Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister on Thursday, January 29, had to do with Beech Hall, a co-op seniors complex in my riding of York South—Weston.
This complex uses federal funding to provide rent assistance to 41 low-income seniors. When the government ends this funding at the end of this year, those 41 seniors will no longer be able to afford their rents and will risk becoming homeless.
The government position seems to be that these operating agreements, which subsidize housing for some 200,000 low-income Canadians, can expire and the funds can be returned to the treasury. The funds are no longer available for rent subsidy. They are available for the Conservatives to help the rich through devices such as income-splitting for high-wage earners and tax-free savings accounts for the rich to hide more of their income from tax. This is so wrong.
Jack Layton, rest his soul, pressured the Liberals to put back some of the money they had so ruthlessly taken out of Canada's housing commitments. The Conservatives voted against it, but they now take glee in pointing to the money as somehow being their idea. It was not.
The bottom line is that as these agreements expire, the Conservatives are refusing to reinvest it in any way in housing. Many of these co-ops are in need of major retrofits. Forty-year-old buildings need new roofs, new heating systems, new windows, and new energy-saving technology. Co-ops will not be able to afford both the necessary repairs and rent subsidies, and the government knows this.
Beech Hall is one such complex. Besides the reality that the government will end their subsidy, the truth is that they do not own the property. It is leased. Lease payments will continue; the subsidy will not. The buildings need $20 million in retrofits over the next 10 years. Beech Hall does have a small reserve, but it is nowhere near the amount needed to provide either the subsidy or the building repairs.
To glibly say, as the minister did when I asked the question, that the federal government provides the provinces with $1.25 billion in housing funding and that the provinces should decide which properties, such as Beech Hall, should receive a provincial subsidy is ignoring the reality of the situation. In 2010 Canada provided $3.6 billion to affordable housing at the federal level. Funding is now down to about $2 billion, and it will fall still further as the operating agreements expire. Just as the Liberals did in the 1990s, the Conservatives are eliminating affordable housing as a federal responsibility.
After the Liberal cuts, the waiting lists in my city of Toronto have continued to grow, to the point that there are more families waiting for housing than there are units in total. Wait lists are now measured not in months or years but decades. The city of Toronto's housing stock, inherited when the Liberals got out of the housing business, needs nearly $2 billion in repairs. The city cannot afford the repairs, let alone try to build new stock for some of those 80,000 families on the wait list. The repair backlog is so great that some 4,000 units are in danger of being unfit for human habitation.
For the government to take even a nickel out of the housing subsidies so that it can give it to the well off to buy their vote is despicable and not in keeping with Canada's rich history of helping the less fortunate.
House prices in Toronto reached a new high of over $1 million for a detached house, and rental prices have followed in lockstep. A recent conversation with a single mother of a disabled child showed just how desperate the situation is. Her rent is more than her income, plus her child support, plus a large part of her child's disability benefits. What is left for food is paltry. She and her child have been on a wait list for eight years.
Conservatives just do not get that their policies will make people homeless. It is time they stopped taking money out of housing to give tax breaks to the rich and started dealing with the problem the Liberals created.
The seniors at Beech Hall are waiting for the minister's answer. Will 41 seniors be left homeless by the government?
Order. 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 Churchill, Aboriginal Affairs; the hon. member for York South—Weston, Housing.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to lend my support for an excellent private member's bill, to create a legislative framework for the provision of national passenger rail services.
Canada is a laggard, an outlier, in the provision of passenger rail services in the world, on the planet. We have a system that is owned by the federal government somehow, without legislative oversight. It has recently cut service so drastically that it is now almost laughable in some parts of Canada. All other modern economies, whether that is the U.S., Europe, Asia, or Australia, all have robust and thorough passenger rail systems.
That is not so with Canada. Canada has decided, starting with the Mulroney government, and now with this government, to cut our passenger rail systems and to cut them in such a way that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The argument is that there are not enough passengers so they cut service, which then causes there to be even fewer passengers. That then causes the government to say it should not be subsidizing the fewer passengers.
