Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen members of the committee, I am pleased to be here today as at Employment and Social Development Canada, also known as ESDC, to talk about the main estimates for our department.
I would like to start by congratulating the members of the committee on their excellent work.
I appreciate your hard work on poverty over these past months, and I look forward to receiving your report and your recommendations, which will feed into the consultations on the Canadian poverty reduction strategy. Your counsel will be crucial for our collective engagement to reduce poverty in Canada.
I have the privilege to be joined by my colleagues, the , , as well as the , .
I'm also joined by public servants representing the different sectors of ESDC, who will be able to help me answer some of your questions.
In my statement today, I would like to provide a broad overview of our priorities and progress thus far. I will begin by highlighting our resolute commitment to grow the middle class and reduce poverty. Then, I will describe in more detail our actions to support families and communities, notably our investments in children, child care, seniors, and housing.
My top priority as the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, and the top priority of is growing the middle class and helping more Canadians join it. Every single Canadian deserves a fair and real chance at success.
The middle class is facing real challenges. It is also feeling the impact of economic and technological changes around the world. We also know that a stronger middle class leads to a more prosperous society.
We are committed to helping Canadians who are working hard to join the middle class.
Last October, I presented a discussion paper entitled “Towards a Poverty Reduction Strategy” to accompany your work on the first Canadian poverty reduction strategy in Canadian history.
In parallel with your work, we have launched three large initiatives that will support the Canadian poverty reduction strategy. These are: the tackling poverty together research project, the process of consulting Canadians, and the ministerial advisory committee on poverty, for which we recently put out a call for nominations.
The big picture, for me and for our government, is the imperative to grow the middle class and to reduce poverty. Now, allow me to describe some of the policies we are currently pursuing to make this happen.
Let's start with how we are supporting families. For that, I will focus first on the Canada child benefit and our support for child care and early learning.
Our most important accomplishment to date is without doubt the launch of the Canada child benefit, the most important social policy innovation in a generation. The CCB is a simpler, tax-free, better-targeted, and more generous benefit, to help Canadian families with the cost of raising children.
In July 2016, nearly 3.2 million Canadian families received their first payment.
Also, nine out of 10 Canadian families are receiving an average of $2,300 more in non-taxable child benefits per year compared with the previous complicated and unfair system. This is reducing child poverty by 40% and will lead to the lowest level of child poverty in Canadian history.
As you know, we also aim to create child care services that are affordable, high-quality, flexible and truly inclusive. In Budget 2016, we committed $500 million towards this goal, including $100 million for indigenous early learning and child care.
And over the past year, we have worked with the provinces and territories to develop a framework on early learning and child care, the first in the history of our country.
We have also had discussions with indigenous people to develop a distinct indigenous framework on early learning and child care. This framework will take into account the specific needs and priorities of first nations, Inuit and Métis children and families.
Budget 2017 plans to invest an additional $7 billion over 10 years to support and create affordable, high-quality child care spaces across the country.
These investments in the Canada child benefit and child care will help Canadian families and children succeed.
Please allow me to turn now to our significantly increased support for seniors.
The age of eligibility for old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits has been restored to 65 instead of 67. Every year, that change will prevent 100,000 seniors from living in severe poverty. In addition, automatic enrolment in old age security has been expanded, eliminating the requirement to apply for benefits for more than 60% of seniors.
We also increased the maximum amount of the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit to up to $950 a year for seniors living alone and the most vulnerable seniors. In addition, we are making significant efforts to come in contact with as many seniors as possible who are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, but are not yet receiving it.
Old age security and the Canada pension plan are part of Canada's flagship social programs millions of Canadians depend on every day. We want to make access to those benefits simpler and fairer.
We have made all of these changes for the fundamental reason that seniors deserve to retire and live in dignity.
I now would like to talk about new investments in our communities.
Our communities are the heart of our country, and quality infrastructure is essential to making them into great places to live. That means reliable public transit, solid leisure and cultural infrastructure, water treatment facilities to ensure water safety and the health of our families, affordable housing, and early learning and child care for our young children.
In Budget 2016, we announced an initial investment of $3.4 billion over five years in social infrastructure. And in Budget 2017, we just announced an additional investment of $21.9 billion over 11 years. This will allow us to continue to support social infrastructure in communities across the country.
Let me now focus on the importance of making housing more affordable and reducing homelessness.
