Mr. Speaker, the ability to talk about housing is the reason I sought election to federal office. The ability to form a policy that would once and for all put behind us the days when there was no national housing strategy is the reason that I sought elected office.
I could not be prouder of the last budget that was presented in this House by our government because it delivers that. It not only delivers the resources and the time frame to deal with this issue comprehensively, but the government has been working tirelessly over the last several months to make sure it consults with provinces, municipalities, people with lived experience, front-line shelter workers, everybody, to make sure that this is put in place.
The trouble with this notion, the slogan in this campaign around the right to housing, is that it frames it in a legal context. It ends up with the slogan being realized but not with housing necessarily being built. The worst part is that the right to housing does not necessarily guarantee those needing it the right sort of housing.
There are empty houses in this country that we could move people to, based on the argument presented by the opposition. The trouble is that the commute would make it useless. People would end up living in deserted villages on the east coast trying to get to work on the west coast. People could be living in the south when they have school to go to in the north.
The issue is to build a national housing strategy that is comprehensive and that works right across the full spectrum of housing needs. That is the central goal of this government as it pursues 10-year agreements with the provinces and territories, and long-term agreements with aboriginal partners, both on and off reserve, in urban settings and in rural communities.
We need to build a housing policy that works as well for the people living on the street in the south as it does for people living in crowded environments in the north. There is a rural program. There is an urban programs. There are northern programs. There are indigenous programs led by indigenous leaders in the housing sector. This is the goal of the government.
This notion that the problem can be solved by making a legal argument to the courts is going to leave people in the courthouse, not in their own housing. The act of housing is not simply building housing, it is moving people, with care, into the appropriate spot so they are safe and secure in their tenure.
If we read the UN report on housing, it is not simply about embracing a set of rights, it is about creating those policies which deliver those securities and those opportunities to people as a fundamental tenet of being a citizen of the country.
I would argue further, on the legal front, that if we want to look to the charter and to the rule of law around housing, if we stop looking at it as a commodity that must be provided, and instead as a service that people must be partnered with and delivered on, we end up looking at the charter from the perspective of dignity, of the right to health, of the right to security and safety. The best way to achieve those goals is with the national housing strategy, and that is why our government has embraced it as such.
Our government is in the process of finalizing those negotiations with provinces and territories to deliver on the $11.2 billion set out for new housing in the federal budget. The government has additionally announced $10.9 billion in below-market mortgage guarantees and loans, which is a foundation of the co-op program as it existed in the early eighties, a program that was started by the Liberal government. As well, more than $5 billion has been set for indigenous services and housing, where many communities need both the infrastructure and the housing simultaneously to make it safe and secure for people who live there.
The government is not done with that. There are additional measures being taken which were introduced in our very first budget. The effective housing budget in this country was doubled from $2.1 billion to about $4.8 billion. Also, in the last budget there was a guarantee that the operating agreements that were due to expire under the previous government would no longer be allowed to expire. They will be renewed and replaced with new ones that give permanence and security to people living in public housing to this very day.
My question for the party opposite, as it pursues this slogan and pursues this right that is not going to deliver housing to people in real time with real needs in a real way, as it pursues this as the focus of its housing policy, as it talks about the challenges facing people, is why is it constantly getting in the way of programs that are delivering real housing to real people? Last year, the budget was filibustered by the party opposite. Those are real dollars that, if executed, could have delivered shelter to people. Instead, the party opposite chose to politic instead of produce housing.
The other problem I have with the way this bill is being presented is that the party opposite thinks that by talking to a lawyer, one is going to get a house all of a sudden. The reality is that with building out the comprehensive housing program, which deals with everything from the most vulnerable on the streets to those who need supportive housing, social housing, affordable housing, low-income homeowners who need opportunities, to those who need to make sure their investment and mortgage is carefully cared for, all of those programs are currently under way and in negotiation and consultation with all of our partners across the country in delivering it.
Why the party opposite is so focused on talking about rights instead responsibilities is beyond me. Our government has taken responsibility. Our government is taking action. Our government is delivering housing. Our government is putting this country in a position where no longer will we be able to say that the federal government is absent on this file but rather has taken a leadership position on this file.
If people talk to indigenous leaders, talk to municipal leaders, talk to provincial governments, but more importantly, talk to the people who provide housing, who are on the front lines of the housing crisis across this country and have lived experience, they know which government is acting. They know which government is respecting their rights. They know which government has now seen housing as a tool of health care to deliver the full rights of citizenship to every citizen, because this government has not only acted but has continued to act. It will not rest until the national housing strategy is established, the full funding is there, and we are set on a 10-year course to once again be proudly building and supplying housing for all who need it, in appropriate ways, in appropriate settings, with appropriate supports. That is what this government is doing.
I am still surprised that the party opposite is opposing this. I am still shocked that it cannot and will not support these investments and this process. Instead, it sits on the sidelines critiquing it and pushing people toward the courts instead of toward real solutions in real time for real people.
That is what our government has done. We are proud to get that done. We are proud to work with those people, all of them, across the entire sector, to deliver on a national housing strategy. I look forward to their questions.