Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Humber River—Black Creek.
I am honoured to be here today to speak to Bill C-31. This bill means a lot to the community that I represent, and I know that it means a lot to many members in this House.
I grew up in a community where many people struggled to pay the bills. This is not a new phenomenon in my community, but something that occurs all the time. In my constituency, we see people who drive Uber and who check out groceries. I have had many conversations with people in my community, and I know from them that people are struggling.
In my neighbourhood, there are people who struggle with vacancy decontrol and landlords who want them to leave so they can bring new people in and raise the rent. My constituents are also very concerned with home ownership. It is a very important issue to people in my community.
However, make no mistake: The people of Don Valley East and the people in my neighbourhood where I grew up are hard-working people, and they believe in the Canadian value that we are so much better when we actually work together as Canadians, when we stick together. It is part of our value set as Canadians. They are also very thankful for the type of country we have where, if one works hard, hard work can pay off, where we have great quality schools and a strong health care system, and where one can speak freely about issues and live the way one wants to live.
Speaking on Bill C-31, I was a bit offended by what I heard from the opposition. I want to remind people back home in Don Valley East and people in this House that we are talking about a dental plan for children under 12. We are talking about a $500 subsidy to help people pay the rent. That is what we are talking about, and with what we are hearing from the opposition about all of these different issues, I want to bring it down to this one point. What we will vote on with Bill C-31 is whether we, as members of this House, should come together to put in place a program to support children when it comes to dental care.
Should we put in $500 to help people? I have heard a few people say that $500 dollars will not do a lot. I can tell members that in my community, $500 goes a long way when it comes to paying for groceries, bills and helping with household income. It is a huge amount.
I have been here for a year, but I have watched this government over the last several years govern, and from the very beginning, back in 2015, addressing affordability and making life easier for Canadians has always been part of the mantra of the government. It is why my riding of Don Valley East has supported the government since 2015, because we are feeling the high prices of gas, the cost of living and the cost of groceries.
In fact, recently I did a survey in my community, and I was pretty surprised. It is the first survey I did, and I sent it out to everyone in the community. We got about 5% people who sent the survey back or went online to fill it out, so we had about 1,800 actually fill it out. However, 44% of the respondents said that affordability was one of the top three issues that they faced as constituents, and over 70% said that they had experienced some form of affordability issues over the last year. To me, this is very telling of where we are as Canadians today.
We have gone through so much with COVID over the last three years, with the global economy and now the war in Ukraine. Everything has shifted in this country, and things have become a lot more challenging for Canadians to purchase.
I do the grocery shopping in my house for my family and also for one of my family members who cannot go to the grocery store. I do it every week for that particular family member and my family. I have noticed the price of flour, baked goods and other things go up, as we all have. However, the opposition will point fingers at this government and say, “You are responsible for the price of these baked goods that have gone up.” Despite popular belief from that side of the House, we are not baking cakes and bread or growing grain or wheat on this side of the House. We are putting in place measures to help people take on some of these challenges that have been impacted by global affairs.
We know that when COVID hit, there was a huge shock to our system and to the economy in this country. We lost three million jobs in Canada. There was a 17% decline in our economic output. Our GDP fell by 2.1%, and even the exchange in Toronto fell by 37%. These were huge numbers. The system was disrupted and we lost a trillion dollars from those markets.
When we look at the war in Ukraine today, we know that prior to the war, 10% of all global wheat supply came from that region. We also know that 15% of corn came from that region, as did 15% of world barley production. Eighty per cent of sunflower oil came from that region too. When we see the cost of baked goods, the cost of wheat and the cost of products in grocery stores going up, there are many different factors in place.
The question in the House really is, where do we go from here? What do we do? How do we respond to it?
There are two approaches that are emerging in the House, one from the opposition and one from the government. As I said, the approach by the government has been here for the last seven years, and it is about looking for ways to create more opportunity and invest in people. The members opposite vote down bills like this that would directly support a child of 12 years old or under. To me, it is quite remarkable.
I want to go back to Bill C-31 just for a minute because Canadians need to know that when members of the official opposition have an opportunity to vote on this bill, they will have the opportunity to support a bill that would allow young people under 12 to have basic dental care and that would put $500 more in the hands of Canadians who need it to pay bills and pay rent. The Conservatives are going to have a very clear option, and the vote that will eventually come to the House will really define the two approaches the opposition and the government have. They are two opposing approaches to how we look forward and build a stronger country to support all people in this great nation of ours.
This bill would provide $500 to nearly two million low-income renters in this country and would provide $1,300 over two years to 500,000 children. This is a huge step in the right direction for this government and for those who support this bill.
When this government came into power back in 2015, it took many steps to look for ways to create more opportunity for Canadians. It lowered taxes for the middle class. It increased the Canada child benefit. It helped seniors by increasing old age security. Remember, the previous government, at one of those critical decision points that define governments or define parties, raised the eligibility for old age security to age 67 rather than its current age of 65. Of course, the best example I could give is what has taken place over the last year with the introduction of $10-a-day child care.
At the end of the day, we are investing in children and investing in families. We are looking for ways to strengthen opportunity for Canadians. We are looking for ways to better position Canada so it can continue to have a trajectory that provides a bright future for all Canadians. I am very proud, on behalf of the residents of Don Valley East, to stand in the House to fight for children and make the right decision to support kids who need help and families that need help during these difficult times.