Thank you, Chair, and thank you to our witnesses.
Again, I apologize for the tone and line of questioning from my counterpart across from me, earlier.
When I decided to run for politics, I wanted to give back to my community. I was involved with sports and hockey before that, and we did certain things like food drives, cereal drives, and coat drives to try to give back to those in need.
I felt compelled to try to do more so I wanted to run, and some of the first places I went when I started my campaign were priority neighbourhoods. I started knocking on doors and talking to families. Saint John leads the country in child poverty. We have a lot of issues with affordable housing, and certainly lots of challenges. In fact, some of our priority neighbourhoods, wards 3 and 4 have child poverty rates of 50% to 70%.
While going door to door, I asked a lot of those families about boutique tax credits like credits for dance or credits for hockey lessons. I was looked at, to be perfectly honest and transparent, with dismay. A lot of people in those communities couldn't afford to take their children to dance lessons or hockey. They were trying to survive on a day-to-day basis.
I asked those same families if doubling the tax-free savings account would be beneficial for them. Again, I couldn't find a family in a priority neighbourhood that invested in a tax-free savings account, let alone in the doubling of it.
To you and your staff, I want to thank you for your vision. I want to say thank you that our government is moving forth with a national poverty reduction strategy. I think that transformational change comes from national initiatives. I thank you from my heart for coming to Saint John on September 2 and announcing the tackling poverty together project. It talks to people with lived experience, consults people with lived experience, and is very inclusive.
For us to develop a national poverty reduction strategy we need to have everybody involved. What I saw, going door to door initially, was despair, no hope, and a group of people who lived in poverty and were forgotten by the previous government. I believe that things such as the Canada child benefit, which is better for nine out of 10 families and helps those living in need is transformational and will continue to make a difference.
In particular, for this budget, budget 2017, the minister stood up and talked about the significant, historic amount of investment in affordable housing to come up with a national housing strategy. Saint John has 1,300 people on a wait-list for affordable housing, and over the past 10 years that number has continued to grow. The fact that we announced money for a national housing strategy, I think, is another transformational measure.
My question to you today is about early learning and child care, which I was also thrilled about. In Saint John—Rothesay, I work alongside Erin Schryer from Elementary Literacy in New Brunswick and Shilo Boucher from the YMCA. We've developed an early learning pilot called “Learning Together” that we feel will be transformational.
Can you talk to me more about the investments you are making in early learning and child care?