Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in favour of the budget implementation act to implement the second phase of the plan that the minister and government laid out for Canadians in budget 2017. Two years into our mandate from Canadians, it is abundantly clear that the plan we laid out, which the Minister of Finance has been executing, is working. In our riding of St. Catharines, we do not have to look far to see the real impact that our policies are having on our community.
Prior to and since my election, I have had the opportunity to work with many people in great organizations. An example of that is the YWCA Niagara Region, whose representatives I will be meeting later today. I look forward to talking to them about the great work they do in Niagara and across the country. However, prior to my election, they ran an excellent program known as the cardboard house. They set up a cardboard house. We were able to walk through the few rooms in this small house and see the statistics on the poverty levels in Niagara. Prior to my election, one statistic that caught my eye was child poverty in Niagara. That number was 25%. Of the children in the Niagara region, 25% were living in poverty. That is unspeakably and shockingly high.
I was proud to be part of the campaign with our Prime Minister that recognized the plight of child poverty in Canada. During the previous election campaign, we committed ourselves to implementing a policy that would help raise some of those vulnerable Canadian children out of poverty, and in December 2015 we introduced the Canada child benefit as one of our first pieces of legislation as a government. Since July 2016, when the CCB came into effect, it has been helping hundreds of thousands of Canadian children across the country. In St. Catharines alone, as of July 2017, over 15,100 children have received this new and tax-free benefit. In St. Catharines, payments average $600 per month, amounting to more than $5.4 million dedicated to helping some of the most vulnerable and to making life a little easier for middle-class families and those working hard to join them. This is an example of our government listening to Canadians.
This past summer I had an opportunity to participate in a fundraiser run by the YWCA Niagara Region. Prior to that fundraiser, it invited me back to the cardboard house, which was in the Pen Centre, a local mall in St. Catharines. I looked back again through the statistics, and many of them were too high. A lot more work needs to be done. The one statistic that caught my eye was that child poverty in Niagara was no longer 25% but 15%. As I said, that number is still too high, but it is a 40% reduction in child poverty in St. Catharines and the Niagara region within two years. We cannot argue with statistics. It's basic math: the more money we put into the hands of middle-class families and of those who are struggling, the more we reduce poverty. This is the result we get when we listen to Canadians and put in place a plan that is in the best interests of the country.
Reducing poverty and bolstering the middle class was a central tenet of our plan. It was at the core of budget 2016 and continues to be a core guiding principle of budget 2017 and the budget implementation act we are debating today. We do not have to look far to see supportive statements indicating that our plan is working, but I think one supportive statement in particular bears discussion. The Governor of the Bank of Canada is responsible for setting the monetary policy of our central bank. His job is essential to the successful operation of our economy, and his opinion holds enough weight to shift the entire stock market. He is independent, but was appointed on the advice of the former government. During his remarks of July 12, he noted that our economy was strengthening and the economic outlook strong. However, it is interesting to see his reasons for making those remarks. He credited our government's commitment to targeted stimulus spending as the reason for continued growth in our economy. He noted specifically that the Canada child benefit was “highly stimulative”.
We cannot ask for much more validation than that. The Bank of Canada governor, appointed by the previous Conservative prime minister, has credited our plan for growing the economy, which is exactly what we said it would do.
Perhaps the opinion of the Bank of Canada governor is not enough, so let us hear from Greg from St. Catharines.
I ran into Greg on the streets of St. Catharines. He said hello to me and said “Thank you, Chris.” I was perplexed by that and asked why he had said that. He told me that it was because of the Canada child benefit.
Greg's daughter and grandson live with him. While his daughter works, he takes the opportunity to spend a lot of time with his grandson. It is evident the money his daughter receives from the Canada child benefit makes life easier for the entire household. They have more money for groceries, activities, making things just a little easier day by day. These are real constituents benefiting from our plan.
If the governor's comment and Greg's story are not enough, perhaps we should talk about Laura.
Laura is a a single mom in St. Catharines. She works full time, but despite working full time and being a single mom, she gives a lot back to the community. As many parents can attest to, life is hard enough when they have kids. Obviously, as we have talked about on all sides, it is more difficult when there is just one parent. However, for all the single parents out there, life is not always so easy. The CCB helps supplement her income, allowing her to put money where it needs to go, allowing kids to be kids, to play sports, and enjoy outing with friends.
Again, the proof is in the testimonials, and the proof is crystal clear that our plan is working. Bill C-63, which would implement the next phase of budget 2017, will continue to improve the lives of everyday Canadians.
I want to turn for a moment to talk about poverty on a wider scale.
Last week, the finance minister tabled the fall economic update, which included further measures to boost the Canada child benefit. This will continue to contribute positive results to the economy.
However, the minister also made note of a new commitment to the working income tax benefit. Addressing poverty on a wide scale requires addressing the core of the problem. While it was announced that 450,000 new jobs were created since late 2015 and we had the strongest economy in the G7, we must dedicate resources to those Canadians who are down on their luck and need help. The working income tax benefit does just that.
Utilized as a refundable tax credit, the working income tax benefit provides important income support, helping supplement the income of low-income earners. By allowing low-income workers to keep more of their paycheques, the benefit encourages people to enter the workforce and allows them to establish a level of stability, decrease their need for social assistance, and to get back on their feet to break the cycle of poverty.
This has been our goal since the election, advancing an agenda that would serve to expand the middle class and make the lives of Canadians families a little easier.
To recap, today we are debating legislation that would implement the next phase. Our CCB has been successful in its intent to reduce poverty of over 300,000 children. We have witnessed the impact it is having on middle-class families and, as such, we have committed to bolstering it further by tying it to inflation a year early, adding an additional $5.6 billion in support over the next six years.
As I mentioned, our economy is first in the G7 with respect to growth, and the Bank of Canada governor has clearly stated that our policies have contributed to the strength of our economy. Over 450,000 jobs have been created since late 2015 and we are expanding the working income tax benefit to help some of our most vulnerable, giving them the opportunity to regroup and get back on their feet, while not sinking them further into poverty.
These are the types of commitments and policies Canadians expect. The people of St. Catharines have had a direct benefit from our policies. I am proud to be part of that plan and carry this forward. I encourage all members to vote in favour of Bill C-63.