Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to stand here on the last opposition day of the year. It also gives me great pleasure to split my time with the hon. member for .
There is a housing crisis facing Canadians. Across the country, there are places where a couple with a dual income can simply no longer afford to live, where seniors cannot afford their monthly payments, and where university and college students have completely given up on ever owning property.
The average home price in Canada is $717,000. Do members want to know what it was last year? It was $606,000. That is an 18.2% increase. To put this in perspective, when the came into office it was $450,000. We are seeing house prices rise this year over last year by 20%. New-build homes dropped 5.2%. We have the lowest supply of homes in the G7, with the fastest-rising house prices in the G7. This simply cannot continue.
I want to highlight an example of a young couple right here in Ottawa. They reached out to me and shared their story. Tony and Amanda live in a 667-square-foot apartment. They just had a baby named Clara. A 667-square-foot apartment is a small place to raise a new baby, so Tony and Amanda are looking for a new home. They searched for months and months, and put in 26 offers on 26 different homes. All their offers were above the asking price. Do members know how many homes they got? Zero.
I also want to share the story of Samy, a nurse in Calgary, Alberta. Samy has been saving since he was in high school for his future. He told me that he grew up in a family where the values were to work hard, get a good education and eventually own a home. Samy checks realtor.ca almost every day. He says he is just devastated seeing the prices. One area of the city where he thought he would be able to afford five years ago is now selling above asking price consistently. To this day, Samy still rents, Samy still checks realtor.ca every day and Samy is slowly losing hope.
Let me tell members about another couple. They are from Burnaby, British Columbia. Ryan and Sarah both graduated from university in the last three years and have good jobs. Ryan is a financial analyst and Sarah is a teacher. Both were raised with a dream that if they work hard and study hard, they will be able to afford a home one day. However, they spent the last two years looking, put in some offers, but again, zero offers were accepted. They do not want to rent forever, but what Sarah said to me is heartbreaking. She said she has simply given up. This is a young couple on the cusp of their future together. They have the majority of their lives ahead of them, but have simply given up.
These are three of the many stories we have heard since the election across this country. This brings us to what the Liberal government plans to do. The Liberals have told us that they are going to build 100,000 new homes across this country by 2025. Do members know how many homes Scotiabank has predicted that Canada needs? It said we need 1.8 million new homes, and not in four years, but right now. Simple math tells us that the Liberals are 1.7 million homes short. The promise is 100,000 new homes. It would be almost laughable if it were not so sad when I think about Ryan and Sarah, Samy, and Tony and Amanda.
What the government seems to not understand with this promise is that we need housing supply. We can offer all the tax incentives in the world, but we need the homes for people to move into first. Essentially, what they are saying is come into my store, everything is 100% off, but then someone walks in and there is nothing on the shelves. There is simply no inventory. This is where the Liberals have failed to address the real problem of housing supply and that is where our motion comes in today.
Over the past few weeks during question period, a number of Conservative members of Parliament have raised very thoughtful solutions on what could be done, such as looking at the tremendous number of buildings and amount of land the federal government owns. It owns 37,246 buildings and nearly 41 million hectares of land. This is a substantial amount of property and buildings that it could immediately provide to the municipalities and provinces to help with supply. We can go to the Treasury Board real property report and see the countless number of buildings that are in critical condition, or the land that is in areas that could really help Canadian families find a home. This is a tangible policy solution the Liberals could take from us right here today.
Another policy suggestion is the tying of infrastructure dollars from the federal government to new housing supply. We know the government had extreme difficulty getting infrastructure money out the door, but we are hopeful that might change. We put forth a policy idea that was widely supported by a large number of stakeholders and communities. It was to ensure that we are working with the municipalities receiving federal funding for public transit to increase density near funded projects. We see projects that are not necessarily built being announced over and over again. There is no connection to the housing crisis we are facing here in Canada. Our motion helps fix that.
Our motion also touches on the issues we are facing when it comes to foreign ownership. There are 1.3 million empty homes in Canada. The Liberal solution is to tax them 1%. If it were not so sad to tax a billionaire in another country 1%, it would almost be completely laughable. I am sure they are really shaking scared. In this motion, we are generously offering another solution, which is to implement a policy to ban foreign ownership. Imagine some of the 1.3 million homes I spoke of in places like Vancouver, where a young couple can now afford to have that home, or a place in Montreal where one can dream again of the possibility of home ownership. Homes simply are not available and a lack of a plan from the other side has only made it more challenging for Canadians to buy homes.
A recent survey that came out yesterday from Sotheby's International Realty stated that the majority of young Canadians have completely given up on home ownership. According to the survey, over 80% of young Canadians aged 18 to 28 said that the possibility of home ownership in Canada is completely out of their reach. These are Canadians with their future ahead of them just simply giving up on ever owning a home. That is not only sad, but speaks to the failure of the government over the last six years to fix the housing crisis. It is not like the crisis has snuck up on it; it is something that experts have been warning about since the government came into office in 2015.
The Canadian Real Estate Association has written budget submission after budget submission offering solutions to the supply issue. The Appraisal Institute of Canada has put forth possible solutions that would get more homes into the market. Other groups, like Inclusion Canada, have submitted solutions to the government that would not only address housing affordability, but also affordable housing. These are terrific organizations that are doing their part to offer solutions to what so many Canadians have identified as a crisis. That is what we are doing here today, offering the government solutions.
The number of available homes is failing to keep up with demand and the government has simply hoped it would fix itself. It has said it had a plan all along, but the numbers speak for themselves. We are hearing from real estate agents, home builders and not-for-profit organizations. They all say that the plan will do little to alleviate lack of supply. Most importantly, we are hearing from young Canadians themselves who simply do not know what else to do.
I will end with this. We are in a position to offer a detailed plan to tackle home prices for Canadians. We are here to offer solutions for Canadians. We are here to make life affordable for Canadians. Will the Liberals join us and enact these measures for Canadians?
Madam Speaker, today I will be speaking to the housing affordability crisis in Saskatoon and to our motion, which attempts to get something done on housing, compared with six years of Liberal inaction.
This is my first speech in the 44th Parliament, and I would like to give some quick thanks.
I want to thank the residents of Saskatoon West for choosing me to represent them here in Ottawa. It is my honour and privilege to do so. I want to thank the people who live in our diverse neighbourhoods, such as Riversdale, Hampton Village, Downtown, Caswell Hill, Blairmore, Confederation, Montgomery and the many other areas of the riding. It is my honour to serve everyone there.
I want to thank my family and friends, including my wife, Cheryl; my sons, Kyle and Eric; my parents, Alvin and Irene; and my extended family and friends. I would also like to thank the member for and her husband Milton Block for their support and encouragement over the years. Of course, I also thank my campaign team who got me here, including Steven, Daniel, Lisa, Jared, Sam, Carol and Oliver, and all the other folks who donated and worked tirelessly to get me elected.
I also want to thank the for appointing me as deputy shadow minister for citizenship and immigration.
The last speech I gave in the House was in June, six months ago. Instead of coming back after the summer break, we had an unnecessary election, and it saddens me to say that on August 15, when Kabul was falling to the Taliban and when Afghan interpreters, who had risked their lives for our troops, were fearing for their own lives, our was scheming with his party to call an election. We know the outcome of that election: $600 million spent to keep the status quo and Parliament quiet for five months. Now, we are back to the same old game of the New Democrats supporting the Liberals. The sad part is that it was not necessary.
Before the election, the leader of the NDP pledged his unwavering support to the . In February he said, “We will vote to keep the government going.” In August, he tweeted a plea to the to not hold an election, saying that New Democrats were eager to help expedite legislation. Just in November, he said that, if the government wanted to pass legislation, it could count on them. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Afghans wait.
Speaking of elections, the has been quick to mischaracterize our election platform when it comes to housing. This gives me a chance to remind him and the entire Liberal caucus of our real plan.
Canada's Conservatives committed to building one million homes in the next three years; addressing corrupt practices, such as money laundering, which have driven up prices; making it easier for more families to get mortgages; building more homes near publicly funded transit; banning foreign investors from buying homes if they are not planning to move to Canada; partnering with municipalities and the private sector to build new rental units; encouraging foreign investment in affordable, purpose-built rental housing for Canadians; addressing, in the spirit of reconciliation, the housing needs of our indigenous communities; and redeploying underutilized government buildings as housing. This is the Conservative plan for housing in action.
Someday soon, we will be in government. When we are, Parliament will be sitting and ministers will have mandate letters. We will implement sound legislation that builds Canada up instead of tearing it down. In the meantime, we will do our best to hold the government to account. Our motion today is just one of the ways that we can do that.
We know that the government, with over 37,000 buildings, is the largest property owner in the country. We also know that much of this space is underutilized. Conservatives want to turn over at least 15% of this space for homes.
In Saskatoon, the federal government owns 37 properties with over 1,000 hectares of land. This includes 98 buildings with a combined floor area of 146,000 square metres, so 15% of that is 22,000 square metres, or about 75,000 square feet of housing. At 750 square feet per house, that is 100 new homes in Saskatoon alone. This is the Conservative plan for housing in action.
I am also calling on the Liberal government to commit to never introducing a capital gains tax on the sale of a primary residence. The Liberal campaign plan, on page 13, promised to begin taxing the sale of primary residences. Initially, only primary residences owned for less than one year would pay the tax; however, we all know these rules change over time.
The Liberals' spending spree will eventually force them to expand this tax. It is a slippery slope that I want to stop before it even gets going. I know that folks in Saskatoon would be very upset by such a tax, and that is why I am calling on the Liberals to stop their plan to tax primary residences.
I would like to provide an update on the housing situation in Saskatoon. Much of the focus is on the large metro centres like Toronto and Vancouver, but we have many of the same housing affordability problems in Saskatoon. I held a town hall on this very subject in the spring and received significant feedback. Participants spoke about the impacts on everyday working people, the impacts on seniors, and especially the impacts for those living on minimum wage and government support.
First, they talked about the price of homes, which is continuing to rise. In Saskatoon it is not as high as in the bigger centres, but it is still increasing by 6% year over year. Even at that rate, a house will increase in price by 70% in 10 years. For a young couple, it seems impossible to save up enough for a down payment, and it forces nearly everyone to opt for the 5% down payment option. The problem is that CMHC insurance fees eat up almost all of that down payment, so the typical first-time homebuyer claws and scratches to save, only to give that down payment to the government.
At least interest rates are low, but they will not be for long. The historic lows are coming to an end, meaning big surprises for homeowners at renewal time. To provide context, my first mortgage 30 years ago was at 13%. Do members know why rates were that high? If they stay tuned, I will talk about it in a minute.
The second thing I heard was that the cost of rent keeps getting higher. A cheap place in Saskatoon is $1,000 a month now. That is well beyond the affordability of many lower-income folks. It forces people to share housing, couch surf or simply live on the streets. I have had many immigrants say to me that they came to Saskatoon because rent and house prices were low. This is no longer the case, causing some of them to have to move away to larger centres.
Third, people spoke about the direct impact on our homeless population. More and more people are sleeping on the streets. Besides COVID, addictions and mental health problems, the cost of housing is now further complicating the lives of our homeless population. Just this morning, Saskatoon city council was forced to approve a plan for a temporary shelter to house 50 people over the winter as an emergency measure.
What about the Liberals' rapid housing initiative? As our local paper said, “Saskatoon struck out in the first round of...$1 billion”. Apparently, Saskatoon was not a target area for the Liberals' spending. Finally, last week the government did pledge $7.5 million to build 34 homes, but it is a very modest start, and I believe the government should be embarrassed, considering that Saskatoon is one of Canada's 20 largest cities.
I mentioned that 30 years ago my first mortgage was 13%. Do members know why rates were so high back then? Out-of-control government spending led to inflation. Which government was in power for most of the years leading up to this crisis? It was the Liberals. Who was the prime minister who started all the excessive spending? It was Pierre Elliott Trudeau. There is a direct link between excess government spending and inflation. Excess spending increases inflation, which increases interest rates. It is just a matter of time, and it appears that time is now.
We cannot just blame COVID. The Liberal spending spree started long before COVID, as reported by the Parliamentary Budget Officer this week. The Liberals have been adding programs and civil servants from the first day they were elected. Their philosophy is that government is the solution to every problem. The more government and the bigger it is, the better. The finance said it would be irresponsible not to borrow money, since interest rates are so low. The famously said he does not think about monetary policy, which means he is not worried about inflation or the economy.
The Liberals made a trillion-dollar bet that interest rates would stay low. It appears that they were wrong, and homeowners will pay the price. We have seen food inflation at 15% and housing inflation at more than 20%. Average paycheques are barely rising. These are real-life consequences for a and a who have clearly stated they do not care about the economic consequences of their actions. Inflation is rising, and interest rates will surely follow.
We can contrast that with the Conservative plan, which has two underlying foundations. One is that deficit spending and massive debt will hurt our long-term prosperity. Any Canadian who has piled credit card debt on top of credit card debt knows that reality. Eventually it gets out of control. The second is that the current macroeconomic reality means that inflation is out of control. Wages are stagnant and prices are going up. Purchasing power goes down and people get poorer.
The Conservative Party has always been the party Canadians turn to when the economy needs mending. We are here to provide solutions to Canada's housing crisis. Conservatives have always fixed the mess created by the Liberals, and we will do it again.
Madam Speaker, today I am very pleased to rise in the House as the parliamentary secretary to the very first of Canada.
This new portfolio recognizes that these three issues are closely linked. Affordable housing is essential to supporting diversity and creating inclusive communities that will allow everyone to flourish.
The hon. member for and other colleagues across the way like to talk about capital gains tax on Canadians' primary residences. I just want to note that they are the only ones talking about that. They have been talking about that for months, even after we clearly and repeatedly said that our government will not impose such a tax. It simply will not happen.
Canadians can clearly see through an unfounded partisan political narrative. Our approach to housing is visionary and seeks to address a flagrant lack of investment by the Conservative Party, which left a legacy of inaction.
In the throne speech, we confirmed that the government wants to continue investing in more affordable housing. The new housing accelerator fund and the other commitments announced in the throne speech are only the latest in a series of measures our government has taken to support affordable housing since 2015.
In fact, investment in affordable housing is at the heart of our government’s efforts to build diverse and inclusive communities that strengthen our economy and support our prosperity.
Earlier this year, the tabled the fifth consecutive budget in which our government recognized the importance of housing for Canadians. We are proposing concrete investments to improve housing for Canadians. We are making these investments because we believe that everyone deserves to have a home.
When I was very young, I remember that my mother looked for an apartment for a very long time. We ended up on the third floor in a small two-bedroom apartment with no special adaptations for my brother, who was in a wheelchair. I am thinking about Mohammed, about Johanne, and about all of the people, even in my riding, who are looking for somewhere to live. We need stable and affordable units that offer refuge in times of uncertainty, like the one we have been going through for the past two years, and that give every Canadian the chance to succeed, every child a good start in life and every family the opportunity to prosper.
Housing is a key driver of economic activity and helps create well-paid jobs for the middle class. Home construction and repair provide more jobs for more skilled workers across the country. Investments in housing also increase the demand for products and services offered in Canada, generating significant economic benefits in our communities.
In the past six years, our government has invested almost $30 billion in housing. In collaboration with the provinces and territories, municipalities, non-profit organizations, developers, financial institutions and many other partners, we contributed to the construction of more than 110,000 housing units across the country. Federal investments also contributed to the renovation and repair of approximately 370,000 existing affordable housing units, making them compliant with modern standards and available for future generations.
More than one million people benefited from these investments. More than 35,000 people who were either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless now live in safer housing because of federal investments and our commitment to eliminating chronic homelessness in Canada.
As my colleagues are aware, most of this federal funding was paid out as part of the very first national housing strategy in Canada. Introduced by our government in 2017, this plan, and the more than $72 billion over 10 years, continues to grow and produce results each year. Our government also took the major step of passing legislation obliging future governments to maintain a national housing strategy and to report regularly on its results.
With respect to the national housing strategy itself, one of its most recent and most successful programs is the rapid housing initiative, or RHI.
Phase 1 of the RHI was introduced by the government almost exactly a year ago with a view to rapidly creating housing units for Canadians in housing need due to COVID-19.
After investing $2.5 billion, we are now seeing construction of more than 9,200 units to support the most vulnerable Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Once the funding is released, these indispensable units are designed to welcome new residents in under 12 months. I am pleased to note that at least 25% of the remaining funding under the RHI will go to housing projects for women.
Another cornerstone of the national housing strategy is the national housing co-investment fund, which directly addresses the main problem at the root of the housing crisis in Canada: short supply. The aim of the co-investment fund is to solve this problem by creating up to 60,000 new housing units and refurbishing up to 240,000 existing affordable units. Of course, we will do this in partnership with other governments, non-profit organizations, the private sector and other stakeholders in order to maximize investments.
This program is well on its way to achieving its objectives. At the end of September, almost 300 applications had been approved, accounting for a commitment of more than $4.6 billion in federal funds for the construction and repair of more than 118,000 housing units in Canada.
Recognizing the value and benefits of the co-investment fund, the government allocated $750 million of existing funding in this program in the 2021 budget to accelerate the creation of 3,400 new units and the repair of 13,700 units over the next two years.
Another $250 million will be reallocated to support construction, repair and operating costs for more than 500 transitional housing units and shelters for women and children fleeing violence. The increase in the fund will help our government fight gender-based violence, which I know is a goal shared by all parties in the House.
The rental construction financing initiative offers low-cost loans to municipalities, non-profit organizations and private developers to encourage the construction of rental properties in communities across Canada, where the need is greatest.
To date, more than $12 billion has been allocated to support the creation of more than 34,600 units, most of which will be affordable, and $300 million in funding for the construction of rental properties was reallocated to help convert vacant commercial properties into market-based rental housing units, which will free up affordable units for other households.
We also took measures to renew and extend the affordable housing innovation fund, which encourages new financing models and innovative construction techniques in the affordable housing sector. More than 19,000 units have already been approved for financing under this initiative, 85% of them designated as affordable housing.
We also improved the Canada housing benefit, which provides direct financial support to help eligible households pay the rent. More specifically, we will invest more than $315 million over the next seven years to increase direct financial assistance for low-income women and children fleeing violence.
The federal community housing initiative also received a boost in its funding. This initiative supports community housing providers offering long-term housing to many of the most vulnerable Canadians.
Our government also recognizes the unique challenges associated with the construction and maintenance of sustainable housing in the North. As a result, we are providing $25 million in new funds to the Government of the Northwest Territories to support the construction of 30 new social housing units across the territory.
An additional $25 million will be given to the Nunavut government to meet short-term housing and infrastructure needs in the territory, including priority projects involving the remediation and redevelopment of approximately 100 housing units.
Earlier this year, we took measures to extend the first-time home buyer incentive in order to enhance eligibility in high-cost markets, namely the census metropolitan areas of Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria.
For people purchasing a first home in these regions, the income eligibility threshold is now $150,000, up from $120,000. Moreover, the maximum insured mortgage and incentive will rise from four times to four and a half times annual eligible income.
In short, with a small down payment, this targeted extension will increase the maximum price of housing by more than $200,000 for people purchasing eligible properties in these cities, from a little over $500,000 according to current parameters to approximately $722,000.
We took measures to ensure that non-resident foreign buyers who invest passively in housing in Canada, thereby causing increases in the purchase price of properties for Canadians, pay their fair share. Starting on January 1, a new 1% tax will be levied on the value of residential real estate belonging to non-residents or non-Canadians that is considered vacant or underused. This new tax should increase federal revenues by $700 million over four years starting in 2022-23. These revenues will help support the major investments we are making in housing.
All these investments that I have mentioned today are helping to make housing more affordable for Canadians, especially for those who are vulnerable, thereby ensuring that our economic recovery is inclusive and resilient and that no one falls through the cracks.
Our government is determined to continue this important work by making new commitments and by putting forward innovative approaches to get the pandemic under control. It is determined to grow an economy that works for everyone and to make progress in terms of reconciliation with indigenous peoples, racism and discrimination, climate change, and child care.
