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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to take part in the reply to the Speech from the Throne. Before I do so, I want to congratulate you on your election. You will make a very honourable Speaker.
I want to express my appreciation to the people of Scarborough—Guildwood who have returned me to this chamber for the eighth time. When I started in 1997, I did not anticipate that I would be here for eight successive elections, but it has been an interesting journey for the last 22 years. The other very encouraging thing is that the percentage of the vote went up to the highest level that I have achieved in eight years.
As we know, elections are strange enterprises at times, with a lot of non-substantive things and occasionally some substantive things. I do not want to dwell on the non-substantive things. Today I want to take the opportunity to reflect on what I consider to be the most substantive issue that affected Scarborough—Guildwood during this election, and that is the Canada child benefit. The Canada child benefit is, in my judgment, the signature initiative of this Prime Minister. Once he leaves and history is written about these parliaments, that will be one of the things that historians comment on, namely, the significance of the Canada child benefit and its significance to all people in Canada, but particularly low-income people.
The Canada child benefit is a very large initiative. If we go to table A2.6 in the 2019 budget, at page 289, in the top lines we will see the amount of money that is returned to Canadians, that is sent to Canadians as a benefit. There are revenues from taxes that come in and then the first set of lines indicate the benefit amounts that go back to Canadians. The first line in that set of lines shows that $56 billion will go to elderly benefits, the second line shows that about $20 billion will be returned to Canadians in the form of employment insurance and the third line shows that $24 billion will go to the Canada child benefit. That is the second most significant benefit that goes directly to Canadians from their federal government.
It is reasonable to ask ourselves whether we are, in effect, getting value for money. This is of particular interest to me as the member of Parliament for the riding of Scarborough—Guildwood. When we break that $24 billion down, what does that mean to the riding of Scarborough—Guildwood? What that means is that, each and every year, $100 million goes into my riding of Scarborough—Guildwood. That is a significant sum of money for a riding that has about 115,000 to 120,000 people in it. Centennial College would contribute to the riding with a somewhat similar amount of money, I should imagine, or more. The University of Toronto Scarborough Campus would contribute a similar and significant amount of money. The Scarborough hospitals have huge budgets. Toyota contributes a huge amount of money to the riding. I am sure there are other industries that contribute significant amounts of money to the riding.
This is the order of magnitude of the amount of money that comes into Scarborough—Guildwood, and it is even more significant for its people because Scarborough—Guildwood in the last four years had the greatest reduction in child poverty in the country. There was a 25% reduction in child poverty in Scarborough—Guildwood in the last four years, the number one riding in all of the country.
Why would that be? I can think of at least two reasons. One is improved employment opportunities. At the beginning of 2015 the unemployment rate nationally was around 7.1%. Generally speaking, Scarborough—Guildwood is at a higher rate than the national rate. By the election in 2019, the rate was about 5.7%, again with Scarborough—Guildwood slightly above that. Increased benefits and increased employment opportunities would account for some significant elements of that 25% reduction in child poverty.
The second thing has to be the Canada child benefit, because it acts as a guaranteed minimum income for families. I think it will turn out to be a historic initiative, but it will also turn out to be a test case as to whether this is the best way to alleviate poverty and reduce the growing inequality between people who do very well in our society and those who struggle.
Those are the two reasons that I think Scarborough—Guildwood had such a significant reduction in child poverty. We have to ask why that would have such an economic impact on the people of Scarborough—Guildwood, and the most obvious and intuitive reason is that people in the lower-income quintiles actually spend their money on necessities. It is intuitive and it does seem to make sense, but I am very grateful to the people at the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis who put together a paper called “Economic Contribution of the Canada Child Benefit: A Basic Income Guarantee for Canadian Families with Children”. They started to put data, flesh to that intuition, the intuition being that poorer people will spend money on food, shelter and core necessities. Indeed, that is exactly what the data does show.
