Jenny Kwan, MP

Member of Parliament, Vancouver East

Jenny in the Community

Extending Support For New Parents in COVID-19

June 18, 2020

Sent to:

Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Chair, Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hon. Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance

Hon. Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

OPEN LETTER RE: CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR NEW MOTHERS, NEW PARENTS & INFANTS IN COVID-19

Dear Ministers,

We write you today in order to raise our constituents’ growing concerns about how they will continue supporting their families through this pandemic and into the post-pandemic period, and in particular the circumstances faced by new mothers and parents of young infants.

We have previously raised concerns in letters to you, in Committee and in technical briefings about the financial difficulty faced by new parents who have fallen through the gaps between both EI maternity/parental leave and the CERB.  We are still hearing from new parents about the many reasons that they struggle to meet their basic needs in this pandemic:

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We Need A Nationwide Rent Freeze And Guaranteed Income

March 24, 2020

Sent to: 

Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Chair, Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hon. Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Open Letter – RE: Nationwide Rent Freeze and Guaranteed Income to Protect Canadians needed before Rent Day

Dear Deputy Prime Minister Freeland and Minister Hussen,

As we approach the end of the month in 6 days, rent and mortgage payments will be due for renters and homeowners across Canada. While a number of economic measures have been announced, they will not be enough to protect Canadians from losing their housing during these difficult times. The increase in GSTC and CCB payments won’t be received until May, and application for the Emergency Care Benefit doesn’t open until April. There are many others who don’t equality for these measures but have suffered debilitating income loss during the pandemic, including but not limited to small business owners, and gig, freelance, contract workers, artists and people in the film industry during the crisis. For people on fixed incomes, such as seniors and people on disability pensions and benefits, the decrease in accessibility to community programming mean that living costs are increasing.

While the E.I. program and other credit measures have been expanded, the reality remains that the payments will not come in time to meet the immediate needs of Canadians.  As well, many Canadians, including seniors and people on disability benefits, may not be eligible for the measures. 

It is also important to note also that as people scramble to apply for the many different programs, the capacity for our system to process the many applications will be exceeded.  For many low and modest income earners who were just getting by, the partial income replacement is not enough to cover basic costs. As rent day draws near, more and more constituents are reaching out to me and telling me that they have to make the impossible choice between rent, utilities, medication and food. This situation is the same across Canada, as people face uncertainty and are looking to the government to provide help and guidance during this very difficult time.

Complicating the issue is that tenancy laws are different province to province. Some provinces have enacted moratoriums on evictions while others have not. Even in jurisdictions where there is an eviction moratorium in place, renters and homeowners alike are concerned about being hit with a lump sum bill with all deferred payments, accrued interests and late charges once the moratorium is lifted.

As you know, Canada was already experiencing a housing crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic. The added challenges and vulnerability faced by Canadians is exacerbating already existing issues, such as tenants facing renovictions and demovictions. Imagine being a vulnerable, low/modest income earner who is facing a loss of income during this time and having to navigate looking for a home at the same time!

Homeowners are also receiving mixed responses from their banks about the possibility of deferring mortgage payments, with some banks providing a deferral but not alleviating interest charges, while others are evaluating requests for mortgage deferral on a “case-by-case basis”. Some homeowners do not know if they will qualify at all for mortgage deferral, and they have not been able to contact their banks with all the phone lines being busy.

All the aforementioned factors leave too much uncertainty and too much vulnerability for Canadians across the country. To protect Canadians from losing their homes, the government must step in now, before rent day, and take action to enact a nation-wide rent-freeze, eviction freeze, mortgage-freeze, and utilities-freeze.  
 
As aforementioned, Canadians are being financially impacted by this pandemic in many ways, including job loss, income loss, increased costs of acquiring basic necessities like food, and others. The people in Canada urgently need a nationwide freeze on rent, mortgage, evictions and utility payment.  To ensure that no one is left behind, we need to put in place a guaranteed income for all during the pandemic.​

The NDP is calling for the government to cut the administrative burden by providing direct assistance to everyone in Canada in the form of a monthly guaranteed income of $2000 a month, with an addition of $250 per child right away until the pandemic is over.

As rent day is due for Canadians in a few days, it is crucial that we act now.

Sincerely,

Jenny Kwan

Member of Parliament for Vancouver East

NDP Critic for Housing

 

Cc:      

The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos

The Hon. Navdeep Singh Bains

The Hon. William Sterling Blair

The Hon. Patricia Hajdu

The Hon. Mélanie Joly

The Hon. William Francis Morneau

The Hon. Carla Qualtrough

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan

 

 

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COVID-19 Resources and Support for Van East NGOs

 

Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Chair
Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

March 23, 2020

Open Letter: Resources and Support Needed for Vancouver East Non-Profits

To Deputy Prime Minister Freeland,

I am writing with regards to an urgent need for direction and resources for non-profit organizations in my riding, some of whom have reached out to my office directly expressing dire needs. As you may know, Vancouver East is home to one of the highest number of non-profit organizations per capita of any ridings in Canada. Many of these non-profits provide essential services that have enormous health impacts for the community. Some of these services include, but are not limited to, housing provision, food security, home support services, overdose prevention, mental health support, urban Indigenous programs and services, seniors’ and youth services, support for victims of domestic violence and abuse, and others.