I know that my hon. colleagues on both sides of the House, as well as the Canadian people, support these goals, and that they will move us forward as a diverse, equitable and inclusive society. I look forward to working with my colleagues in our efforts to accomplish the difficult work ahead.
Madam Speaker, I am very happy not to be sharing my time for this speech. I am going to try to speak for 20 minutes on the issue of housing. I am very glad that we are talking about this issue today. I thank my Conservative friends for bringing forward a motion on this issue today.
I have noticed, and I am sending them the signal, that this issue has been very much on the table since we resumed two weeks ago. I am pleased with that. The Conservatives have been asking a lot of questions, and the Liberals have even been planting questions on this issue to pretend that they are dealing with it. In fact, one of the things I hate most in the House is seeing a Liberal backbencher read out a question to a minister, who then thanks them for asking such a good question and doing such a wonderful job. I think it is bad acting and a huge waste of everyone's time.
That is where we stand. Six months down the road, we are going to talk about housing. I remember doing a speech about housing in June. Unfortunately, the situation has not changed. It has gotten even worse.
There is quite a contradiction that I need to point out, because it makes no sense. We just had a totally useless election. We wasted a lot of time, energy and, most of all, money. We just spent $600 million on an election that yielded the same results as the previous one. Do my colleagues know how many social housing units $600 million would build? We could have helped 3,000 people, like women fleeing domestic violence, people with mental health issues, and seniors made more vulnerable by the pandemic. We could have used that money to house these people.
It is shocking how much time we wasted, all to end up with the same result. We have the same Parliament: The Conservatives are in the same place, the Liberals are in the same place, the NDP is in the same place, near the door. It is all the same in the same Parliament. It is outrageous.
During the election campaign, one thing kept coming up. At least, the people in the Bloc Québécois heard it a lot, and I cannot help but mention it today because it is very important. We kept hearing that the Bloc Québécois will never be in power, which means that, on a number of issues, there is nothing it can do or decide, and that the Bloc will never be the one making the decisions. We heard that a lot during the election campaign.
Consider Montreal, for example. Right now, 23,000 people in Montreal are on the waiting list for low-cost housing. Since 2015, when the Liberals came to power, the numbers have only grown. If we look at the electoral map, Montreal is almost entirely red. Some 25 Liberal MPs, including nine ministers, are supposed to be sitting down making decisions. There are nine federal government ministers on the Island of Montreal, including the . They were told that they should be sitting at the table where decisions are made. I imagine that the Prime Minister is also at that table and that he can make decisions. His own riding, , is one of the ridings struggling most with the housing crisis on the Island of Montreal. That is something worth mentioning. What is our Prime Minister working on? What does he do all day?
Let us be honest. We are going through a difficult time. There is a housing crisis, but that is not the only crisis there is. In fact, right now, there are four major crises in Canada.
There is, of course, the health crisis, which we hope to get out of as soon as possible. There is also the climate crisis, about which the Liberals are doing absolutely nothing. They have one of the worst records of the G7. Just because they have a former environmental activist in their ranks it does not mean that we think they will make quick progress. This is one of the worst crises of our time.
In Quebec, there is also a language crisis looming, and we are still waiting. Six months ago, we were supposed to pass legislation to reform the Official Languages Act, but we are still waiting. We put everything on hold for five weeks. There was an election and, six months later, there is still nothing. French is in decline everywhere in Montreal and across Quebec, but no legislation was passed because of the election.
Ultimately, the government is unable to do much to improve the situation, but it can do a lot to make it worse. We in the Bloc want to keep them from making things worse.
There is the housing crisis. The Liberal record on housing is disastrous.
Let us talk about the current situation in Quebec, where 450,000 households are in dire need of housing. That is a lot of people—those who pay 30% of their income for housing or who are in unsuitable or substandard housing. Someone might be able to find decently priced housing, but it is unsuitable if eight people have to share a one-bedroom apartment. Nearly 200,000 households see over 50% of their income go to housing; that is when things start to get deeply troubling.
I am referring to pre-pandemic numbers here, but I will point out that all of these numbers have gone up during the pandemic.
Around 82,000 households in Quebec spend 80% of their income on rent. That is right, I said 80%. If someone makes $20,000, $16,000 goes to rent and they have $4,000 left for 12 months, which means times will be tight, as my mother used to say. It is easy to imagine the anxiety and problems that come with that, which is terrible.
The situation has not changed after six years of Liberal government. The parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Housing just buried us in statistics. I think her intentions are good, but she cannot really see what is going on out there.
More people are homeless. It was one of the most important issues in the Quebec municipal campaign, if not the key issue in Longueuil, Montreal, Laval, Gatineau and Quebec City, and for the mayors of all of Quebec's big cities. In fact, I have a meeting tomorrow with the new mayor of Longueuil, who has made this one of her crusades and wants to set up a round table with Montreal and Laval to find solutions.
The problem is that the municipality does not have the means to meet this challenge. It takes massive investments. Where is the money? It is in Ottawa. Obviously, housing is a provincial jurisdiction, but over time, the federal government clawed back spending power, which it is misusing. My colleague talked about that earlier.
A national housing strategy was introduced. Let us go over a bit of its history, without going back to the beginning of time. Where did it come from? Why did we hear so much about it? It is because it was the first one. Before that, there was nothing going on in housing.
In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, the government decided that it had to get involved in housing the most vulnerable, people who could not afford it themselves. The federal government made investments in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and housing was built for the most vulnerable in Quebec and across the country.
Then, in the early 1990s, the Conservative government of the day stopped those investments in the name of budget cuts. They axed that funding, and then nothing happened.
In 1993, the Liberals returned to power under Jean Chrétien. During the election campaign, he promised that he would start building again, that everything would go well, that he would take care of the most vulnerable. What happened? He did not keep their word. He did not start investing again.
According to a study by FRAPRU, if the government had resumed investing in 1993 at the same pace it had been in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, nearly 80,000 social housing units could have been built in Quebec. We could have housed a bunch of people, all sorts of people who have all sorts of problems, as we are seeing right now in the streets.
For 30 years, nothing happened.
Then, three or four years ago, the Liberal Party decided to launch a program. As my colleague said so well earlier, the national housing strategy comes with big numbers, namely $70 billion. However, those numbers are inflated with helium, because the investments will be made over 10 years and they include investments from the municipalities, organizations and the provinces. That is where things stand.
The national strategy caused major problems in Quebec, because for three years, nothing happened. Since this is a provincial jurisdiction and the federal government was slow to come to an agreement with Quebec, for three years, no money was spent on housing the most vulnerable.
Last May, a mother and victim of domestic violence from Longueuil made the front page of the Journal de Montréal because she could not find housing for herself and her three children. She was trapped in a difficult and toxic relationship, but could not find housing and she was very anxious. This woman lives in Longueuil.
Had the agreement with Quebec been signed when the national strategy was launched in 2017, we could have found housing for her. This woman needs an apartment suitable for herself and her three children. A three-bedroom apartment in Longueuil costs $1,500 a month and that is considered affordable. That is the average rent for a three-bedroom in Longueuil. Who can afford that? It makes no sense. In short, had this agreement been signed, we could have provided these people with housing.
Let us talk about the national housing strategy. Beyond the fact that it took three years for an agreement to be signed, which has caused all kinds of problems in Quebec, there is another problem. As my colleague mentioned earlier, the suite of programs intended to create affordability under the national housing strategy means that in Montreal, for example, a unit that costs $2,200 a month is considered affordable. That is just crazy.
During the election campaign, the Bloc Québécois proposed to shuffle all the programs, take the money and put it where the needs are, by giving it to organizations on the ground or to technical resource groups. Since the groups know what the needs are, they could take the money and look after people's real needs. The groups working on the ground are the ones that have the required expertise. That was our proposal during the election campaign.
Right now, a lot of money is being spent for nothing because it is missing the mark. That makes no sense.
Let us now talk about the rapid housing initiative, RHI, which is interesting. Two years ago, the government sort of woke up. It realized that the situation made no sense, that it needed to invest in housing for the most vulnerable, not just those with money. That is why the government launched the RHI. It is not a bad program, but it is grossly underfunded.
The government announced that it would invest $1 billion to build housing units. The plan was to quickly renovate low-income housing units that had fallen into disrepair and to turn small highway motels into bachelor units for people experiencing homelessness. That is a good program.
However, there was a big problem with this $1‑billion program, which included $500 million for major cities. Out of that $500 million, $200 million went to Toronto and $57 million to Montreal. We did not understand that at all.
In total, $63 million, or 13%, of that $500 million for major cities went to Quebec, yet Quebec accounts for 23% of the population of Canada. The decisions are made in Ottawa, and the minister responsible for this file is from Toronto. This may be a coincidence, but something is not right here. It makes no sense that Quebec contributes $50 billion a year in taxes and that some of that money gets spent on people in Toronto who are unhoused. It makes no sense.
This $1‑billion initiative is not a bad one, but it was not enough money. Do my colleagues know how many requests the government received for projects to house the most vulnerable when this program was launched?
It was actually a good program; people had three months to apply, and tenants had to be able to get into the unit a year later. That, in itself, was very good. In fact, it was almost too fast, because organizations that could not afford to submit projects had only three months to do so. There were even organizations that applied for grants from CMHC, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
I spoke with a representative of an organization in the Montérégie who applied to CMHC for $40,000 in funding to help him submit the project. His application ended up being rejected. It is completely ridiculous.
The government received $4 billion in project applications, when it had an envelope of only $1 billion.
Everyone knows that people do not have any fun on Saturday night or Sunday morning. Not having anything to do, they concoct the idea of whipping up an application for housing meant for the homeless. That is not what happens. These people are involved in their community, and they are familiar with what the community needs. They know where the needs are.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities applied for $7 billion under the same program. They saw the big pot of money and said that it was a good program to apply for $7 billion.
It is a fine program, but it is underfunded. The government launched it with $1.5 billion, but, again, that will not solve the problems.
The national housing strategy is supposed to build 4,000 units in Quebec over 10 years, but Quebec has 40,000 people waiting for low-income housing. That 10-year plan will not meet those needs.
