Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to address the House on the motion that has been presented by the member for York South—Weston.
I will be sharing my time with the member for Brant and I just want to commend the member for Brant for the great leadership role that he has taken on the housing file and talking about innovative ideas on how we can address affordable housing issues and the good things that our government is already doing. I want to congratulate him on that.
I want to state right from the outset that the premise of this motion is wrong. I so appreciate the opportunity to address some of the misunderstanding, perhaps, on behalf of the opposition, in terms of what we are doing for affordable housing.
As I have already stated, quite clearly, I did appear before the committee. I was looking forward to some really thoughtful questions. I was looking forward to talking about our investment in affordable housing and how provinces can use it in the ways they deem appropriate and meet their priorities. I know Mr. Siddall was looking forward to that.
However, we never had the opportunity because, again, the opposition did not ask us any questions. I think that is very telling, I will say, especially given today and the pressure and the scrutiny that the opposition is under with its inappropriate office expenditures. I think, it is a bit telling that it is, all of a sudden, out of the blue, talking about affordable housing.
Again, I am really happy that I can talk about what we are doing, in terms of helping those who are most vulnerable and those who need assistance with housing.
Since 2006, we have invested more than $16.5 billion in housing. This year alone, we will spend about $2 billion, through a range of programs, to help Canadians in housing need.
These federal investments have helped—and this is staggering—almost one million Canadian families and individuals over the past eight years, just since we took government.
Our goal is to ensure that hard-working taxpayer dollars are used wisely. That means ensuring that accessibility and sustainability of housing, including social housing, is there for those most in need. I am very pleased to have been able to do my part, even in the most recent months.
In fact, just two weeks ago, I was in Alberta to meet with my counterpart and sign the renewal of our investment in affordable housing. That was $202 million from the province and the federal government. Before that, I was in Prince Edward Island, where we announced our signing agreement of $15 million and, prior to that, in British Columbia, $300 million to do the same. We have also renewed our agreement with New Brunswick for $78 million.
We are looking forward to finishing those agreements over the next few months and signing them. Provinces are very pleased with what they have been receiving and they are matching those funds. Through our investment in affordable housing, provinces and territories match our federal investments and design and deliver programs to meet their local needs. This has been working well.
I want to talk a bit about how each province uses these funds differently, and my hon. colleague talked about rent subsidies.
As I said, I was recently in British Columbia. Minister Coleman, the housing minister of B.C. said:
The extension of this agreement will help us to create more housing options for British Columbians. Over the next five years, this funding will help build new affordable housing, enhance our rental assistance—
Some provinces choose to use it for rental assistance.
—programs and support partnerships that will contribute to stronger, more sustainable communities.
Minister Dube from New Brunswick, said:
This initiative demonstrates the importance of partnerships—
The opposition talks about partnerships.
—between all levels of government, communities and the private sector when increasing the supply of affordable housing available to the people of our province.
From Alberta, Minister Weadick said:
We welcome this continued partnership to create even more opportunities to develop housing that best meets our provincial priorities and local needs.
From Minister Docherty, in P.E.I.:
We will have the flexibility to design and deliver a range of affordable housing programs to address the housing needs and priorities in our province.
Let me pause there because these are important points. Note the language that is being used by these ministers of housing in a variety of provinces across the country, “needs and priorities of our province”, “flexibility”, “partnerships between all levels of government, communities and the private sector”.
This not just a coincidence. This is a specific design of the investments that we are making because we respect provincial jurisdiction. Ultimately, it is the provinces that hold the responsibility for delivering housing according to their local needs and priorities.
We provide substantial funds, and we renewed our investment for affordable housing of $1.25 billion. On top of that, in previous budgets, we invested $2 billion for new housing and to renovate existing social housing.
To get back to the investment in affordable housing, we allow the provinces to make decisions on how they want to spend that money. We do not dictate where the money goes.
On this whole idea of a national housing strategy, would that not just be great to have more people sitting around desks in Ottawa telling the provinces, municipalities, and towns how to address their housing needs? I can tell members that in Winkler, Manitoba, we do not want Ottawa telling us how to spend housing dollars. The Liberals and NDP can talk national strategy on everything. We actually get to work. We actually work with the provinces to deliver results.
There are parameters within this program, and the provinces must operate within them. However, it is actually a very broad program because we want the provinces to have the ability they need.
For example, when social housing agreements come to an end, these mortgages are paid off. If the provinces decide that some of these housing programs need additional funding, they can use the funding from the investment in affordable housing program to continue subsidies or provide other subsidies.
In fact, when I did the signing in British Columbia, I toured a social housing project that was doing very well and had great management. However, when its agreement came to an end, the management said that some of the subsidies would end. At that point, they were not aware of British Columbia's program to provide rent subsidies, and so they were very pleased to hear that we had just signed the renewal for the agreement.
British Columbia has a rent subsidy program. When this particular social housing unit's agreement comes to end, which is very soon, it can go to the province and use some of that funding. I think there were about six units that would need assistance.
This is the way we are working, and it is working very well. Social housing units are becoming more and more aware of the programs that are available.
Alberta is choosing to use the funding we are providing to renovate, retrofit, and build new seniors housing. That is something they believe is a priority. Again, we respect that.
In P.E.I., the intention is to make homes safer and more energy efficient.
My point is that every province is different. We recognize that, so we have provided substantial funding and historic investments, but we are giving the provinces the ability to do what is within their jurisdiction.
Again, it is disappointing that the NDP does not seem to really want to hear that or acknowledge the investment. I do not understand why those members vote against it. It is one thing to ask for more, but why would one vote against something that is presented, whether it is investment in affordable housing or our homelessness partnering strategy that we renewed with a focus on housing first? The NDP members could stand up and say that is fine and they want even more, but why would they basically throw out something that is so positive just to make a political point? It is disappointing.
While I am on the topic of the homelessness partnering strategy, I am particularly happy with what we have done with the Mental Health Commission of Canada. It did a very extensive study, pilot project, the largest in the world, on housing first; what it does and what it can accomplish. We renewed our agreements, our homelessness partnering strategy, with a focus on housing first.
Housing first puts those who are chronically and episodically homeless into a house, first and foremost, so they have a safe, stable home to live in. They can then receive help, whether it is for drug addiction or mental illness. We know that so many people who are homeless struggle with those issues, and housing first is an evidence-based method for helping those people. The evidence shows that, after two, three, or five years, 73% of them are still housed.
So it is very disappointing that, when we have something that is non-partisan, a method that works and we renewed the funding, again the opposition votes against it.
We are not going to get distracted. We remain focused on housing, while the opposition is kind of all over the board in terms of what the issue of the day is. We do not have issues of the day. We remain committed to helping the provinces provide affordable housing for the people in their jurisdiction.