Madam Speaker, I would like to start with a special tribute once again.
We have been talking about this for a long time, as we have been in the midst of a pandemic for a year. I want to pay tribute to health care workers, especially people working in hospitals, the nurses, orderlies, doctors and so on. We see them on the news, we see the images and reports. This is a matter of mental health as well, given all the stress and anxiety people feel. These people are on the front lines, they are right there, and I would say they are on the front lines of the war we are waging.
Our job is to plan so that they have the tools to do their job. Unfortunately, that is not enough. That is one of the problems. For the past year, the Bloc Québécois has tirelessly asked for health transfers. The federal government has spent money during the pandemic, but had it responded to the provincial government's call for increased health transfers over the years, we would not have gone through what we have gone through. We would not have gone through this crisis in the way we did. That is a major problem.
All of the provincial premiers called for the federal government to increase health transfers, but the federal level did not do so. An increase in health transfers would have helped our people on the ground and our health care workers who are working day in and day out to protect us from this pandemic, but it did not happen. I want to pay tribute to all the health care workers who are there and to all those people. I sincerely thank them.
Today, I want to talk about the fact that we often hear people, especially government members, say that they are pleased to talk about the subject in question when they rise in the House. It is quite the opposite for me. I am not at all pleased, because the things that I am going to talk about next are major problems, particularly housing.
Housing is one of the most powerful indicators of poverty, and I am not pleased to have to say that we are not doing enough. The government is not doing enough, and we are not doing our job, which is to provide housing for people. For example, in the bill to implement certain provisions of the fall economic statement, which was introduced by the Minister of Finance, the government announced the expansion of the rental construction financing initiative as a new measure.
That was already in the national housing strategy. It is not a bad thing, but it is mostly loans for the construction of housing units that, 80% of the time, are not affordable. When they are affordable, rent for these units can be as high as $2,000 in Montreal. I do not know who in Montreal can afford $2,000 in rent, but that is what this program has to offer. It can even go as high as $2,400 in Quebec City and Gatineau. That is not what I call affordable housing.
Quebec's approach is known for being more socially and community focused. I have talked to federal government colleagues who are involved in housing in Toronto and Vancouver. They recognize the Government of Quebec's social, community-focused approach, which enables people to find housing for less than 25% of their income. That is important, and it is called social housing. We want investments in social housing.
Housing is a provincial jurisdiction, as is health. We keep having to remind the federal government to mind its own business. Health is none of its business; housing is none of its business. These are provincial jurisdictions. All we are asking of the federal government is that it provide the funding so we can house people, especially given that we send half of our taxes to Ottawa. Quebec sends $50 billion to Ottawa. That is significant. It would be nice if the feds would toss something back our way so we can protect our citizens.
The Government of Canada announced the national housing strategy on November 22, 2017. It is a major strategy, and Ottawa put a lot of money into it. Since housing is a provincial jurisdiction, Quebec should have had its share of investments. However, that took three years of negotiations and agreements. Some funding was finally released last fall: a total of $3.8 billion, with $1.9 billion being provided by the federal government and $1.9 billion by the province. That money can help build between 2,000 and 4,000 housing units, but four times those numbers are needed.
During those three years, the Government of Quebec could not move forward with building social housing units. There was no money. This summer I went for a walk. There were tents along Notre-Dame Street. There were people experiencing homelessness, but it went beyond that. The crisis is, of course, difficult for the people with mental health and addiction issues who are traditionally associated with homelessness. It is very difficult for them.
However, the pandemic has created a new type of homelessness. People who were in precarious work situations and lived in shared housing were already on the precipice and the pandemic pushed them out onto the street. If the agreement had been signed in 2017, if the federal government had resolved this dispute with Quebec, these people might not have ended up on the street. We could have avoided what we saw on Notre-Dame Street. We could have housed our fellow Quebeckers. That is important. It is huge.
I would take it even further. Two weeks ago a homeless indigenous man died, likely from the cold, in a portable toilet just steps from a shelter he frequented. If the agreement had been signed a few years ago, this man would not have died. We could have built housing units for homeless indigenous people in downtown Montreal, which would have saved this man's life. This is having serious and often tragic repercussions, all because this agreement went three years without being signed. I cannot believe it. I repeat: Housing is one of the most powerful indicators of poverty, and the agreement went three years without being signed.
I cannot help but think that, if Quebec were independent, the issues related to health and housing would have been quickly resolved. We would be spending money where it is needed. We would be sure to house and care for our people. Independence is the magic solution for Quebeckers.
I want to give another example of a situation where Quebec would have been better off on its own. In the fall, the government implemented the rapid housing initiative, which is not a bad thing in and of itself. The federal government invested $1 billion to house our fellow citizens during the pandemic. That is good, except that Quebec got the short end of the stick once again. Only two cities in Quebec received a share of the first $500 million for big cities. Fifteen big cities in Canada were ranked by their homelessness needs. The government decided to give Toronto $200 million. That is huge.
Quebec represents 23% of Canada's population, yet it received only 12% of the first $500 million allocated under this initiative. That is completely unacceptable. The federal government allocated $56 million to Montreal and $8 million to Quebec City. There was nothing for Gatineau, Longueuil, Laval, Rouyn-Noranda, Jonquière or Gaspé, even though there are problems everywhere. We got the short end of the stick.
For the other $500-million stream, Quebec put its foot down. It decided that it would have control, which is logical and to be expected. Consequently, it was able to invest $116 million in projects, which is not bad. However, we need to invest more in housing. It is essential that we do so to help our fellow Quebeckers. It is still a serious issue in Quebec. There are 300,000 households considered to be in dire need of housing, and that is a significant number. In addition, these are pre-pandemic figures.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said a few weeks ago that homelessness needs have doubled in Montreal. There used to be about 3,000 homeless people in Montreal, but there are now about 6,000. In Quebec, 80,000 households spend more than 80% of their income on housing. These are pre-pandemic figures. This is unacceptable.
Currently, 40,000 Quebec families, including 2,000 in Longueuil and 23,000 in Montreal, are on the waiting list for low-income housing. In short, there is a huge need. I am running out of time. We never have enough time to talk about the important things in this Parliament.
My message is this: we have invested in housing, but the needs are 10 times greater than what Quebec has invested in the past year. The government must therefore invest. We have to take care of our people and provide housing for them. Again, it is one of the biggest indicators of poverty. Having good housing helps a lot. We must provide housing for our people. We must take care of them.