"What I have seen and heard so far in Vancouver has convinced me that this dire state of homelessness in the face of so much wealth indicates that this is still a serious issue that needs continued monitoring by the UN." - UN envoy on homelessness, Miloon Kothari, Vancouver Province, Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The Conservative government delivered a disastrous Throne Speech on October 16.
While Vancouver and cities across Canada recognized Homelessness Action Week and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Stephen Harper outlined an agenda for the upcoming session of Parliament that offered nothing for affordable housing and child care, nothing for a $10 minimum wage and no plans or actions to end poverty in Canada.
A Throne Speech vote is where you either show your support or your opposition to the government's direction. Conservatives are seeking a mandate to govern. I won't support this wrongheaded mandate and I voted against this Throne Speech.
In a shameful move, the government's Throne Speech mentioned homelessness and poverty, but nothing to address the problem. The Speech states: "Families worry about the rising costs of higher education and the expense of caring for elderly parents. They worry about affordable housing and the number of homeless people on our streets. Our Government is committed to helping Canadian families meet their needs. The Working Income Tax Benefit will help Canadians get back into the workforce."
This so-called benefit was already introduced in their last budget and we know if affects very few Canadians. If a single parent qualifies for the maximum benefit of $1000 a year, it gets significantly reduced for parents making more that $14,500 a year and completely disappears for families - even a family of four - making $20,000 a year - still well below the poverty line. We already know that tax cuts don't build affordable homes and tax cuts don't create quality affordable child care spaces.
Once again the government is taking in billions of dollars in surplus, and once again corporate tax cuts are taking priority over affordable housing.
Earlier this year, I wrote to Monte Solberg, the Minister of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, calling on federal support for VANOC's Inner City Housing Table proposal for 3200 new affordable housing units and a housing legacy for the 2010 Winter Games. The federal government seems unwilling to rise to this challenge. In his response to my letter, Mr. Solberg acknowledged that government has not yet formed a response to the VANOC report.
I will continue challenge and call on all levels of government to commit to the protection of low and affordable housing, and raise the assistance rates to realistic levels.