Rail service is one of the ways that we, as Canadians, can reduce our use of fossil fuels and the greenhouse gases that we would normally be putting into the atmosphere through the other transportation systems we use in the country, through cars, airplanes, trucks, and other vehicles. The rail system in Canada is ideally suited to take over that role of transporting individuals. However, we do not have a government that believes in transporting individuals by rail. We do not have a government that believes in very much, but the system of transporting individuals by rail is one of the things that we are certain it does not believe in.
In terms of us being a laggard, there are statistics around the world about what countries do in terms of billions of passenger kilometres in a year. India is by far the leader, with over a trillion passenger kilometres. On that list are countries like Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, and the Czech Republic. Canada is not on the list at all, and that is because we have almost no passenger rail service in the country because it has been cut by successive Liberal and Conservative governments.
That is the crying shame that we are here to try to start correcting. It is going to take time, but at least with a legislative framework for VIA Rail, we can start rebuilding it.
The parliamentary secretary talked about one aspect of the bill that would harm our freight rail system by giving passengers priority. Well, the last time I checked, there were not too many people on a freight train who might be late for a meeting if they had to wait for a passenger train to go through. The rail companies have systematically eliminated their sidings. We used to have a system in Canada where freight trains would move on to a siding while a passenger train went through. Now they run trains that are too long for their sidings. In my riding of York South—Weston, they are actually removing the siding because they cannot get the trains on it anymore. Therefore, these two-mile long trains full of oil or grain are preventing passenger trains from travelling at a reasonable speed.
In addition, we have a government that has subsidized the freight rail system in our country to a large degree. The most recent example was the money it spent, reportedly on VIA Rail. It spent half a billion dollars on VIA Rail upgrades by giving money to CN. CN put in a beautiful new third line between Toronto and Montreal. Who uses it? It is used for freight. Who has to stop and wait for the freight trains to go by? VIA has to wait, even after the government put that rail in.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, even though we the taxpayers paid for the line, which is you, me, and everyone else in this room, and everyone else in Canada, VIA Rail still has to pay rent on that line. Does that make any sense to you, Mr. Speaker? Does that make any sense to anyone in the room?
Mr. Speaker, the events in Lac-Mégantic more than 18 months ago have caused the Canadian public to wonder just how safe our railroads are. Many communities like mine in York South—Weston grew up around railroads, as railroads were a key driver of economic growth for them. Alas, that economic driver has long since left my community, but the railroad tracks remain and are perilously close to houses, schools, daycare centres, seniors' facilities, and other sensitive locations throughout the riding and the whole of the city of Toronto.
Railroads began shipping crude oil in quantity in 2009 and have increased that amount more than five hundredfold since then. This means that trains with several hundred carloads of crude oil whiz through our neighbourhoods several times each day. Until the Lac-Mégantic accident, people did not pay much attention to this. We thought of crude oil as the sticky tar we saw on television on beaches after Exxon Valdez or the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Who knew it was more like gasoline and that the effects of an accident could be so deadly?
When we learned at committee that even carloads travelling as slowly as 20 kilometres an hour ruptured and exploded at Lac-Mégantic, I demanded action from the government. The scathing report of the Transportation Safety Board found no one individual at fault but 18 different causes, including massive failure by Transport Canada, which reports to the Minister of Transport.
The Transportation Safety Board recommended that alternative speeds and routes be explored to move trains around major cities. This was one of many recommendations. This is done routinely in U.S. cities like Washington and New York.
The government's response was to lower speeds to 60 kilometres per hour in cities and to demand that the railroads do risk assessments and analyses of alternative routes to be provided to Transport Canada.
The results of those government-demanded risk assessments and route analyses were provided to Transport Canada last fall. At committee I asked Transport Canada to provide a copy of those assessments to the committee as part of our study of the transportation of dangerous goods. The City of Toronto also requested copies of those reports. Imagine my surprise when Transport Canada replied to the committee that it would not release the risk assessments, that they are somehow the property of the railroads and are somehow protected, confidential information.
