Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Scarborough—Rouge River for her motion to reduce poverty in our country and welcome the opportunity to comment on the government's progress in this regard.
On a national basis, we have had a great deal of success. The rate for children living in poverty was 18.4% in 1996. That rate dropped to just 8.5% in 2011. That translates into about 730,000 fewer children living in poverty at the end of the period than were living in poverty at the beginning.
Unlike what happened in previous economic downturns, the low-income rate for children remained stable during the 2008 and 2009 global recession. The fact is that Canada's social programs cushioned the impact of the global recession and prevented many more Canadian families and their children from falling into poverty.
Our government is taking a comprehensive approach to reducing poverty and is focusing on getting Canadians jobs and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, while providing increasing targeted support for those in need.
Helping to level the playing field with lower-income Canadians and moving more families and children out of poverty also includes direct support to families from the federal government. For example, we provide support through the Canada child tax benefit, the national child benefit supplement, the universal child care benefit and the child tax credit. This year the increase in the universal child care benefit will help families even more and the program is even broadened to cover children from the ages of 7 to 17. In all, the government provides over $15 billion per year in benefits for families and children.
We also work closely with governments in the provinces and territories, as well as with aboriginal organizations and voluntary group sectors to reduce poverty.
The annual Canada social transfer helps fund specific provincial and territorial programs targeted at families with young children, and represents a federal commitment that would raise to $1.3 billion next fiscal year.
The government is also helping families make better choices in areas such as nutrition. For example, proper food and nutrition are essential to growing children, no matter what their family income. Unfortunately, those living on lower incomes face particular challenges on that front.
Through Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, the government is spearheading several initiatives that will improve nutrition and enhance food security for children. Child nutrition and food security is linked to a variety of factors and meeting these challenges requires the contributions of multiple sectors working together.
Our government is working with aboriginal partners, provincial and territorial governments, and other sectors to look at how to best address these factors and to provide Canadian families with the information and tools they need to make healthy choices.
Having proper shelter is also essential.
Through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, also known as CMHC, the government has invested more than $16.5 billion in housing since 2006. Working with its partners, CMHC has helped nearly 915,000 Canadian individuals and families find adequate and affordable housing. Targeted groups include low-income seniors, persons with disabilities, recent immigrants and aboriginal Canadians.
Over the next five years, CMHC will invest a further $10 billion in making housing more affordable for all Canadians, particularly lower-income Canadians. This will support new affordable housing and existing social housing.
There is also a great deal of work being done by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. I can recall that when we first became government, our first minister addressed this with a $2 billion contribution to housing on reserve and off reserve, especially in northern aboriginal communities.
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development funds a number of programs that seek to create safe and affordable housing; improve access to high-quality child care and childhood nutrition and improve the economic security of families; and meet the unique needs of first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.
In addition to targeted support for those most in need, the government has also provided almost $160 billion in tax relief for Canadian families and individuals in the last eight years. Canadians at all income levels have benefited, but the greatest benefit has been to low- and middle-income Canadians. Overall, personal income taxes are now 10% lower, and more than one million low-income Canadians have been taken off the tax rolls altogether.
We know that many Canadians still face a variety of financial challenges. The major government initiatives I have just talked about will continue to help more and more people move up the income ladder.
In that respect, we are doing a great deal better than all our major competitors in the G7 or the OECD. Since the 2008 global recession, we have created over one million new jobs. That is 675,000 more jobs than we had before the economic downturn started, and a vast majority of those are new jobs. Over 80% of all jobs created have been full-time positions, and over 65% are in high-wage industries. We have weathered the global recession much better than most, and our economy continues to grow and provide good jobs for Canadians.
Both the IMF and OECD report that they expect Canada will have one of the strongest-growing economies in the G7 this year and next. We will also have a balanced budget next year, well before any of our trading partners. This is another sign that our economy is on the right track.
Again I would like to thank the hon. member for the motion. I hope that all members of the House will support it. I hope that all members will recognize the enormous strides that we have made in reducing poverty in this country and support our continuing efforts to do even more.