school. She was expecting a second child. She was making a right hand turn at a corner in our neighbourhood and a truck clipped her as it was turning that same corner. She fell under the back wheels of the truck as it turned right and suffered massive head injuries as a result. Whenever there is a collision between a truck and a cyclist, the cyclist will never win. Jenna Morrison was killed that day. Obviously, it was a terrible tragedy for Jenna's family and for our entire community.
We have been calling for mandatory side guards on heavy trucks for many years now. Our former colleague Olivia Chow from Trinity—Spadina worked tirelessly on this issue. There was a similar case in her riding involving a young cyclist who was making a right hand turn at Dundas and Spadina. She was clipped by a truck and suffered massive injuries as she fell under the rear wheels.
Side guards would push the cyclist away from the truck rather than allowing the individual to fall into the truck and be crushed by the rear wheels. A cyclist might be injured falling on the street, falling on a sidewalk, or falling into a parked car but would not be crushed to death by falling under the rear wheels of a truck.
For years, other countries have heeded the call for mandatory side guards because they have seen the totally unnecessary deaths of cyclists and pedestrians by heavy trucks. A study in the United Kingdom found that side guards reduced the number of deaths in accidents where cyclists were hit by the side of a truck by 61%. Two-thirds of the cycling deaths were reduced.
The Chief Coroner for Ontario has reaffirmed a 1998 recommendation to install side guards on trucks, believing it would have a positive effect on cycling safety. The coroner for Quebec published a report in 2014, which showed that cyclists would be prevented from being killed by rear truck tires. A 2010 report by the National Research Council of Canada called for side guards to be mandatory on trucks. They are already mandatory in the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Japan, and they have been adopted by several regions and municipalities throughout Canada.
The question is why this is not done nationally. Why not ensure that Canadians, cyclists and pedestrians right across Canada, are protected?
Why would the government not want to do the best for pedestrians and cyclists everywhere in our country? I have not heard a good argument from the other side.
A ministry of transport report said that it was inconclusive. Yet, surely, when so many jurisdictions have brought in this measure and are saying, demonstrably, that this has reduced cycling and pedestrian deaths, why we would not do that here is frankly unbelievable.
It is the government's responsibility to set safety standards for vehicles manufactured in Canada, but it should also bring in this measure for vehicles that are imported as well.
We know there are many validators of this position for mandatory truck side guards.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has said that FCM would like to reiterate its concern and stress the importance of countermeasures, such as side guards, to improve the safety of vulnerable road users; that would include pedestrians and cyclists.
As I said, the Chief Coroner for Ontario said that side guards should be made mandatory for heavy trucks in Canada. That is pretty clear-cut.
The Quebec coroner said that a lateral safety barrier would have prevented the head of Mathilde Blais, a young cyclist, from coming under the truck's internal tire. The conclusion was that it was a preventable accidental death.
The United States National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that both newly manufactured truck trailers and old trailers be equipped with side under ride protection systems to better protect people from fatalities and serious injuries.
Seriously, I do not understand why the government would not bring this in. It is no cost to the federal government. It is actually a low cost measure that trucking companies could bring in. It is a low cost measure that would practically save lives. It is a basic responsibility of government to ensure that it brings in protective measures to ensure the lives of Canadians are protected.
We have been calling for this for over eight years. In that time, we have seen the lives of far too many cyclists and pedestrians taken. We think that should stop.
We have seen that the number of cyclists is rising across the country. I know in my city the expectation is that the number of people who will bike to work on a daily basis is likely to increase from 1.7% to 5% by 2016. It means a lot more cyclists will be on the roads. We need to have the safest measures possible to ensure they are protected.
When other jurisdictions have already taken this on, as it is a proven measure that saves lives, it frankly is unbelievable that we would not take action here. It is a no-cost measure for the government. We have seen a total of 19% of cycling fatalities across the country involving heavy trucks. We have also seen that a number of cycling deaths, probably 50% or 60%, would be prevented by heavy truck side guards.