These reports and assessments were demanded of the railroads by the government as a necessary part of the determination of the level of risk the railroads were exposing populations to. The government can and should treat these reports as publicly available information and should have clearly indicated this to the railroads when these were demanded. To suggest now that residents of my riding or any riding through which a railroad runs cannot know the potential risk of the railroad to them, based on speed, routing, and the use of rail cars with a long history of rupture, is an affront and unacceptable situation.
To suggest, as the parliamentary secretary has done, that Transport Canada will only share notices and orders issued to the railroads with municipalities does not deal at all with the need for individuals and municipalities to know specifically what risk there is, what mitigation measures are available, such as rerouting and speed reduction, and any other information that may be disclosed by a risk assessment.
Residents of York South--Weston and beyond have learned that Transport Canada has not been a very good steward of the safety of Canadians. The Transportation Safety Board and the Auditor General of Canada were highly critical of the actions of Transport Canada. We deserve to see the evidence, and until it has proven itself worthy of our trust, we need to see these risk assessments.
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 Drummond, Natural Resources; the hon. member for York South—Weston, Rail Transportation.
Order. 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 Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, Employment; the hon. member for York South—Weston, Rail Transportation.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak this morning on a very important subject, which is the creation of the Rouge national urban park. We are at third reading of Bill C-40, and I have to say that I am very saddened today that my colleagues and I will not be supporting this bill. While we believe that it is extremely important that we create this first national urban park, we are very distressed at how the Conservatives are doing it. We believe that they have fallen far short of what is expected and needed in the creation of this park.
Let me say that I am very proud to have in my riding of Parkdale—High Park the largest existing park in the city of Toronto, High Park. It was created by the very visionary John and Jemima Howard, who set out clear boundaries and responsibilities for this park. They were absolutely adamant that this park should exist for all time for the free use of the public and that the integrity, ecology, and environment of the park needed to be protected while recognizing that it would be an urban park and a multi-use park.
I want to publicly thank the Friends of High Park Nature Centre for its stewardship of this magnificent jewel on the waterfront of Toronto. All seasons of the year, this park is warmly treasured by people from Toronto and those who come from abroad, whether it is for the cherry trees blossoming in the spring or for skating on Grenadier Pond in the winter or other sports activities. It is a wonderful urban space.
I also want to recognize that the Humber River is the western border of the riding of Parkdale—High Park. It is the only federal urban heritage river. It is an important historic and ecological major waterway. The watershed of the Humber River stretches from the highlands far north of the city of Toronto. It is a very important waterway. Sadly, the federal government has undermined the protection of this river by changes it has made to environmental protection. Specifically, it has removed all of the Humber River, except the mouth of the river, from the Navigation Protection Act and federal environmental protection, which is very troubling.
I would like to thank my colleague from York South—Weston. He and I are working to have this river reinstated in the Navigation Protection Act because of its importance. We believe it is very shortsighted to remove the protections from the Humber River. We are working hard to try to get that reinstated.
I come from a perspective of someone who understands that when one is living in a city and has these treasures, one recognizes that they are a bit different from very remote parks and heritage areas because of their settings. People can get to the Humber River and High Park by subway in downtown Toronto, so they are very different from other protected areas.
The Rouge national urban park would certainly be the largest park in the city. It would be one of the largest parks in North America and the only national park that can be accessed by public transit. It is a unique situation. The government is still trying to assemble the land, but it is land that is already in use. There is farming. There are hydro rights-of-way. There are roads. There already are activities in this area.
Like High Park, in my neighbourhood, no one is expecting that this will be absolutely 100% pristine wilderness. It will not be. It will be special, because it will be an urban park.
We are strongly in favour of creating more parks, but we are most strongly in favour of protecting the ecological health of these national parks. We have to get this right. To do this, we need strong environmental legislation that recognizes that this is a multi-use urban park and that makes its ecology an absolute first priority.
The Rouge national urban park would be very rich. It has a diversity of ecosystems, including a rare Carolinian forest, numerous species at risk, and many agricultural and cultural heritage resources, including a national historic site and some of Canada's oldest known aboriginal historic sites and villages. It is a very special place.
This bill, because we are dealing with the first national urban park, would create a precedent. It would be a model for protecting other areas in urban settings. We need to get this right. This is a stand-alone bill that has been created just for this park. We have the opportunity, unlike with the grab bag of legislation that is thrown into omnibus bills, to study this bill in detail.
The result of Bill C-40, I am sad to say, would be to create weaker protections for Rouge Park than exist for all other national parks in Canada. They are weaker protections, in fact, than the provincial legislative framework that exists already for the park. Yes, it is an urban setting, but there is already a provincial framework that exists that should be improved rather than undermined.
In fact, the Ontario provincial government is refusing to transfer land to the federal government for the creation of this park. Why? It believes that the land would be jeopardized. To be included in the park, it wants to have stronger protections, not weaker protections, and it believes that the protection the province is offering will be stronger. That is why it is saying it is not going to transfer this land if it is going to undermine its ecological integrity.
I want to point out a key point here. The Canada National Parks Act already says:
Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks.
That exists in the existing parks legislation.
This bill would undermine it by saying that it must only “take into consideration” the ecosystems. There is nothing that gives it priority, that gives it precedence, over anything else.
We have tried to amend the bill. We proposed a number of changes. There was one key proposal that would have recognized that yes, there is farming, and yes, that farming would continue, but the ecological integrity would have to be respected. The Conservatives rejected all of this. We are very sad about this.
Because all of our amendments were rejected, we have been forced to create our own private member's bill that calls for the creation of a Rouge national park. It would incorporate the same national protections other parks have. It has broad support from environmental organizations, local community groups, and residents. I want to salute them, because they have worked and fought so hard to get this park created. They are heartbroken at what they see is this bill undermining the ecological integrity of this very prized piece of land.
We had to create our own bill that says that we support the Rouge Park vision, goals, and objectives and that we want to preserve the ecological integrity of this plan.
Sadly, my time is up, but I would be happy to answer questions.
Mr. Speaker, on October 29, I asked the minister about homelessness in Canada, about homelessness strategies that the government was not employing and the fact that homelessness was getting worse, not better, under the government. The minister's answer was somewhat glib and somewhat non-specific to what has become a crisis in our country.
Homelessness costs Canadians $7 billion. Beyond that, there is a critical housing shortage.
When my colleague presented Bill C-400 in the House last year, the Conservatives voted against it because they that said it would cost $6.2 billion. The purpose of that bill was to find a way to ensure that everyone in our country had a home. The $6.2 billion is less than $7 billion, so it would have been cheaper for the government to have adopted Bill C-400.
In my riding of York South—Weston, close to half the residents are renters and of those, more than 36% spend more than 30% of their income on housing, which is the standard by which the government and the banks determine when people are spending too much. Almost 90% of the renters living in those big concrete towers, which is 45% of my riding, have some form of insecurity attached to their housing, yet the government says that everything is fine.
Close to one-third of those renters are in critical risk of homelessness. They have four or more aspects of their housing that is on the edge, that is either insufficient for the number of people in their household or is costing way too much for them. If they miss one paycheque, they and their children will be out on the street, and nobody wants to see that happen.
In the past few years, the government has signalled that it will not renew some 600,000 affordable housing units that are provided through the co-ops that have agreements with CMHC, with the government. These are coming to an end over the coming years. Many of those co-ops will be unable to continue. They have huge bills that have mounted up over the years because they have been living on the edge and they will be unable to continue once that funding ends.