The number one expenditure of the people who receive the Canada child benefit is increases to their shelter. The second, and this is counterintuitive, is on tax and I will come back to that shortly. The third is transportation, the fourth is food and the fifth is household operations. Four out of the five elements fall within one's sense of intuition, which is that lower-income folks will spend their money on things that they actually need. That seems to be borne out by the data.
The other interesting component of the data is that the benefit decreases as income increases. In the upper echelons of the quintiles that have a higher income, the money starts to get diverted to other things such as savings, investments and various other things, all of which we argue are good things.
However, there is an argument to be made that it is somewhat dead money. The lower-income quintiles spend the money on food and shelter, which goes directly and immediately into the economy, while the upper quintiles spend some on things like investments, etc., which is money that is set aside properly, but nevertheless is money not spent immediately and therefore has no significant immediate economic impact.
The interesting argument is this: if the federal government is a steward of taxpayer dollars, then what is the highest and best use of taxpayer dollars in order to stimulate the economy? What the data starts to show on the Canada child benefit is that it is benefit money going directly into the hands of Canadians. Whether it is through elderly benefits, employment benefits or child benefits, that is the money that gives the greatest stimulus, as opposed to tax cuts.
The data really starts to jump out at us. However, I want to deal with one thing before we get into further discussions about the benefits of the stimulative effect of a benefit as opposed to the stimulative benefit of a tax cut, which is that $24 billion is a lot of money. It is actually greater than our National Defence budget; $24 billion is actually greater than almost all other departments.
It is reasonable to ask what $24 billion actually costs. As it turns out, $24 billion does not cost $24 billion, because $13 billion comes back in taxes. For the federal government's $24 billion, $13 billion comes back in taxes to both the provinces and the federal government. Of that $13 billion, $7 billion comes back to the federal government and $6 billion comes back to the provinces. The federal government has a $24-billion investment that really only costs the federal government $17 billion. The provinces have no investment in the Canada child benefit and yet reap a $6-billion benefit. It works rather well for the provinces.
What does $24 billion get us in terms of economic stimulus? It gets us roughly the GDP of the province of Nova Scotia in terms of economic stimulus, or around $46 billion in direct and indirect economic stimulus that is inputted through this investment of $24 billion. That $24 billion provides stimulus that is roughly equal to 0.5% of the nation's GDP annually. Since the inception of the program, it has contributed $139 billion to the nation's GDP.
All sectors of the economy benefit. It is intuitive, but makes a lot of sense that the number one beneficiary is housing. People who receive the Canada child benefit spend their money on housing.
The second is manufacturing. People with kids who receive the money spend it on clothing, shoes, bicycles and other things that need to be manufactured.
The third economic sector that benefits the most is construction.
Every year, this $24 billion in direct and indirect stimulus creates 418,000 full-time jobs and about 70,000 part-time jobs. That is a lot of jobs: 1.4 million jobs since its inception. Those are merely the benefits and the stimuli that can be measured.
There are, of course, a great number of benefits to the Canada child benefit that cannot be measured, that do not fit nicely within the economists' metric. It is intuitive. If a child goes to school properly clothed and with a full stomach, the greater likelihood is that the child will learn a lot better. Similarly, children who are properly clothed and well fed will not have as many negative health issues.
Therefore, the indirect benefits that are not measurable, which I am perfectly prepared to concede, but intuitively make a great deal of sense are huge to families and people with children.
The benefits of the Canada child benefit on the health system are not measurable, but make a great deal of sense. The benefit reduces financial stress. The multiplier is enormous. A healthier child is a more productive child. A better-educated child is ultimately a more productive citizen.
Admittedly, this initiative costs a great deal of money, but it makes economic sense, which I hope I have made some case for from an economic standpoint, health sense and education sense. There is an argument to be made that this is the highest and best use of taxpayer dollars.
Let me finish with a comment from one of my favourite Conservatives, and I do not have many favourite Conservatives. I know they are a little upset, but I would recommend they talk to former Canadian senator Hugh Segal, who said, “we don't want 3.5 million...Canadians to be left behind. That's not who we are... It is in our interest to have an economy where liquidity and financial capacity is available to all.”
I submit that my Conservative colleagues should review Mr. Segal's views on this matter. He and his other colleague, former Senator Eggleton, conducted a massive study into Canadian poverty when they were both senators. One of their most significant recommendations was that there be a Canada child benefit and that it act as a minimum income guarantee for all families in Canada.
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
BQ (QC)
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
2019-12-13 13:33 [p.417]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.
Now that I have more time than I did on the first few occasions I rose in the House, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to voters in my magnificent riding, Shefford, for putting their trust in me on October 21. I am deeply humbled to accept my new role as a member of Parliament.
I will work very hard and look for opportunities to collaborate so that I can properly represent the people of my riding, whose entrepreneurial spirit is strong. My riding has lakes, rivers and mountains that we want to protect and a unique agrifood industry.
I would also like to thank some people, because nobody runs an election campaign alone. I am a proper Quebecker and a hockey fan, so I see the similarities between a campaign and a game, and everyone knows I am by no means a puck hog.
I would like to thank the people on my offensive line: my campaign director, Carole Ducharme; my communications director, Marthe Lapierre; my official agent, François Paré; my adviser, Maxime Leclerc; and my scheduling officer, Estelle Côté. I would also like to thank all my other volunteers and supporters.
I also want to thank the members of my defence team. I thank my family, who has always been there for me: my father, André, my mother, Rachel, my sister, Catherine, my brothers, Samuel and Vincent, my father's spouse, Carole, and my mother's spouse, François. They were sometimes called upon to assist my offensive team. They even put up some of my election signs.
I also want to thank the people who helped me keep my cool and stay grounded. When my niece Leia would jump into my arms, when my nephew Tyler would give me a smile or when my godchild Thomas would greet me, I was reminded that they are the reason I am in politics. I want to give them a better future. I did not get into politics to have a career. I got into politics out of conviction.
I also want to thank my goalie, my spouse, Richard Leclerc, who was prepared to stop everything. He supported me non-stop. Behind every great woman is a great man. He made a number of key saves to help me win the game. He was the difference-maker.
Now that I have been elected, I am fortunate to be part of the incredible Bloc Québécois team, composed of 32 members and all of our staff, and to have been appointed the Bloc Québécois critic for the status of women, gender equality and seniors. Those issues are particularly important to me, as I had the opportunity to work in those fields in recent years in various community organizations. I paid very close attention to the throne speech, looking to find commitments in those areas, but there was nothing to be found.
As for status of women, I support the government's willingness to work on tightening the rules around firearms, but words are not enough. The House has the ability to take real action. We can introduce stronger gun controls, especially for assault weapons and handguns. We can tighten border controls for firearms, to try and get them off the black market. We can ensure that buyers of firearms do not pose a threat to anyone's life.
We need to take action against daily violence against women, the slaps across the face and the horrible violence committed against women simply because they are women. We need to take action to remove the stigma and combat misogyny.
Therefore, I will be carefully monitoring the government's commitment to the gender-based violence strategy and to the development of a national action plan in concert with its partners. This should include help for mental health. I imagine that we will have the opportunity to talk about this again in committee.
With respect to seniors, we will have to ensure that there are not two classes of seniors and that pensions be increased starting at age 65. The spiral of poverty does not wait for an individual to turn 75, it all too often starts upon retirement. When I asked a question about this, the Minister of Seniors even said that it was an excellent idea.
Seniors, families and those living alone are also asking for more social housing. Monies should be transferred to Quebec with no strings attached. As protesters stated this week, having a decent roof over one's head should not have a price tag.
We also need to consider health transfers, which need to be increased to 5.2%. We know that health is the number one issue and it is no doubt our most precious asset. We will wish many people good health during the holiday season.
Seniors also want to be seen as a grey-haired source of strength, not as a burden. We therefore need to let them remain on the labour market, if they so desire, which would help alleviate the labour shortage. We therefore need to create tax incentives for people over the age of 65 and ensure that they are no longer penalized if they want to remain active and continue to contribute to our economy.
