Bill C304: A National Housing Strategy
They said it couldn’t be done. The Bloc Québécois would never change its mind and support Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, without an exemption and compensation clause. And, without Bloc support for the Bill, it was certain to die on 3rd reading as the NDP and Liberals don’t have enough MPs to carry a vote and the Conservatives appear to be categorically opposed to the Bill.
On 20 October 2010, the Bloc did precisely what everyone said they wouldn’t. They changed their position. In the first hour of debate at 3rd reading of the Bill, the Bloc indicated that they would support the Bill if it included a simple amendment attesting to their unique expertise and jurisdiction in the area of housing. As a result, Bill C304 went from being well meaning but ultimately doomed dream to a possible reality.
What was the catalyst for this about-face? Was it the inclusion of human rights principles in the Bill – principles the Bloc believes in and is proud of – and thus reluctant to vote against? Was it that Quebec housing groups articulated, in no uncertain terms, that they wanted the Bloc to support this Bill? Was it that dozens of national organizations endorsed the Bill? Was it the cross-country day of action – the Red Tent Campaign – held in cities the day before third reading? Was it pressure from the NPD and Liberals who had invested considerably in the Bill?
In all likelihood there was no single catalyst. It was, probably, the result a confluence of all of these factors and pressures. But what we do know is that it didn’t come about by luck or chance. These days, political victories for marginalized groups, even relatively small victories of this nature, are only won when individuals, organizations, communities and government officials of different political stripes, share a vision, collaborate and work hard till the bitter end.