It is almost criminal for the government to suggest that the funding will end, that the money will return to the treasury and that everything will be rosy when in fact, it has admitted, through its responses on Bill C-400, there is a $6.2 billion gap in the housing in our country, a $6.2 billion need for housing. There are 1.2 million households that have some kind of housing need. Those households have an average of $4,779 of need and the government has decided it will not provide it. It is not going to talk about it because it does not want to know. That is no way to address a real problem.
Some answers have been given to us by those who have written the “State of Homelessness in Canada 2014” report. I would like the government to at least consider these recommendations: a new framework agreement that sets clear priorities and requires local planning between the federal, provincial and municipal governments; increased housing first investments that target chronic and episodic homelessness through an expansion of the homelessness partnering strategy; direct investment in affordable housing programs, specifically, federal funding for social housing, co-ops, non-profits, as operating agreements wind down; a housing benefit for those who face a severe affordability problem; a new affordable housing tax credit; and a review and expand involvement in aboriginal housing both on and off reserve.
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 York South—Weston regarding housing and the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands regarding the environment.
Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise to speak in favour of Bill C-26. As members know, the NDP will be supporting this bill at second reading to send it to committee. We believe that legislation can play an important role in preventing child sexual abuse, as it can help to deal with and counter crimes in a whole range of areas. However, where we disagree with the Conservatives is that this is all that it does. I will be pointing out in the 10 minutes I have that a number of other actions that the Conservative government has taken actually contribute to a rise in certain criminal rates.
Legislation can certainly help to deal with it in part, but when the resources are no longer available, there can be a counter effect. As the justice minister has admitted to, the government, which has been in power now for almost a decade, in this case has put in place a range of things that have tragically contributed to an increase in the rate of sexual offences against children.
New Democrats will be supporting the bill going to committee. As we always do, we will be bringing forward reasoned amendments, after listening to witnesses who come before committee, to make sure that the bill is as good as it can possibly be. That is our responsibility as parliamentarians. We would all agree on that.
This bill is important, and we hope that the government will consider amendments at the committee stage. We certainly hope that government will take a very thoughtful approach on this bill. This is an extremely important issue, one that all Canadians feel parliamentarians should be working together on to achieve and resolve, which is lowering the rates of child sexual abuse in Canada. There is no doubt about that.
To do that, the government can offer legislation, which is what it has done. New Democrats have responded by saying we will support this legislation going to committee, and now it is back to the government side to accept the amendments that will be offered. New Democrats work very hard in committee. We thoroughly examine the evidence and bring forward the best possible amendments. However, tragically, we have seen in case after case that the government has refused those amendments. It has simply said that it is not going to accept any amendments on bills.
As a result, so far this year, we have seen that half a dozen pieces of legislation have been rejected by the courts. If the Conservative government had accepted the amendments offered by the NDP, the legislation would not have been recalled. However, because the government has an “our way or the highway” attitude on so many pieces of legislation, the courts have said that legislation does not hold water and cannot undergo the careful scrutiny that courts require.
New Democrats hope that this will not be the case on Bill C-26. Since we are supporting it going to committee, we hope that the government will say it will look at the reasoned amendments that can make a difference to improving this bill.
However, it is not just a bill and not just legislation that will lower the rates of child sexual abuse in this country. The rise of 6% over the last couple of years is a very disturbing trend.
What are the other decisions that the government has made that may have contributed to that rise? I mentioned earlier, in speaking with my colleague from York South—Weston, about the ending of the National Crime Prevention Centre, a centre that did good work across the country in seeking to achieve a lowering of the crime rate. That is something that has happened over the last few years, and I have risen in the House before to speak to it. It is a slashing of funding. There have been tens of millions of dollars that have been taken out of crime prevention funding. This is wrong-headed, for the simple reason that for every dollar invested in crime prevention programs—and other countries have seen this, the Scandinavian countries, and countries in Europe—we save $6 in policing costs, courts costs, and incarceration costs.
