Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-29, an act to implement provisions of budget 2016.
I would like to focus on my riding of York Centre, the wonderful and diverse community I represent, and how measures in the budget implemented by this bill are helping the middle class in my riding.
I am a firm believer in engaging with constituents, not just at election time but between elections, and hearing about what matters to them so I can bring their priorities and concerns to this House and represent them fully. Just this past weekend, I held what I call “coffee with your MP” in my riding. The idea is that I sit in four coffee shops for an our each and invite members of the community to come and meet with me to talk about their concerns. It is a wonderful way to directly engage with my constituents and to also support local small businesses.
Each day I meet and talk to people from York Centre and beyond, and they tell me how positive they are feeling about this government's actions so far. I talk to parents of young children who now have the support they need to make ends meet. The Canada child benefit introduced in this budget, the benefits that would be indexed to inflation by this bill, is a revolutionary program to help the middle class and those working hard to join it.
I have met far too many families who constantly struggle to keep up with expenses. These are single mothers who face the challenge of supporting their children on a single income, and parents who face stagnant wages as the cost of raising their families increases. This is why the government introduced the new Canada child benefit. It is to give Canadian families more help with the high cost of raising children.
The Canada child benefit is simpler. Most families receive a single payment every month, tax free. Families do not have to pay taxes on payments. It is better targeted to those who need it most. Low and middle-income families get higher payments, and those with the highest incomes receive less than under the previous system.
It is also much more generous. Families benefiting will see an average increase of almost $2,300 in the 2016-17 benefit year. With the Canada child benefit, nine out of 10 Canadian families are receiving higher monthly benefits, and hundreds of thousands of children are being lifted out of poverty. To ensure that benefits match the cost of living, these benefits will be indexed. I cannot stress enough how important this investment is for the middle class of Canada and particularly for my riding of York Centre.
An incredible number of young families make York Centre their home and raise their children there, but as our community grows, our infrastructure has to grow and adapt with it. As I talk to my constituents, many of the concerns they raise relate to how their neighbourhoods are affected by aging infrastructure and how to adapt to growing density in their area. They are concerned about transit, about being able to get to work on time and about getting home at a reasonable hour.
It is unreasonable for someone who lives in York Centre and works in downtown Toronto to have a two-hour commute, when it should take less than 45 minutes. It is unreasonable to wait in traffic for an hour to move half a kilometre. This is not hyperbole. It is the daily reality faced by too many of my constituents.
On Dufferin Street at Finch Avenue, thoroughfares in York Centre, there is near constant gridlock. Residents in my riding waiting for a bus can wait for almost an hour to find one they can board. Residents suffer, businesses suffer, and our economy suffers because of these harsh realities. This intersection is also listed every year near the top in the annual CAA worst road for driving survey, another manifestation of our crumbling infrastructure.
There is a consensus that investing in infrastructure is the right thing to do, which is yet another reason I am proud of this government's investment in our country's infrastructure.
When we invest in our country and our communities, we are not just helping Canadians now but are investing in greater economic growth for the long term. The benefits will be felt by our children and by our children's children.
Budget 2016 is committed to doubling infrastructure investments over the next 10 years, including dedicated funding for public transit. We are working in partnership with all three levels of government to build rapid transit that will benefit communities for years to come.
What does this look like? In York Centre, we are seeing investments in transit across the board. The Spadina subway, which ends in my riding at Downsview, is being extended with federal funding, and we can expect it to open next year. This is just the beginning. The ambitious 10-year infrastructure investment presented by the government is a bold plan that will spur growth and help this country and York Centre get moving again.
It is not just transit. Community infrastructure and investments in affordable housing will help make our cities and communities more liveable and more affordable.
York Centre has an aging stock of affordable housing, and families are deeply affected by the lack of availability. There is a 97,000-family wait list for Toronto community housing. As our population ages, we are facing shortages of affordable housing that meets seniors' needs as well.
I hear these concerns nearly every day from constituents concerned about being able to afford retirement, both those looking to retire and those who are currently retired. They worry about being able to stay in their homes. That is why I am pleased that budget 2016 is investing $2.3 billion over two years to give Canadians greater access to more affordable housing.
Far more than just bricks and mortar, infrastructure is a key driver of any community's social development. That is why the government recognizes that investing in infrastructure is essential to equipping municipalities with the building blocks they need to support a high standard of living for all Canadians.
Investing in public infrastructure is about creating good, well-paying jobs. It is about protecting the environment and improving public health. It is about developing recreational and cultural centres where people can enrich their lives and strengthen community ties.
I was privileged to announce back in June funding for the Jewish community centre's new campus in York Centre. This investment will lead to an incredible number of community resources being made available to young families, students, and seniors: fitness and recreation programs and facilities, health and wellness programs, arts and culture, and early child education. Healthy, active, well-connected communities are happier communities, and this investment will make a real difference in the lives of those who live and work in York Centre and North Toronto.
On a personal note, when I first moved here from Scotland as a teenager, my mother and I frequented the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre where this expansion is taking place. It was an essential resource for us when we felt like strangers in a big city, a feeling I know is shared by so many new immigrants today, many of whom call York Centre home. I remember the fun I had taking drama classes and doing sports programs in the gym. My own kids shared that positive experience there as well.
As MPs, we know the significant needs that exist among young families, new immigrants, and seniors, to name just few of the groups that will immediately benefit from the investment in our community infrastructure.
I think I have made clear the benefits of this government's economic plan as laid out in budget 2016 that would be implemented by Bill C-29. I am proud of the investments we are making and will continue to make in strengthening and growing our economy.