I come from a riding where there are many agricultural entrepreneurs and so I want to support them. That is why I believe that there should be no more breaches in supply management and that the system should be protected by legislation. I spent my childhood on a farm so I am all the more concerned about this sector, which just had such a hard year.
In closing, I can only hope for better representation in Parliament, which is currently only 29% women. We have still not achieved gender parity. We will need to look into that.
When it comes to defending Quebec's interests, I am not worried. My colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and I will keep standing up for Quebeckers. That is why I am disappointed that our party's subamendment was not adopted by all the opposition parties.
By way of a reminder, items found in the subamendment include: respecting provincial jurisdiction, in particular by not authorizing any project that does not comply with provincial and Quebec laws relating to environmental protection and land use planning; underfunding of the health care system, which requires an increase in transfers; an unprecedented crisis facing media and creators, who must be supported through the imposition of royalties on web giants; and loopholes in the supply management system that must be protected by legislation. We will be back at it in 2020. We will not give up fighting for Quebeckers.
In a few minutes we will be leaving the House for the holidays. I wish everyone some quiet time with their loved ones. As we see it, the challenges of this minority government are great, and we must all get to work as quickly as possible. I will remember those who voted for me, my cherished constituents.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Adam Vaughan Profile
2019-12-13 14:02 [p.421]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by expressing my thanks, first and foremost, to my wife and my partner, Nicole. This was her first campaign as the spouse of a parliamentarian. Many may not know, but I was married in the middle of the last term. She had nothing but joy to express for the fun of canvassing and meeting people, listening to their needs and also watching us talk about how to build strong communities, cities and a better Canada. The election was made that much more enjoyable having a partner like her along to provide that support. To see an election through new eyes is always a real pleasure for any politician who has been through countless elections.
I also want to thank the residents, voters and the folks who make up Spadina—Fort York, which is a riding that dances along the waterfront in the inner harbour of Lake Ontario in Toronto. It is one of the most diverse ridings, as many in Toronto are. It also has pockets of extreme creativity and vibrancy with respect to its economic clout. However, it also has pockets of some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. That combination of affluence and poverty cheek by jowl creates good, strong social networks of mutual support between the two. It also explains the challenges we have as a city, as a country, to ensure that we build an economy where prosperity is shared more generously, fairly and productively. I certainly heard from my residents that this was one of the mandates they sent me back to Ottawa to advocate on their behalf.
Of course, climate change was another issue for us as a waterfront community. With the flooding we experienced last spring, 600 residents on Toronto islands were at risk of losing their homes. We lost extraordinary and very delicate ecological infrastructure. We have to turn our eyes to ensure that not only do we fight climate change with good, strong policies that limit greenhouse gas emissions, but also that we protect those communities that are in harm's way right now as water levels change and become more chaotic. We also need to ensure the natural habitat is restored.
Those are the priorities that residents sent me back here to talk about, among others. Therefore, I look to the throne speech as a way of starting to fulfill those responsibilities and assuring the residents who sent me here, and my colleagues who I will be sharing time with in the House, that my focus on those issues will be unrelenting.
One of the things I commented on earlier during members' statements was the issue of housing and homelessness across the country. It is why I left city council and ran federally back in 2014. It is why I am so proud to be reappointed as the parliamentary secretary, with a specific focus and responsibility for housing. As I have often said, and members who were here before may recall, while housing is often defined as the crisis that needs to be solved, to me housing remains the best tool we have to address the issues raised by members from all parties, as they have explained the mandates they have received from their residents.
When it comes to things like unemployment in places like Alberta, when we build social housing, we create jobs. We know that the construction trades are a large part of the downturn in the energy economy, with the lack of work for highly skilled labour in that province. Building a gas plant requires many of the same skill sets as building a house. We can start to solve some of the poverty issues in Alberta by putting to work the unemployed construction workers who had been working on oil projects. As we wait for world oil prices to return, as we wait for new markets to be established and as we wait for the investments we have made to strengthen the oil and gas sector, one of the things we can do in the interim is build the infrastructure that people on the lower end of the economic scale so desperately need.