Let us look at that formula. As a society, we had $100 million in crime prevention funding slashed by the current government, and yet for every dollar that was invested in crime prevention, we saved $6 as a society in policing costs, court costs, and incarceration costs. However, even more, the greater benefit is the fact that the crime is not committed in the first place. We are not only investing our money prudently, as a society, to reduce the crime rate, but we are also avoiding having the victims in the first place. That has to be the result that all members of Parliament share. Certainly on this side of the House, the NDP has been the foremost proponent of investing significantly in crime prevention programs. We see the benefit of not having the victims in the first place, and we see the benefit of investing that $1 to save $6 in policing, court, and incarceration costs.
For the government to slash crime prevention, as it has over the last few years, has been simply wrong-headed, and I believe we are seeing some of the results. There is a 6% rise in child sexual abuse when crime prevention is slashed. I believe there is a connection between those two things.
That is not all that has been slashed under the current government. The government side may say that it is a question of resources, but the reality is that we all know what the government is investing in heavily right now: tax cuts for the very wealthy in society. We believe that veterans deserve services, that costs to veterans should be paid, and that crime prevention should be invested in. Those are choices on the part of the government. We also make choices as a society. However, rather than investing billions of dollars in tax cuts for the very wealthy, we say that it makes a lot more sense to put that money into things like supporting services for veterans, as we saw earlier today, or putting crime prevention programs in place.
It is not just crime prevention; it is also addiction programs that have been slashed under the current government. That is another tragedy. The government is slashing both crime prevention and addiction treatment. At the same time, the Conservatives are asking why child sexual abuse rates are rising. However, that is not all. The community resources that are supposed to counter the abuse of children have largely been cut as part of the overall cuts to crime prevention programs.
As well, the whole issue around policing is something on which we disagree with the government. The government promised to put more police officers on the streets of the cities across the country, and the current government has manifestly failed in providing that kind of support. When I talk to my local police officers, a problem that they continually raise is the underfinancing of policing.
On that note, there is the issue of the public safety officer compensation fund, an NDP initiative that I brought forward in 2006. The Conservatives voted for it. It is now 2014, yet we still do not have a public safety officer compensation fund in place to support the families of fallen police officers and firefighters who die in the line of duty. The Conservatives voted for it before they became government, and they have now waited for eight years and have still not brought that in. On this side of the House, we say that is a shame. The public safety officer compensation fund needs to be put into place, and the families of fallen firefighters and fallen police officers need to be taken care of.
The record of the current government goes beyond the concern that the Conservatives seem to have expressed in bringing forward Bill C-26. They brought forward the bill, which we support, but they are not doing the other things that could do much more, along with the bill, to reduce the child sexual abuse rates in this country. The current government has put in a number of pieces of legislation on a wide variety of issues, and yet it is not having the impact that was obviously intended. That is because legislation is only a small part of how we combat crime, reduce crime rates, and put in place an effective crime prevention strategy.
We are going to be in an election in less than 11 months. In fact, the election date is already set for October 19, 2015. Canadians will be putting the current government aside and looking for a change of agenda in Ottawa. That is what the NDP offers. We will be investing in crime prevention programs. We will be investing in and keeping commitments around policing. We will be putting in place addiction treatment programs. We will be providing community resources to counter abuse of children. That is the kind of platform that people can get around, to ensure that we lower the rates of abuse against children.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for York South—Weston for his reasoned and effective speech on the bill.
Beyond the bill is the lack of resources, under the Conservative government, that actually counter criminal acts, whether it is the abuse of children or others. We have seen the government slash the National Crime Prevention Centre. It has severely cut back on crime prevention programs generally across the country. It has cut back on addiction treatment and on community resources to protect children from abuse. All of these areas where it has slashed resources have resulted, as we have seen and as the Minister of Justice has admitted, in an increase in the overall level of abuse.
The government is now providing another bill, which we will support and certainly will look at. However, beyond that, everything else that would lower the rate of abuse against children has been slashed and destroyed by a government that either does not understand or that thinks that somehow tax cuts are more important for the rich than protecting children.
