HANSARD: Jenny speaks on technical issues regarding benefit applications and housing

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

"Madam Speaker, I will pick up where I was before the technical issues. I was outlining the problems my constituents were having in their application for the benefits they need because of the pandemic. One constituent advised my office of their experience when they attempted to apply online. They were prompted to enter their postal code, which showed that they were from British Columbia. Even though the website stated that all regions in B.C. were eligible if employment had been impacted by COVID, they received a message saying that the region was not valid. These are the kinds of problems people are having. They cannot get through on the phone, or they wait for hours and get sent to different menu choices. They are trying online and are also getting these kinds of frustrating messages.

People are desperate. This is a time when their resources are running dry. Rents are due and they cannot put food on the table, so this is just not acceptable. I sure hope the government will fix these problems.

Then there are those who do not qualify for this program, such as artists, musicians, performers and cultural workers. They are among those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic. In Vancouver East, which is home to the most arts and cultural workers, on a per capita basis, of any riding in the country, the local arts and music scene is going through difficult times. I am very concerned that our community's cultural workers and venues alike face a longer road to recovery, which puts the live performance industry particularly at risk. Even before the pandemic, arts and performance venues were facing enormous pressures and challenges.

The calls of the #ForTheLoveOfLIVE campaign went unanswered by the government. The federal government needs to do more to protect these small and medium-sized enterprises and their employees and to preserve the cultural industry within our communities.

When we are talking about small businesses, I have to raise the issue of start-ups. They have been left out in the cold right from the start of the pandemic, and they continue to suffer. They continue to close down. The truth of the matter is that small businesses are the economic engine of our communities. If we do not support them to survive, our communities will not survive. That is our reality.

In Vancouver's Chinatown in my riding, we still cannot get support from the federal government or a special grant such as the one for Granville Island. Granville Island received a special grant from the federal government at the beginning of the pandemic, to the tune of $17 million. It later received subsequent grants, as well.

Vancouver's Chinatown could not get any support from the government. This is wrong. Chinatown is the jewel of our crown. It is recognized by the federal government as a national historic site, and we need to put the supports in place for small businesses and the community to survive.

I opened my comments today with the issue of racism and discrimination. Chinatown also continues to face ongoing attacks on this front. The Chinese Cultural Centre and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen gardens, among other iconic locations in our community, are being defaced with graffiti and racist comments. This also needs to be addressed, and we need the federal government to work with local communities, the provinces and the City to tackle this issue. We need to save Chinatown and preserve our history.

I want to take a moment and turn to the issue of housing. Today is actually the first 100 days of the Liberal government, and it declared that it would do many things in the first 100 days. The Liberal government still has not appointed anybody to the position of federal housing advocate.

The announcement of this new position was made in 2017. It has now been over a year since the government closed the job posting. In fact, it has been 13 months to be exact, yet there is still no progress. There is still no federal housing advocate. It should not take over 13 months for the government to hire someone after the job posting has closed. If the Liberals cannot even do that, how can they be expected to address the housing crisis that is precluding families and people from finding homes they can afford in the communities where they live and work?

Right now, we know that housing costs have increased exponentially—in fact, by some 38%. People who wish to own a home cannot get into the market. People who rent are losing their homes and are faced with renovictions. Those who are on the streets, who are homeless, continue to be unhoused.

The Liberals keep talking about their housing plan, but they continue to prevent scrutiny on it, which is not a surprise, I suppose, given how much the housing prices have gone up in the six years under this government. People cannot wait for the government keeps talking about it; we need action and we need it now. We need to address it.

I would be remiss if I did not touch upon indigenous housing. The government promised a “for indigenous, by indigenous” national housing strategy. Budget after budget, there is still no funding allocation to it. It was not in this economic update, and it is shameful.

The Aboriginal Housing Management Association in British Columbia just made an announcement and launched a plan to show how to do it and to showcase how this can be done. It needs to be done and it needs the federal government at the table to fund it so that we can ensure indigenous peoples have the proper housing that they deserve.

There has been enough talk. It is time for action. Let us get on with it."



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