Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Kitchener—Conestoga.
I am happy to have this opportunity to speak to this motion today. Housing is a basic need, and I have no doubt that the importance of having this need met is recognized on all sides of this house. If we agree that all Canadians should have a realistic opportunity to own their own homes, and all Canadians should have access to safe and affordable housing, the question then becomes how we meet these goals. How do we empower vulnerable Canadians to help lift themselves out of poverty, and what action will have a long-lasting and meaningful impact?
To start, the very first line of this motion identifies a significant problem with the Liberal government's housing strategy. The problem is that 90% of the funding the Liberal government has announced is scheduled for far beyond the next federal election. This is not the first time we have seen this. There seems to be a pattern with the current Liberal government. The Liberals make a great big funding announcement with the intention of spending that money well beyond their mandate.
For the most part, what the Liberals have offered Canadians in their housing strategy are promises. Unfortunately, we know that failing to deliver on their promises is the norm. Therefore, action should be taken today in the medium term and in the long term to strengthen our communities. For this action to be successful, the federal government cannot go it alone.
The text of the motion we are debating today calls on the federal government to take specific action, but what it seems to be missing is the inclusion of the roles of other levels of government and the private sector in addressing housing needs in Canada. Social housing falls under provincial jurisdiction, and this is not recognized in the motion. The federal government certainly shares some of the responsibility when it comes to housing in Canada, but again, I would state that the exclusion, or even the downgrading, of the involvement of the provincial government from the motion before us is problematic.
Another concern that I know has already been raised by many of my colleagues today, but I would like to reiterate, is the language used in the text of the motion relating to housing being a human right. The legal implications of this language could be tremendous. The recognition of a right to housing in federal legislation again conflicts with jurisdiction on this issue. I would caution that its adoption could have many unintended consequences.
While this motion offers opportunities for the federal government to spend money, this approach is probably too simplistic. A discussion on access to safe and affordable housing must recognize that a need for housing is often a symptom of poverty. A fulsome debate must also consider poverty reduction and the barriers many face in lifting themselves out of poverty: education, addictions, health issues, disabilities and so on.
A strong economy is key to reducing poverty. In fact, a strong economy is key to making housing more affordable and accessible for all Canadians today and in the long term. First, any government-funded social program is dependent on a strong economy to ensure that funds are available in the long term. When the economy is succeeding, government revenues are available, but if we tax our economy to death and chase away investment and opportunities, the shelves will be bare for social programs. That is why it is so important to have a realistic plan, a plan to create jobs and opportunities for economic growth. Unfortunately, there is no such plan.
The Liberal government has been failing Canadians when it comes to the economy. Its high-tax agenda is chasing away business and investment opportunities. The energy sector is a perfect example of lost economic opportunity.
Prior to the current Liberal government, there were three private companies willing to invest in three pipeline projects. These projects would have created tens of thousands of jobs and generated billions of dollars in economic activity. However, now the Prime Minister's disastrous policies have chased away all of the investment interest. Not only is the government not succeeding in growing the economy, it is actually hindering it.
The average Canadian is paying more and higher taxes with less money in their pockets to spend on their priorities, which includes less money to spend on their rent or their mortgage. Canadians want to work, provide for themselves and make meaningful contributions to our communities. The federal government should not be creating barriers to that goal. Unfortunately, the failed policies of the Liberal government are hurting Canadians.
The availability of rental housing has also been part of the discussion today. If home ownership were encouraged and achievable for more Canadians, it would have the potential to address the vacancy rates in Canada for rental housing, but the Liberals have not encouraged home ownership. In fact, they have discouraged it. The current Liberal government made changes to mortgage rules that make it harder to qualify for a mortgage, and essentially make home ownership out of reach for many Canadians, particularly young Canadians. A federal housing strategy should also recognize the need for measures to increase affordable and responsible home ownership across the country.
When it comes to homelessness reduction, it is important to consider programs and strategies that have already seen some success. One such program is the housing first approach, which was introduced by our former Conservative government. This program reversed the traditional approach of addressing homelessness by providing a home first with no strings attached to a homeless individual and then made social programs and services available to them. The pilot program of this approach was successful in helping many move along the homeless continuum into independent housing and ultimately become self-sufficient. The success of this pilot program was followed with an expansion of it.
The expansion of the program and the housing first approach received widespread support from stakeholders across the country, including the support of the sponsor of the motion, the member for Saskatoon West. At the time, the member stated that, “We're most excited about the emphasis on housing first, getting people into safe, affordable housing and bringing support services around them so people can stay housed.”
This program was helping Canadians through proven, evidence-based homelessness reduction programs. If a program is helping to reduce homelessness, it should be continued and even expanded. That is why I, like many, was discouraged when the Liberals diverted 65% of the housing first investment target to other programs. While the Liberals' housing strategy commits a lot of taxpayer funds to address the need for housing in Canada, there is a reason to question the strategy's ability to make real progress in this area.
I thank the member for Saskatoon West for tabling this motion and providing the opportunity to have this important debate. Moving forward with measures that will help provide a better quality of life for vulnerable Canadians and all Canadians should always be a priority. Access to safe and affordable housing is essential to a better quality of life.
As the federal government looks to address the housing need in Canada, the focus should be on proven and evidence-based programs. We need to identify and remove barriers from home ownership. We need to take concrete action to support the Canadian economy, and we must acknowledge and address the cause of the housing need and not just address the symptoms. We have to not only respect the provincial jurisdictions over housing, but also work co-operatively with other levels of government and the private sector.
As I said at the beginning, let us look at solutions that can be implemented today and not down the road.