With all the cuts to crime prevention and the ending of the National Crime Prevention Centre, does the member for York South—Weston think the government has an overall approach that would contribute to doing what I hope we all share, which is lowering the rate of abuse against children?
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this report.
One of the things that the government put in a budget two years ago would have done a lot to help youth unemployment, particularly in my riding of York South—Weston. We have the Central Ontario Building Trades in our riding, which runs the hammer heads program. It gives unemployed youth an opportunity to have a leg-up on apprenticeship programs, but requires that at the end of the 12-week training program that there be an apprenticeship job for them.
Two years ago, then finance minister Mr. Flaherty said that the government, as it spends infrastructure money, would encourage the contractors it hires to create apprenticeships to fulfill the need for student jobs in these programs. That was in the 2013 budget. To date, the government has not introduced any such motion or any such provision. In any of the budget implementation bills, there is no indication of that.
We have been asking the Government of Ontario, which is spending billions on infrastructure, to do the same thing. Thus far it has failed to provide a link between the infrastructure spending and apprenticeships.
Would the member like to comment on why the government has failed to introduce such legislation?
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak about a world crisis.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert.
Eleven years ago, Toronto was overwhelmed by a virus, which arrived from Hong Kong, called SARS. I want to give the House some appreciation of the impact. It is estimated that it cost the world $40 billion in health care and productivity costs. We are coming close to that figure now for the Ebola crisis. Estimates of a $30-billion cost, just to try to corral the disease, have come to light, and Canadians are telling us in great numbers that Canada should be doing as much as it possibly can, including sending military response teams, which so far the government has refused to do.
I want to come back to the SARS experience. My wife had a very personal experience with the SARS outbreak. She was diagnosed with breast cancer just after the hospitals started closing in Toronto. The hospitals started closing in Toronto because the SARS outbreak was impossible to corral. People did not really understand it and did not know what to do. All of a sudden, her surgery to remove part of her breast was cancelled, because the hospitals were no longer accepting patients. Now she had a rapidly growing tumour in her body that could not be removed.
Somehow our family doctor managed to find a doctor willing to do the operation at a hospital in Toronto. It was one of the most eerie and disturbing experiences anyone could hope to imagine. Late in the evening, I had to pull up to the outside of the hospital and let her go in on her own. I was not allowed in. She had to check in with the security guard and then find her own way to the 11th floor, where she was the only person. She had to go to her own bed and wait there in the hope that someone would show up. That is how empty that hospital was. The next day, a surgeon and a small surgical team operated. That experience was repeated over and over again in Toronto as Toronto tried to deal with the very real problem of trying to maintain a health system while the health system itself was under attack.
Something that I am not sure everybody here understands is that one of the potential problems with this disease is that it is so easily spread that even health care workers who are taking extreme precautions, as has been the case in Dallas and Spain, have become infected. No one is really certain why these health care workers became infected, because they should not have. They had been taking precautions. If that is the ease with which this disease can spread, how are hospitals in my city of Toronto going to cope when and if cases of Ebola, and I do not think it is a matter of if but of when, start arriving in greater numbers than we have already experienced?
There are currently 9,000 or so reported cases of Ebola in West Africa, and there is no travel ban. There is no limit on people travelling out of that area. The incubation period for this disease before any symptoms arise is between two and 21 days. That means that people can be travelling while infected and not know it. We are apparently conducting some voluntary screening of some passengers who are coming from these affected places, but I am very afraid that we are going to have a very serious problem should this disease make its inexorable travel to more countries, including Canada.
The mayor of my city has learned, as have I, that the government has declared at least one hospital in Toronto and 10 in Ontario as special hospitals for dealing with potential Ebola cases. In a letter to the Prime Minister that I do not believe has been responded to yet, the mayor asked for more details on the Government of Canada's plans to protect residents of Toronto and the GTA should any cases of the Ebola virus be positively identified in Canada and in Toronto.