Our vision is for all Canadians to have access to housing that meets their needs and is affordable. Housing is a cornerstone of building sustainable, inclusive communities in a strong Canadian economy where we can all prosper and thrive.
In this regard, Budget 2016 included major investments of $2.3 billion over two years. As the minister responsible for the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, or CMHC, I also want to point out that we held nation-wide consultations on a new national housing strategy, and that a report on what we heard was published last November.
Budget 2017 includes an additional investment of $11.2 billion over 11 years in a variety of initiatives that aim to build and renovate the affordable housing stock in Canada. They will also ensure that all Canadians have affordable housing that meets their needs.
For instance, we will be doubling, in that context, our long-term engagement, our investments in the homelessness partnering strategy, for a total investment of $2.1 billion over the next 11 years. When someone is forced to live on the streets, we are indeed all diminished.
Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen members of the committee, as you can see, we have made remarkable progress over the past year. But we are well aware that the work is only just beginning. We have a lot more to accomplish.
However, I am confident that we are on the right track. Our initiatives are helping advance the government's main program, which consists in strengthening the middle class and those working hard to join it.
In developing such an ambitious agenda to give every Canadian a real and fair chance to succeed, everyone's contribution and collaboration is important. Therefore, I look forward to a frank, instructive, and constructive dialogue this morning.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and colleagues.
It's a great pleasure for me to be here before you and all the members of the committee for the first time as the new Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. I look forward to discussing my responsibilities regarding Employment and Social Development Canada's portion of the main estimates tabled on February 23, 2017.
In accepting my mandate as a new minister, I knew that both my personal and work life experiences would give me a good perspective.
It's very exciting for me to be working on a mandate that, among many other things, includes a focus on ensuring skill development, and in particular, lifelong skills, as you've heard our government talking about. This is very personal for me because I was the first in my family to receive a post-secondary education. In fact, I was able to break an intergenerational cycle of poverty.
As you know, Employment and Social Development Canada delivers a range of programs and services that affect Canadians throughout their lives.
My focus within the department is twofold: to help all Canadians access the right skills and training to find, and keep, good jobs; and to ensure that, when Canadians are at work, they are fairly compensated, their rights are protected, and their environment is safe.
These objectives are core to our government's goal of growing Canada's economy by strengthening the middle class, and helping those who are working so hard to join it. I'm pleased to be able to share with you some of the work that we're doing to deliver on this commitment.
Let me start with our youth. We know that Canada's prosperity is increasingly going to depend on creating a path to success in education and employment for our young people. Our government's first budget, budget 2016, tackled this challenge head-on by making unprecedented investments in the youth employment strategy, including a commitment to create more Canada summer jobs for youth than ever before. I'm very pleased that further funding over three years has been pledged in budget 2017 to continue our work. Combined with budget 2016 measures, these investments will help more than 33,000 vulnerable youth develop the skills they need to find work or go back to school, create 15,000 new green jobs for young Canadians, and provide over 1,600 new employment opportunities for youth in the heritage sector.
Our government knows that a highly skilled, flexible, and adaptable workforce is critical for a strong middle class. That's why we've delivered on our commitment to invest more in skills and training, apprenticeships, and access to post-secondary education.
One of the most promising career paths that we don't talk about enough for young Canadians today is the skilled trades, and as the parent of a young welder, I can tell you this first-hand. That's why our government is supporting union-based apprenticeship training, which will give more people the opportunity to start their careers in these sectors. I'm particularly focused on encouraging more women to pursue careers in the trades, critical to closing that gender wage gap we've heard about time and time again.
We've also addressed the importance of demand-driven education and training through the work integrated learning program. We're investing in partnerships between employers and post-secondary education institutions. The goal is simple. We want to align education and training with employer needs.
Through budget 2017, we're also investing in organizations, like Mitacs, so they can nearly triple their co-op placements. This gives young people that critical on-the-job experience that so many employers are looking for on a resumé.
Our government will also be doing more to help adult learners retrain or upgrade their skills to adapt to a changing market, turning challenges into opportunities, and increasing people's earning potential. By showing leadership in a time of change, we're ensuring that every Canadian can be more confident that the next job is indeed a better job.
When it comes to making post-secondary education more affordable, we've accomplished a lot in the past year. Our very first budget included many measures to make post-secondary education more affordable for students from low- to middle-class, middle-income families, and to make debt loads more manageable, and we've built on those investments in budget 2017.
