Madam Speaker, it is a delight and an honour to talk to you, the House and the folks at home about the things that are in the budget and some of the ways we try to communicate the value of what is in the budget. Communication is always a major challenge for government.
We all saw the headlines the morning after the budget. After listening to some of the commentators and the reaction notably from some of the mayors across the country, people would think we had just brought in the worst possible budget that could be imagined.
In the calm atmosphere that has followed the announcement, the press scrum and the hysteria around the budget, I would hope that people have had a chance to sit down and carefully analyze what is in it for them, how it benefits them as individuals or their communities if they happen to be mayors or councillors. I am not just spouting off something the government would like one of its members to talk about. I sincerely believe there are some initiatives that I know my colleague from the NDP opposite will agree are far reaching. These are initiatives in terms of affordable housing, infrastructure, commitments that help people who live in our cities in terms of the environment and clean air, our Kyoto commitment, alternative fuels, and the list goes on. These are all things that will benefit people whether they live in a large city such as Toronto or a small city, whether it is in the west or in the east.
One of the frustrations a government member has is getting the proper information out. I want to share a story to illustrate that.
We have all heard recently dramatic and substantial criticism around the so-called gun registry and its $1 billion cost. In fact, as I was going to committee yesterday I heard one of my hon. colleagues from the fifth party stand here in the House and quote the Auditor General to the effect that the Auditor General had stated that the government has wasted $1 billion on a gun registry.
If something is said often enough, people will believe it. It does not have to be true. I will take a few moments to share with the House the facts about the gun registry.
The total budget, not just for the registry but for the entire gun control program since 1995, and this is in the Auditor General's report, is $688 million. We are talking about over eight years. There is more than one aspect to the gun control program. There is licensing. There is communication. There is setting up the web pages and getting the system in place. There is the computerization. All of this is included in the $688 million over eight years. The total cost for the registry itself is one-third of that.
We have heard members opposite stand in this place and unabashedly say that it cost $1 billion for the gun registry. That is absolutely false. The total cost for the registry, and this came out in the public accounts committee yesterday, is one-third of the total of $688 million over eight years, or approximately $225 million.
Even the media who were in the room yesterday during the public accounts meeting heard the auditor agree with that. Then last night on the news what did we hear? We heard the reporters say that the gun registry cost $1 billion.
We throw our hands up and say how many times do we have to say something? It is like shouting into a wind tunnel. Words just come back to us and no one pays attention.
I understand the game. It is advantageous if a member is in opposition. I am sure I would be equally as forceful as some of the members opposite in trying to distort the real numbers for my own political purposes. I hope I would be a little more honest than that. The reality is that is what is happening.
The numbers are $225 million for the registry and $688 million for the entire gun control program supported by 74% of Canadians.
Be assured that members on this side will stand strong and firm to ensure that Canada continues to have a gun control program that will ensure our citizens are safe and that we know who has weapons in this country. We can try to prevent the tragedies that occur from the unfortunate use of guns. It will not solve all the problems. No one is trying to say that.
I just wish people would be more honest with the numbers, which brings me to the housing issue.
We announced in our last budget $680 million across the country, federal dollars, new dollars for the building of affordable housing. Affordable housing is determined to be a unit that a person paying 30% of his or her gross income can afford to pay.
We announced it as a bilateral housing strategy with the provincial governments. The municipalities are creatures of the provinces. The provinces have the jurisdiction. The province of Ontario, and I cannot say that I am happy about this, decided to pass the responsibility for housing for most of the dollars, the cost, on to the municipal sector.
If we look at the $680 million envelope, it breaks down to a $25,000 cash subsidy for capital toward the construction of a new home. That was to be matched by the provincial governments. Across the country we have entered into agreements that differ substantially because, as we are often told, individual provinces have their own criteria, their own requirements and their own needs. We responded to that.
In the province of Ontario, we struggled to sign an agreement, which we ultimately did, which said that the province would put in $2,000 to match our $25,000 and the balance of $23,000 would come from the municipalities. The municipalities, rightfully in my view, screamed that this was unfair, that the province was abdicating its responsibility to participate in the bilateral housing agreement with the federal government. Unfortunately we were required to sign the agreement but we negotiated some additions to it which I think benefit the municipalities.
One of the things we were able to do was to get the province of Ontario to agree to make 25% of the units that are built affordable by providing rent supplements. A rent supplement is an amount of money paid each month to the tenant to cover the cost of the rent. If a single mom can afford $600 a month based on 30% of her income and the rent is $1,000 a month, the economic rent, she will get a $400 a month rent supplement from the provincial government.
When we total up that provincial government commitment, it comes to about $180 million. At least we are getting close to matching Ontario's share of the $680 million, which happens to be $245 million. It is not the best deal in the world but it should get housing on the ground. It should break ground. It should see activity.
I must say that Ontario has been dragging its feet on implementing the agreement. One-third of the money and the units have been announced in the Waterloo region and nothing else has occurred. Yet the crisis is in the larger cities, in my city of Mississauga, in the city of Toronto, and in all the communities in the greater Toronto area.
Frankly the province is dragging its feet for whatever reason I am not quite sure. It is my hope that the province will see its way to having these funds flow, $680 million times two. Whether it is provincial or municipal, it is times two, an additional $320 million in this budget, bringing the total for new affordable housing to $2 billion. Anyone, whether it is the new leader of the NDP or anybody else in this place, who says that is not a substantial commitment to affordable housing does not know what he or she is talking about and is simply playing politics on the backs of the people who need the help and need the housing.
We are committed to it. We are going to make sure the housing is built all across the country. We are going to work with the province of Ontario to make sure that whatever commitments go to Ontario flow directly to the people who need affordable housing.