Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Beaches—East York for moving the motion. Specifically, with regard to the issue of housing, our government has a very credible record, an incredible record, quite frankly, considering the 13 years of inaction by the Liberals. I would like to bring some attention to it.
Canada has one of the best housing systems in the world. It has many players working together to meet the housing needs of Canadians across this country. Our national housing strategy requires the coordinated action of many partners to support housing choices for people of different needs, including those who need affordable housing.
Taken together, this government's broad range of coordinating housing activities as well as the efforts of other levels of government has constituted a truly national housing strategy.
The vast majority of Canadians are able to meet their housing needs through their own means and through the private market, either through home ownership or through the rental market without direct assistance from this government.
To help Canadians access a home of their own and secure a mortgage at the best possible rate, our national housing agency, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, provides mortgage loan insurance. CMHC also facilitates financing for affordable housing projects to allow borrowers to have access to loans at the best possible interest rate, lowering the overall cost of borrowing.
Despite the success in Canada's real estate market, which stands in stark contrast to the housing market south of the border, we know there are a number of people who are experiencing core housing needs still. These Canadians are unable to satisfy their housing needs without assistance. Some are experiencing homelessness and some are at risk of homelessness.
Our government's philosophy is to try to help to prevent homelessness and to help those in need find safe, affordable housing. In our most recent throne speech, we renewed our commitment to help the most vulnerable people in our country, those seeking to break free from a cycle of poverty and homelessness. In addition, we committed to working to improve living conditions in the north for first nations and Inuit people through better housing.
I would like to assure my hon. colleague that the Government of Canada is taking meaningful action to address the need for affordable housing. In fact, this federal government is investing more in affordable and supportive housing than has any other government in history.
Indeed, our government currently spends more than $2.7 billion annually on affordable and supportive housing. We are investing significantly in the construction of new affordable rental units, a homelessness partnering strategy, housing renovation and the operation of existing social housing. Annual federal spending in support of this strategy has never been higher.
This government is doing its part, but we all have a role to play in helping to house Canadians. Indeed, helping our most vulnerable is a shared responsibility.
Provincial governments play a pivotal role in the provision of housing and important support services, like health care, training and education. Municipal governments, civil society groups, community associations, the private sector and others help with the on the ground delivery and the management of housing and associated services.
Partnerships at all levels of government are creating tangible results. We are helping to create stable homes, a place where Canadians can get settled and then get on with the business of building a better life and a better future.
Together, we are making the difference in the lives of people and in communities across this country. Our programs include a $1 billion affordable housing initiative, which we are providing in collaboration with provincial, territorial and local partners. To date, this initiative has created thousands of new affordable houses across this country.
Our government has also invested $1.4 billion in a new housing trust for affordable housing, for northern housing and housing for aboriginal people living off reserve. Provinces and territories have begun to roll out programs, and the first affordable housing projects are currently being announced. This is in addition to the $256 million commitment over two years for homelessness and housing renovation programs.
Through CMHC, the federal government continues to invest approximately $1.7 billion a year to support close to 630,000 low and moderate income households. This includes ongoing financial support for many non-profit and cooperative housing projects.
We recognize that there is a high incidence of poverty among first nations communities. That is why we continue to support the construction of new social housing and the maintenance of existing housing on reserves. We are also helping first nations to build capacity to manage housing programs.
Our 2007 budget announced the creation of a first nations market housing fund. This $300 million commitment is supporting the development of housing markets and will create up to 25,000 homes on reserve over the next 10 years.
Budget 2008 builds on the significant progress made to support aboriginal Canadians by allocating $70 million over the next two years for measures to foster aboriginal economic development. Our recent budget also provided $330 million over the next two years to improve access to safe drinking water for first nations communities.
This government also recognizes the challenges that our low income senior population faces when it comes to housing costs. That is why we are working with the provinces to provide rental assistance and other programs to help vulnerable seniors.
In the most recent budget we raised the earned income exemption for guaranteed annual income, GIS, recipients, so that low income seniors can keep a much larger portion of their hard-earned income without having their benefits clawed back.
That is also why our government introduced in our recent budget a new tax-free savings account. It will provide individuals with a tax-free savings vehicle to meet their ongoing savings needs, including saving for a down payment on a home or perhaps the ongoing cost of maintaining a home. For seniors in particular, this is very important because the money that they save in their TFSA will not reduce the benefits that they receive through the GIS or the OAS.
Our government also understands the special needs of individuals and communities. We have an obligation to protect the vulnerable. That is why we provide ongoing support for projects that provide a safe place for women and children fleeing domestic abuse.
This government believes that the most vulnerable Canadian citizens should be able to live a full and active life with dignity. Among the most vulnerable are those who face complex challenges related to mental health disorders, and as a result, often lack basic necessities such as adequate housing.
For this reason, budget 2008 commits to helping those who need the care and support of fellow Canadians. Our government will invest $110 million to support innovative projects to help Canadians facing mental health and homelessness challenges.
We are taking steps to meet the needs of low and moderate income people, not only through housing programs, but also through our emphasis on training and work, and our effective management of the economy and our government's finances.
Canada's economic fundamentals are solid. Our unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in nearly 33 years. Business investment is expanding for the 12th consecutive year. Canada is on the best fiscal footing of the major western industrialized countries.
This is in addition to the tax cuts previously announced, including a further 1% cut to the GST, which is also expected to improve the affordability of homes.
All of these factors contribute to reducing poverty and homelessness and to helping more Canadians afford a home. The best social safety net is a combination of relevant skills and a good job. These things allow individuals to support themselves and their families.
I assure my hon. colleagues that the Government of Canada is delivering on its commitment to help house Canadians and to keep our national housing strategy strong.