We've increased Canada's student grants and are continuing to expand their eligibility with both budget 2016 and budget 2017. We've brought in a flat-rate student contribution, and we've improved loan repayment assistance so that no graduate will have to start repaying their loans until they're earning a minimum of $25,000.
I also believe strongly that we need to generate opportunities for those who are traditionally under-represented in the workplace, like indigenous people, newcomers to Canada, people with disabilities, and women.
That's why I'm so proud that budget 2017 also builds on our government's investment in skills and training for indigenous people. Indigenous people are the fastest-growing segment of our workforce, and their success at finding and keeping good, well-paying jobs is critical to Canada's growth.
I also want to take a moment to recognize the members of this committee for the hard work that you undertook last summer to study the temporary foreign worker program. I know you spent a great deal of time hearing witnesses, constructing recommendations, and drafting the report. I want to express my thanks and tell you that your recommendations have played a very real role in our work to improve the program.
In December, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Refugees and my predecessor as Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour took early action to respond to the report by announcing four new measures: an end to the “four-in, four-out” rule, a commitment to a pathway to permanence, an extension of the cap for low-wage workers in seasonal industries, and increased requirements for employers to advertise available jobs to the Canadian workforce before they can apply to bring in a temporary foreign worker.
This week, and I were pleased to announce further measures our government is taking to improve the temporary foreign worker program. Budget 2017 provides an investment of $279.8 million over five years starting in 2017-18, and $49.8 million per year thereafter to support the continued delivery of this program, as well as the international mobility program.
Our goal is always to ensure that Canadians have the first opportunity at available jobs, and to that end we're taking two new key steps. First, employers will be required to do more on targeting the recruitment of Canadian workers, particularly those who are typically under-represented in our workforce, like women, indigenous people, and people with disabilities. The government will work with industry sectors that are heavy users of the program to create Canadian workforce development strategies in partnership with employers, organized labour, and other stakeholders.
To fulfill our commitment to better protect vulnerable foreign workers, we will also increase on-site and spot inspections of workplaces employing foreign workers, and we will work with community organizations that have been devoted to protecting vulnerable foreign workers to ensure these workers are informed of their rights and protections.
In my capacity as Minister of Labour, I'm very proud to be overseeing the passage of Bill , which is currently before the Senate. As you know, our government was elected on a commitment to restore fairness and balance to labour relations in Canada, and that is why Bill C-4 is one of the first pieces of legislation our government put forward.
We're also on track to introduce proactive pay equity legislation for the federal jurisdiction in 2018. Consultation on key design elements of a proactive pay equity system that works for everyone will begin with stakeholders and experts this spring. This legislation will help address gender-based wage discrimination related to the undervaluation of work traditionally performed by women, which will contribute to equality and fairness for all Canadians, particularly those in the middle class and the many people who work so hard to join it.
Budget 2017 also laid out our government's commitment to help workers balance the competing personal and professional responsibilities in their lives. We will be introducing legislation to give federally regulated workers the right to request flexible work arrangements from their employers, a measure that we know from other jurisdictions can have positive impacts on increasing productivity, lower turnover, and lower absenteeism.
With budget 2017, we're also introducing a new investment of $13 million over five years to strengthen and modernize compliance and enforcement mechanisms under the Canada Labour Code. These enhancements will help ensure that workers are treated fairly and protected from harm in the workplace.
A lot in my mandate letter has been accomplished. The steps we have taken are already having a real, positive impact on our economy and on Canadians. Optimism is on the rise, and with good reason, as forecasters are expecting Canada's economy to grow even faster.
After 10 years of weak job growth, our country is coming off the best six months of job growth in a decade. Almost a quarter million jobs have been created.
Canadian businesses are hiring again, because they are confident in our plan for creating long-term growth.
But we're not done. There is a lot of work to do. I am looking forward to working with each and every one of you in the coming years to do the best we can for Canadians in every corner of our country.
With that, Mr. Chair, I conclude my opening remarks. I look forward to taking your questions.
Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen members of the committee, it is a pleasure to be here today with my colleagues Minister Duclos and Minister Hajdu to speak to the 2017-18 Main Estimates funding for disability programs and to update you on the progress I have made on my mandate as . I have also asked senior officials from Employment and Social Development Canada, or ESDC, to be here today to answer any questions you may have.