We are talking numbers, and we are going to talk numbers all day. That is fine because this is an important issue. The housing issue is about people. One of the things I have enjoyed most over the past two years is meeting all the people at work on the ground in Longueuil. There are people everywhere working on homelessness, right in Montreal and all over. This is a good time to salute their incredible work.
I was talking to the parliamentary secretary about homelessness earlier.
An organization called La Halte du coin was founded in Longueuil during the pandemic. It is an incredible organization that offers resources 24/7. What is more, its threshold for entry is low, meaning it accepts anyone and everyone.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we realized that many people experiencing homelessness were going to the Longueuil metro to get out of Montreal, and there was a significant risk of an outbreak. All the homelessness advocacy organizations immediately came together and quickly developed an amazing project, La Halte du coin. They are anxious to find out if they will get funding.
Among the people who worked on this project was Danielle Leblanc, an extraordinary woman who works to tackle homelessness. My riding is home to a program called Repas du passant, a resource that offers meals for $4, five days a week, to people experiencing homelessness. Ms. Leblanc is an incredible woman. There is also Danielle Goulet, from Macadam Sud, who goes around on the bus to connect with young people in Longueuil; Lucie Latulippe, from Abri de la Rive-Sud; Marlène Harvey, from Casa Bernard-Hubert, a transitional resource for men; Nicholas Gildersleeve, the new director of La Halte du coin; Sonia Jurado, a pillar of housing advocacy in Longueuil who founded Les Habitations Paul-Pratt, a seniors' residence; Marie-Claire McLeod, who has been working to address homelessness for years and is calling for federal investments; and Chrismene Lesperance, who has a homelessness resource in my riding.
These people are there and they are ready. It is now our turn to make decisions and send them cheques. They are going to be looking after people because they know how to do it and how to do their job. Now they want us to do our job, which is to send them a cheque in order to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. That is what they are asking for, and I am certain that they are watching us right now.
Gilles Beauregard and Hélène Bordeleau of the Table Itinérance Rive‑Sud are fascinating people, just like Lazard Vertus and Sonia Langlois, who runs L'Antre‑Temps, a resource for homeless youth.
Just imagine how terrible it must be for a 50- or 60-year-old to find themselves homeless on the streets of Montreal—
Madam Speaker, I want to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with my excellent colleague from .
I feel compelled to follow up on the comments of my colleague from Longueuil, who very proudly represents the Quebec wing of the Conservative Party, by voting for a motion that is full of holes. I will, however, correct something he said when he stated that the Liberals took up the entire Island of Montreal. All of it? No, there is a little orange dot still holding out against the invader.
An hon. member: There is a little blue dot too.
Mr. Alexandre Boulerice: There is a little blue dot too, Madam Speaker.
We are debating a motion from the Conservative Party that identifies a real problem but offers a bad solution. I think it is important to have this discussion to actually see what the real solutions are for this housing crisis.
The housing crisis has reached catastrophic levels in many Quebec and Canadian towns and cities, particularly in Montreal, where housing prices have skyrocketed in recent years. People are struggling to find housing and are having to change neighbourhoods because they cannot afford to pay $1,400, $1,500 or $1,750 a month in rent. The Liberals have been promising strategies ever since they came to power six years ago, but we have not seen any concrete changes or results on the ground. On the contrary, the situation has only gotten worse following years of Conservative and Liberal neglect.
People who spend more than 30% of their income on rent tend to be poor and vulnerable. In Canada, that is the reality for 1.7 million households, which means the number of people is even higher. This means that 1.7 million families, couples or individuals spend more than 30% of their income on housing. That is serious. It is catastrophic. In Quebec, 38,000 people are waiting for social housing, for truly affordable housing. In Montreal, 23,000 people are waiting, and that number is growing.
I recently had the chance to take part in an event organized by the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain, or FRAPRU, which is well known in Quebec, as well as a coalition called the National Right to Housing Network.
We spent a long while listening to testimony from people who live in unsafe housing, who were victims of renovictions, or who are living in housing that is too small, ill-suited to their needs or poorly lit. All of this was detrimental to their mental, and sometimes physical, health. It was heartbreaking to hear these stories in a country as rich as Canada, a G7 country that could be doing so much better.
We heard stories about five people living in a one-bedroom apartment because it was all they could afford. Every night the parents would pull out the sofa bed to sleep, but it blocked the path the kids would take to go to the bathroom during the night. There were five of them in that one-bedroom apartment. We heard from people who have kids with disabilities but do not have the resources or the means to adapt the entryway for their child, who has to come in the back door. It is dangerous and not well lit. These people are living with mould, with fungi, and their health is affected. This, in turn, overwhelms our health care system, because people are living in unsafe conditions in inadequate housing. It is a big problem.
We were talking about the 1.7 million households that spend more than 30% of their income on housing in Canada. In Rosemont—La Petite Patrie, some people spend more than 40% or 50% of their income on housing. Then, when the price of groceries goes up, they are stretched to the limit. It makes no sense. Three thousand households in Rosemont—La Petite Patrie have to spend more than half of their income on housing. It is completely unacceptable. This has been a failure of the Liberal strategy for years.
The motion before us speaks to this real housing problem and to the issue facing young families and young couples who want to buy their first home. It is becoming increasingly difficult. Condos and houses often sell for more than they are listed on the market for. This creates a kind of bubble of speculation that is completely crazy.
The Conservatives may be identifying a real problem, but they seem to be unable to say certain words. For example, they are unable to say the words “social housing”. It seems that social housing is on their lips. They just cannot say it.
The proposed solutions in the motion before us are extremely ideological.
That being said, some aspects of the motion make sense. The NDP is also against taxing capital gains on the sale of a primary residence, but the motion does not offer any real solution to this problem. Everything in the opposition motion is highly ideological and tied to market forces. If there is greater demand then we simply need to increase supply and, like magic, the prices will automatically drop.
Anyone who knows this file and works on the ground, including groups and organizations, knows full well that although part of the problem can be solved by the lucrative market, in other words the supply of profit-driven products, the most effective solution is indisputably more non-market housing.
Such housing does not generate profit. It is community housing, low-income housing, co-operative and social housing. This kind of social housing has to be incorporated in project plans. A developer proposing a project should be required to build social housing, and the federal and Quebec governments should have to provide money to get that social housing built.
There is no solution that does not include not-for-profit housing. Social housing is crucial. That is why the Conservatives' solution is flawed and fails to address what really needs to be done. The Conservatives have their ideological blinders on. They are all about capitalism no matter the cost, and nothing else is even worth considering.
Regarding non-market solutions, members touched on the fact that new co-ops are not being built. That is essential. I had a chance to be at the Montreal premiere of a documentary called Le coop de ma mère by filmmaker Rosemont Ève Lamont. The documentary made it clear just how well those solutions have worked. Co-operatives that were built in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s are still around today, and they are great places to live. Anything considered profit is reinvested in maintaining and upgrading the co-op spaces for the people who live there.
This is also a lesson about working together, participatory democracy, and collective empowerment. The residents of co-operatives become collective owners of the co-operative, and that changes their lives. Without these co-operatives, these people would not be able to live in these neighbourhoods or in these communities. This is something that the NDP is calling for.
I would like to tell my Bloc Québécois colleagues, who seem to want to vote for the Conservative motion, that the NDP is going to move an amendment that I think is in line with the speeches we have heard. We want to add the following to the motion: investments for non-market, non-profit affordable housing; investments to create co-operatives; and the construction of 500,000 new homes, affordable housing, and social housing over the next 10 years. The Liberals are promising 160,000 social housing units, but the NDP is proposing half a million. We are also proposing to create a “for indigenous, by indigenous” housing strategy, which is not in the Conservative motion or in the Liberal’s national housing strategy action plan, even though they have been promising it for years.
These are concrete things that the NDP is putting forward in response to the flaws in the Conservative proposal. I really hope that there will be consistency between what is said and what is done, and that we can count on the support of the Bloc Québécois. These NDP amendments would make for a much more meaningful and logical motion, when it comes to practical solutions.
In this regard, as I spoke earlier with the and member for , based on the rules in place, which were set by the Liberals, housing that is considered affordable is not affordable at all. We recently learned that, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, or CMHC, a Montreal home that costs $2,200 a month is considered affordable. People are being taken for fools.
We need to put our heads together and we need to consider the right to housing as a fundamental right for which someone could go to court when housing is inadequate. It is a life-changing thing, and I think that as parliamentarians we need to make a significant effort to invest in social housing and truly affordable housing. That is a priority for the NDP.
Madam Speaker, I am delighted to enter into this debate. As members may know, housing is one of my deepest passions.
I got into electoral politics back in 1993. Why? Because the federal Liberal government cancelled the national affordable housing program at that time. I was working as a community legal advocate in the Downtown Eastside. I was absolutely devastated because I saw first-hand what it was like for individuals who could not get access to safe, secure affordable housing. I worked day and night to find people housing, sometimes inadequate housing.
That was back in 1993. Look at what is happening today. Things are even worse. I have never seen it so bad as it is now. During the election campaign, believe it or not, the Liberal candidate came after me and asked me what I had done in the last six years, having been elected as member of Parliament. I told the Liberal candidate to ask the , the leader of his party, what he had or had not done to deliver housing to those in greatest need.
Vancouver East had the largest homeless encampment in the country. For months this went on. From the summer to the fall to the winter, it persisted. I begged the Minister of Housing to come to my community and see for himself what was going on. I offered solutions day and night whenever I saw the minister. Sometimes it was at the airport, while we were waiting for our flight. Sometimes I would walk across the floor of the House. I wrote countless letters to the government. I even wrote a joint letter with Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the local MLA, the Hon. Melanie Mark, begging for the government to come to the table.
The provincial B.C. NDP government had said that it would match the funding from the federal government to address this crisis. Did the federal government come to the table? No, it did not, and yet the Liberals sit here today and talk about what a swell job they are doing with their national affordable housing initiative. Let us be clear about what is going on with the national affordable housing initiative. The reality is that initiative is not producing the housing needed most by those who are unhoused and by those who are living precariously with their housing conditions.
