Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak yet again on this very important matter. I was quite encouraged by a couple of things today. I understand that we have delivered more than 14.5 million doses of vaccine to the provinces and territories. I believe it is 14,700,000. While I was sitting at the convention centre in Winnipeg, I did a bit of research on my cellphone and found out, from one particular site, that 12,696,698 people have been vaccinated with their first dose. As of this afternoon, I am one of the individuals who have been vaccinated, and I am very grateful.
Like others, I waited for my turn. Other people's turns will come and they will become eligible too. It is therefore really imperative that all members of Parliament and leaders within our communities encourage constituents to get vaccinated. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 34% of our population has been vaccinated, and the rate is growing. That is really quite encouraging. Compared with other G20 countries, we are a strong and healthy third in getting out the first dose. I am really quite pleased and wanted to start off on this very positive note.
Canadians from coast to coast to coast have heard so many speeches, facts, numbers and statistics over the last number of months, so I thought I would pick up on something a little different. It is something we have talked a great deal about since last summer, going into September.
The Prime Minister has often said that as we go through the pandemic, there are things we can learn from, such as what was taking place in personal care facilities in different regions of our country and concerns related to the financial supports provided to Canadians. The Prime Minister wanted us to listen, take action, lobby and advocate not only for changes, but for ways we could build back better. A number of members of Parliament will often use the phrase “build back better”, and I really believe we can do that.
It is really quite encouraging to see how successful the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and the parliamentary secretary were in canvassing our country and the many stakeholders to ultimately present a budget. Others were involved too, but I highlight those three people in particular.
The Deputy Prime Minister put forward an economic statement in November of last year, and most recently, a couple of weeks ago, we had the budget. If we read it and get an understanding of what the Minister of Finance has put to the House of Commons, we will see that it reflects what we have been hearing across the country. I know this has been very important to the Prime Minister and the Liberal caucus as a whole. We wanted to ensure that what was put on the floor of the House of Commons reflected what is being talked about in our communities. I will highlight a couple of examples of that.
We all know, for example, what has taken place with our seniors. They have had a very difficult time as a result of the pandemic, and there are things we have learned from that. We take supporting our seniors very seriously. We need to make life easier and more affordable for them. We understand that, and it is something we all heard about in a very clear and tangible way. We would often see in our newscasts, media reports and consultations with a wide spectrum of stakeholders that the need is there, it is real and it is tangible, and the government has responded very positively.
We are going to support Canada's seniors. This is absolutely essential, especially as many seniors continue to cope with isolation not only from their loved ones in particular, but in general. They are experiencing financial difficulties, not to mention the many different health struggles that have resulted from the pandemic and the outcomes that have followed. We are particularly concerned about the long-term care facilities as well.
Budget 2021 highlights a plan of action that deals with COVID-19 and the issues it has created, among many other things affecting our seniors. It is why I am so glad we committed to a one-time payment of $500 for old age security, which will be distributed in August 2021 for seniors who are age 75 and over. We also provided a permanent increase of 10% to the OAS pension, a significant increase, for those age 75 and over. It will take effect in July 2022. These commitments are going to strengthen the financial security of over three million seniors, and it is estimated that they will lift well over 60,000 seniors out of poverty. Also, when we look at the numbers with a gender lens, 65% of that group is women. I am very proud of that initiative.
At the same time, it fulfills a campaign election commitment the government made in the last election, just over a year and a half ago, when we said we would increase OAS for seniors over 75. To a certain degree it is a little disappointing that other political parties are being critical of us for giving that 10% to them, because it was an election promise. However, it is exactly what has been filled out, in addition to providing other support.
We also created, through budget 2021, the age well at home initiative. It will assist seniors in being able stay in their homes longer by funding supports for community-based organizations.
