Madam Speaker, I am really happy that we are having this debate in the House today. It has been very interesting to hear everyone talking about the economy. It is very important to their communities.
In my community the issue of affordability and the issue of how to deal with child poverty are issues that come up frequently. We are tackling a lot of these issues today, and that is very helpful.
When I look at the wording of the motion, one thing that is disappointing is that it is very focused on getting information about the negatives. We do need to know the downturns, but if we are going to chart a path forward, we also have to know what we are doing right.
There is a glass that is half full or half empty. Somewhere in there is water in a glass. Let us look at it. Let us look at what is there and where we are going.
I would say that yes, recent events have meant that we are in unusual times. That is going to have to be taken into account when we are looking at the budget and when our government is creating its budget. Let us also look at where we have gone and where we are going.
Today, we are facing challenges that we could never have foreseen last fall. The world has changed a lot in the last couple of months but, despite all that has transpired, as we go into the budget process, we are in a good position. We are confident we can continue to plan to invest in Canadians and to keep Canadians working. That is something that I know everyone in this House cares about.
Our fundamentals are strong. We have heard about that from many members who spoke before me. Canada's economy is sound and growing at a solid pace. As has been pointed out as well, economic growth in Canada is expected to be one of the fastest growing among G7 countries.
What I would like to begin with is something I feel has the biggest impact in my community, across the city of Toronto and across our country, and that is the impact of the Canada child benefit on responding to child poverty. It has been tremendous. We do not actually talk about that enough.
When I talk with community members, they tell me they have seen the impact in their own lives. They have seen the impact of the ability to buy warm clothes for their children during the winter, their ability to buy healthy food and their ability to register their kids for programs.
This is something that really hits home for me because before I was elected I had a conversation that really stood out as far as a person expressing their needs is concerned. This conversation was with a woman who talked about wanting to register her daughter for soccer.
At the time we had a child fitness tax credit, but the problem was she did not have the money in hand to be able to pay for the registration or to pay for the soccer cleats. Therefore, she did not benefit from that tax credit and her child was not able to play soccer. It is really and truly a terrible thing that she was faced with that decision between healthy food and registering her child for soccer. She could not do it.
I sometimes hear from across the way reminders of the child fitness tax credit. Well, it did not help people in my community who are struggling to make ends meet, but the Canada child benefit has put money back into people's pockets. It has had a very true and important impact on child poverty for families across this country.
The Canada child benefit is non-taxable and it is indexed. That is what poverty activists were asking for. They were asking that it be indexed and they would respond to it. Now people like the person I was talking about are doing better because they have the money directly in their pockets. It is not just about activities. The Canada child benefit is directly impacting child poverty across our country.
Statistics Canada, in February 2019, put out a survey. It found that in 2017 there was an increase in the median after-tax income of Canadian families and unattached individuals of 3.3%. For the two prior years there had been no growth. Part of that was higher wages being paid by Canadian employers, but the other part that was having an impact was the Canada child benefit.
One of the most interesting things for me, because I am very interested in food policy, is the impact of the Canada child benefit on food insecurity in our country. Anecdotally, when I have spoken with people who work in our local food banks and food support programs, they have told me they have seen fewer families with children coming to the food banks. That is an amazing thing.
What was really important to me was to see that there has been a study done specifically on this issue. Valerie Tarasuk is from the University of Toronto and she is an expert in food security issues. She and Erika M. Brown of the University of California in Berkeley did a study called “Money speaks: Reductions in severe food insecurity follow the Canada Child Benefit”.
In their conclusion, they stated:
...we identified improvements to overall food security status among Canadian households with children across the income spectrum following the implementation of CCB. Decreases in the probability of experiencing severe food insecurity were significant and more pronounced with declining economic circumstance, suggesting that CCB, and more specifically, increases to the country's child benefits, disproportionately benefited vulnerable households.
As long as CCB benefits are indexed to inflation...we anticipate that these improvements will persist.
That is a tremendous thing. If members are interested in food security and these issues, this is very important.
In addition, Statistics Canada recently put out Canada's official poverty dashboard, which gives a snapshot of income security and poverty across our country. It shows that Canada's poverty rate dropped from 12.1% in 2015 to 8.7% in 2018.
Now, there is still more to do. I was talking about a glass being half empty or half full. There is still some air in there to fill it with more water. However, we have still seen a tremendous impact in our own communities. I certainly see it in mine. I see the need, the continuing need, but I see that there are tangible improvements. I want to continue to work on this with my Liberal colleagues and my colleagues across the way, because all of us are here to make sure our communities are strengthened. That is what we would all like to see.
I am so happy we are here today talking about the economy and the impacts in our communities. We need to keep having these discussions.