Mrs. Sheila Finestone (Mount Royal):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on an issue which I brought to the attention of this House in March and bring to its attention again today. The issue is poverty which was the subject of a
June 8, 1993
report tabled today by a House committee. This issue is so serious that the United Nations has condemned Canada's inaction in this matter.
Apparently Tories in this government believe the problem is one of defining poverty and not curing it. They seem to believe that poverty can be redefined out of existence; that it will go away and masquerade under some other name. All ten recommendations deal with defining statistics. It says the purpose is to better inform Canadians and the rest of the world about the true state of poverty in this country.
We know how bad it is. Apparently this committee is convinced we do not understand the data. How can the government define away the increase in single parent families seeking food in Montreal by 71 per cent? What would be a new definition for hunger? How could we redefine a hungry person? I do not know. Maybe the government can figure it out.
Maybe it forgot that these numbers represent people who need our help. They mean one million children. The number of children who are hungry has gone up by 180 per cent. They are Canada's future and we are giving them food banks when they need literacy skills. We are giving them a bleak future. A hungry child cannot concentrate and learn to read and write properly when his or her tummy is empty.
Apparently this government sees no need to reduce the 14 per cent Montreal jobless rate, according to the May 5 Statistics Canada report. Do my friends on the opposite side realize that 20 per cent of Montrealers live below the low income line? That amounts to one out of every five people in the Montreal region. To put it another way, 20 per cent of the greater Montreal region would fill the Olympic stadium ten times, and that would be somewhat representative of the hungry and poor in Montreal.
Do my friends opposite realize that 22 per cent of the people in the Montreal region live below the poverty level? This is the highest rate of any Canadian city.
The region needs measures to put our citizens back to work. Montreal needs action which takes people off the bread lines and puts them on the employment roles. Of all the North American cities with a population of over one million, and there are over 40 cities, Montreal places dead last in terms of unemployment, income per capita
and participation in the labour force. This is a disgrace. It is an urgent problem for Montrealers.
I ask my question from March again in June: What is this government prepared to do? Where are the concrete proposals for putting the jobless back to work instead of government recommendations to hide the human face of suffering, hunger and poverty behind redefined statistics?