As you know, our government has spent the last year working to strengthen the middle class and support those working hard to join it. Our objective is a Canada where everyone can participate in society and in the economy, and where everyone has an equal chance to succeed. This includes Canadians with disabilities.
In my capacity as minister responsible for people with disabilities, my priority over the last year has been the engagement process to inform the development of federal accessibility legislation. Once in place, the legislation will eliminate systemic barriers and deliver equal opportunities for Canadians living with disabilities.
I am pleased to report that the engagement process—the largest consultation on disability issues in over two decades—was completed on February 28, 2017. The process involved 18 public engagement sessions held in cities across the country, nine round table discussions with academic experts, industry representatives and disability stakeholders, a national youth forum, and an online consultation.
The consultation set a high standard for accessibility. Canadians were able to participate in the language—English, French, American Sign Language, langue des signes du Québec—and format—in person, online, in writing, video, audio—of their choice. Materials were available in multiple formats, and all public engagement events had real-time captioning, sign language interpretation, both in American Sign Language and langue des signes du Québec, and other communication supports.
In total, almost 6,000 Canadians participated either in person or online. An analysis of the feedback from the consultation is currently underway, and we plan to publicly release the summary later this spring. The report will be used to inform the development of the legislation. Once the legislation is drafted, the bill will pass through the regular parliamentary process and will be voted on by Parliament.
The public consultation process was funded through existing departmental resources. In addition, Budget 2016 provided $2 million over two years for stakeholders to undertake complementary engagement opportunities within their communities. Five national disability projects, comprised of multiple partner organizations and three indigenous organizations, were funded through Budget 2016 to engage their members, and this funding continues through 2017-18 as part of the main estimates.
While the engagement process has been our top priority this year, it is only one part of broader Government of Canada efforts to increase the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
I'm pleased to share those with you now.
The enabling accessibility fund supports the capital costs of construction and renovations related to improving physical accessibility and safety for people with disabilities in Canadian communities and workplaces. It has an annual budget of $15 million. Budget 2016 committed to providing an additional $4 million over two fiscal years starting in 2016-17 to support a minimum of 80 additional small community projects. As a result of the 2016 call for proposals under the EAF, 573 projects were approved under the program's workplace and community accessibility streams. This includes 85 additional projects that were funded out of the extra $2 million allocated for 2016-17 through budget 2016.
We expect this work will continue as budget 2017 proposes providing the EAF with an additional $77 million over 10 years, starting in 2018-19, to improve the safety and accessibility of community spaces and workplaces through the second phase of social infrastructure investments.
As you know, the government works to help people with disabilities participate in the labour market through initiatives, such as the opportunities fund, which provides funding of over $40 million annually. This program supports labour market outcomes for Canadians with disabilities by providing more youth with work experience, involving community organizations and employers in the design and delivery of programming, providing more hands-on work experience and targeted employment supports, promoting social innovation, and establishing measurable outcomes.
We also have the social development partnerships program disability component, or the SDPPD, which supports not-for-profit organizations in their work to improve the participation and integration of people with disabilities in all aspects of Canadian society. The SDPPD is in the midst of a program renewal. The goal of the renewal is to design a program that is current and relevant to the disability community, and that supports the capability of the disability sector as a whole. The amount of funding under the renewed program will remain the same at $11 million per year.
Each year the Government of Canada also transfers $222 million to the provinces and territories under the labour market agreements for persons with disabilities to improve the employment prospects for persons with disabilities. As announced in budget 2017, the labour market agreements for persons with disabilities will be consolidated with the Canada job fund and a targeted initiative for older workers into new workforce development agreements. The budget proposed to invest an additional $900 million over the next six years in these consolidated agreements.
We will work with the provinces and territories to ensure that the new agreements continue to support employment programming for persons with disabilities. A strong performance measurement strategy will allow the federal government to monitor and report to Canadians on the labour market outcomes for this population.
As you know, the Canada disability savings grants and bonds are savings initiatives that come under the registered disability savings plan. In the main estimates 2017-18 budget, funding has increased for the Canada disability savings grants and bonds by $107 million. This increase is due to the steady increase in total registered plans and participation in the program, which is very good news. Participation in the program last year was about 24% of those eligible to claim the disability tax credit, which is a key condition for opening an RDSP, but more work needs to be done in this area.