The co-investment fund that the talked about, yes, is a great program, with the exception that it is so riddled with red tape that it is almost impossible for non-profits to make applications. They literally have to hire consultants to get through the stack of pages and reams of questions. Worse than that, after they are able to answer all the questions and submit their applications, CMHC barely has the wherewithal to process them expeditiously, and we wonder why housing is not getting developed. We wonder why things are not changing on the streets.
With regard to the co-investment fund, I must also take a moment to say where the problems lie with smaller communities, rural communities and northern communities, communities that do not have the large infrastructure as my city does in an urban centre to make those complicated applications. They are left out in the cold. That is the reality of what is going on.
Prior to and during the campaign, the Liberals bragged about the largest program within the national housing strategy, the RCFI. The RCFI has constructed housing that is simply not affordable. Housing experts have looked into this program and have found that the developments are way above market, somewhere between 30% to 130% above market. This is the kind of housing they are building. How will that help the people on the ground?
One would think the government would want to bring in a program to support private developers in developing housing that is below market, but no, not this government, not the Liberals. The Liberals go on to say, “What a great job we are doing,” and they send out reams and reams of press releases making these announcements. Holy moly, I almost fell off my chair. In what universe, in what sane perception could one possibly accept the notion that housing builds 100% or more above market are acceptable? Even 30% above market is not acceptable.
In addition, there was a project in Quebec where the Liberals made the announcement but then reporters found out that the project was not even built. Money had not even flowed to it. The Liberals are not embarrassed about that at all, and they just send out those press releases bragging about it. My goodness, I do not know what planet people are from. In my universe, truth matters, and what matters even more is action, because people on the ground need that housing. It makes me want to weep.
When I came to Ottawa this week, our flight was delayed because of the snow. It was around three o'clock in the morning, I cannot remember exactly now, but I was in a cab. As the cab drove up to my apartment, I saw that there was a homeless man outside at three o'clock in the morning in Ottawa, in the bitter cold. I said to the cab driver, “Oh my God. That is a homeless man at this hour on this night, on the street.” I walked up to him, and he did not even have a piece of cardboard on the ground to cover the sidewalk for him. I just cannot imagine that situation. It is not just in the Downtown Eastside that we have a homelessness crisis; we have it everywhere across the country. Please could the Liberal government stop talking about what a great job its members are doing and actually do the job and deliver the housing for the people in the greatest need?
To our Conservative friends, I will say that the motion in and of itself could be a good one, except that all the Conservatives are thinking about is supply and how to get that “gotcha” moment with the government.
The motion proposes to make federal lands available without any stipulation whatsoever to require that residential development be tied permanently to affordable, non-profit, social and co-operative housing. That is not acceptable. It is exactly how the Liberals get away with driving a truck through the loopholes with their arguments about what a great job they are doing, which is producing housing that is way above market and still saying they are producing affordable housing. We have to do better and we must do better, because people's lives depend on it.
I support the other aspects of the motion, such as the call to say to the government that we should never charge capital gains tax for people who are selling their primary home. I absolutely support that, no question. I also support the second component of the motion, which is to say that we need to ban foreign investment. We absolutely need to do that, and we need to do more than that. We need to stop the financialization of housing and stop treating housing as though it is a stock market. We need to deal with REITs and bring in measures to stop those kinds of investments, because all that does is drive up the cost of housing for those who need affordable rentals. I am not saying there is no place for market rentals; there is, but there needs to be some limit, and it cannot be at such a rate that people cannot live there.
I move that the motion be amended in paragraph (a) by adding, after the words “available for” the following: “permanently affordable non-profit and co-operative”; and by adding after the words “primary residences”, the following: “(d) commit dedicated funding in the December 14, 2021 fall economic statement toward the development of the urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy promised in 2017, including the creation of a fully funded 'by indigenous, for indigenous' national housing centre; and (e) build 500,000 additional new homes that people can afford, including co-operative housing.”
If the Conservatives would accept this amendment, it would be a fulsome amendment and we could make a difference. Let us do it.
Madam Speaker, I will share my time with the member for .
It is always an honour to rise in the House and to speak, especially on the important motion we have before us today, which is our opposition day motion. Before I get started, I would like to give some credit. I am a shameless team promoter. I love this team. I will say it time and again. I want to give credit to the member for for all of the incredible work he did on this file in the last Parliament. In fact, his work was used as the basis for a lot of our platform development. It received accolades from many groups across the country for the great ideas within our platform regarding housing. I wish him the best in the Asia-Pacific development file as he continues on. I also wish the best for the residents of B.C. as they come out of the difficult time they have been going through.
I would also like to recognize the wonderful member of Parliament for , who gave me the honour of speaking here today. I do not know if members know this, but he is the father of three children, including the beautiful baby Hugh. He knows this issue very well, because he is a family man. I have family who lives in his riding. I have mentioned that to him before. This affects him and his family and everyone in his community, so I am really happy to see him taking the charge on this motion and on the discussion here today.
I held this file under families, children and social development when I served as the shadow minister in that role. With that, I would like to recognize the new member for . What a fireball she is. I love that lady. She is a new mother and a strong voice for her constituents and for Albertans. When she got this role, I told her that this file was hard. I will tell members what I saw when I held that role of families, children and social development and housing was still under that file.
I saw government members traipse across the country, announce new housing initiatives, pat themselves on the backs and call it a day. They would make outrageous claims. In fact, the continues to make claims. For example, on November 29 of this year, he said, “Mr. Speaker, every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home. Since we came into office, we have helped over a million families get the housing they need”. He also said, on December 2, 2021, “We will keep working to make sure every Canadian has an affordable place to call home.”
That is not what I saw in my role at that time. I read the files. I looked around my community and I saw two things. I saw a government destroying my local economy with glee and forcing businesses and residents to vacate buildings, because all the business was gone and all the jobs had been lost. These buildings were being purchased by the government for a song and being turned into subsidized housing, and then the government declared a victory. This is what I saw time and again.
I will repeat that. The government would destroy the economy, force all the businesses to close, take all the good jobs away, purchase the buildings for a song, turn them into subsidized housing and say it had done a great job. It was terrible. There are no winners in that model.
While the government was passing Bill , the no-more-pipelines bill, Bill , the tanker moratorium bill, and the clean fuel standard, jumping, cheering and drinking out of their soggy paper straws, my constituents were suffering. They were wondering whether they could keep their houses or if they would have to move in with their sisters. They wondered how they were going to make rent that month, but the government did not care. Its members would show up on this floor week after week, claiming victory.
The second thing I saw was that all of these government programs the government was claiming victory over were the result of two things: a poor economy and higher taxation.
Every single benefit and every program that I considered, and wondered why Canadians would need, always came back to no jobs or no good jobs. While the government was destroying the economy, killing good jobs and taxing Canadians with one hand, it was handing out a measly little portion of what it had killed and collected with its other hand. What could Canadians do? Could they say no to the small amount that was offered to them? There were no jobs, and certainly no good jobs, to go back to.
I have the best riding in all of Canada. Calgary Midnapore was built on the backs of the generation that fuelled this nation for decades. Communities thrived in lakes and parks that were created by a love of what they did and what it meant for Canada. However, that all started to change six years ago. Jobs became scarce. Businesses went out of province and out of country, and people had to turn to these benefits. They had no choice, and they were grateful because their jobs were gone. I am starting to worry that some people are getting conditioned to believe that they do not deserve any better.
Now, we add affordability and inflation to this mix.
Canadian housing affordability deteriorated for a third consecutive quarter in Q3 of 2021. The mortgage payment on a representative home as a percentage of income rose 1.7 points after a 3.2-point increase in Q2 of 2021. Seasonally adjusted home prices increased 4.6% in Q3 of 2021 from Q2 of 2021, while median household income rose only 0.8%. Affordability deteriorated in all 10 markets covered in Q3. On a sliding scale of markets, from worst deterioration to least, were Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto, Ottawa-Gatineau, Hamilton, Montreal, Calgary, Quebec, Winnipeg and Edmonton. That was the third consecutive quarter with a worsening in all of those markets. Countrywide affordability deteriorated 0.7% in the condo portion, versus a 2.3% deterioration in the non-condo segment. Prices continued a relentless upward trajectory, rising 4.6% in the quarter and 18.6% year on year. That annual figure was the most it has been since 1989, which was before I graduated high school in Calgary Midnapore.
Let us talk about inflation. There is hardly a commodity that has not been touched. Natural gas is up 18.7%. Gasoline is up 41.7%, and I certainly think twice before I decide that it is time to fill my car. Ground beef is up 8.2%. Sausages are up 11.3%. Steak is up 13.6%. I examine the cuts way more thoroughly now before making my choices at the grocery market. Eggs, which are not even a direct meat product, are up 7.4%. Butter, another Canadian staple, is up 5.5%. Syrup is up 11.6%. Coffee is up 3.7%. Chicken is up 8.3%. A year ago I could buy the whole bird, and nothing but the whole bird, for $10. Now it is $14 when I go to the grocery store.
The current government wants to claim victory on this file, but I will not let it. The Liberals destroyed our economy, took away the good jobs and increased taxation, and they want to pat themselves on the back. I will not let them, and neither will Canadians.
Madam Speaker, the government's failure to properly oversee and regulate Canada's banking system and its failure to properly manage fiscal policy are the two reasons Canadian families are struggling with skyrocketing housing prices and why Canadian families are burdened with record high levels of household indebtedness. The government is also putting the stability of our financial system at risk. It is mispricing risk, leading to the misallocation of capital toward residential real estate. As David Rosenberg has said, Canada's economy is overly reliant on “credit, cannabis and condos”.
The average house price in this country has skyrocketed over the six years the government has been in power. According to The Canadian Real Estate Association, the actual benchmark price for a home in this country has gone from $430,000 in November 2015, when the government was appointed to office, to $726,000 in October of this year, the last month for which we have data. This is a massive increase of 77% over the last six years. That is an annual compounded rate of increase of about 10% per annum, far ahead of the nominal growth of GDP. It is putting the cost of housing out of reach for many young families and individuals looking to get a start to their lives.
The average house price for a single detached home in Toronto is now $1.8 million. It is $2.9 million in Vancouver. In Fergus and Elora, two small towns in the rural area of my riding of Wellington—Halton Hills, the typical house price has trebled in the last five years. It has gone from approximately $325,000 in 2015 to $950,000 in 2020.