I mentioned cost earlier. The cost would be between $1,500 and $3,000 per truck. If we look at the total cost of a truck, it is a pretty small amount of money that would save so many lives. We know that truck guards save lives. I call upon my colleagues to join with us and let us get the bill to committee.
I leave them with a question. How many cyclists and how many pedestrians have to lose their lives before the House is willing to take action?
Mr. Speaker, I need to correct the record. My good friend from Trinity—Spadina was in error when he said that only his riding voted in favour of a previous vote on proportional representation. I would like to reassure him that the good citizens of Parkdale—High Park, where we have two strong NDP members provincially and federally, also voted in favour of proportional representation.
My question for my colleague is the following. The hyper-partisanship of the House so often turns off Canadians to politics and leads to the dialogue of the deaf in many cases. Would she not agree that systems of proportional representation, like MMP, the system that the NDP has proposed, which exists in Germany and has a coalition right now of social democrats and conservatives who are able to work together and find common ground, reduce partisanship and lead to better governance for citizens?
Mr. Speaker, here is what we are doing. We have signed our investment in affordable housing with the provinces. We trust the provinces and their ability to address their housing needs.
Here is who we do not trust: the member for Trinity—Spadina. When he was a councillor in Toronto, there was a shelter that was supposed to cost $5 million. Under his watch, it ballooned to $12 million. Is that a very good use of taxpayer dollars in building shelters? Absolutely not. That is why we are not going to count on the Liberals.
The member for Trinity—Spadina should be aware that comments have to be directed to the Chair rather than to individual members of Parliament. His time has now expired.
The hon. parliamentary secretary.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Science and Technology; the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina, Aboriginal Affairs.
I know that the debate is coming to a close, Mr. Speaker.
The member for Trinity—Spadina and the Liberal Party have been talking about ecological integrity. Their position is that if the Toronto Zoo were added to the park, it would increase the ecological integrity of the park. By allowing people to come to the park and look at the giraffes and polar bears within the park, we would be increasing the ecological integrity of the park.
I want to thank the hon. member across the way for supporting the bill to get it to committee. I appreciate that, but I have a comment.
The farmers in this area have been treated terribly. Their lands were originally expropriated by the Liberal government in the 1970s. Many of them were evicted from their lands. Some were given one-year leases that they have been operating on for over 40 years. This park would give them the opportunity to have some stability for the first time in over 40 years. In the past, they were evicted from their lands for the creation of the Bob Hunter Memorial Park. They were evicted from their homes. Those class one farmlands were reforested.
When the bill gets to committee, I would ask the member to really listen to the farmers and look at the reports. The creation of a 600-metre ecological corridor, which will take 1,700 acres of class one farmland out of production, based on a 20-year-old report, cannot be done without evicting farmers.
While I thank the member for her support, I hope that when the bill does get to committee, she will really take a look at how the farmers have been treated in this area, listen to what they are saying, and look at what would happen to them if we created this zone in that area.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome my colleague from Trinity—Spadina to the House. This is my first opportunity to interact with him here in the House since his election.
He asked if I knew about this, and I have to admit that I did not, because I do not follow Toronto politics closely. I am here, and I follow politics back in my home province of Nova Scotia. It is interesting that he can bring it to the floor and talk about that here.
I am not going to comment on Toronto municipal politics, but I will talk about skepticism. I did say that I was going to put down my talking points and I have, but this is the truth. We have seen cuts to Parks Canada. Twelve hundred jobs have been cut in parks across Canada. If parks are so important, how are we going to protect them, especially when we are seeing job cuts, park hours diminished, and parks being closed for different seasons? This is where my skepticism comes from. People cannot go to Kejimkujik National Park in my home province in the winter anymore. A lot of the communities around these parks rely on them being open year-round. It is unfortunate.
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest, and I was rather shocked to see the Liberal position on this issue. They would go further than the Conservatives, further than the secretive agreement did, because of their desire to go after individual consumers, and this after 35,000 lawsuits against kids, mothers, and even dead people in the U.S. over downloading a song or two.
My colleague from Trinity—Spadina seems to believe that what the Liberals attempted to do is a good economic driver. They wanted to make it possible to stop people at airports, check out what they have on their iPods, find out if it was actually downloaded it from iTunes or if their kid sent it to them, and then be able to pull them out of line and charge them. Everyone recognizes that it would be an outrageous infringement of individual rights to no purpose. It would allow criminal counterfeiting gangs to carry on, but individuals would targeted.
I would like to ask my hon. colleague why the Liberal Party is so out of touch with what it means to support artists in this country and to support the right of individual consumers to travel across international borders without being stopped and harassed.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this important debate on the concurrence motion before the House today.
I will be splitting my time with the parliamentary secretary for aboriginal affairs.
We are here to address the report of the House of Commons Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. I was honoured to chair the special committee and I would like to thank the other members of the committee from all parties for their dedicated work on this report, as well as the organizations and individuals who made submissions and appeared as witnesses. Most of all, I would like to thank the families who came to tell us their heart-wrenching stories. They have done a great service to Canadians by bringing even more attention to what is a serious issue and a complex problem.
Let me say at the outset that our government has made it very clear that these abhorrent acts of violence against aboriginal women and girls will not be tolerated in our society. These violence crimes must be strongly denounced by the communities in which they occur and by all Canadians. Canada is a country where those who break the law are punished, where penalties match the severity of crimes committed, and where the rights of victims are recognized.
What the committee heard from the families is that they want justice. The reality is that far too many aboriginal families have felt the effects of violent crime and have had to live with the consequences. This is unacceptable and that is why our government continues to take action to address this problem. This report is about solutions. It is about actions and that is why I am very proud to support the report and the action plan.
I want to talk about economic action plan 2014 investing an additional $25 million over five years to continue efforts to reduce violence against aboriginal women. On September 15, the Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women launched the Government of Canada's action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women. This action plan was developed in response to the 16 recommendations identified in the report of the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. It also builds on lessons learned from the government's previous investments, as well as the many studies and reports on this issue, including the RCMP's national operational overview, a thoughtful and thought-provoking report released earlier this year.
In developing the action plan, the Minister of Status of Women also met with leaders of several aboriginal organizations and communities, as well as a number of individual victims and families. The action plan sets out concrete actions in three areas: to prevent violence, to support victims, and to protect aboriginal women and girls from violence. It includes the new funding of $25 million over five years beginning in 2015-16, as well as renewed and ongoing support in a number of important areas. I would like to tell the House about some of those areas.
The $25 million specifically includes $8.6 million over five years for the development of more community safety plans off and on reserve across Canada, including in vulnerable communities with a high incidence of violent crime perpetrated against women as identified in the RCMP report that I mentioned earlier. It also includes $2.5 million over five years for projects to break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse by raising awareness and building healthy relationships.
This is one example that I think resulted directly from evidence heard at the special committee, that the cycles of violence would continue if we did not stop them in their tracks. The committee heard over and over again from aboriginal organizations, aboriginal leaders and families that the cycle must stop, so this government is taking that seriously and that was worked into the action plan. The funding also includes $5 million over five years for projects to engage men and boys and empower women and girls in efforts to denounce and prevent violence.
This was another theme that came up over and over again, engaging men and boys off and on reserve to understand that the cycle had to stop and that these behaviours could no longer be tolerated or encouraged. There are programs in effect and we are committed to funding those programs to engage men and boys. There would also be $7.5 million directly for victims and their families for support as well as $1.4 million to share information and resources among community organizations and to report regularly on progress made.
I am particularly proud that part of the 2014 funding commitment, $1.3 million per year, would go to a DNA-based missing persons index. This is extremely important. We heard from many of the witnesses at committee that we needed a central database of missing persons. This would help law enforcement, the RCMP and police, to investigate the crimes and find the perpetrators more quickly and efficiently.
The member for Trinity—Spadina mentioned in his speech funding for shelters. I am particularly pleased that there is funding of $158 million over five years for shelters and family violence prevention activities. That is through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary will tell us a bit more about that in his comments.
One of the other issues that came up a couple of times was economic security for aboriginal women. I think one of the most obvious and relevant actions that this government has taken on this front is the passage of Bill S-2, matrimonial property rights on reserve.