To encourage more people to open RDSPs, we've been working with the Canada Revenue Agency to send letters to Canadians with disabilities who qualify to claim the disability tax credit, but who have yet to open a plan. After a targeted mail campaign that was conducted in November 2015, we saw a 400% increase in the number of plans opened in December 2015 over the previous year, so the increase in spending on the program is partly due to the success of this mail campaign.
We also had great news in December 2016. The Government of Canada announced that it would begin taking steps toward consideration of accession to the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. The convention already plays an important role in ensuring people with disabilities across Canada have equal access and opportunity in their communities and their workplaces. The optional protocol establishes procedures aimed at strengthening the implementation and monitoring of the convention.
We're currently engaged in a federal review process, and in consultations with provincial and territorial governments, who have an important role to play in considering our possible accession to the optional protocol. Consultations with civil society and indigenous organizations were recently completed in March 2017.
In accordance with Canada's usual practice on treaty ratification, the decision on acceding to the optional protocol will be put formally to the federal ministers and the . If there is a favourable decision, the optional protocol would be tabled in Parliament, and the Government of Canada would seek the formal support of all provincial and territorial governments for accession. We're working toward completion of this process in 2018.
I am proud to say that Canada is a place where everyone has a shot at success because we have the confidence and leadership to invest in Canadians.
As the minister responsible for people with disabilities, I look forward to the continued work on new planned accessibility legislation. Once in place, the legislation will give us the opportunity and the means to build a truly inclusive society.
I hope this update on our planned expenditures in the main estimates, as well as our efforts to promote inclusion and remove barriers for Canadians with disabilities, has been useful. I trust it has reiterated our commitment to continuing this work in the coming year.
My colleagues and I would be pleased to answer your questions.
I'm delighted to speak about this. I would like to indicate that not only are the resources, of course, important, but more important, I think, are two additional things.
First is the renewed leadership, and I would say this is in fact the most effective demonstration of federal housing leadership in four decades. This is going to be significantly impacting the welfare and the well-being of our families, businesses, and communities. In addition to that, there are the incredible opportunities this will generate for other partners to collaborate with the federal government. Of course, included in here are provinces and territories, but also municipalities and cities, which have been so voiceful and so effective in the last year in signalling how important investments in housing on the part of the federal government are to them, to their communities, to their businesses, and to their families. In addition to cities and municipalities, there are the social and the private sectors, the importance of which we often underestimate when it comes to housing investments. This is going to lead over time—because it's going to take some time—to renewed collaboration and renewed leadership in the field of housing.
Let me mention very briefly some of the lines along which those investments will manifest themselves.
There will be renewed partnership between the federal government and provinces and territories in the long term, which PTs have asked for. A new $5-billion national housing fund will help address critical housing issues in collaboration with other departments in this government in order to support, for instance, seniors, handicapped families, or Canadians living in circumstances of family violence. It will also be used to support the other types of infrastructure investments that we're making in transit, in green infrastructure, in transport corridors, in targeted housing support for indigenous people, and people living in the north. There will be renewed and expanded investments to combat and prevent homelessness—and here the word “partnership” is again extremely important—using surplus federal land and buildings for the development of affordable housing.
Finally, there will be important investments in CMHC's role to become and to stay a leader in the field of housing over time in Canada. We know how important it is to have proper data and proper understanding of how housing matters for families and communities. We know this in the context of current significant pressures in some of our regions in Canada. We want CMHC to play a better role when it comes to informing and supporting the development of our communities.
I will quickly thank the three ministers and their teams for their preparation and today's presentations.
Mr. Duclos, last time you appeared before this committee, we talked about the importance of defining poverty before we begin to address it. Since then, I have participated in a number of debates in the House. I think that we will also need a definition of the middle class because it is interpreted in many ways. The middle class has a very elastic definition.
Our committee travelled across Canada for its study on poverty. Nearly all representatives of organizations and municipalities we met with said that it was important for the various levels of government to work together. I believe that this leadership can come only from the federal government. We were told that it was not only a matter of investment, but that we also had to know how to achieve the goal.
You were right to highlight the impact of the Canada child benefit. You said that child poverty has decreased by 40%. Having worked with troubled youth, I can tell you that, when I hear “poor children”, I understand it as “poor parents”. Those two things go hand in hand. We should also look into that issue.
