Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak today again about our budget. I have been talking with constituents in my riding of Hastings—Lennox and Addington about a few of the highlights from our fall fiscal update and it has been going over really well.
I hear all the time about how important the Canada child benefit has been for helping families. To take a snapshot, in the month of July of this year there were a total of 8,710 tax-free payments made in my riding, which benefited 15,860 children. The average payment was $610 for a total of over $5.3 million. This happens every month and it has been doing a lot of good by injecting money into our local economy.
I was impressed to hear the announcement that we will be expanding the tax-free Canada child benefit to keep pace with the increasing cost of living two years ahead of schedule. We can do that because our economic plan is working. The economy is booming, with over 500,000 jobs having been created since we came to office, most of them full time. I will get back to that.
I was reminded recently that it was close to this time two years ago that I was on the campaign trail in the town of Stirling in my riding. I was going door to door and came up to a playground that had several young mothers there with their children. I stopped to say hello and of course we talked about what our party was proposing to do to help families. The Canada child benefit was a huge hit and the reason is that low and middle-income families have needed extra help.
We promised to help families who needed it the most and we have kept that promise. The tax-free Canada child benefit has lifted over 300,000 kids out of poverty.
In a riding like mine with higher than average child poverty rates, this has had a huge impact. It has put more money into the pockets of those who need it the most. They have been able to spend it to put food on the table and clothes on their kids' backs, and pay for books, sports, arts programs, and broadband Internet.
This is so important since the data shows that with the rising cost of living, a family of four in the western part of my riding had to pay almost $1,400 more for groceries in 2016 than it did five years earlier.
The Hastings-Prince Edward poverty round table and Hastings-Prince Edward Public Health have rightly pointed out that income is one of the best predictors of health. We know that when money is tight, healthy food is one of the first things to be cut in order to pay rent and other bills. In order to save money, people may skip meals, eat fewer vegetables and fruit, drink less milk, and fill up on high-calorie, low-nutrient foods because those foods are cheaper.
The result of this unhealthy diet is an increased risk of chronic disease and poor growth and development in children. This affects everyone. In comparison to food-secure households, annual health care costs are 23% higher in households with marginal food insecurity and 121% higher in households with severe food insecurity in Ontario.
The Canada child benefit is tax-free money upfront so families can use it whatever way they want for their kids. For some that is as fundamental as putting food on the table and clothing on their kids' backs. For families in a stronger position, that can still mean help for sports or arts programs, or both. The point is, since it is not a tax credit that tends to only help families who already can afford to spend money up front, we are able to help even more families who need it most.
In the eastern part of my riding, the Food Policy Council for Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington has pointed out that 24.6% of all families in the area are single parent families, with 80% of these being female led.
Given that there is still an unacceptable pay gap where women in Canada are earning only 87¢ to every $1 earned by men, these mothers can use help. In the cases where it is the dads or grandparents, they are getting help as well.
Living under the low income cut-off after-tax group is 15.4% of the population of the Lennox and Addington area, and 25% of youth between the ages of 15-24 live under the low-income thresholds.
There is a clear need for help in my riding, and so we are helping to lift kids out of poverty.
Of all the things that our government has done, the Canada child benefit is the one that I am the most proud of. Even if it were for this measure alone, I hope that all members in the House will be supporting this fiscal update, but that is not all, there is more good news.
Combatting poverty and giving people the tools to find work is important to constituents in my riding. The Hastings-Prince Edward poverty round table has put together an employment and security working group to work on this issue. Our government will help. We know that individuals in families who are working hard to join the middle class should not have to struggle each month just to make ends meet.
We are proposing to strengthen the working income tax benefit. This is a refundable tax credit that puts more money in the pockets of low-income workers and gives people a little extra help as they transition to work. By letting low-income workers take home more money while they work, the working income tax benefit encourages more people to join the workforce and offers real help to nearly 1.5 million Canadians who are working hard to join the middle class.
We are investing an additional $500 million in the program every year starting in 2019. We will be working closely with the provinces and territories to find the best ways to expand this program and giving an update in our next budget. This is being well received. The Canadian Labour Congress has pointed that for the second year in a row the feds are taking steps to improve lives of low-income Canadians with the working income tax benefit. The National Housing Collaborative also pointed out that extra help for the working poor is welcome news in the fall economic statement.
Finally, I would like to return to how we are doing this. Our government's economic plan is working. We are putting money in the pockets of those who need it the most and working to rebalance so many inequities that exist in our society. We have improved the guaranteed income supplement for low-income seniors and strengthened the CPP. We cut taxes on the middle class and raised them on the wealthiest %1. We are investing in the infrastructure programs, innovation, and green technology, which is making our economy more resilient and creating the jobs of the future. We are also stimulating the economy through the Canada child benefit.
As a result, we are seeing Canada have the fastest economic growth in a decade and the best in the G7. That is excellent news for jobs with over 500,000 created since we came to office, and most of them full-time, including 35,000 created in the last month and 17,500 of those created under youth employment which is very positive and once again, something that is so important within our rural communities to try to create as much employment as we possibly can.
That is a plan that is worth supporting. Our infrastructure investments are really making a difference to increase the productivity of our businesses. We need to be able to make investments that increase productivity. We need to make investments that will decrease the inequalities that exist within our society. We need to increase investments into climate infrastructure, innovation, and resiliency so that we create an economy that is going to benefit all Canadians.
In the redistribution of that wealth through the Canada child benefit, through the working income tax benefit, through the increase to the guaranteed income supplement, we rebalance the distribution of wealth within our society that we have been talking about for over a generation that has gone too far in one direction. We need to balance the economy so that we can grow our middle class because when the middle class does well, then we all do well as Canadians, especially in our local economies.
The great thing about the Canada child benefit is that every cent of that money is spent in our local economies. If we talk about building rural sustainability, that is how we go about building sustainability in rural communities. Increases in the guaranteed income supplement, increases in the CPP, these are all things that are going to put money in the pockets of those who are going to spend it and that is great for our economy, great for creating jobs, and great for rural sustainability.