Because of the importance of these services to the community members who count on them, many of these organizations are continuing to deliver these essential services despite the pandemic and the risks and challenges involved. In fact, many are trying to step up services, such as offering grocery deliveries for seniors isolated at home, to meet the emerging needs of the community. In order to do so, many of these organizations need urgent support and resources from the government, and it is vital that we step up to meet their efforts.

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National Response Needed to Protect Canadians from Losing Housing during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Many constituents have written to me with very urgent concerns and requests about keeping safely and stably housed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people in Canada are facing a debilitating loss of income during COVID-19, and those who already were facing financial stability or who were already at risk of becoming homeless even prior to the emergence of this pandemic are experiencing heightened fear and anxiety. I have even heard from constituents who have received a notice of rent increase who are extremely distressed.

Given these factors, and the existing crisis in homelessness in our community and across the country: We need to immediately house homeless persons. We must prevent any increase in people becoming homeless. I am calling on all levels of government as they must work together for a national approach to protect Canadians.

To protect renters, we need a nation wide moratorium on all evictions, and a temporary rent freeze period to protect renters during this precarious time.

For landlords who face trouble paying their mortgage or who aren’t able to collect rents, Canada’s big banks and VanCity Credit Union have offered mortgage deferral payments for up to six months. The federal government needs to ensure that the banks make good on this commitment.

Below is the text of the open letter that I sent on March 21 to bring these urgent issues and calls to the federal government, and to urge that they work with all levels of government for a national approach to making sure that – especially in this time of COVID-19 pandemic - everyone has a safe place to call home.

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COVID-19 Measures for Migrant Workers in Canada

March 17, 2020


Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Chair
Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Open Letter re: COVID-19 Pandemic Measures for Migrant Workers in Canada


Deputy Prime Minister Freeland,

This letter is regarding the treatment of Migrant Workers in Canada, and the need for action to protect their well-being with respect to COVID-19. In only a few short months, the COVID-19 virus has thrown the world into crisis by putting pressures on communities, families, workers, national economies and their health and social security systems. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. Given the severity of the crisis, the government must be prepared to establish clear steps to halt the spread of this disease and address the urgent concerns of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs).

The uncertainty of this virus impacts everyone; however, it disproportionately impacts TFWs, many of whom are in precarious positions and lack access to essential services. All workers must be treated equally and there must be a line of communication directly to these workers on how they can stay safe. Without proper protections in place for Migrant Workers, the Government is directly nurturing the conditions that make the spread of the virus more difficult to stop.

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URGENT COVID-19 resources needed in DTES

March 19, 2020


Sent to:

The Honourable Patricia Hajdu, MP Minister of Health
The Honourable Adrian Dix, MLA Minister of Health
DTES COVID-19 Task Force

Open Letter re: URGENT - COVID-19 Response and Resources needed for the DTES


Dear Minister Hajdu, Minister Dix, and the City of Vancouver DTES COVID-19 Task Force,


Let me begin by acknowledging all of your efforts during this unprecedented period. As we all work to ensure vulnerable communities are provided the necessary support during this health emergency, I am writing with urgency with regard to the immediate need for a coordinated response and resources for the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the opioid crisis which has not abated. The situation in the Downtown Eastside is dire and we must act now to minimize the impact of COVID-19 in this extremely vulnerable community.


The Downtown Eastside is home to some of the most vulnerable people in Canada, including people who are homeless, inadequately housed, struggling with mental health challenges and managing addictions. The living conditions of the population mean that many actions that could help prevent the spread of the virus, such as self-isolation and aggressive hygiene practices, are not available to the community members. As such, once the virus touches down on the community, we know that the effect will be severe and devasting. It is therefore absolutely vital that we take steps now to prevent an outbreak in the community as well as to be prepared for what is to come.

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Open Letter on Accessibility of BDC Funding for Small Businesses

March 19, 2020

Sent to:
Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Chair
Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Open Letter re: Accessibility of Business of Development Bank of Canada Funding


Deputy Prime Minister Freeland,


This letter is regarding the accessibility of the recently announced Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) funding to support business owners who have currently closed their businesses due to the COVID-19 virus, specifically those in the food and beverage sector. This is understandably an incredibly difficult time for many businesses, who are complying with government recommendations to close their doors to ensure that adequate social distancing is maintained to prevent further spread of this virus. This loss of business has created obvious financial and emotional stress for business owners and they are in desperate need of the Governments support.


