Somebody mentioned Toronto. I believe the number in Toronto is about 30%. The number is 60% in the Region of Peel, the community I represent.
The opposition wants to take this as an opportunity to once again bash the government. I would like to point out that there are a number of things the government is doing to attempt to address the issue of homelessness and affordable housing, but we have not done enough. If that satisfies the catcallers and the hecklers, good on them, but in my view the important thing is to recognize it, make the statement in the throne speech and then put in place the programs to try to solve these problems. If anyone here thinks we can do it with the snap of a finger or just simply by pouring money into a problem, that is pretty naive.
The reality is we have an opportunity. We have identified a segment of society living in shelters who go to work at businesses every day. They are proud individuals who do not want to take welfare, who would rather get a paycheque instead of a welfare cheque. They are willing to live in a shelter so they can save for their first and last month's rent. It is a tribute to those people.
Instead of members yelling about it, I would like to see us do something and I am convinced we will do something as a government. As a result of our statements in the throne speech around fighting poverty and investing in affordable housing, we will provide affordable housing on a much broader scale.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has re-entered that area of social responsibility. We announced agreements on affordable housing with $680 million of federal money matched by the provinces and in some cases the municipalities. Agreements have been signed by 10 provinces and territories, including Ontario where $245 million was signed for in an agreement. By the way, it was the first time in 10 years that we have been able to sign a bilateral agreement with the province of Ontario. We have signed the deal. They have agreed to put in rent supplements in lieu of capital up front which is fine with me as long as it gets the housing, as long as it gets the shovels going into the ground.
People will say it has not happened fast enough and I agree. It is a little frustrating with the bureaucracy at any level, be it the federal level or the provincial level. Frankly, on this deal we have done our job. We have brought the money to the table, put in place the programs, negotiated with the provinces and signed the deals. It is now up to the provinces and the municipalities working in partnership to either match the money or to put in the rent supplements so that these units are affordable and to get the shovels in the ground and get the houses built.
On top of that, there is a further commitment in the throne speech that says we will add to that particular housing agreement, that we will be investing more. It has to go through the budget process now. People will ask how much. The throne speech does not say how much. Canadians understand that a throne speech is not designed to put down the actual dollar amounts; rather it sets out the vision.
The government has committed that there will be additional work done in the area of affordable housing. I have the privilege as the parliamentary secretary responsible for crown corporations to work with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and with Canada Lands Company to develop some new housing initiatives in every part of the country and that work is currently going on.
That is the first step in addressing the issue of poverty. I have heard the opposition say there is no such thing as child poverty; that the children are poor because their families are poor. I tend to agree with that but the reality is the kids are not the ones who can do anything about it. They are captive to the cycle of poverty. Very often a poor child becomes a hungry child and a hungry child is not going to pay attention at school, is not going to learn, is not going to do the homework and is going to act out in some way.
There is certainly a comprehensive need to deal with the poverty of families and children. The end result of that and the reason that vision is so vital in the throne speech is it will help build a stronger Canada with stronger families, people who can get out of the welfare cycle and the poverty cycle and create a great life for themselves.
Let me give an example of the type of thing that people yell about. We will recall in the last throne speech there was an announcement that we would increase the maternity leave from six months to one year. It is not in this throne speech; it was in the previous document. There were howls of indignation from the business community. There were howls of indignation from the benches opposite. I have to say that even I wondered if it was the smart thing to do at the time.
We all develop our ideas by the circumstances in which we live. This summer I was delighted to become the proud grandfather of two new baby boys. My two oldest sons and their wives had kids. Those moms, Karen and Kim, have the opportunity to stay at home to nurture, to breastfeed, to be with those babies in the first year of those babies' lives. Maybe I have a different attitude because my family has finally experienced that.
It was one of the best darned things the government has done since 1993. It is a very simple thing. The business community has not been thrown into chaos. Every time something changes or there is something new, it is Armageddon, “Oh, my goodness, why would you do that? It is going to cost us thousands of dollars. We are going to have to retrain. We are going to have to replace these people. It isn't going to work”. The chambers of commerce, the boards of trade, the official opposition all rant about it.
Then we see mom with the baby and what happens to that baby by having a parent at home with it. It is not necessarily the mom any more; it could be mom or dad. Being with that baby during the first year of life is critically important. I am very proud and pleased the government had the courage to stand up to the hail that ensued after the announcement was made. With kids like my grandkids, it will pay dividends 20 years down the road when they graduate from university because they had a really good solid start. The opportunity was made available to them because the government had the vision in the throne speech to make that change in the way we do business. It was a terrific idea.
It will also be seen in the throne speech that we are moving in the area of affordable housing, in the area of attacking shelters, in working with the minister of homelessness on the SCPI funding, on the renovation funding. The government is in full flight on all those issues and is dealing with them at the community level.
We only have to ask the people at the community level whether or not what I say is true. The municipalities will say they are getting terrific cooperation and they are pleased with the programs being put in place in those areas. They will also say, and I openly admit it, that it is not enough, and it never is. They will also say that it is not fast enough and it never is. But they will say that at least the federal government is recognizing the needs in these areas and they would implore their provincial representatives to do likewise. I am confident that they will across the country, because government bodies are recognizing that once and for all we have to tackle these problems and put in place the solutions to poverty, homelessness and the lack of affordable housing.
The third item regards improving the life chances for aboriginals. The classic example of our doing that was something which again caused demonstrations in the streets and in here. Parliament was held to ransom. It is just an example of how we can work with the aboriginal community. That was the Nisga'a treaty. Now that the treaty is in place, the howls of indignation have calmed down and gone away. People have recognized that it was not Armageddon and the end of the world. In fact, some very good things have happened. I hope sincerely that the vision shown by the Prime Minister in the throne speech will put in place more treaties that will be similar and will accomplish the same thing.
I have spoken before about the environmental aspects of the Kyoto accord. I understand I have only about a minute left so I cannot go into great detail, but I want to say once again, let us just calm down the rhetoric.
We have made changes. We took lead out of gasoline and there were howls. People said, “Oh, my goodness, the sky will fall. We will go broke. We will go out of business”. When we converted to metric, one of the great debates in the nation's history was that it would be the end of the world because the United States was not going metric. Yet today our kids function in the school classrooms. Even if we dinosaurs do not, our children all do.
We need to recognize that the throne speech provides a vision and a direction. It shows not a legacy but in fact what we can do to make this an even greater country for our children and grandchildren and we can leave a place that all Canadians will truly be proud of.