These prices are way, way above the long-term average of three and a half times household income. Prices in many Canadian communities are now eight, nine and 10 times household income. We are an outlier among advanced economies of the OECD. In fact, our housing prices are some of the most expensive in the world.
As housing prices have skyrocketed, so too has household debt. Mortgage debt makes up the vast majority of household debt. Mortgage debt comprises two-thirds of overall household debt, and the remaining one-third of household debt is closely tied to real estate in facilities such has HELOCs and other forms of credit.
In 2016, the first full year the government was in office, household debt stood at $1.9 trillion. Today, it is $2.6 trillion, an increase of almost 40% and an annual compounded rate of increase of almost 6%, far ahead of the nominal rate of increase of our GDP. That amount of household debt is reflected in the fact that household debt as a percentage of household income has also increased since the government took office. It now stands at 173%.
The government has allowed this to happen. We have a housing crisis in this country, and it is because of the government's failure to properly oversee and regulate the banking system and its failure to properly manage fiscal policy.
The government has had plenty of warning about this problem. Before I get into who has warned the government about it, let me tell members one of the unintended consequences of these skyrocketing housing prices and skyrocketing levels of household indebtedness.
Small to medium-sized enterprises have found it difficult to get financing. Canada has low levels of business investment relative to many of our economic peers. This low level of business investment is one reason for our low productivity growth rates. This low productivity growth rate is of particular concern because it is the only long-run determinate of wealth and prosperity.
These two challenges, namely the challenge of skyrocketing household debt and the difficulty many small and medium-sized businesses have in getting financing to make investments in plant capital and equipment, are two sides of the same coin. The government needs to take a hard look at the macroeconomic policies it has put in place, which have made life less affordable for Canadian families, and the policies that are making it difficult for businesses to invest, grow and create jobs.
The government is ultimately responsible for the regulation of our banking sector through the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. It is also responsible for mortgage financing through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, tax expenditures, government programs and Finance Canada. It has allowed mortgage credit to grow at unsustainable levels. Its responsibility is to oversee mortgage credit through OSFI and CMHC.
The IMF has warned Canada repeatedly over the last number of years about its oversight of housing finance. In addition, the IMF found, through its studies, that government intervention in housing finance exacerbated house price swings and amplified mortgage credit growth in advanced economies in the years before the global financial crisis. Moreover, the IMF's studies also concluded that government participation did not provide a cushion against economic crises, and countries with greater government involvement in mortgage financing experienced deeper house price declines.
In a 2011 analysis, the IMF concluded, “rapid mortgage credit growth and strong house price increases go hand in hand.” It added, “government participation in housing finance exacerbated house price swings and amplified mortgage credit growth during the run-up to the recent crisis, particularly in advanced economies.” It concluded by saying, “Countries with more government involvement also experienced deeper house price declines.”
The officials at Finance Canada and CMHC have warned the government. For example, last year in September, officials at Finance Canada discussed forcing private mortgage insurers to tighten eligibility rules, but left CMHC to try to manage the risk in mortgage credit markets on its own. Evan Siddall, the CMHC CEO at the time, said, “We had that conversation and you’ll have to pose the question to [the government] as to why it didn’t happen.” In reference to the rejection of the tightening of the rules to reduce risks, he added, “The minister of finance could have done it.”
OSFI itself has warned about skyrocketing levels of mortgage credit and mortgage credit growth, but when it proposed higher mortgage stress test levels in 2018, otherwise known as the B-20 guideline, the Minister of Finance opposed the rule. In March of last year, when OSFI announced changes to capital requirements for Canada's systemically important banks, the government did not ensure that additional liquidity, measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars, would not exacerbate the growth in mortgage credit. As a result, household debt, primarily mortgage credit, has jumped 4% in the last year, picking up sharply in the middle of last year, after the March 2020 changes that OSFI had introduced.
The Governor of the Bank of Canada, Tiff Macklem, warned earlier this year that Canadian households were taking on too much debt. In other words, the governor was warning the government that it is not using the tools it has at hand to properly regulate mortgage credit growth in this country.
Canadian families are finding it harder to make ends meet. They are being squeezed by the increasing cost of living and by the cost of housing. This is due to the government's failure to properly oversee and regulate Canada's banking sector and properly manage fiscal policy.
Madam Speaker, I want to expand upon the question I posed to my colleague across the way. There are serious fundamental flaws with this motion. Over the years I have seen many opposition motions. When I look at this motion, I really do not know where it is coming from. I do not know what math the member for , who is likely one of the authors behind it, used.
I want to be very specific about clause (a), which reads, “review and consolidate all federal real estate and properties in Canada in order to make at least”, and I would underline this part, “at least 15% available for residential development”. The member who introduced the motion said there are 41 million hectares, so it would be 15% of that 41 million hectares. Basic math tells me that we are talking about over six million hectares.
An hon. member: That is ridiculous.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: The Conservative member says it is ridiculous. It is a Conservative motion. I agree it is ridiculous.
Let us think about it. Parks Canada has 35.7 million hectares, Environment Canada has 2.3 hectares and National Defence has 2.2 million hectares. If we add up those three, it equals 40 million hectares. The Conservatives are saying 15% of 41 million, so are they suggesting that we get rid of parklands? Yes, based on their own numbers, they are. I do not understand where the Conservatives are getting their numbers. When we read the motion, we see that this is just one example.
Most take housing very seriously. Some understand that the national government has a role to play. I have been a parliamentarian long enough to have witnessed Conservatives oppose any sort of investment in housing from a national government perspective. When I was first elected back in 1988 to the Manitoba legislature, I was given two titles: deputy whip and critic for housing. Provinces play a critical role in housing. Municipalities are creations of provincial laws passed in provincial legislatures. Municipal and provincial governments have predominantly played the lead role in housing in Canada.
I remember having a debate with NDP member of Parliament Bill Blaikie back in 1993, in which I said the national government needed to play a stronger role in housing, but Bill Blaikie argued that was not the case. I represent a riding in Winnipeg North where there has been a need for social housing for decades. It was marginally addressed in 15 years of a provincial NDP administration. Political parties of all stripes need to do a little reflection and come to the table about what can be done, but to say that this government has not been concerned about housing is so misleading.
We would have to go back generations, 50-plus years, to find a prime minister or government that has done more for housing at the national level. The opposition could not show, over the last 50 or 60 years, a prime minister who has committed more financial resources to support Canada's housing. That can be substantiated by real dollars and real commitments. It is easy for the NDP to click their heels and say it will build 500,000 homes.
I kind of miss Adam Vaughan. He had a way of expressing the degree in which the Liberal Party and this government understood the housing issue and the many ways in which we were tackling that problem.
However, I can tell members that it will take more than the federal government to resolve this issue. Yes, the federal government has a role to play. Since 2015, we have seen hundreds of millions to billions of dollars go to the first-ever national housing strategy, which was put in place by the , by this government, which is something no other opposition party in the last six years, or prior to that, argued for. There are plans out there, and there are real, tangible dollars being put forward and on the table. However, we recognize that we need to get partners. We have worked very hard at having provinces and municipalities do what they can and play the role they need to play.
We have a very proactive , and he is out in the communities virtually every day. We thought of making him an honorary member of Parliament for Manitoba because of his interest in Manitoba and the presence he has had in the province of Manitoba. He genuinely cares for all regions of our country and understands the issues of housing, whether it is in Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax or the many rural municipalities out there.
We understand, whether it is the or the , how important it is that we fight to have adequate homes for all Canadians where they can feel comfortable. We can provide that hope. This is something we are not only striving for, but that we can also cite examples of. However, when we talk about those examples, opposition members will say that we are patting ourselves on the back.
This government has likely accomplished more on housing than the previous Harper government. I do not know the actual number, but I think we are at or getting close to 100,000 homes or units in the last number of years under this administration. There are about 300,000 that the government has assisted with in some form of repair. There is also the ongoing support of tens of thousands of non-profit housing units, which is something the federal government continues to commit to and look at ways of expanding.
I hear, especially from my New Democratic friends, talk about the importance of housing co-ops, and I agree. Housing co-ops are important, which is one of the reasons we were there, shortly after we got elected back in 2015, to support housing co-ops that were having great difficulty because of mortgages and related issues. We supported a number of housing co-ops, and the minister is very open to looking at how we can expand housing co-ops.
We want to talk about a resolution, and the NDP members are not too far off on this. They are talking about indigenous leaders coming forward to the table with indigenous housing plans. We have to appreciate indigenous people's housing needs and how we can support it.
However, there are many other types of housing programs. If we take a look at Canada's housing stock, we get a better appreciation. There is a need for us to make sure that we maintain that housing stock.
We came out with a program just last year called the Canada greener homes grant. It is $5,000 for people to improve their homes. A few hundred thousand people could be eligible for that particular grant. That improves the quality of homes in our current housing stock, which does help out significantly. It is better for our environment. It creates jobs. It improves the housing stock.
I am a big fan of encouraging and promoting members in our communities to get engaged in housing co-ops. Housing co-ops and condominiums are great ways to get people engaged in ensuring they will be able to have ownership because there is a big difference between a tenant and someone who is a resident in a co-op. A resident in a co-op has a vested interest. It is his or her community in a very real way. It is a big difference from being a tenant, and I am a strong advocate of it, as I know many of my colleagues are.
We have organizations in our communities, and I want to give a special shout-out to Habitat for Humanity Canada, particularly here in my city of Winnipeg. Habitat for Humanity has done more than three levels of government for building new homes in our communities. It definitely has done a super fantastic job in Winnipeg North. Whether it is in Point Douglas, along Selkirk Avenue, in the Maples or everywhere in between, new homes have been popping up in Winnipeg North, and it is because of Habitat for Humanity. The work they do bring people together to ensure that people who would not normally have the ability to get a home do, in fact, become homeowners.
I have raised this organization as a model organization that government should get behind, and I am glad that the federal government today is providing some support. I would appeal to the current to continue that support. Habitat for Humanity is an organization that I believe has a very important role to play in dealing with the housing crisis we are in. The people who are involved in organizations like Habitat, because there are other organizations, also need to be taken into consideration.
