Madam Speaker, I hope that the government heard the speech by the member from the Bloc Québécois today.
As people living in Canada are faced with the highest food prices they have ever experienced, it is time for the government to increase food security in this country. The NDP acknowledges that this bill could play a small part in that, yet there is still work to do so no one in Canada is going to bed hungry.
My colleague from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford has been a champion in addressing the immediate food insecurity problem in this country, which is the price gouging for corporate profits at the grocery store. The leader of the NDP has been holding grocery chain CEOs accountable for this price gouging. The truth is that, while the grocery oligarchs in this country are making billions in profit, more children are going to bed hungry. This cannot stand because it is driving up food insecurity and hurting Canadians.
I recently asked the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to explain how food insecurity in this country could be trending up when poverty rates are going down. The minister responded that the government realizes this disconnect and is now linking their poverty reduction council and their food policy council to talk about this. She admitted that, for too long, food was not included when talking about poverty, and this is something that is now being addressed. Food, a fundamental need, was not part of the considerations when the government was dealing with poverty. It seems unbelievable.
However, there is hope. The minister admitted that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food cannot do this work alone, and that the current shared mandate between those two ministries is needed to solve food insecurity. I agree and say to both of these ministers that they need to advance the solutions faster People are going hungry, especially those living in poverty.
Almost one million people living in poverty in this country are persons with disabilities, and they are still waiting for financial support to come through the Canada disability benefit. The cost of groceries means they are skipping meals, as well as eliminating fresh fruits and vegetables from their diets. The Canada disability benefit, which would be established with the passing of Bill C-22, is needed now to offset this reality. Throughout the course of the committee study on Bill C-22, we heard about the suffering of people with disabilities living in poverty. Overwhelmingly, we heard that they are not eating enough meals daily and cannot keep up with the rising cost of food.
It is essential that the federal government step up with an emergency benefit immediately, so I again ask the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to provide a disability emergency response benefit while Canadians wait for the currently unfunded Canada disability benefit.
Today, with the increasing cost of food, a growing number of households are becoming food insecure. People are relying now more than ever on charities, not-for-profits and places of worship in their communities to put a meal on the table. I want to take a moment to highlight some of those invaluable community partners in my riding of Port Moody—Coquitlam. These are the organizations that are feeding the families that are unable to make ends meet: Share Food Bank, Immigrant Link Centre Society, The People’s Pantry, Coquitlam Alliance, Tapestry and Hillside churches, Soroptimist International of TriCities, Tri-Cities Moms Group, Coquitlam farmers' market, Fresh Roots, School District No. 43, and the city of Coquitlam, which stepped up to quickly adapt their city kitchens during the pandemic and have sustained an affordable meal delivery program for vulnerable seniors in Coquitlam.
I thank them all for what they do to offset food insecurity and improve lives in our community. Thank goodness for these community groups. Strong local food systems are crucial to ensuring food security for all Canadians, and so too is a caring community that does the work to leave no one behind when government has not done its work to protect the most vulnerable. There is still much work to do in the House to enact laws and programs that protect Canadians from food insecurity.
As my NDP colleague from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford has said, the NDP supports this bill and knows it can raise other key areas too, to encourage the government to establish more food security initiatives in Canada. Farming is one of those areas. My colleague has said that farmers can be one of our greatest tools in effectively combatting climate change, alongside feeding the world, and that with the enactment of this bill, farmers will become part of our national discourse.
In Canada, we have extensive arable land where food can be grown. We produce far more food than our population consumes. We are net exporters. We are one of the top agricultural producers in the world, and that is something we should definitely talk about more.
For example, do members know that Canada is the largest producer of lentils in the world? We produce almost twice as much as India. Between our two countries, we produce more than 50% of world's lentils, yet per capita, Canadians eat very few. That is a shame because lentils are high in protein and fibre and low in fat and calories. They are naturally gluten-free and have an exceptionally low glycemic index, making them suitable for a diabetic diet. The majority of Canadians do not know this.
From coast to coast to coast, Canada has local food that needs to be shared and eaten. We are a country with the ability to produce food locally for everyone, not just to give the bare minimum amount but to achieve the good, high-quality food we all need. We need that high level of nutrition. It is a very strong factor in the social determinants of health.
As New Democrats, a strong food system has been a central issue for us. In 2011, we ran on a commitment to introduce a Canadian food strategy that would combine health and environmental goals. We created a strategy called “Everybody eats: Our vision for a pan-Canadian food strategy”, which focused on how food travels from the farm to the factory to the fork. It was comprehensive, and it forced the Liberals to act. It is now time for the Liberal government to do more to protect Canadian food systems in the new reality of increasing climate disasters.
I think about the recent devastating flood in B.C. that wiped out roads and limited supply chains for weeks, as food could not get in and out of the Lower Mainland. Realities like that are why this government needs to understand how and where food is grown and produced in Canada.
This bill has the potential to direct the Liberals to look at the concept of food miles and how far food goes to reach a table. Today our food is travelling long distances to make it to our plates. That is not food resiliency. In B.C., we have the ability to grow a lot of seasonal produce, and we need to understand those opportunities and build resiliency around them.
In closing, it is important that this bill be part of the journey, not the end of it. We have much work to do to build and rebuild resilient food infrastructure in this country. We have relied too much on imports for decades while letting our own food production dwindle, and we need to bring more food closer to home. We also need to reduce the amount of food we waste. That is why, in November 2022, I moved to introduce Bill C-304, an act to establish national food waste awareness day. I thank the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford for seconding that bill.
Having a day to recognize the impacts of wasted food on food insecurity and climate change will raise awareness, inspire change and contribute to a meaningful solution to make Canada's food system more secure. Each year, 60% of the food produced in Canada is thrown out, and half of it is fresh, edible and nutritious food that could help feed four million Canadians, one million of whom are children, who are struggling daily with access to healthy food. It would be one more tool we have in our policy tool box to remind Canadians of how important local food is, celebrate the farmers who produce it and start a conversation on how we, as parliamentarians, can better support food security so everybody has access to high-quality food and no one goes to bed hungry.