March 24, 2020
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.
Member of Parliament for Vancouver East
NDP Critic for Housing
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
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.Read more
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.Read more
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):
On March 12, 2020, I gave a speech in the House on universal comprehensive public single payer Pharmacare.
This was in support of the NDP's Motion:
March 10, 2020 — Mr. Davies (Vancouver Kingsway) — That the House: (a) acknowledge the government’s intention to introduce and implement national pharmacare; (b) call on the government to implement the full recommendations of the final report of the Hoskins Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, commencing with the immediate initiation of multilateral negotiations with the provinces and territories to establish a new, dedicated fiscal transfer to support universal, single-payer, public pharmacare that will be long term, predictable, fair and acceptable to provinces and territories; (c) urge the government to reject the U.S.-style private patchwork approach to drug coverage, which protects the profits of big pharmaceutical and insurance companies, but costs more to Canadians; and (d) recognize that investing in national pharmacare would help stimulate the economy while making life more affordable for everyone and strengthening our health care system.Read more
A Top Housing Priority: a funded housing strategy led by Indigenous peoples, for urban, rural, and northern Indigenous peoples
When I rose to ask the Prime Minister about the failures of his national housing strategy, including the glaring absence of a housing strategy that is led by Indigenous peoples, for rural, urban and northern Indigenous peoples, I received the usual meaningless talking points. This happened despite the fact that the Liberals pledged in 2017 with the introduction of the national housing strategy to address the housing crisis for Inuit, Métis and First Nations people.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development even committed on the public record that the Liberals are committed to a separate national urban indigenous housing strategy by and for urban Indigenous people. However, years later there is still no action.
Aboriginal people in Canada are 10 times more likely than non-Aboriginal people to become homeless. When I pointed out that in Vancouver 40% of the homeless population are Indigenous peoples, the Prime Minister was so busy patting himself on the back with self-congratulatory rhetoric that I do not even think he realizes how severe the housing crisis is and how grossly disproportionate it is in affecting urban, rural and northern Indigenous communities.
On February 24, 2020, I rose to speak the Bill C-6, "An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94)."
Madam Speaker, for generations, Canada has welcomed newcomers from around the globe looking to arrive here and contribute to this great place we call home. Canada has openly welcomed people fleeing political, economic and social hardships as well as those looking for better opportunities to better themselves and their families.
The multicultural mosaic of Canadian society has been shaped by people from all walks of life who have chosen to live freely together to ensure peace and respect for all. In welcoming those to our beloved country, we look to continue and strengthen that tradition of diversity and inclusion for all and those who wish to call Canada home.
As we begin to debate on Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94, we need to acknowledge Canada's colonial history. Embedded in that history are many chapters of how Canada legislated against and discriminated against the ethnic minority community.
The Chinese people who came before me helped Canada build the railway to connect this country from coast to coast to coast. They went through hell to earn me the right to stand here today. They sacrificed everything, and some paid with their blood. They took on the most dangerous work to help build the railway, and they fought for Canada even though they were deemed “aliens”. They were discriminated against and mistreated in ways that will make us hang our heads in shame.
I have learned from elders and the stories of how it was Indigenous peoples, themselves experiencing discrimination, who came forward to support the Chinese people. They helped them, housed them, fed them, clothed them, gave them medicine and offered a sense of belonging, and treated them with humanity. In practice, they have shown the world again and again that the most important life lesson is humanity; this from the very people who were experiencing colonization, who suffered extreme hardships and discrimination themselves.
All of this is to say how very grateful I am to the Indigenous peoples for their teachings, kindness and their humanity. What a privilege it is for me to learn from them, to stand with them, to thank them, to appreciate them for the teachings that they have given to all of us. These are the teachings of lifting each other up, of being land defenders, that water is life and that mother earth is sacred. These are teaching of being united with one heart.
As a non-Indigenous person, I stand as an ally. That is why the bill before us is so important. We, as settlers, must learn and understand Canada's colonial history.Read more
On January 28, 2020, I stood to make a statement opn the importance and need for federal investments to make truly universal, accessible, affordable, quality childcare a reality:Read more
On February 5, 2020, I stood in Question Period to ask the following question:Read more
On January 27, 2020, I stood in Question Period to ask my first question of the 43rd Parliament:Read more