We have resident groups, as an example, in our communities. We have advocates for people who are financially challenged. We have people who do not have homes. There are so many people who are out there. The idea of having that debate on the floor of the House is far better than what is being proposed today, even though I am still allowed to talk about it, but that is not what we are actually voting on.
What we are voting on has significant flaws to it. I made reference to the land usage, and yes, we need to see more land and more homes. That is nothing new. We all know that, but it is not going to be the federal government releasing 41 million hectares and closing down our parks and so forth. The way we are going to see the number of homes that are needed being built is not by Ottawa opening the purse and building them all.
Ottawa needs to keep doing what it has been doing, coming to the table with substantial financial resources, working with the different organizations and levels of government, trying to develop a strategy that will see more homes being built in our communities. That is why the motion before us misses the mark.
The primary recommendations I would have put forward in a resolution dealing with housing in Canada would be all-encompassing. They would address the finances, but I do not believe there is a member in the House who can say that as a government we have not committed enough financial resources. If members attempt to do that, I would ask them to reflect on their own election platforms.
We are at the table. We want to work with the different stakeholders toward a resolution that encourages not only Ottawa, but provincial jurisdictions of all political stripes and municipalities of all different sizes to recognize that we have a national situation, from coast to coast to coast, with which Canadians want us to deal. We want to build the consensus. We want to see the different levels of government move forward on the file. We want to empower the many different stakeholders that have the ability to contribute.
The riding of Winnipeg North has a lot of things within it that could be carried throughout the country, such as the demographics and economic fabric of the community. In Amber Trails, for example, beautiful brand-new homes are being built, ranging from $600,000 to $700,000 or even more. More modest homes, around the $300,000 range, are being built in Tyndall Park. Some of the older and more established homes with a great deal of character are in the traditional north end, ranging from $150,000 to $200,000 in the Point Douglas area. I could be out somewhat with my prices, but the point is that we need to take a holistic approach to dealing with housing in Canada.
For the first time in generations, the , the and the Liberal caucus are committed to being at the table and making a difference when it comes to housing. We would appeal to all members of the House of Commons to get on board, to realize what actually is on the table and to start to work with the different levels of government. They can talk to their MLAs, city councillors, rural municipal reeves and mayors, and reach out to organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the many other non-profit social progressive-minded organizations and others to tap into how they might be able to contribute to a housing plan, a plan that the Prime Minister and all of us want to see.
People have a right to have a home. We need to continue talking about that and saying it. It is important we do that.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am pleased to rise in debate today to talk about today's opposition motion. Prior to 2015, I was in the mortgage brokerage industry. I spent 21 years in the residential mortgage brokerage business, so access to housing, home ownership and mortgage credit are issues that have been dear to me for many years and are also dear to my constituents.
There is clearly a crisis in affordable housing in Canada, and in affordability generally in Canada. The average home price is now a staggering $717,000. Even if we subtract Vancouver and Toronto, the average is still $561,000 across Canada. People have generally thought for a long time this is a peculiarity to two markets, maybe even especially Vancouver, but it is no longer the case. Affordability is a crisis across Canada.
The average weekly wage is just over $1,000, so if the average worker saved 10% of their wages, it would take them almost 10 years just to save enough for the minimum down payment on the average house in Canada. Even that would be futile, though, because at that income level they would not come even close to qualifying for the nearly $700,000 in mortgage debt they would need to take on to buy this average house with this average weekly wage.
Generations of Canadians have achieved a degree of financial security and independence through home ownership by buying a home probably around the time of family formation and then paying it off over a generation. Today's young people have simply given up on that dream. As with all questions of people's unlimited wants and needs, this really is a question of supply and demand.
Canada's increasing population has always fuelled demand for housing, but since this pandemic, Canadian interest rates have been artificially suppressed through quantitative easing, wherein the Bank of Canada buys the Canadian government's debt in order to facilitate the staggering national deficits triggering inflation. This inflation is nowhere more obvious than in our housing market, where we have seen an extraordinary increase in the price of real estate amid an economic contraction.
Let us think about that. During a once-in-a-lifetime economic contraction, housing prices actually went up. During a crisis where there is a massive collapse in economic activity, real estate has gone up. The effect of interest rates being artificially suppressed has clearly added to the demand for housing while doing nothing to address supply.
What about housing supply? A recent report says that Canada lacks 1.8 million homes; that is the deficit in housing supply. Developers have complained about delays in bringing new land under development. Regulation and red tape from all three levels of government cause delay and uncertainty that restrict development. These issues are not new, and we were approaching crisis levels long before COVID.
The government now takes enormous credit for its national housing strategy, which includes its signature program first announced just before the 2019 election: the first-time homebuyer incentive. I want to talk about this program, because as recently as during these past two weeks, the beginning of this Parliament, the has cited this program in question period in response to questions from the opposition about inflation and housing affordability.
This program was designed to help first-time homebuyers struggling to access mortgage credit under the government's so-called stress test. The stress test was actually put in the first place to try to cool the housing market by restricting access to mortgages. When the government realized the people who were being punished the most by the stress test were first-time buyers in real estate markets other than Vancouver and Toronto, it announced this program and called it “transformational”, claiming 100,000 Canadian families would achieve the dream of home ownership through the program.
Under this program, a would-be homebuyer must be an absolute top-tier borrower in terms of credit eligibility, employment and whatnot. They would have to have saved 5% down from their own resources, and they may apply to have the government supply another 5%, which would have the effect of very slightly reducing the amount that they need to borrow from the bank and therefore slightly reduce their monthly payment. The borrower can repay the government later, either when they sell the home or by paying out and discharging the government's interest in the property based on a future appraised value. This was the government's 2019 solution for access to home ownership.
This solution is to offer something to people who would have qualified anyway and would have had access to mortgage credit. By giving them the chance to have the government be an equity partner with them in their own home, when the homeowner eventually sells the property, the government gets half of the profit, but if the property goes down in value, the taxpayer shares in the loss. This was the Liberals' solution to access home ownership before the 2019 election. They are still talking about it now as if this is somehow part of their solution to the current crisis that we are in. This program was launched just before the election, and it is now entering its third year. As of July, only 9,000 Canadians had accessed this program; this “transformational” program, they claimed.
Last night, during committee of the whole, I asked the for an up-to-date figure, because that 9,000 figure was from July. He had several, very capable Finance Department officials around the table, but he chose to ignore that question, and so the July number is the most up-to-date one we have. However, there is no question that this program has been a complete failure. It has not really addressed anything. It is hardly “transformational”. The problem of affordability and home ownership being out of reach for so many Canadians has gotten much worse since this program was announced.
Today, Conservatives are proposing meaningful solutions that will actually address some of the limitations on housing supply while assuring existing homeowners and prospective homeowners that owning a principal residence, we believe and the House affirms, is an important foundation for stable families and communities, and that the government will not tax the primary residences upon sale.
The Conservatives are proposing that the federal government review and consolidate federal real estate properties and make 15% available for residential development. We heard today that the federal government owns tens of thousands of buildings. These buildings are in various states of repair or disrepair, with wildly varying degrees of functionality or obsolescence. Many of these buildings may not be worthwhile and may not be in the public interest for the Crown to continue to hold them. Commercial buildings have a life cycle, and the highest and best use for land varies over time. We ask the government to take a serious look at whether it is in the public interest to continue to own many of these properties. With large amounts of land and thousands of buildings, surely there are some that the federal government can use to add to the supply of housing to do something to arrest this out-of-control, continuing inflation in real estate.
Another factor limiting the supply of homes is the existence of unoccupied homes in Canada. Conservatives are proposing to prevent foreign investors from parking their money in Canada as a place to sit money in a vacant property. For many years now, it has been widely known that Canada's real estate market has been a prime destination for wealthy foreigners to, at best, take advantage of Canada's relative stability and rule of law as a hedge on their foreign wealth or, at worst, use as a haven for money laundering among the world's kleptocrats. It is time for meaningful action. No foreign national should be permitted to buy a home in Canada just to have it sit vacant while Canadian families give up the dream of ownership.
To conclude, I will add that the Liberals have sent out mixed signals on the issue of taxing capital gains. In a recent interview with a former CEO of CMHC, he talked about and affirmed his support for such a tax. We know that Adam Vaughan, who was this government's principal spokesman on housing issues, favoured such a tax. We also know that this government will eventually have to reckon with the debt and deficits that have accumulated, and were accumulating long before the COVID crisis. Its instincts will always be to pass on these costs in new taxes.
Madam Speaker, why? That is the most basic question anyone asks when something strange happens anywhere in nature. Why is it that a family in Riverside South, a suburban community 25 minutes from here, has been bid out on seeking a house eight times, most recently watching one normal middle-class house go $400,000 over the asking price, from $800,000 to $1.2 million? Why? Why have housing prices gone up 32% in a period of just a year and a half, while the economy has actually shrunk?
Why are housing prices going up while wages in real, inflation-adjusted terms are going down? Why is this incredible bubble filling with air? Let us go through the reasons that we have been given for the recent housing bubble. Some people blame house prices in Canada wrongly on immigration. We know that cannot be true, because throughout COVID there was almost no immigration, yet house prices went up. The normal flow of roughly 300,000 newcomers seeking houses nearly came to a grinding halt. Immigration cannot explain the ballooning house prices.
Some have blamed inflation in general on supply chain problems, but of course land does not have supply chains. It is already right beneath our feet. We do not import land on a ship. It is not stuck at a port. It was put here by billions of years of geological development. We cannot blame foreign supply chains for the booming price of housing.
Nor can we blame it on global factors, because housing inflation here has been far worse than in any other nation, with the exception of New Zealand. According to Bloomberg, Canada has the second most inflated housing bubble. Similarly, The Economist magazine has named Canada along with New Zealand and Australia as the countries it thinks might experience a massive crash on the scale of the 2008 crisis in the United States of America. If this was a global problem, we would not be suffering a much bigger bubble than the rest of the globe.
