Mr. Speaker, it is good to see a steady hand back in the chair. I was concerned about the previous speaker who was sitting there, but order has been restored in the House. That is is the most controversial thing I may say in my speech, but I call it as I see it.
When I decided to run for politics, I had been working with a local organization for six years and was chair of that organization. It is called Quest Community Health Centre in St. Catharines and it provides primary health care to those who would not otherwise have access to it. It may seem that in a universal system of health care, everyone should be able to access primary care. We all have a health card in our pocket and we can get that level of treatment, but it was a surprise to me that it did not happen. Many people fell through the cracks and their primary source of treatment was the hospital, which is more expensive, less effective and leads to sicker people.
It gave me an opportunity over those six years to meet the clients at Quest Community Health Centre, those who had economic challenges, those who were homeless and living on the street, and those who had addictions, mental health or concurrent disorders. We talked a lot about the social determinants of health, meaning all of the factors in our lives that have an impact on our health. It is not just a matter of going to the hospital or seeing a doctor, because there are a lot of economic and socioeconomic factors that play into health.
One of the factors at the centre of all of our health is housing. Canadians across the country say that we need to do better on health, but we have to look at the socioeconomic factors around that. As I said, housing is one of those significant factors in that where we live within our community can almost determine what our life expectancy is. Those who are living in the urban centre of St. Catharines have a lower life expectancy than those living a mere 10 minutes away, where my family lives. That is shocking.
When we take the idea of housing as being at the centre of health care, we can apply it to so much more. We should be looking at housing as a centre of the debate on mental health, as a centre of the debates on poverty and the opioid crisis and the criminal justice system. There are no simple answers to any of these problems we are facing, but one of the easiest things we can do is to provide housing. This is what I brought forward.
In Niagara and this is true across southern Ontario, the wait lists for housing are staggering. It can take more than 10 years to find a single apartment through the Niagara region housing system. We should be shocked by this. We can say there is no cost to the taxpayer, but the costs of homelessness are huge. For all of the other issues I talked about, if we do not provide housing, the downstream costs are enormous.
It was exciting for me to go with that point through the election campaign, and I know my Conservative friends are very excited to hear about it, especially the member for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill.