Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Acadie—Bathurst.
First of all, let me say how excited I am to be back here in the House and dealing with a critical issue in our very first opposition day motion. We are trying to address income inequality, which has grown in a way that is unacceptable in Canada.
Right now, in Canada, the top 10% own over 50% of the wealth, yet we have the fastest-growing poor. A very high number of young people are living well below the poverty line. A lot of women are living below the poverty line. I come from a province where child poverty is very high, unacceptably high.
In a country like Canada, child poverty is totally unacceptable. No matter what political stripes members wear, every person in this room should be committed to reducing the gap between the rich and the poor and to raising the income level of those living well below the poverty line.
That is what this motion does. It is not rocket science. I keep hearing people say that it only affects a few. Whether it affects 40,000 or 100,000, and I think the number is closer to 100,000, for those workers it will make a great deal of difference when they go grocery shopping or have to pay their rent. It is going to make a great deal of difference to young workers as well as to children, because they will not be struggling in the same way they are now.
In my province of British Columbia, the minimum wage at the moment sits at just over $10. Let us just think about it. Even if people were to work 40 hours a week, the amount they would end up with annually would still have them living below the poverty line, and most of those people are working hard.
I have heard from my constituents in Newton—North Delta that many of them—hard-working people living in Canada, both citizens and permanent residents—are having to work two full-time jobs, or the equivalent thereof, in order to try to make ends meet. I have met with mothers who told me what it is like to see their children only for a very short time, because in order to feed their children they have to go out and work that second job.
When we know that the price of housing is where it is, all over Canada and specifically in the Lower Mainland, we can imagine that many of these people are spending a lot of their income on basic housing.
I have some statistics from Surrey. The national household survey showed that over 15% of people in Surrey are categorized as low income. Almost 19% of children living in Surrey are living in low-income households. One in three Surrey renters spends well over 30% of their income on rent.
This move by the NDP is not going to make the sky fall. Listening to some of my colleagues across the way, people would think that the sky is going to fall and all the jobs are going to leave Canada. I will tell members that with close to 350,000 temporary foreign workers here, the Conservative government has done more to give away jobs that people living in Canada should be doing than has happened at any other time.
I was in Edmonton last week, which is not exactly a hotbed of socialism, and I met with skilled workers. Fully qualified iron workers, boilermakers, and many other skilled trade workers cannot get jobs. They are seeing those jobs being filled by workers who have been brought in, and they are not always being paid the same wages.
Let us see who the federal minimum wage is going to impact.
It would apply to federally regulated sectors, such as railways, transport, banks and financial services, and telecommunications. I know many people in my riding who are working in the telecommunications sector, and they are not making $15 an hour, no matter what somebody tries to tell us. It would also affect people working in broadcasting, and so on.
I know the Conservative government has an allergy. It has an allergy to science. It has an allergy to evidence-based decision-making, and it definitely does not like to listen to experts. Even when staff within the bureaucracy, within government, are giving it advice, it often likes to look the other way.
The government's own federal labour standards review in 2006 recommended that the federal government reinstate the federal minimum wage and benchmark it to Statistics Canada's low-income cut-offs. That recommendation is very reasonable. It comes from people who have knowledge and who are experts in this area in many ways. The review also proposed that the wage should be set at a level to ensure that no one who works full time would end up living below the poverty line.
We hear a lot of rhetoric in this room. We often hear that the sky is falling, but every person living in Canada has a right, a reasonable expectation that if they are working about 40 hours a week, they should not be living below the poverty line. That is just not good for us, either socially or in relation to mental health or in relation to the impact on families.
I urge my colleagues to support this motion. New Democrats believe that Canadians who work hard and play by the rules should be able to make a decent living. We are not talking about raising their wages to $50 an hour. We are not talking about enabling people to drive a Mercedes-Benz. We are talking about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
As motions come up, we do a little bit of research. I found that over the last 40 years, the average minimum wage has only received a one-cent raise, even though our economy grew significantly. That is one cent, and I mean that in real terms, when we look at the cost of living and everything else. Again, that is one cent over 40 years, yet the number of people who have grown their wealth and the huge tax relief to corporations have taken a great deal of money out of the economy as well.
Once again, is this motion reasonable? Absolutely.
As I was in my riding, as I am sure everyone else was, going door to door and meeting with constituents, even the people who make a decent living and the people in the business community were very concerned about labour instability and how people are not sticking with a job. Many of them, when we talked to them about the minimum wage, did a lot of head-nodding. When we think about it, it is because they live in those communities and they know that it is not possible to survive in a reasonable way on less than that $15 an hour. Many of our minimum wage workers in B.C., as I said, are at $10.25, and that is just not good.
Others will say we should just leave it all to the provinces, but there is a jurisprudence. There are provincial and federal areas. What we are talking about here are federal and federally regulated workplaces or areas, and that is why telecommunications is included in this measure. Saying that it is only going to impact fewer than 100,000 people is not a reason to say that we should not do it. That is the most asinine reasoning that I have heard since I have been in this House.
I would urge everybody to support this motion.