Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in today's debate, which has been very lively.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk about our efforts to ensure that Canadian seniors enjoy a good quality of life. I am also pleased to note that my colleagues in the opposition do not want any burden to be placed on our seniors. I agree with them wholeheartedly.
During the last campaign and every time I go out and about in my riding, Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, I speak with seniors about their ambitions and their vast knowledge, which they so enjoy passing on. I believe that including our seniors is crucial to the well-being of Quebec and Canadian society.
As everyone knows, our government is doing everything it can to allow all Canadians, including seniors, to participate fully in society and in the economy.
Currently one in seven Canadians is over the age of 65. In 2030, which is soon, it is estimated that there will be 9.5 million seniors in Canada and that they will make up nearly one-quarter of the Canadian population. In 2030, I will be one of those seniors.
Seniors are among the most important members of our society. As we all know, they are very much engaged in their families and contribute actively to their communities and our economy. That said, seniors, particularly those with low incomes, are also among the most vulnerable members of our society.
We are proud to say that Canada is one of the countries with the lowest low-income rate for seniors. Indeed, the most recent data indicate that in 2014, only 3.9% of them were considered low-income. However, Statistics Canada tells us that some 212,000 seniors are still living below the poverty line. These important Canadians are struggling to make ends meet at a point in their lives when most of them can no longer work. I think we all need to agree that no one should have to grow old in poverty or in isolation. I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of this issue for our government.
Our government believes that all Canadians deserve to retire with respect and dignity. They should also have some peace of mind knowing that the government will help them make ends meet. We are talking about Canadians who worked hard their entire lives and who contributed their fair share to the tax system. When they retire, it is up to us to give them the support they need in recognition of their contribution to Canadian society during their years of work. Budget 2016 included important measures that sought to do just that.
The previous government pushed back the age of eligibility for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement from 65 to 67. One of the first things we did was to correct that situation and bring the eligibility age back to 65 for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.
We believe that someone who works their entire life and contributes to our economy and our society deserves a secure and dignified retirement. Seniors do not deserve to be told to keep working for two more years to qualify for their pension. Every Canadian should have the chance to live without worrying that they will not be able to make ends meet.
That is why we increased the guaranteed income supplement by 10% for low-income seniors living alone, which was very well received in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles. As we know, the guaranteed income supplement is an important tool for reducing poverty among seniors. It will give one million of our most vulnerable seniors almost $1,000 every year. We believe that this measure will lift 13,000 of the most vulnerable Canadians out of poverty.
I would like to remind the House that pensioners and seniors are also fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends, and neighbours. No one wants their friends or family members to suffer and clearly no one wants to find themselves in a difficult situation in the future.
That is why we are also going to ensure that the old age security program will continue to provide adequate support for the most vulnerable seniors by indexing it to the cost of living. This was raised by groups in my riding and several other Canada-wide associations.
We will index the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement benefits to reflect the increase in the cost of living that seniors face. With respect to income security, our government is currently working to strengthen the Canada pension plan. I would like to assure the House that we will work with our provincial and territorial counterparts and that we will also honour the close relationship between this plan and the Quebec pension plan.
I am proud to say that we have kept our promises to seniors. Other key initiatives, such as the Canadian poverty reduction strategy, will also have a big impact. Last year's budget also included an investment of more than $200 million over two years in support of the construction, repair, and adaptation of affordable housing for seniors.
However, financial security is not the only measure of a happy life. We all hope to continue to be active and to contribute to our family life and to our community as we age. One way to succeed is through the new horizons for seniors program, which supports projects led or inspired by seniors who make a difference in the lives of others in their communities.
Not only do these projects promote volunteerism, which seniors in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles are quite involved in by the way, and mentoring among seniors, but they also help many seniors stay active and engaged as well as keeping them from the dangers of social isolation. To date, 7,000 projects across the country have been approved, and six were approved in my riding since I took office.
As well, in recent weeks, I announced two grants under this program in Deux-Montagnes to support two projects created by and for seniors. I can tell the House that our seniors are motivated to help their neighbours and to make our communities better places to live.
All this clearly demonstrates our commitment to seniors. I am proud to say that the important work we are doing for Canadian seniors will continue after the budget is announced tomorrow. Our government is taking important and decisive action to provide seniors with the support they deserve. We will continue to do so in the coming year.