I was a fairly proactive member of the Manitoba legislature for just under 20 years, and I can can say that on many different occasions, whether it was inside the Manitoba legislature or in talking to seniors, we advocated for them. We can support our seniors best by providing supports wherever we can to enable them to stay living in their communities longer. Within this budget, we are seeing just that. I see it as a very strong commitment to seniors.
We talk about supporting provinces and territories to ensure that long-term care standards will be applied, so that seniors can feel safe in their environments and have dignified conditions. This is absolutely essential. We learned that while going through the pandemic, and the Deputy Prime Minister listened.
This government is responding to that, yet unfortunately there are still those who criticize the government for doing it, whether members from the Conservatives or from the Bloc. We need to recognize, as Canadians have, that the national government has a role to play and we can look at best practices in jurisdictions across Canada. We can provide some support financially to encourage that standard. Those who would say that the federal government has no jurisdiction need to listen to their constituents and to Canadians as a whole. The expectation of Canadians is that the Government of Canada will bring in, promote and encourage those national standards.
We talk about building, repairing and supporting an additional 35,000 affordable housing units for vulnerable Canadians, including seniors. There are many ways in which we are supporting seniors in Canada, directly or indirectly, through the last budget and through many actions to date.
Another item I want to highlight is in regard to the child care commitment. Members should all be saying that it is a great way to build back better, and that it will make a difference. We often talk about child care in the province of Quebec, and how Quebec has been fairly successful at enabling both parents or a single parent to get into the workforce because the desire is often there and sometimes the economic need is there.
We see that the government has recognized that value by supporting a nationwide program. It is a tangible commitment. We are going to be looking for leadership among the provinces, territories and even other stakeholders to come to the table to recognize the true value. Depending on whom we talk to, an economist or whomever it might be, we will see that there is great value in expanding the workforce, not to mention benefits for the individuals who will be recipients of child care. It is a generational change that will have a profoundly positive impact on Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Whether or not people have children, they will benefit because a nationwide child care program will contribute to overall success and increase Canada's GDP, which will enable us to do more as a nation.
A list of things comes to mind that I could comment on, such as housing. I am going to be encouraging my constituents to look at opportunities so they can take advantage of federal programs to assist them with interest-free loans, if possible, to improve some of the structures within our communities: our homes. As our housing stock continues to age, it provides opportunities for our constituents not only to build or improve their homes, but also to be energy efficient. It will be better for our environment. Individuals can go to, for example, high-efficiency furnaces and air conditioners and look to the government for support to do that. It is a program that I believe will make a huge difference.
Having said all of that, there are some other aspects that I want to provide my thoughts on to members. I look at Canadian priorities. From day one, this government has been there in a very real and tangible way. It is one of the reasons why Liberal members of Parliament regularly provided information to the Government of Canada and the ministers, to ensure that we listened and brought in the programs that were necessary.
When I think of the pillars of Canada's COVID-19 economic response, I think of programs such as the emergency business account and the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program, not to mention the lockdown support program. My personal favourites were the emergency response benefit, CERB, and the Canada emergency wage subsidy. These put cash into the pockets of Canadians when they needed it most. CERB was a hugely successful program, with close to nine million Canadians directly benefiting from it. The wage subsidy program literally saved tens of thousands of jobs in different regions of our country, as opposed to companies going bankrupt or having to permanently lay off workers. As a result of those types of investments, we are going to be able to recover more quickly.
We continue on through the recovery sickness benefit, the caregiving benefit and the Canada recovery benefit. We have seen a suite of programs to support Canadians. I made reference to our seniors already and the one-time payment for seniors last summer. I could talk about the disability payments or the many different supports for students and young people, such as the enhancement of the summer youth program. We are talking about significant numbers.
While the Conservatives have been focused on the negative side of politics, the Prime Minister, the government and the Liberal members of the House of Commons have been focused on minimizing the damage caused by the coronavirus day in and day out, 24 hours a day and, I would suggest, seven days a week. We want to be able to build back better and are committed to doing just that. That is where this budget and all of this consultation leading up to the budget has put us today.