Mr. Speaker, I rise today to second the motion made by my colleague, calling for concurrence in the sixth report on poverty reduction in Canada.
Twenty years ago today, Parliament, led by a Conservative government, promised to eliminate child poverty in Canada by the year 2000.
Was it an empty pledge? Today one in 10 Canadian children live in poverty, often with many of them going to bed with hungry bellies. Their parents live in poverty and many of those parents are single working women.
The figures are even worse for first nations and Inuit families living on reserves or in the territories, where one child in four and his or her parents live in poverty.
According to our committee's research and hearings, every month, 770,000 people in Canada use food banks. That is nearly two-thirds of a million Canadians, and 40% of them are children. That is nearly half a million children in Canada.
In 2007, in a speech he gave in Toronto, the Conservative Prime Minister stated, no doubt with some measure of pride, that the poverty rate had decreased from 16% in 1996 to 11% in 2005.
Four years later the HungerCount survey released on November 17 showed that in March of this year almost 800,000 individuals used food banks across this country.
This is a 17.6% increase. The percentages speak volumes, but the real numbers are even more telling. We are talking about an additional 120,000 people using food banks.
Of the 794,738 people helped in March of this year, 72,321 or 9.1% of the total, stepped through the front door of a food bank for the first time according to the survey. In other words, more families need the food banks today than ever before. This is not good enough in a society of plenty such as Canada.
Witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities explained that Canada had succeeded in drastically reducing poverty among seniors.
The time has come for this government to use this model for reducing poverty among seniors and put in place an action-oriented strategic framework to reduce poverty, including monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.
Since 1989, Liberals have acted on several fronts to eradicate poverty while supporting Canada's commitment to the millennium development goals. The 2002 throne speech allocated long-term funding for increases to the national child benefit as well as investments in affordable housing. Continued actions of the Liberal government removed over one million low-income people from the tax rolls.
The Canada child tax benefit proposed significant investments to the tune of $13 billion per year. It provided $9 billion in income support to help more than three million low- and middle-income families. We also committed $5 billion to work with the provinces and territories to improve and expand early learning and child care across this country, including the 2003 multilateral framework on early learning and child care.
A number of these agreements have been cancelled by the current government.
Witnesses who testified before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities said that the $100 a month that the Conservative government allocates to families is not enough to achieve real poverty reduction goals.
Liberals have been clear in their commitment to reducing poverty. In 2007, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville spoke for all members on this side of the House when he said that, “Housing and universal child care are critical foundations of opportunity for low-income Canadians”.
Part of that commitment included honouring the promises of the Kelowna accord, a $5 billion program dismantled by the Conservative government.
The committee's sixth report, which marks the anniversary of the 1989 unanimous resolution to eradicate poverty by the year 2000—a goal that has not been achieved—calls on the government to develop an immediate plan to eliminate poverty in Canada.
Canadians need answers from the current government now. As legislators, we must put food back in Canadians' budgets. Civil society demands it.