Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to rise on traditional territory that the Algonquin people have called home for generations upon generations to speak on Bill C-97, the budget implementation act, 2019, No. 1, and specifically about the amendments our government is putting forward for the national housing strategy act. We are enshrining into law the right to housing as a human right and requiring every future federal government to develop and maintain a national housing strategy and to be accountable to Canadians.
Since we formed government in 2015, we have stayed focused on a plan to grow the middle class and support those working hard to join it. That plan is working.
One million jobs have been created over the past three and a half years. Middle-class Canadians are paying lower taxes. The Canada child benefit has cut the child poverty rate in the country by 40%, and 825,000 Canadians are no longer living in poverty. More than one million families have a safe and affordable roof over their heads because of the investments our government has made in housing. That is 1,432 more families in my riding of Peterborough—Kawartha with that safe and affordable roof over their heads, we are just getting started.
In November 2017, we announced Canada's first-ever national housing strategy, a 10-year plan, with $40 billion invested, to give more Canadians a place to call home.
The national housing strategy is built around the fact that housing is a human right. The strategy is grounded in the principles of inclusion, accountability, participation and non-discrimination. It will contribute to helping Canada meet its sustainable development goals by 2030, and affirms the commitment we made 40 years ago when we ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
In budget 2019, we took our commitment to housing even further. We are investing an additional $10 billion in the rental construction financing initiative, which will help people who rely on rental and social housing to find more housing opportunities. We have introduced the first-time homebuyer incentive, which will help more Canadians achieve the dream of owning a home.
Thanks to these and other investments, the national housing strategy is now a 10-year, $55-billion plan, and we are seeing the fruits of our commitment in new and renewed housing units across the country.
Next year, the Canada housing benefit will come into effect. This is an additional $2,500 a year for low-income Canadians. It is a portable fund that will follow them wherever they choose to live to ensure they have greater access to affordable housing.
Our government's investments in housing are already at unprecedented levels. However, that is not the only reason the national housing strategy act represents such a historic step in giving more Canadians a place to call home. What makes the national housing strategy act truly transformational for Canadians is that it recognizes the human rights-based approach to housing that underlies the national housing strategy and enshrines it into law.
During the committee stage of Bill C-97, our government put forward significant amendments to recognize that the right to adequate housing was a fundamental human right, affirmed in international law. We recognize that housing is critical not just to the well-being of all Canadians, but to building sustainable, inclusive communities. We have ensured that Canada's first-ever national housing strategy is not also the last, by requiring that every future federal government develop and maintain a national housing strategy that takes into account the key principle of housing as a human right.
Today is a historic day for housing in Canada because we are introducing amendments to the national housing strategy act that will further entrench and protect the commitments we have already made. These amendments would ensure greater accountability and they would give vulnerable Canadians a greater voice in housing decisions that affect them.
The national housing strategy act also calls for the creation of a federal housing advocate, supported by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Thanks to today's amendments, we are enhancing the advocate's role in identifying and researching systemic housing challenges. The advocate will report to the minister responsible for housing on these issues. Its recommendations will be tabled in Parliament, and the minister and the government will be required to respond.
The federal housing advocate will be able to consult with vulnerable Canadians, people with lived experience and experts to better understand the impact of housing need and homelessness.
The national housing strategy act would create a national housing council supported by CMHC, which will act as a focal point for housing policy discussions on the national housing strategy and will advise the minister on how to improve housing outcomes. With today's amendments, we are empowering the national housing council with even more freedom to support the federal housing advocate and to report on the findings to the minister responsible.
Today's amendments detail how the minister and the government will be required to report back to the House and to Canadians on the recommendations they receive. Simply stating that housing is a human right means nothing unless there are robust accountability and reporting mechanisms in place. With these amendments, we are doing precisely that.
These changes, to say nothing of the national housing strategy itself, came about as a result of cross-Canada consultations with thousands of people from all walks of life. Their stories, their experiences and their challenges, along with their expertise, provided us with a fuller understanding of the state of housing in Canada today.
While I am proud to say that our investments have made a significant impact on giving more Canadians a place to call home, we recognize there is much more work to do. It is thanks to the community of stakeholders, of people with lived experience, those in housing need and experts, that we are able to take the historic steps we are taking today.
I have to take this opportunity to thank my constituents in Peterborough—Kawartha for their contributions to the housing strategy development process, the minister responsible for this file and, of course, the member for Spadina—Fort York, who is forever a champion for safe, affordable housing in Canada.
Today's amendments fulfill one of Canada's key international commitments. We are a signatory to the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. As such, we have a responsibility to meet one of the covenant's core commitments: to progressively realize the right to adequate housing as part of an adequate standard of living for our citizens.
Today's amendments also take us further in fulfilling our promise to Canadians. When we were elected in 2015, we pledged to give more Canadians a place to call home. We promised to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable people and communities. With the national housing strategy, and now with the national housing strategy act, we are fulfilling those promises.
No other federal government has taken such a comprehensive, long-term approach to housing policy. Never before has a rights-based approach to housing been part of housing policy in this country. These are major milestones that will improve the lives of Canadians, now and for generations to come.
Personally speaking, when my family first moved to Peterborough, we did not have a place to call home. We lived in a shelter provided by the YWCA. We benefited from social housing soon after. It was having that access to safe, secure housing that allowed my family and me to put our lives back together and to feel like we have a place we can call home, and a community in which we belong.
On behalf of my family and so many millions of Canadians who have been transformed by access to housing services and by housing workers in this country, I would like to thank those who have come before us, those who have contributed to the national housing strategy and the national housing strategy act, the team that has developed this really smart approach to lifting Canadians out of poverty and creating a stronger middle class and, of course, every single member of the House who will rise in support of this transformational bill.