When I tell women in my riding of Mississauga South that until the House passed this bill, women on reserve did not have the right upon dissolution of a common law relationship or marriage to own property, they cannot believe it. Frankly, it does not seem right that in a country as great as Canada that this would be the case. We identified this as a problem because when one does not have a home, one cannot have economic security. That has all changed, and now women on reserve have the same rights that every other Canadian woman has enjoyed for many decades.
Taken altogether, these measures outlined by the minister in the action plan represent a total investment of $196.8 million over five years, so it is no surprise that many stakeholders have endorsed this action plan. Chief Ron Evans of the Norway House Cree Nation said:
This comprehensive Action Plan responds to the needs and recommendations made by stakeholders across the country in developing a concrete and action-oriented plan with significant resources and funding for implementation.
I think that is a fancy way of saying that the committee listened. The committee heard from the witnesses and made recommendations that were then implemented into the action plan. We are finding those solutions and taking the necessary action to help women and to solve this very tragic situation in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Trinity—Spadina for his very eloquent remarks this evening. They are very much appreciated.
I wonder if he could speak a little more about the issues in his riding. When we think about first nations and indigenous women, we often think about women in remote communities. He and I both come from the city of Toronto, and there are many urban aboriginal women who face serious cultural and economic challenges. The member talked about the lack of shelters, jobs, and support services.
I wonder if he could elaborate a bit on the issues for urban aboriginal women.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleagues on this side of the House from the New Democratic Party bringing this forward for debate, because so far I am finding some very good themes put forward. I am certainly finding some good ways of addressing poverty. This is one of the elements that does that.
When we consider that minimum wage is an issue, primarily of provincial jurisdictions, there are two things that play here. I just want to talk about some of the elements of poverty reduction, income inequalities and what we can do to reduce that income inequality gap.
Some of the illustrations that have been put forward today talk about a wage that helps grow the middle class in such a way that it is good for the economy, social services and communities. It provides for local infrastructure, not just roads and bridges but recreation infrastructure as well, which is essential for any community, small or large. As my hon. colleague from Trinity—Spadina pointed out, there is a staggering number of poor children in his riding.
When we address federal minimum wage, we look at a small part of the population, but the narrative is one that is sound, which is to provide people who do good work in our country a livable wage, so they can provide for their families. Let us also tie in other elements to this. Let us look at better benefits. Let us look at social programs, such as child care. Let us look at other programs that we debate about and work toward in this place.
I will not zero in on the fact that there is a minuscule number of people affected here. For these people, it means the world. Let us expand this further as a step toward a better social progressive policy from which the country could benefit. We go back to the 60s and talk about the formation of the Canada pension plan and old age security. All these debates took place as a small step toward what we have right now. This is how we do it. We look at how we can illustrate the people affected by a minimum wage. We have people who require a minimum wage to live.
Nowadays prices are astronomical in many sectors of our economy. Let me just take one of those. That is energy. Right now in my riding, the average age is above 50. A lot of the families are above 50 or 60, and in some case above 70s. They own their own two-storey homes. For one couple, both 70 years old, it costs $1,400 per month to heat their home. That is an absolutely staggering figure. The fact that they have already paid the mortgage on that home allows them live in that house. Otherwise, it would not be affordable at all. Once food prices go up, then there will be real trouble.
Let us go from what they are going through to a younger couple in the same situation, with higher heat costs and higher prices for food. They need that base degree of social sincerity that we can only create here in policy that would allow them to make a good living. What we have is a situation where a minimum wage is one of those policies, in addition to other social measures like medicare and child care.
However, let us be careful, because one of the things we have been saying here is that we would love to have the minimum wage doubled in certain cases. In Newfoundland and Labrador it is $10 per hour. Twenty dollars an hour would be great, but here is the problem with that. I know people who run small businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador. I met a man just a while ago. I went to his convenience store and I asked him how he felt about the new minimum wage rules. He said that if the minimum wage were to go up any more he would not be able to hire a second person. He would pretty much have to work 16 hours a day. Therefore, let us look at both sides of this situation very closely and be very careful, because a small business person who pays that wage also has to make a living to contribute to that community.
