Speech on Bill C-63 Budget Implementation Act

November 9, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this debate in the House tonight, for the government bringing forward budget 2017, and now for Bill C-63. The government's actions are in line with and directly support the four initiatives of the Guelph and Wellington poverty elimination task force, by looking at the four areas of income inequality, affordable housing, food insecurity, and health inequities.

There is an old African proverb that states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” This government knows that working together with others, and other orders of government, is crucial. In fact, the whole-of-government approach is the way forward.

On the first point of income inequality, the goal of the Guelph and Wellington poverty elimination task force is that all members of the community have the income, resources, and opportunities to fully participate in the community. Of people living in poverty, 70% are currently working. According to Statistics Canada, Canada has one of the highest proportions of low-paid workers among similarly-industrialized countries.

The government believes that the working income tax benefit can do much more to improve the financial security of low-income working Canadians. To this end, in the 2017 fall economic statement, the government is announcing its intention to further enhance the working income tax benefit by $500 million a year, starting in 2019. The maximum Canada pension plan retirement benefits for workers will also be increasing over time by 50%. The government has increased the guaranteed income supplement payments to seniors by up to $947 a year, which is going to help 900,000 low-income seniors, 70% of whom are women.

The Canada child benefit has helped to stimulate the economy. Our economy is growing at 3.7%, leading the G7, and we have created more than 500,000 jobs since it was introduced. There are 12,000 families or 24,000 kids in my riding who receive a total of $8 million per month tax free. This is an enormous boost to the Guelph economy. The budget implementation act will now index these funds two years ahead of schedule due to the strong growth we have in our economy.

Economic opportunity is the best way to address income inequality. This legislation will take the next steps for our innovation and skills plan, an agenda that focuses on people and addresses the changing nature of the economy, to ensure that it works for all Canadians. Bill C-63 will enact several key parts of our plan, including $600 million in new financing for clean technology firms, and $400 million to put in place the venture capital catalyst initiative.

The second point that the poverty elimination task force is looking at is affordable housing, with the goal that everyone in Guelph and Wellington can find and maintain an appropriate, safe, and affordable place to call home. The government will invest more than $11.2 billion over 11 years through the national housing strategy to provide low-income Canadians with improved access to adequate and affordable housing. This is the most significant investment in housing that has ever been made in the history of Canada.

Through the rental construction financing initiative, the government will also offer more than $2.5 billion over the next four years in low-cost loans to support the construction of new rental housing to help increase the supply of rental housing. Budget 2017 also proposes a total investment of $2.1 billion over the next 11 years to expand and extend funding for the homelessness partnering strategy beyond 2018-2019. Our national housing strategy will be announced over the next few weeks, and we will be meeting with members of the Guelph and Wellington poverty elimination task force to discuss implications for Guelph and how we can work together.

The third bullet point is food insecurity. Everyone has to have access to affordable and healthy food in a dignified manner. We have a shared objective federally. In fact, the agriculture committee that I sit on has repeatedly heard from witnesses on the food policy, addressing the nutritional food that Canada needs to focus on, and working with partners like food banks to reduce food waste and to improve food distribution within our communities.

The Canada child benefit has been mentioned a lot today. It has helped lift 300,000 children out of poverty and thanks to this benefit, by the end of this year, it is estimated that child poverty will have been reduced by 40% from where it was in 2013. For a single parent with two children and $35,000 of income, the acceleration of the Canada child benefit would contribute $560 toward the increasing cost of feeding children. This increase means more nutritious food for lower-income children and families, allowing for a more engaged and active student population in our schools.

To address food insecurity within indigenous communities, they need employment opportunities. Budget 2017 invests $50 million in the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy, providing the knowledge that indigenous peoples need to sustain themselves and build their communities.

Finally, health inequities. Everyone in Guelph and Wellington has to have access to affordable health services. Drug prices in Canada are among the highest in the world. Patented drug prices in Canada are 17% to 37% higher than those in France, Italy, the U.K., Australia, Spain, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. Canada's generic drug prices are also comparatively high. We have heard from Canadians about the need for improved access to prescription medications and lower drug prices. Through budget 2017, we are investing over $140 million over five years to help improve access to pharmaceuticals and support innovations within the health care system, but we know there is a lot more to do.

Members may be wondering how these two policies, federal and municipal, are so well aligned and how this can happen. In truth, if a government believes in the whole-of-government approach and serving their people, there can be no other way. Our government understands the needs of our communities, both large and small, from coast to coast to coast, and it is prepared to offer communities what they need to realize their goals.

The results of the past two years justify the trust Canadians placed in this government in the 2015 election. We promised we would work together, and we are. I am confident that the measures in budget 2017 and the Budget Implementation Act will continue this positive trend, build our communities, help the most vulnerable, and have a successful economy together.