The Government announced on Friday, March 13th that an additional $10 Billion of funding will be provided through BDC and Export Development Canada (EDC). This is commendable action from the government, and an important step in protecting the well-being and financial security of business owners. However, the accessibility of this funding is limited in scope. Particularly, businesses in the food and beverage section are having a difficult time in meeting the current requirements for this funding. As it stands, businesses are prohibited from applying if their historic liquor sales represent more than 50% of the business actual sales. For many restaurants, this is not surprisingly the case. In MP Kwan’s riding of Vancouver East there have been cases of 10 + restaurants that are currently facing this barrier when applying for the BDC funding, and there are likely many more across the country. This leaves these business owners in a state of insecurity, and unsure where they are supposed to turn for assistance. These businesses all expect and are eager to re-open when the spread of the COVID-19 virus is under control, but until then they need more concrete support from the Government.

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Vulnerable Populations in the COVID-19 Response

On March 16, 2020, I raised concerns about COVID-19 Pandemic Measures for vulnerable populations in an open letter, jointly with Vancouver-Kingsway MP Don Davies, to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, and all members of the Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19):

 

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Federal General Election - October 21, 2019

As of September 11, 2019, Canada Elections act, Parliament was dissolved and a Writ of Election was issued for a general federal election.

Election Day has been set as Monday, October 21, 2019.

If you have questions about the general election, or if you need to register to vote, please visit the Elections Canada website at: https://www.elections.ca/ or telephone Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868.

During the election period, the riding office will remain staffed, on reduced hours:

Monday                         11 am – 3 pm

Tuesday                         11 am – 3 pm

Wednesday                   11 am – 3 pm

Friday                             11 am – 3 pm

Constituents of Vancouver East who face very urgent cases or requests for emergency assistance with a federal service or program will still receive priority reply by staff. Please ensure your email message includes your full name, phone number, street address, and postal code.

You may also call the Vancouver East riding office at 604-775-5800 with urgent inquiries, or email to jenny.kwan@parl.gc.ca as this email account will be monitored throughout the election writ period.

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An Urgent Response to Housing and Homelessness Crisis and Overdose Crisis Is Needed

August 27, 2019

The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Open Letter: An Urgent Response to Housing and Homelessness Crisis and Overdose Crisis Is Needed

Minister Duclos:

The situation for the over 2200 people who do not have a home in Vancouver is severe. Many people have no access to daytime shelter, and hundreds of people have no overnight shelter option and are forced to sleep on the street. The situation becomes even more alarming when you consider that many of these individuals face serious health conditions, a mental illness or must manage a chronic disease; and are trying to survive with no income, or on a fixed income that does not meet basic daily needs like food and medicine. Some people who are trying to maintain family unity find that as a couple it can be even more difficult to access shelter that does not force them to separate. Those with children are not exempted from the impact of homelessness. I have met with people whose children are in the care because they are cannot secure safe, secure affordable housing. Even seniors can find themselves without a home. This is the kind of reality that hundreds of people in Vancouver East face every single day.

For some of the people, the dire situations of homelessness and insecure housing have led them to seek relative safety by residing in an encampment in Oppenheimer Park. For months, community members and volunteers have worked hard to provide some level of support to those at the encampment. With their best effort, people residing in the Park can access basic sanitation services, some food security, peer support, and a VCH-sanctioned, peer-run Overdose Prevention Site.

The people at the encampment now face an order of eviction from Oppenheimer Park. At the time of the Order, encampment residents and spokespeople estimated that there were approximately 300 people residing in the encampment.

With respect to the situation in Oppenheimer Park, it is so severe that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, Leilani Farha, has taken notice, and is concerned that governments are not meeting their obligations under international human rights law in violating the right to housing.

While BC Housing has attempted to set aside units through a “unit freeze” on other buildings in order to house the people at Oppenheimer Park, what that means is that other people who are homeless and in need of housing are displaced. The community feels very strongly that making people in dire need feel that they are being pitted against each other is no solution.

There is an urgent, urgent need for additional affordable housing units. In 1993, the federal government’s cancellation of the National Affordable Housing Program resulted in the loss of more than 500,000 units of affordable housing that would have otherwise been built by the non-profit and co-operative sectors. Having those units at that time, and building from that point moving forward would have put Canada in a dramatically different position today than we currently are. Equally important is the fact that there is a desperate need for government subsidies to ensure individuals and families are not paying over 30% of their total income for rent. In order to ensure that people are successful in their housing, support also needs to be made available to those individuals. Until all these are in place, further displacing people living on the streets from where they have found relative safety and support only increases their vulnerability and does nothing to address the homelessness problem in Vancouver.

Minister, I hope you will agree that each and every one of these individuals requires a safe place to call home. Yet, as I have raised with you and with those in your Cabinet, time and time again, much of the monies that are supposed to aid those without a home will not flow immediately. In fact, over 90% of the money first promised in 2017 for housing will not begin to flow until after this next federal election, and much of that not until after 2024. That is too long to wait. And worse, as noted by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, targeted assistance for those in the deep core of need and spending on Indigenous housing is actually reduced from that of the Harper Conservative years. I find this incredible and incompatible with the evidence of clear need in communities across the country, and mostly certainly in Vancouver East.

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