It is why I was so disheartened to see the Alberta government cut funding for homelessness and front-line services in Calgary and Edmonton. It is why I have been talking so closely with the mayors in those cities to ensure our housing programs reach the provinces. Even if a provincial government is walking away from those programs, it is good to know the national program will be there to provide assistance and, hopefully, good, strong jobs, as well as the social support that housing provides.
Therefore, housing is an economic tool, an economic driver and is a critically important part of what the mandate talked about. It is a critically important part of what the national housing strategy hopes to achieve. However, when it is seen as economic development and not just a social service, it seems much more dynamic than I think some members give credit for. I hope members opposite can support a stronger, growing and more vibrant housing policy. I know our government is committed to doing that. Also, reference to that in the throne speech is perhaps more appropriately identified as housing as a tool to get toward reconciliation.
When I did work on the homelessness file in the previous Parliament, an indigenous housing provider from Regina, Saskatchewan, said that we cannot have reconciliation without housing policy, cannot have reconciliation without a place to call home.
In many indigenous nations across the country, the notion of having a home is not the issue; it is shelter that is the challenge. They are home when they are on their ground, when they are on their territory, and when we can provide a house with the territory, we have achieved full reconciliation, because both the land and the shelter and the capacity to provide housing have been returned to programs that are self-directed, self-managed and self-realized by indigenous communities.
I took those words to heart, and I have been a strong advocate for indigenous housing providers and have worked very closely with them right across the country from coast to coast to coast, particularly in the Northwest Territories. I am thrilled to see the mandate letters that were produced today and the reference in the Speech from the Throne to the need for an urban indigenous housing program in this country that is designed, delivered, managed and run by indigenous housing providers right across the country. That is in addition to the commitments we have made through the indigenous infrastructure programs to make sure that the three programs for housing through the NIOs, the ITK and the Métis foundation continue to grow to provide a place to call home that is safe, secure and affordable. These programs are also addressing some of the challenges about murdered and missing indigenous women and girls and two-spirit people, as well as providing economic liberation and dealing with some of the poverty that colonialism imposed upon indigenous people across the country for far too long.
Housing becomes one of the strong tools we can use as the federal government to realize our commitment and our promise to fully realize the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as the key recommendations inside the missing and murdered and missing indigenous women and girls and two-spirited report. We can use housing as a tool to solve those problems.
The other thing we can use housing to do is address climate change. Studies have identified that urban centres are the greatest source of our greenhouse gas emissions, providing 62% or 69%, depending on the studies one looks at, and it is largely from built form. That means our houses need to be more energy-efficient. When we create more energy-efficient housing, not only do we create more affordable housing, but we create housing that actually contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gases and makes the planet safer for all of us to live in.
Again, housing creates economic capacity and creates jobs, but shelter also provides social stability, and it provides environmental payoffs if we do it correctly. We had a very strong commitment in our campaign, and the throne speech as well refers to environmental policies and to providing Canadians with interest-free loans to retrofit their homes so they can make their contribution to climate change real and also do it affordably. They can actually save money by making a contribution to help us fight climate change. It is a win-win-win proposition, and it is one that I look forward to realizing in this Parliament. I look forward to members on the benches opposite who have similar programs making their contributions to make this program as strong as possible.
We have heard about pharmacare. We have heard that Canadians need access to health care on a universal and more national basis. We know that we have to work with provinces and territories, indigenous governments and municipalities to get pharmacare right, to make sure it dovetails with existing programs and that it grows and extends to different medical devices. Those issues are also critically important, but every single study on the issue of health care tells us that housing is a key determinant to better health care outcomes.
In fact, a very interesting study that was done by an AIDS foundation in the United States showed that viral suppression is only possible if housing is included with the drug program. In other words, drugs alone will not create the health we seek for our neighbours and fellow Canadians. We need places to treat people. We need stable places for many of the drug programs to work effectively, including pharmaceuticals, and Housing is a critical part of that as well.
