Madam Speaker, I am very proud and feel privileged to rise today to speak about Bill C-245.
As members know, I am from the riding of Saint John—Rothesay, which is in southern New Brunswick. I am very proud of that riding. It is a riding with many success stories, but it also has many challenges that beget opportunities on the poverty front.
This is why I feel privileged to speak to the private member's bill put forward by my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. I would like to thank the member for her leadership and for taking a stand on poverty reduction.
I had the opportunity to meet with my colleague face to face last week, and we talked about poverty, a national poverty reduction strategy, and our passion about helping those in need. We are both very aligned and agree that the federal government can lead the way in a national poverty reduction strategy. I look forward to working with the member hand in hand to help our government come up with the proper strategy.
Our government is working hard to reduce poverty from coast to coast to coast. When a colleague, especially one who is sitting on the other side of the House, rises to show the same dedication as we have, it is very encouraging. A big part of Bill C-245 is in tune with our agenda and with what we are aiming for, which is an inclusive society where everyone will be able to take part to the fullest.
For those who are not familiar with piece of legislation, I will explain what it is.
Bill C-245 is also known as the poverty reduction act. This act will provide not only for the development and implementation of a national strategy to reduce poverty in Canada, but also for the appointment of an independent poverty reduction commissioner. As well, it would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, to add “social condition” as a prohibited ground of discrimination. Finally, it would amend the Department of Employment and Social Development Act to establish a national council on poverty elimination and social inclusion.
This government is in agreement that we must reduce social inequality and build stronger communities. Today, it is hard to believe that there are more three million Canadians who are living in poverty. This is clearly unacceptable.
Let us take the year 2014, as an example, and look at some numbers from Statistics Canada. The figures show that 8.8% of the Canadian population lived in low income in 2014. In 2014, 8.5% of children aged 17 and under lived in low income.
Let us not forget seniors, because 1.3% of seniors in families lived in low income, and the rate for those living by themselves was close to 11.3%. Speaking of seniors, we have to keep in mind that they will account for close to one-quarter of our country's population by the year 2030, which is a staggering number.
When we look at this picture, we realize that the clock is ticking. As a government, as members of Parliament, we all need to work together. We need to act now on poverty reduction. We need to draw on the efforts of all Canadians to address these social and economic challenges, which is clearly reflected in Bill C-245.
The bill states that a national poverty reduction strategy must encourage the participation of Canadians, nonprofit organizations, and private sector suppliers in an effort to reduce poverty. We could not agree more.
Bill C-245 shows an understanding that the face of poverty is changing. Many groups are affected. I am thinking about youth, children, indigenous people, women fleeing from violence, veterans, and people living with a disability.
Bill C-245 states that a national poverty reduction strategy must take some specific factors into account. Here, I am talking about the way that poverty affects different genders, the specific needs of urban, rural, and remote communities, as well as the factors that put some individuals at higher than average risk of poverty.
On that last note, Bill C-245 does mention factors such as indigenous status, single parenthood, low-wage and precarious employment, immigration, lack of education, and prolonged illness and disability. In addition to all of that, Bill C-245 acknowledges that several provinces and some municipalities have either implemented or are delivering poverty reduction strategies. That is good news. Real work has been done here.
Now that we have looked at this piece of legislation more closely, we see how in tune it is with what our government is already doing to reduce poverty in Canada. For example, there is the Canada poverty reduction strategy, which Employment and Social Development Canada is currently working on. This strategy will support and be aligned with those that already exist at the provincial and municipal levels. It is clear and extremely important that all three levels of government are aligned and work together to reduce poverty across our country.
We will work in collaboration with our partners. They include all Canadians, all levels of government, non-profit organizations, academics, the private sector, and, of course, people who have experienced or who are experiencing poverty. It is absolutely crucial that we involve those on the front lines and those experiencing poverty across our country. This problem will not be solved from the top down.
In fact, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development recently appeared before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, also known as HUMA, which I am very proud to say that I, along with the member opposite, are members of. He tabled a discussion paper entitled “Towards a Poverty Reduction Strategy”. This document was designed to open a dialogue on the subject of poverty reduction in Canada. Basically, it will help us and aid us in developing a national poverty reduction strategy.
That is not all. The minister also recently launched the tackling poverty together project. This important research project will consist of six extensive case studies across Canada. I am thrilled and very pleased that the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development came to my riding of Saint John—Rothesay to announce this wonderful project and that my riding will be included in this project. It will help us better understand the impact of poverty reduction programs in communities that have identified poverty as an important issue.
Now, let us talk about the issue of housing. To lift people out of poverty, as a national government we have to address it. There is no other way around it. In fact, I would like to note that Bill C-245 also acknowledges the need to address this issue. Canadians know that housing matters. Unfortunately, too many of them are unable to find or afford a decent place to live. Again, that is unacceptable in our country.
Therefore, we are developing a national housing strategy to chart the course for better housing, and socio-economic and environmental outcomes for all Canadians, including those living in indigenous and northern communities. This strategy will also rely on existing collaboration between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. I am glad to highlight the fact that consultations are already under way. We are reaching out to get Canadians' views on a vision for housing so that all Canadians can have access to housing that is sustainable, affordable, inclusive, and flexible.
Our government is fighting poverty through different ways and through different initiatives. In particular, there is the Canada child benefit, the increased guaranteed income supplement for seniors living alone, as well as our investments in social infrastructure.
We are working hand in hand with our partners to reduce poverty coast to coast. This bill would add greatly to our progress and contribute to our efforts, which we will make even stronger in the weeks and months ahead.