A Toronto hospital has been designated to care for Canadian responders if any become infected in the Ebola zone in West Africa and are transferred back to Canada for care. We have a situation in which the government has decided, absent the City of Toronto, that it will designate a hospital, with all good intentions, I am sure. However, the people of Toronto should know what is going on. There should be some transparency. The mayor has asked for that transparency. We, too, would like that transparency.
The member for Vancouver East has asked similar questions of the Minister of Health, questions about who is responsible for ensuring quarantine and about who is responsible for making sure that the hospitals and medical practitioners have the appropriate equipment.
It has become clear that the equipment that we thought was appropriate is not working, because 20% of the victims of this virus are health care workers. That means that they are not able to protect themselves. As we have found out, two, one in Texas and one in Spain, became infected while caring for a patient with all of the west's most modern equipment. Something is wrong with the approach we are taking.
There are a number of other questions I will not go through, but those questions deserve answers. The Minister of Health needs to respond to our critic for health so that we can have a dialogue, so that we can begin the process the Liberal opposition day motion would like to continue, which is to continue the process of providing information to members of Parliament, through the committee, on a twice monthly basis.
That, in itself, is not enough. There will need to be a whole lot more done, but it is a good start. We will be supporting this motion.
The other thing I wanted to mention is that in my riding of York South—Weston, there is a company called Tagg Design that two years ago developed a system for hospitals to use to protect themselves, to protect health care workers and others, from the transmission of infectious diseases inside a hospital. That system was a system of signage, a system of making sure that doors were sealed and that doors had signs on them to say that the patient behind the door required this kind of protection for the health care workers.
We wrote to the Minister of Health at the time and asked for a meeting to discuss this kind of system, which the WHO is very interested in and which Canadian hospitals that have tried it have found to be effective.
We asked the minister for a meeting to discuss how the Government of Canada could assist in promoting this kind of inside-the-hospital protection against the transmission of infectious diseases. Unfortunately, the minister refused to meet with us. We had an indication from the government that it was really not interested in proactive measures to protect health care workers from the spread of infectious diseases, and not just health care workers but other people who use those hospitals.
We know that the government would rather just let things take place. Apparently it has designated a hospital, and we do not know which one, as the place where people will go. We do not know whether that will then require the closure of that hospital.
If a hospital is declared the place where Canadian health care workers go if they contract Ebola, and that hospital is in my city, I would like to know. The medical staff of that hospital would probably like to know that the hospital has been so designated so they can start planning around it, so they can start determining whether it has to rearrange the schedules for surgeries and other care for patients who are there. It is quite likely, given the experiences in Texas and Spain, that if a number of patients with Ebola arrive at a hospital, we are going to see it close. We are going to see that hospital become, itself, quarantined.
That is an effect of this disease that has yet to be discussed in any form. It has been asked about, by our mayor and others. What are the government's plans? As of this moment, we do not have answers, and we need those answers. This motion will help give us those answers.
Mr. Speaker, residents in my riding of York South—Weston and across Canada continue to express their opposition to the government's ill-thought-out plan to end Canada Post's home mail delivery.
Yesterday, 11 communities across Canada from Fort McMurray to Calgary, to Winnipeg, to here in Ottawa, lost their home mail delivery. Other communities are to follow in the months ahead.
For a person with MS, like my brother Chris who lives in nearby Kanata, our winter means that from November to April, he will not be able to access his mail. He will become more dependent on others. Canada Post says that for those who can prove their disability and show that they have no one else to rely on, it may deliver their mail once a week.
This loss of mail service further isolates and discriminates against the disabled. Every day, my office receives letters, cards and petitions opposing the government's plan, as do other MPs. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have expressed their wish to keep door-to-door mail delivery.
Why will the government not listen to what Canadians are saying, and provide the service they are asking for?
The electoral district of York South--Weston (Ontario) has a population of 114,458 with 68,978 registered voters and 184 polling divisions.
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