Mr. Speaker, I rise for the first time in the House to speak to the assembled members. I welcome them back after the break and extend my congratulations and best wishes on the new mandates they have also received from voters in their ridings. I would like to acknowledge that.
I would also acknowledge that we gather here today on the official territories of the Algonquin. A practice that has become much more common out west and has now moved east is also to acknowledge the traditional territory on which one's riding is based, in my case the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, and before them the Nishnawbe.
It is important when we rise to speak that we keep in mind some of the needs of our aboriginal and first nation community members and fellow citizens, because the challenges put before the House by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will define the success of this Parliament, including the steps that we have already taken to initiate an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and the ongoing work that is being done on that. The work we are doing to fulfill the commitment to honour all recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission really give us an opportunity as a country to turn a new page. The throne speech speaks to this, but I think all of our hearts and minds speak to it as well. As we look at the events that took place over this last weekend in Saskatchewan, I think we are required to acknowledge and move forward on this agenda.
I would be remiss if I were not also to remind the House and the Speaker that I will be splitting my time with the member for Scarborough Centre. That piece of housekeeping seemed to have escaped my memory to this point. However, that is indeed what I will be doing.
I represent the riding of Spadina—Fort York. It is a new riding in downtown Toronto. It is one of 78 ridings that draw their names from our aboriginal history. “Spadina” comes from the Ojibwa word “ishpadinaa”, which means “the hill”. The hill refers to the old lake bed that is no longer in the riding. However, the street of Spadina runs up to Spadina House at the top of the hill near Casa Loma. It is an interesting street that has welcomed thousands of Canadians over time. It runs from the waterfront north into the rest of Ontario. It is an important street in so many ways because that immigrant experience defines the city that I come from. It defines my family and other families that call the riding home. It is an experience that is spoken to directly in this throne speech. It is not just the work we are doing on settling refugees and on welcoming immigrants to our city and our country, but also the work that we do to ensure that their aspirations and hopes match and meet those of multigenerational Canadians in finding a great future in the city and country. The throne speech speaks to that opportunity and lays the foundation, in my perspective, for that better future for all of us. Nowhere is that more specific than in the conversation about infrastructure.
Before I describe why the infrastructure components are so critical to my riding and this country, I would remind us all that it has been 97 days since the last election. That is all the time we have had so far. I realize that everyone wants every problem solved in the country within those 97 days. However, to put it in perspective, we were sworn in as a government just 81 days ago. To make that completely clear for all members, the election campaign was only three days shorter than that. In other words, we have now sat as a government for three days longer than the campaign. Although it has been a short period of time, it has been action-packed, with the progress on refugees, on the indigenous files, and on making sure that the budget consultations roll out and that we get into the meat and bones of this throne speech.
It really has been a short period of time. What it also highlights is that there is much time in front of us to get this work done. Therefore, I hope that we have the collaboration and co-operation of our colleagues across the House to provide good, strong criticism and also good, strong ideas coming forward to ensure that this throne speech is not only delivered with great flourish but also delivered to Canadians with great capacity so that we can change the future and the outcomes for so many in this country.
The riding I represent is a waterfront riding. It is probably the “tallest” riding in Canada in terms of its number of condominiums. However, it is also a riding with one of the poorest postal codes in this country, with a neighbourhood that has been bypassed for the last 10 years in terms of its housing, daycare, and social service needs. We have seen services disappear from this part of the riding. As a result, that part of the riding has struggled to keep pace with the growth that has been experienced in the rest of the riding, in particular on the issue of housing.
In downtown Toronto, in the riding that I represent, we are creating or probably will create this year more housing than most ridings create in a decade.
The expected population growth in my riding over the next five years is 137%. If we do not find a way to speak, not just to the cultural diversity of our cities, but also to the economic diversity of our cities, if we do not find a way to invest in that growth and create opportunities for new Canadians and multi-generational Canadians, for aboriginal Canadians, for folks who are born abroad or folks who are born in the city, if we do not find a way to embed in that program affordable housing and sustain the affordability of existing housing, people will not succeed in the city that I represent, in the riding that I have been sent here to talk about.
The housing component of infrastructure spending is profoundly important for my riding. The requirement that we get that money out the door as quickly as possible is good for the people who will live in the housing, or live in the repaired housing, which is perhaps the more pressing issue in some parts of Toronto. It is also the way of getting people back to work right across the country.
There is no project more job-intensive than housing. It is not just the construction jobs that are so dearly needed in all parts of this country, but it is the architects, the planners, the folks who furnish the housing, and the work that the factories do producing that furniture. It is the work that the electricians get, it is even the work that folks tending the gardens of some of these houses get as a result of the growth we can generate from housing. However, if we do not do it for everybody and only do it for some, the social problems we leave in the wake of a poor housing program are the costs that we quite often struggle to meet in this very House.
We have to reposition the way we talk about housing in this country, so that it is not just an infrastructure program. Housing has to be seen no longer as a problem to be solved, but the tool to solve our problems. If we get housing right, not only do we build stronger families and stronger communities, but we also start to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and unemployment. We can use housing to reduce the cost of health care, post-secondary education, and transportation.
When we build good, strong housing, we build good, strong cities. The challenge we have had surrendering housing to market forces is that we are starting to see slippage on all those issues. We can see it right across this country.
We talked to the mayor of Edmonton about the largest, most significant problem facing that city. One of the big problems they had over the last 10 years was that while they were creating all kinds of six-figure salary jobs in Edmonton, they could not find a way to create housing to house people with that salary. As a result, there was a housing crisis in Edmonton that saw affluent families displacing low-income families, pushing them further and further away from the city centre. Suddenly, transportation needs emerged.
When we talk about the challenge faced by seniors trying to age in place in Atlantic Canada, we find that we have housing but no people. We need to transition that dynamic. We need to find a way to solve those problems by investing in housing that allows people to age in place and that creates jobs, creating new opportunities for families to stay in Atlantic Canada and develop those economies. This is the infrastructure program writ large. It is fundamental to the success of this country to get that housing program up and running as quickly as possible.
This throne speech reinforces our commitment made during the campaign to $60 billion of new infrastructure money, a third of which is designated for social infrastructure, which is largely the housing program. It also talks about the $20-billion environmental green fund. Money from that fund can also be used to rehabilitate housing, making it more energy efficient and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and also delivering jobs and reducing the cost of housing.
When we drive solutions into the housing sector, and when we drive housing as a solution into the cities and communities across this country, the economy, the environment, the social outcomes of this country change. That is the heart and soul of this throne speech. Add to that the measures on reduction of poverty and tax relief for the middle class and tax relief and support for families. When we add it all in, it all starts to make sense. It is the foundation, the heart and the base of it all. It is building stronger housing programs to build stronger cities and communities, and delivering economic and social opportunities to millions of Canadians who live here now, as well as the millions more who are coming.