Our commitment to increasing funding for mental health services and addiction services will not be effective and will not achieve positive results in people's lives if supportive housing is not built to create places to treat and care for people and allow them to thrive, heal and move forward. Those investments that are often talked about as health care investments will be realized through supportive housing investments. When we can get that piece of the health care budget right and use it in concert with our housing policies, we will also see much stronger, aggressive and more successful campaigns to end homelessness in this country.
Again, housing is not the crisis: Housing is the solution to so many of the problems that we face.
One issue that will also be seen as part of the program to solve a challenge that is beyond heartbreaking in our communities is the issue of gun violence.
Gun violence is an issue in my community, the communities that I represent and the neighbourhoods my family walks through on the way to school and the way home from work. I have been to more funerals for children in my riding than for family members in my lifetime. Stop and think about that. I have stood with more families in extreme trauma, as they buried young people in my riding, than I have with members of my own family. That is an unacceptable situation in this country.
There are all sorts of reasons why a long gun is an important tool, and why hunting and the protection of families in rural parts of the country are important. In urban centres, the more bullets that fly, the more people that die. We have to find a way to curtail that.
Of course it requires strong border controls, investments in security at the borders and breaking down the way guns are smuggled into this country by both legal and illegal gun owners. We have to make sure that we step up criminal charges against dangerous people who have reached for a gun too often and let them go off in our cities, and we have to make sure that they do not do harm to more people in our communities. We need to get handguns off the streets in urban centres. It is just fundamental to the health and welfare of our communities.
It is not just the atrocious number of people who are shot or killed. The families that live in neighbourhoods where gun play is all too prevalent live in an intense and sustained circumstance, an environment of stress and disorder. For young children who have to sleep at night in the basement of their housing units because the ground floor is not seen to be safe, or for families that have guns going off, making kids who are five or six years old jump, leads to all sorts of other challenges in our communities. It becomes a mental health issue, quite frankly. It is a form of PTSD for so many young people, particularly racialized youth in our cities. That has to stop.
Families that have buried their children, that have had to stay by their bedside in emergency wards at hospitals, that have scared kids day in and day out, have asked us to act on gun control. They have asked us to deal with handguns. We have to do it because they have lost confidence in the government to listen. They have lost confidence in society to listen. They have lost confidence in Canada to listen to the trauma they are being asked to endure.
They have asked us to act on this, even though they know it is only one part of the solution. They need to see that communities around this country support them as they seek to build healthy and wonderful children, and they cannot do it fearing guns in our cities. That is why it is so critically important to act on this.
Examining what causes a young person to reach for a gun as a solution also needs to be part of the program if we are going to eliminate this behaviour. We cannot police homicides out of existence. Passing laws has never worked. We have had homicides since time immemorial, long before laws existed, and no country on this planet has eliminated death by handgun simply by outlawing it. Laws are not a deterrent. If people are so scared or so intent on exercising power with a gun, it does not matter how many laws we have. The problem is that the person has already reached for a gun.
We have to get to where young people are making better choices and have the opportunity to make better choices. Again, this is where housing comes into play. When young people are housed properly, cared for properly, nurtured properly, when they are invested in and when they are seen as true citizens worthy of our care and our compassion, our investments and our support, they make better choices.
In every community where better choices are put in front of young people who are at risk, young people will make those better choices. It is a rational, humane thing to do. When those choices are not there for young people, unfortunately far too many of them reach for a gun, whether it is smuggled across the border, stolen from a home down the road, broken out of a gun shop, stolen from a range or simply rented from a legal gun owner.
A person in my riding had 11 legal guns. That individual never did anything with them except rent them out to hoodlums. Two people died as a result of that. When the police went to get the 11 legal guns, they could not find them. He was a legal gun owner until he was not. The reality of this is that he was renting the guns out to pay to go through university. It is a true story, and it killed two people.