Since I am the critic for this particular issue, my colleagues tell me about many situations where the Canada child benefit is taken away from families when their child, for example, goes into foster care for a week. It takes them three months to recover those benefits. Another example is a family missing a document for one child and losing the benefits for all of its five children. Other families may have to provide evidence that their children exist. I hear about many similar situations at my office.
I have one last comment to make before I ask a question. You talked about the guaranteed income supplement. I hope you still plan to ensure that the supplement will one day be automatically provided to those who need it. That is necessary.
You also talked about investing in the infrastructure of our communities. I represent a riding whose largest community has 56,000 constituents. Are you considering allocating funding to the smaller communities because they have fewer resources than the larger cities? When a program is established, there are often only two people who work in those small communities, and they are not aware of community grants. By the time they start filling out documents, big cities have long ago submitted their projects.
I cannot speak for the ministers. You, being a former minister, know perfectly well that there are things that they need to do prior to question period. My only assumption is that they are preparing for question period. I'm not going to speculate as to why they aren't here.
Can we please get back to the reason we are here today?
I'd like to welcome—I apologize, I didn't recognize you to begin with—the witnesses now at the table from the Department of Employment and Social Development: Louise Levonian, deputy minister; Lori Sterling, deputy minister, labour program; and Leslie MacLean, senior associate deputy minister and chief operating officer for Service Canada. We also have, I believe, chief financial officer, ESDC, Mark Perlman.
Mr. Zielonka, CFO and senior vice-president, capital markets, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, is also here.
Welcome to all of you.
Did I miss anybody? I'm sorry. We also have Mr. Evan Siddall, president and chief executive officer, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, as well.
How could I forget you, sir? You've been here so often that I just assumed that we would have announced you already.
I believe we ended with cutting off Brigitte Sansoucy. She still actually has a few minutes left, but seeing that she is not here, we'll move on to Mr. Long for six minutes.
Mr. Long, you're up.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you to our witnesses.
Again, I apologize for the tone and line of questioning from my counterpart across from me, earlier.
When I decided to run for politics, I wanted to give back to my community. I was involved with sports and hockey before that, and we did certain things like food drives, cereal drives, and coat drives to try to give back to those in need.
I felt compelled to try to do more so I wanted to run, and some of the first places I went when I started my campaign were priority neighbourhoods. I started knocking on doors and talking to families. Saint John leads the country in child poverty. We have a lot of issues with affordable housing, and certainly lots of challenges. In fact, some of our priority neighbourhoods, wards 3 and 4 have child poverty rates of 50% to 70%.
While going door to door, I asked a lot of those families about boutique tax credits like credits for dance or credits for hockey lessons. I was looked at, to be perfectly honest and transparent, with dismay. A lot of people in those communities couldn't afford to take their children to dance lessons or hockey. They were trying to survive on a day-to-day basis.
I asked those same families if doubling the tax-free savings account would be beneficial for them. Again, I couldn't find a family in a priority neighbourhood that invested in a tax-free savings account, let alone in the doubling of it.
To you and your staff, I want to thank you for your vision. I want to say thank you that our government is moving forth with a national poverty reduction strategy. I think that transformational change comes from national initiatives. I thank you from my heart for coming to Saint John on September 2 and announcing the tackling poverty together project. It talks to people with lived experience, consults people with lived experience, and is very inclusive.
For us to develop a national poverty reduction strategy we need to have everybody involved. What I saw, going door to door initially, was despair, no hope, and a group of people who lived in poverty and were forgotten by the previous government. I believe that things such as the Canada child benefit, which is better for nine out of 10 families and helps those living in need is transformational and will continue to make a difference.
In particular, for this budget, budget 2017, the minister stood up and talked about the significant, historic amount of investment in affordable housing to come up with a national housing strategy. Saint John has 1,300 people on a wait-list for affordable housing, and over the past 10 years that number has continued to grow. The fact that we announced money for a national housing strategy, I think, is another transformational measure.
My question to you today is about early learning and child care, which I was also thrilled about. In Saint John—Rothesay, I work alongside Erin Schryer from Elementary Literacy in New Brunswick and Shilo Boucher from the YMCA. We've developed an early learning pilot called “Learning Together” that we feel will be transformational.
Can you talk to me more about the investments you are making in early learning and child care?