Let us look at this particular policy and how we can grow the middle class and allow all of society to benefit from this. Many years ago we transferred this to the provinces. I understand what the other side is saying. Even though they are opposing this measure, they are only talking about provincial jurisdiction.
If we look at this particular wage, a study states that only 416 people earn the minimum wage of the province in which they work, so that is who would be affected by this. As I said earlier, that is a minuscule number of people, but the measure is one step toward what we feel is a greater society. We can improve our services and then we can get to other things such as child care, which I mentioned earlier.
The minimum wage rates across the provinces range, but the range is not really that great. It goes from $10 an hour in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Northwest Territories to a high of $11 per hour in Nunavut and Ontario, $10.72 in the Yukon and $10.70 in Manitoba. So that gives us the idea. We have a $1 variance, so across the country our provincial minimum wage structure is pretty much even across the board.
We have to strike the balance between what is acceptable to small business and what is an affordable wage. If I would come down on one side or the other, yes, I want an affordable wage. That was why the fight back in Newfoundland and Labrador, on the provincial side, was a long fight, but we went from just over $8 per hour up to about $10, which really people thought was a huge, significant increase at the time, but it really was not because there are a couple of things at play.
Let us factor in the costs of medicines. Let us factor in the costs of medical care that has to be paid for. If one person in a couple becomes sick with cancer, that person has to travel—at least where I come from, in a rural area—long distances to receive the treatment they need. That costs money. A lot of that is not covered under our current medicare regime. Therefore, the cost of living goes up that much. The $10 per hour that people were pleased to receive when it happened now becomes less significant. The vast majority of people receiving that minimum wage do not receive the right amount of benefits to subsidize the medical care that they so need. That is the other aspect of this.
I hope we will support this today as a step toward developing better progressive policies that we can present to the people. I am not using this as some 2015 election ploy. I am talking about the fact that we can come up with private members' bills, motions in the House and opposition day motions like we have today, and we can use this to present to the people and say as a Parliament of all parties that we have so much further to go when it comes to progressive policies. We can talk about the past all we want, but that is not really the right bridge to build upon in order to get better wages, in order to get better benefits for the most vulnerable in our society.
I appreciate the fact that some people oppose this and some people support it, but let us come up with decent arguments as to why or why not. When we look at some of the studies that have been done, we see that some of the prices out there now for some of the basic goods of individuals are really something. If we look at the size of a family in rural areas, we see that on this chart the before-tax 2011 level of a one-person family is $16,038 per year. As my hon. colleague from Trinity—Spadina pointed out, this minimum wage gives around $30,000 a year. Let us assume for a moment that they do not get the benefits of someone who is making twice that. Let us talk about a decent package of benefits for not just an individual but also a spouse or partner and children.
This is essentially the topic that is not addressed here, but it is something that we have to keep in play when it comes to this and when it comes to pensions, because I believe a higher wage is the first step toward a progressive policy for the impoverished. It is something that is woven within the fabric of everything we talk about that is to enable people. To me this is not an economic issue; it is an issue of basic living in this country for those who are most vulnerable, especially the people my colleague from Trinity—Spadina spoke about and those in my rural riding as well. I thank him for that.
Before I go to the member for Ottawa—Vanier, I know the member for Trinity—Spadina is new and I welcome him to the House. If he could direct his comments to the Chair rather than directly to his colleagues, it would be greatly appreciated. Also, the Chair will give you a cue when your time is approaching its end.
The hon. member for Ottawa--Vanier.
Mr. Speaker, David Dodge says current low interest rates and excess manpower makes it the ideal time to make needed infrastructure investments. Instead, the government is slashing infrastructure spending by almost 90% this year. Voters in Trinity—Spadina and Scarborough—Agincourt are asking why the government is turning its back on their needs for more affordable housing, better transit, and other critical job-creating investments.
Will the Minister of Finance listen to the experts and immediately commit to these investments that will boost our economy and create jobs now?
The electoral district of Trinity--Spadina (Ontario) has a population of 115,361 with 96,793 registered voters and 306 polling divisions.
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