Mr. Speaker, I would say it is a pleasure to be able to rise and speak today, but I was actually expecting that we would be debating Bill S-8. Bill S-8 deals with sanctions on foreign nationals.
A member from the Conservative Party yells, “Surprise.” It is no surprise. This does not surprise me. What it does is really, once again, just demonstrate the Conservative Party of Canada's lack of respect in terms of what Canadians expect of legislators, which is to be able to deal with issues that are important.
Today, the Conservative Party says, “Well, housing is an important issue.” Yes, we concur. There is no doubt that housing is an important issue. In fact, we have been dealing with this issue for years now, unlike the Conservative Party. The reality is that this is just an attempt at a filibuster coming from the Conservative Party. It is interesting that Conservatives say housing is an important issue, yet they had 10 opposition days when they could have decided on the kind of vote or question. They could have had the “whereases” explaining the issues. Out of the last 10 opposition days, what did they choose? They chose to talk about the price on pollution, opposition day after opposition day. Now they try to say, “Well, know what? We are concerned about housing.” Where was that concern on opposition days? It did not exist. That was the reality for the Conservative Party, but today it says it does not want to address the government legislation, so what it will do is bring in yet another concurrence report and will say it is about housing. This way, government members and other opposition members will say that housing is an important issue and that we should be debating it today. I would argue that we could have been debating from an opposition perspective on many of the other opportunities by which the Conservatives could have brought it forward.
Let us talk about hypocrisy. I think most Canadians would be somewhat surprised that, during the 90s, we had the Charlottetown accord, and, within the Charlottetown accord, we had every political party in the House of Commons ultimately advocating that Ottawa should not be playing a role in housing, that it was provincial jurisdiction. I know that because I was in the north end of Winnipeg debating Bill Blaikie, advocating that we needed to have a presence in national housing. Only one political party has consistently, over the years, advocated that the federal government play virtually no role in housing, and that is the Conservative Party of Canada. That is the only party. Through the last eight years, as we have been bringing forward numerous housing policies, we have seen the Conservative Party continuously arguing or voting against them. Understanding jurisdictional responsibilities and understanding what role the federal government can actually play in housing is, I would suggest, relatively important. I have not witnessed that from the Conservative Party of Canada, and I do not say that lightly.
I was first elected in 1988. My first responsibility was as the official opposition whip, along with having housing as my critic portfolio. Even through those years, every year I invested a great deal of my energy into the issue of housing. I have seen the rises and the falls of the industry. I understand what it is that the federal government can and cannot do. I also see the lack of interest from the Conservative Party.
Now, Conservatives understand and they see the anxiety that is out there because of issues like interest, because of the demand there is for housing, and now they want to make it an issue and they want to blame everything on Ottawa, as if Ottawa were to blame for the housing crisis. I hate to think what issues and crises there would be if it were not for Canadians' kicking Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada out in 2015.
Let us take a look at some of the things we have done in the last five to seven years. In the history of Canada, never before have we seen more money invested into the housing file than by the current Prime Minister and government. We have adopted the first national housing strategy, which not only establishes a framework but also invests billions of dollars into housing. Every region of our country has benefited from it.
If we look at the province of Manitoba and the makeup of housing there, most people would be surprised. It has been a while, but I would guesstimate that we are probably talking somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20,000-plus units that the federal government directly subsidizes every month to ensure that housing is more affordable.
These are the types of commitments that have been made over the years, even by previous governments, to support non-profit housing. This is complemented by the national housing strategy, which is there to support not only expanding the housing stock in Canada, but also to improve its quality.
A good example is a program that I think we underestimate the true value of, which is the greener homes grant. There are homes that are in need of repair throughout our communities, whether urban or rural, in every area of the country. We have a program that provides encouragement for people to fix up their homes. Every time there is a grant issued, a home is being repaired, jobs are being created, the home is becoming more energy-efficient and the quality of Canada's housing stock is improving. This is something we should all be concerned about. At the very least, I can assure members that the government has demonstrated this by bringing forward the program.
There are other aspects. I love the program that deals with the multi-generational home renovation tax credit. I look at the community I represent and the number of families that choose to support their parents, grandparents or children with disabilities as dependents. They are not forced to do it. We are providing them the opportunity of a tax credit to create a special space to accommodate them. Again, this is something that complements the housing stock in Canada. We do not hear about it much, but I think it is important for us to emphasize it. I would suggest that it is part of the solution.
The Minister of Finance, who is working with the Minister of Housing, and is supported by members of this caucus, has recognized the true value of housing co-ops. Housing co-ops are a viable and healthy alternative to buying a home, because they are co-operatives.