Some trendy commentators have said it is just that Canadians' preferences have changed. Because of all of the cabin fever that came with lockdowns, people want to live in the countryside and have more space; therefore, they are paying more for real estate. If that were true, we could verify it simply by seeing a drop in housing prices for inner-city condos. If people were all unloading those condos to go and live in the countryside, we would see the prices of urban condos drop. In fact, they too are up 15%.
Finally, and more plausibly, some people have pointed to the fact that it is very hard to build anything here in Canada. That is true, and that is one of the long-term structural reasons why we have inordinately high real estate prices in Canada. We all are aware of the incompetent municipal and provincial governments that drive up housing prices with their bureaucracies, and the rich urban snobs who like to prevent people from living in their neighbourhoods by lobbying city councillors to prevent development.
That is all true, but it does not explain the rocketing prices that began in the spring of 2020 because, of course, snob-zoning and incompetent bureaucracies are nothing new. They did not appear in Canada. We did not suddenly have an airdrop of one million inner-city snobs on Canada when COVID hit. They have long been here with the bureaucracies backing them up, blocking us from building housing for other communities for a very long time.
That is nothing new, so what is new? Why all of a sudden, when the economy fell off a cliff, did the price of housing suddenly rocket? If we look more microscopically at the data, we will see that in March and April of 2020, house prices actually started to drop. We forget that now. It was just as our number one housing agency predicted.
CMHC said that house prices would drop 10% to 14%, and then suddenly there was a change of direction. Prices went up and up, until they were far out of reach for everyday, ordinary working-class people. What happened in the spring of 2020 that would cause this inexplicable phenomenon to begin? The answer is that in late March, and running through until about a month ago, the government had the central bank pump $400 billion into the financial markets in order to make it cheaper for the feds to run deficits. The thinking was that if the central bank printed cash to buy bonds, it would drive down interest rates enough for the Government of Canada to be able to run consequence-free deficits, at least in the short term. The problem is that much of that money overflowed into the mortgage market. Just this week, we found out that mortgage borrowing totalled $193 billion in that period of time.
That is almost a quarter of a trillion dollars of mortgage lending, and what do we know? When the financial and mortgage markets are flooded with cash, that cash goes out and bids up the price of houses. In fact, the multiplication effect of a dollar inserted into the housing and financial system is really powerful. To simplify, let us say that we have 10 houses in a given country and each is worth $100. The total market value of all those 10 houses is $1,000. If one person manages to get some of that money from the central bank and bids up the price to $200 for one of those 10 houses, that house then has a market value of $200. What happens to the entire street? That entire street's market value now doubles, so $100 of extra purchasing power adds $1,000 of market price. This is the incredible multiplication power that leads to housing bubbles. That $400 billion led to $200 billion of new housing demand, which led to many more multiple increases in market value.
What happens with that? People then go out and borrow against their new home equity. They have unrealized gains in their homes that they use to collateralize more debt to buy more assets, which further inflates asset bubbles. We have seen a massive increase in the market price of assets across the economy since this experiment with central bank money printing began.
Here is the problem. What goes up can come crashing down. People are basing their economic decisions on assets that are floating on top of a bubble. When that bubble bursts, all of those assets, and the people who rely on them, come crashing down. In the meantime, the poor and the working class can no longer afford to purchase those assets. Thus, we see a massive expansion in the gap between the rich and the poor.
Trickle-down economics has never worked. Giving money to large financial institutions and expecting it to reach the working-class people at the bottom is a figment of the government's imagination. The people who do the work will pay the price in the crash, but get none of the benefit during the bubble. The answer is to stop printing money, free up more land and start building housing. We need to incentivize our municipalities to clean away the red tape and create work for our carpenters, framers and other tradespeople. We need to open up more land to supply our young people with homes and restore the great Canadian dream of having a place to live and a roof over one's head in a country that is a meritocracy, not an aristocracy.
Madam Speaker, I would like to also thank all the people, regardless of political stripe or affiliation, who volunteered, asked tough questions, worked so hard, contributed in numerous ways, and voted and participated in our country's democracy. I am proud to continue to serve as their member of Parliament.
I often say that, as much as the world needs more Canada, Canada needs more Waterloo. Last month I participated virtually in Waterloo Region's 20th National Housing Day celebration. The stories that were shared were tremendous. I agree that all Canadians deserve housing that is safe, affordable and enables them to raise healthy children and pursue opportunities to build better lives for themselves and their families, thereby benefiting our communities, our country and our economy.
As we have learned and experienced during the pandemic, home is a sanctuary, a place of safety and refuge. It should be, but that is not the case for everyone. COVID-19 has exposed the inequities that exist in our society. The global health pandemic has impacted the whole world, all Canadians and disproportionately certain segments of our population and sectors of our economy. We know that by staying at home and keeping physically distanced, we have helped flatten the curve and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. Additionally, by getting vaccinated, we are further helping reduce the spread, even as new variants are discovered.
I want to appreciate those Canadians who have gotten vaccinated. I encourage those who have been waiting to raise their concerns with professionals and to do their part to protect their friends, their families and their neighbours. For me, getting vaccinated was personal. My father, who was my backbone, had a massive heart attack in October 2020. Our pharmacist, who has since passed away and whom we miss, and my father's family doctor told him to go to the hospital, and my mom got him there.
I will forever be grateful to the on-call emergency doctor who called in the heart specialist. They had to revive my dad, and the damage that has been done to his heart cannot be undone. Therefore, I will do whatever I need to keep my dad, my family and my loved ones safe. If I may, I wanted to share my heartfelt appreciation for the amazing and hard-working health professionals at St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener for saving my dad.
Clearly, I digress. Let us get back to housing.
This is something that comes up very often, especially in the Waterloo area. Just this past November 22, Waterloo Region had its 20th National Housing Day celebration. I commend the numerous housing advocates and housing champions, and I congratulate the award recipients. So many of the people who attended the event, and even some angels who I believe were watching from above, have helped inform our government's housing plan.
Our government's national housing strategy, the first national housing strategy in Canada, is a 10-year, $72-plus-billion plan. It will give more Canadians a place to call home, while ensuring that Canadians across the country can access affordable housing that meets their needs. We also launched Reaching Home, Canada's homelessness strategy, which supports the goals of the national housing strategy. The Government of Canada's homelessness programming now represents a $3.1-billion investment over 10 years.
Reaching Home is a community-based program aimed at supporting local efforts to prevent and eliminate homelessness by streamlining access to housing and supports for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. This outcomes-based approach not only keeps decision-making at the local level, but also gives communities greater flexibility to address their local priorities, including investing in homelessness prevention and programming designed to meet the needs of underserved or under-represented communities. These include women and children fleeing domestic violence, seniors, youth, indigenous people, people with disabilities, people experiencing mental health and substance-use issues, veterans, LGBTQ2 individuals, racialized and Black Canadians, and recent immigrants or refugees.
While homelessness is often more visible in larger urban centres, it is an issue for rural communities and communities like Waterloo Region. Our government has made it a priority to design programs and supports that meet the needs of smaller communities. As an example, the rapid housing initiative invested approximately $2.5 billion to help address the urgent housing needs of vulnerable Canadians by including the construction of modular housing, as well as the acquisition of land and the conversion of existing buildings to affordable housing.
The rapid housing initiative, through the national housing strategy, is investing in Waterloo Region, building units that will provide supports for some of the most vulnerable in our community. We know the pandemic has placed significant new funding pressures on homeless-serving sectors in Canada, which, like all sectors, have had to transform how their services are delivered in order to prevent outbreaks, especially among those who are at heightened risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions or reduced opportunities to self-isolate.
That is why our government has invested an additional $400 million under Reaching Home, and to support the homeless-serving sector in its efforts to reduce the transmission and impacts of COVID-19, and to support communities to implement more permanent housing solutions.
As a government and as members of Parliament, we have been listening and engaging. That is why we knew we had to adapt our program in these extraordinary times. In addition to these investments, the program's directives were updated to provide increased flexibility to communities for investing federal funds to support their local responses to COVID-19. However, we did not stop there. As part of budget 2021, our government proposed a number of additional key investments to make sure no one in Canada is without a place to call home.
This includes an additional investment of $567 million under Reaching Home, because this program is making a positive difference and it works. We also provided $45 million for a pilot program aimed at reducing veteran homelessness, and allocated $480 million to address indigenous homelessness needs in urban, rural and northern areas. This includes investments of $157 million for distinctions-based priorities with first nations, Inuit and Métis partners, as well as with indigenous governments.
Addressing homelessness and housing issues means we need ongoing collaboration. We will continue to work with our provincial and territorial partners, and hopefully all members in this House, to get the job done. Unfortunately, in the province of Ontario, the provincial Conservative government has been silent on two key issues that would help with the rising cost of living: housing and child care.
I want to compare that with our government's priorities, and I will quote from the recent Speech from the Throne. It states:
[W]e must keep tackling the rising cost of living. To do that, the Government's plan includes two major priorities: housing and child care.
Whether it is building more units per year, increasing affordable housing, or ending chronic homelessness, the Government is committed to working with its partners to get real results.
The Speech from the Throne goes on to say the following:
The Government will continue working with the remaining two provinces to finalize agreements that will deliver $10-a-day child care for families who so badly need it. Investing in affordable child care—just like housing—is not just good for families. It helps grow the entire economy.
One of those two provinces is Ontario. All to say, the Conservatives talk a lot when they are in opposition, but when they are in government, their actions speak louder than their words. The Conservative cuts that have been made on the backs of Canadians have been exposed in this pandemic.
Our government, from day one, has remained focused on Canadians and the most vulnerable. When we lowered taxes on the middle class and raised them on the wealthiest 1% of Canadians, Conservatives voted against it. When we gave the tax-free Canada child benefit to families with children, who needed it the most, by asking the wealthiest families not to take it, Conservatives voted against it. Every time we have invested in the national housing strategy, Conservatives have voted against it. The Conservatives know very well that our government will not tax primary residences, yet again, in their opposition motion, they repeat this false narrative.
It has been such a challenging time for too many people, but the Conservatives add to the uncertainty. This pandemic has demonstrated some of the best of humankind and, clearly, some of the worst. Everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home, and our government will continue to work toward a long-term shared vision to do just that.