It is disappointing that the member from Aurora is laughing at an issue of homelessness when this is a serious discussion.
We went door to door and said that housing is at crisis levels in our community.
It did not get there overnight. It was governments of all political stripes, federal, provincial, municipal, that abandoned their responsibilities under housing. They did not do enough, and that has led us to the housing crisis we now face. People are waiting a decade to find affordable housing. The vacancy rate in St. Catharines has fallen below 2%, which makes it a crisis level.
I was excited last week to go to a new development at 527 Carlton Street in St. Catharines. It is the first affordable housing development built in St. Catharines by Niagara Regional Housing since the 1970s. It is almost criminal that we have ignored a crisis like this for so long. Through the national housing strategy, the federal government contributed $7 million to this project.
It was wonderful to meet with the residents, many of whom have been waiting a long time. Many of them had been living in substandard housing. It was wonderful to talk to them and see smiles on their faces. It is wonderful to know that government can help.
We hear a lot about cuts. We have to cut. Government is spending too much. We have to cut, cut, cut. This is what government spending looks like: being able to look at constituents who are smiling because they now have a place to call home. This is fundamental.
The amendments we made at committee stage on the national housing strategy recognize the importance of housing to the well-being of all people in Canada. They reflect the key principles of a human rights approach to housing that requires a national housing strategy to focus on improving housing outcomes for those in greatest need.
The national housing strategy act would establish a national housing council, with diverse representation, including people with lived experience of housing need or homelessness, to provide advice to the minister responsible for housing.
The amendments we are bringing at report stage on the national housing strategy would further entrench the commitment already made on the accountability of the proposed federal housing advocate, ensure greater accountability, enhance the advocate's role in researching systemic housing challenges, and empower the national housing council and give it more freedom to report to the housing advocate and to report findings to the minister.
If we are going to address this housing crisis, we need all levels of government to come together. I am proud to work with my mayor, Mayor Walter Sendzik, and our city council. They are passionate about the housing strategy. I hope our provincial government steps up, but I am worried that it will not.
As I only have a couple of minutes left, I would like to touch on the issue of infrastructure, which is important to all of our communities. Our communities are all facing infrastructure deficits from money that was not spent. At the end of the day, if there are infrastructure deficits and there is no help from the federal government, it ultimately means higher property taxes and higher water bills.
My worry at home is a project that happens every few years. I am talking about the Canada Summer Games. Niagara won the bid. The federal government stands ready to commit and to build, but the provincial government is absent. It refuses to come forward for Niagara to develop sports infrastructure.
When it came to Red Deer, Alberta, which hosted the last games, it got $80 million when two Conservative governments worked together. I still hold out hope that the Ford government is listening and cares about Niagara and wants to see this project move forward.