I am a big fan of housing co-ops. During the eighties, I played a role in the community of Weston in developing the Weston housing co-op. There is a difference between someone who lives in a housing co-op and someone who lives in an apartment. The biggest difference would likely be the word “profit”, but the real difference is that the person is not a tenant; they are a resident.
Once again, under the Prime Minister, we have a government that is committed to looking at ways we can expand housing co-ops. By doing that, we are expanding the housing supply. We can encourage individuals and groups to look at ways in which housing co-ops can be established, so that individuals will be able to have that joint ownership. That is something we never heard about under Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.
There is the idea of supporting infill housing in a non-traditional way, and that would factor in Habitat for Humanity. I have said this before. Habitat for Humanity has likely done more for infill housing in the city of Winnipeg than any government program has. I suggest that governments, at all different levels, need to support organizations like Habitat for Humanity. It has built hundreds of homes in the province of Manitoba alone, and it is a national organization.
In advocating with other caucus colleagues, we have seen federal support go towards Habitat for Humanity. I do not recall seeing that under Stephen Harper. This is building homes and making homes available for people who would never really get the opportunity to own a home. They do it through sweat equity, as well as the work and efforts of the community as a whole.
It is far better than the infill programs the government used to support during the nineties. I still think we could probably support municipalities in looking at ways of doing that. I think all sorts of opportunities are still there. For the first time in a generation, we have a government that is proactive and is looking to support the industry with things like infill houses.
When listening to the Conservatives, we find they are now saying that they need to pass the blame on to Ottawa or the government, even though the current government and Prime Minister have done far more on the housing file than any other government in generations has. Of the ideas that come from the Conservatives, the only one that comes to mind is in the last election, when they said they would give tax breaks to our wealthiest landlords.
The Conservatives stand up and say that wherever we subsidize or provide funds for public transit, where there are hubs, there should be residential housing, with a higher concentration and density of people. They have been saying this for a while. Of course that should be happening. In fact, it has been happening. It is working with municipalities.
Someone does not have to be a genius to understand the concept of having a hub, where a subway, train or high-speed bus will stop, and the advantages of having towers or a higher density located there. It only makes sense to do that. This is the irony: How much money did the Conservatives and Stephen Harper invest in supporting public transit compared with the current government?
Once again, where the Conservatives failed, the current government has risen to the occasion. We continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into public transit. We continue to work with municipalities, in particular, our bigger cities of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Winnipeg, as well as the east coast, to support public transit. I suspect that we will continue to see higher-density housing where it makes sense.
The Conservatives take an approach in which they have to be negative and hit hard on what they call the “gatekeepers”, which are the municipalities, mayors, reeves, city councillors and so forth, for not doing what they should be doing. I believe, as the government believes, that the federal government needs to demonstrate leadership, as we have, and work with provinces and municipalities, large and small, to ensure that we can build more homes and improve our current housing stock. That has been amplified, given the crisis situation we are in, through programs like the rapid housing initiative. I have seen the Minister of Housing stop into Winnipeg on several occasions. I have made announcements and dealt with press releases in Manitoba, both in urban and rural areas, dealing with things through the rapid housing initiative. We continue to work with the provinces and the municipalities on these types of programs, because they are making a difference.
We need to be able to support municipalities and encourage areas that can be developed in a relatively quick fashion. We have indicated that it is our objective to see the number of new home constructions double over the next decade. In provinces like mine, in Manitoba, we want to see more immigration come into our province and an expanded economy. To succeed in this, it will take all three levels of government working together. That means that, on certain files, it is absolutely critical that there is a high sense of co-operation. I would suggest that housing is one of those files. I can say that we do not get that co-operation if all we are doing is consistently slamming another level of government. Yes, there will be disagreements at times, and there is a negotiating process in many different ways. However, on the housing file, I believe that what is expected of the national government is actually being delivered, especially if one compares us to any other government in the last generations over 50 years. We have shown that we are greatly concerned about this issue.
My colleague asked about Alberta and the issue of rent control. We appreciate that rents are going up in many areas of the country. We are concerned about that, but, as has been very clearly demonstrated, that area is in the provincial jurisdiction. It is great that the member raises the issue here, but she should also be raising it with the Alberta government. As I said, we have a role; we are fulfilling that role, and we are constantly looking at ways in which we can enhance our leadership role, but all levels of government need to be working together in order to properly deal with this crisis. I am confident that we are doing all we can as a national government. However, we are always open to listening to what Canadians have to say on the issue.