That person was smart enough to make better choices, but he did not have those choices in front of him and as a result, made the mistakes that cost people their lives. It also meant that there were 11 handguns floating around the neighbourhood for years and everybody knew, but nobody said anything because they were afraid.
We have to change the social circumstances and constructs in order to make these outcomes stronger. One of the best ways to do that is to make housing more affordable and support families in terms of good, strong social infrastructure, good programs that support their educational opportunities. We need to make sure that the programs that provide jobs start to hire people in communities where high unemployment rates have been tolerated, despite some of the success we have had over the last two to four years.
Again, housing becomes part of the solution to gun violence. If those on the other side are really serious about making sure that the rules and regulations do not hurt law-abiding owners who need to hunt for food, protect their farms, or what have you, then they will stand up and support our government's initiatives to put into play those social investments in our cities and those investments in housing, to make sure educational opportunities are sustained and to make sure that we give young people the tools they need to survive; not guns but education, jobs, hopes and opportunities.
The final issue is culture and heritage and the need for strong investments in the arts and digital media sectors. One of the fastest growing parts of my riding is the digital media sector. In fact, it has outpaced, in terms of job growth, Silicon Valley for the last two years. One of the reasons it has done that is because our immigration policies get people with talent into our country quickly, who cannot get into the United States. Tech firms from the United States are moving to Toronto so they can get access to the global pool of talent. More importantly, they are understanding that Canada's pool of talent is extraordinarily high, rich and diverse. When those tech firms come to Toronto, they realize that what they were looking for was in Toronto all along.
Supporting open policies around immigration, progressive policies driven by economic need, and also making sure that we are good, strong humanitarians on the global stage has created the context for a good, strong economy in our communities. We need to make sure that we keep those doors open, so that we keep people coming to this country with talents and contributions that they want to make. We also have to make sure that new arrivals are allowed to make those contributions.
One of the worrying statistics in Toronto is that immigrants and refugees are doing less well after five years in Canada now than they have at any other time in the country's history. What are the supports that are missing, preventing that successful integration?
Once again, it is housing. When housing costs are so high that they cannot afford the courses to requalify their credentials, when housing costs are so high or the houses are so far away from jobs that transportation costs become a barrier to participation in the workforce, when housing costs are so high that people spend all their time looking for affordable places to rent instead of better jobs, they fall further and further behind. Their health and mental health start to suffer and their capacity to make the contributions they are ready to make to this country is hurt.
Making sure that we pay attention to those issues is one of the ways we can support the arts and culture sector, which, as I said, is the fourth-largest employer in Toronto and the largest employer in my riding. Moving our funding and support to the cultural sector is one way to develop the economy in our country. Artists need places to create and quite often an artist will live, work and produce in the same space. We need to make sure our housing programs support that and the arts industries that gather around that.
I will conclude by re-emphasizing the point I want to make most clearly about the throne speech and the mandate letters supported today. We will not succeed as a country without an urban indigenous housing strategy. We will not reconcile the past without a strong urban indigenous housing strategy. That strategy must be indigenous led, designed and delivered. Our government, this Parliament, our country has to find ways to support that to get it off the ground and into a position where it is self-driving, self-determining and self-realizing. I give my absolute commitment to residents, to colleagues in the House on this side and to Parliament that I will not rest until that policy is put in place.
The throne speech has set the stage for that; the mandate letters have given us the authority to get it done. What we need now is Parliament to stand together and realize this, so that we have four forms of housing for indigenous communities, with the NIOs, and with the indigenous urban housing piece finally and totally delivered during this Parliament. If we do that, we will not be talking about how much we cut homelessness; we will be celebrating how we have ended homelessness. That end to homelessness is within reach if we focus on it. The reason to do it is for all of the reasons I have listed, but the way to do it is to start by solving the indigenous urban housing crisis we have in this country and addressing that issue with our partners from those communities, leading us to a solutions-based mandate in this Parliament.
That is why I am going to be supporting the throne speech, it is why I am proud to be the parliamentary secretary in charge of housing and it is why I am absolutely thrilled to get to work in this Parliament.
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