Mr. Chair, first of all I would like to express my gratitude to and support for the hon. member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour. We can see the compassion and the understanding of the issue that we face regarding caregivers, the unsung heroes of our society.
I have spoken to many in this House. I know that many have their own personal circumstances, which they have dealt with for a long time. Some are more fortunate than others. There are many who are not.
As a society and a government what we must do is work with all the stakeholders and all levels of government to find ways to help our aging population, the disabled and the families that care for them with willingness, with love and with compassion. We must ensure that we help those three million people who do this unpaid, who give of themselves and find economic opportunities to help their families, especially in certain circumstances, or when they age, and a spouse, a partner, a neighbour or a friend becomes affected and they are there for them, whether it is to help them shop for groceries, cut the lawn, take them to a doctor or do whatever they need.
Together with all levels of government we must find ways to help these people. Without them Canada would be in very dire straits, because all the money that we put into health care would not come close to what is required to give these people the kind of life we would want for our loved ones.
In this budget, the first step we took was to increase the medical expense tax credit from $5,000 to $10,000. It is a first step.
With the round table discussions that we had in Atlantic Canada, the prairie provinces and Ontario, and which we will be having in B.C., what we are hearing from all the stakeholders, all the persons who make up the society from a caregiving perspective, is a clear message that sometimes one person alone cannot do it. The message is that it is a responsibility as a society for all of us to share, to help and to be there, whether it is in an economic way, lending a helping hand or just lending an ear sometimes. I think we can do it. What we are finding with our round tables is that everyone has a different opinion depending on their circumstances. This is not one size fits all.
What happens on the first day someone is actually in a situation where a loved one needs attention? What do people do? These are the kinds of questions that we are asking of ourselves in trying to find out what the first step is. With our election platform of $1 billion over five years, working with the provinces and with stakeholders, what is it that we can do to help fill the void, the vacuum, which will alleviate some of the first pressures that people face? Where do they turn?
As we all know, all levels of governments often work in silos. On day one, where does that person begin? As we work with everyone at our September national round table and as we ask this committee to actually consider as a priority where members can work with government, with us, what we are hoping to do is find a solution to some of the problems. We are not asking members to wait until we come here and give the answers. We are asking members to work together because there is no one answer.
I was hoping that the committee would be able to do some of that as we are travelling the country and meeting with all the stakeholders and the provincial ministers responsible. I believe that is a start. It is similar to the early childhood and child care program: we start somewhere.
Yes, there are tax measures to deal with the disabled, the 25 points that were put in the budget in terms of what the committee wanted. We are always moving the agenda forward because 40% of our seniors are disabled and people, regardless of their framework in life today, can be affected.
I was at a fundraiser, a Bay Street crowd for MS, and I was able to speak. I very briefly said to them that any of them could go home that night and face the difficulties of becoming a caregiver. It is important for all of us to work together, to reach out and to contribute in any way we can on an individual and collective way. Together we can solve some of the problems that are faced by caregivers.
We have an aging population and Canadians are living longer and healthier lives. However, they will also require government to be a part of that process.
There are many issues that will in effect be important for the committee to look at to ensure that we will make a difference in lives of people. I am excited about this issue because it really is a non-partisan issue. I can speak to any member, as I have in the past. I know members care just as deeply as we do. I challenge them to put some energy into this so we can come up with some solutions as we travel the country to make a difference. Some members have personal experiences and know better than others on how to solve some of these problems.