Mr. Mike Cassidy (Ottawa Centre):
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate you on your election to the Chair, and I would also like to congratulate this new Government.
I think it is quite clear that in the election the people of Canada did vote for change, and as a consequence decided to turf the Liberals out and, hopefully, to make them a historical vestige in Canada. I believe that people also voted for the kind of compassion and concern for ordinary people which New Democrats have traditionally represented and certainly intend to represent in the course of this Parliament.
I would like to thank the electorate of Ottawa Centre for their confidence in electing me. The House may be aware that my majority was a modest one of only 54 votes, and therefore I congratulate other Members of Parliament who were elected with a larger landslide than I was able to attain this time. I will attempt to catch up with them in the 1988 election.
This is a new venue for me, but it is also a return. I was in this House as an observer, as a parliamentary journalist for The Financial Times of Canada, from 1966 to 1970, before spending 13 years in provincial politics as an MPP. It is good to be back in my home city. I recognize and fully sympathize with those Members who have distant ridings, because for 13 years I have been living in one community and representing another. I know the difficulties that that represents. To those new Members who are residents of my riding I offer a particular welcome and a promise that I will inform them regularly through my householder of my work in politics.
I would like to talk about the election campaign as well as the economic statement and the Throne Speech. I believe there is a real danger of polarization between Bay Street and Main Street, and I think that that danger has already been amply demonstrated by the two policy statements which the Government has delivered this week. I do not believe that the people of Canada voted for the values of Bay Street when they voted for change on September 4. I also fear that too much, too quickly and too soon the new Government is beginning to look like the Liberal Government which it replaced, rather than
bring in real change which will benefit the ordinary people in my riding and across Canada.
I have a number of priorities I would like to speak on which relate to the people of my riding as well as to many people across Canada. One of those priorities is the question of housing. More than half of the people living in Ottawa Centre are tenants. We have a vacancy rate of 0.2 per cent. One apartment in 500 is actually vacant, as some new Members may have discovered when seeking accommodation after being elected to Parliament. Rents as high as $500 or $600 for a one-bedroom apartment. For family accommodation as well as apartments they are far beyond the affordability of large numbers of people who live in Ottawa Centre, despite the fact that Ottawans are perhaps fortunate in having a higher level of employment and somewhat higher incomes than people in many other parts of Canada.
In my area, homes which rented for $100 a month in 1966 have been renovated. Then are now renting for up to $1,000 or more a month, 18 years later. That is symptomatic of what has happened to the housing situation in Ottawa. The question is, what do families on modest incomes do?
Over many years as an MPP I fought for the rights of tenants. I was among the first people in the Ontario Legislature to seek and successfully gain rent review to protect tenants in the Province of Ontario. But that protection is not good enough if housing is not being provided for people on modest incomes. That is why I regretted so much the cutbacks on co-operative and non-profit housing allocations which were taking place under the Liberals, and why I equally regret that in the Throne Speech and the economic statement there was no thrust at all to have a job-creating investment in new housing directed to people on modest and moderate incomes.
It is to our shame in Ottawa that last winter we had to open emergency shelters because there were hundreds of adult men and women who were homeless. They had no place to live and no place to sleep. There is no form of social alienation in our society which is more intense than that of a person who does not have a roof over his head. In our province, people cannot even qualify for welfare unless they have a home address. There are now sizeable numbers of people in Ottawa who do not qualify for that minimum level of assistance because they have not got a home of their own.
The market system, in which the Minister of Finance and the Conservative Government have put so much trust, is not succeeding in providing housing for people who are poor and people who are on moderate incomes. There are a million Canadians who face an affordability crisis in housing, many of whom are here in Ottawa and in my riding of Ottawa Centre. If the market system is not going to work, people in that situation are either condemned to inadequate accommodation-to paying 30 per cent or 50 per cent of their income in rent-or to having no accommodation whatsoever. I fear that is what the Government is doing because of its lack of housing provisions in the Throne Speech.
The Throne Speech and the economic statement indicated that the Government intends to make cut-backs in the Public
November 9, 1984
Service. My riding is a Public Service riding, and I certainly intend to be a voice on behalf of those people who are public employees and who do essential jobs for Canadians through the Public Service. So far, it has been indicated that 1,500 cut-backs will begin in March, and 2,400 positions will be cut back over the next two or three years. That is disturbing and disquieting. Those numbers are less than we had feared, and for that small mercy I suppose we should be thankful. However, 1 want to insist that training schemes and relocation schemes be put into place so that no one in the Public Service is forced to lose his or her job as a consequence of the economies which are imposed by this Government. If there were adequate training and adequate advance identification of those workers, that would not occur. It certainly occurred when the Ministry of State for Economic Development was shut down a few months ago under the old Government. I want to ensure that the secretaries, the clerks and the little people who work in the Government get the same treatment as the high-priced bureaucrats in senior jobs received when that Ministry of State was closed down. I hope that the new Government will give that priority.
I also hope to see priority given to the question of political rights for public employees. Over the last several years people working for the Government of Canada have had to put up with an awful lot. A Liberal Government was elected which said that it was opposed to wage and price controls, but it brought in those controls. In the last two years, the Liberals brought in the six and five program. The Liberal Government did it a second time. If people working in the service of Canada wanted to get involved politically to defend their own interests, or if they wanted to get involved politically and had some interest which was completely unrelated to the fact that they worked for the federal Government, they were impeded because of federal law which gives no political rights to people who work for the Government of Canada, apart from the fact that they can vote. As well, under certain limited circumstances those people can present themselves for nomination. This was a major issue in my campaign and I am pledged to work for political rights for people who work in the Public Service of Canada. I want to see that the vast bulk of those workers do not face the disciplinary threats that they faced over the course of this year when the federal election was impending.
Since 1966, the Public Service Employment Act has had restrictions, but they have not effectively been in force because they had to be initiated by a candidate for Parliament, and that did not occur. However, this year the restrictions and warnings were intense. Cases have been lodged and people have been threatened with dismissal for attending political conventions, even despite the fact that no election was taking place. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that that kind of treatment runs in the face of what we have been trying to achieve in this country, which is to broaden people's political rights rather than to narrow them.
The Address-Mr. Cassidy
I want to remind the Government that when the Conservatives were campaigning this summer, before they became a government, they made it very clear that they believe that most people in the Public Service of Canada should have political rights along the lines for which I would argue and which I would support. In fact, in the correspondence with both the Professional Institute of the Public Service and also with the Public Service Alliance, Brian Mulroney, as Leader of the Conservative forces in the campaign, indicated that the matter should be addressed by an all-Party parliamentary committee in consultation with Public Service organizations, and I am quoting now-
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY