Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address the House today and to speak on the issue of the implementation of the budgetary plan that this government is attempting to provide to the House, to make sure that Canadians have the best opportunities possible.
I want to draw the House's attention today to an article I read in The Toronto Star, which is actually quite important for this House to hear. It was about the incidence of child poverty in urban centres across the country. It looked at a relative rating of each of the cities in Canada, in regard to the number of children living in poverty in their homes.
I want to preface this by talking about how pleased I am with the government's cornerstone part of this budget, which is attempting to raise children out of poverty by increasing the Canada child benefit. I believe it is the largest, single most important piece of public policy to change the social nature and fabric of Canada.
Today in the paper it was reported that a group of leading institutions and agencies that address child poverty have looked at Toronto, the city I represent: 27% of children in that city live with a family income level that is below sustainable. That compares to other cities in Canada like Montreal, which is just below at 25%, Winnipeg at 24%, down to Edmonton and Calgary, which are doing quite a bit better than Toronto.
The article reports on two young women: Zara, who lives in Thorncliffe Park; and Sarah, who lives in Leaside. These are sibling neighbourhoods in Don Valley West. Leaside has the lowest rate of child poverty in the city of Toronto at just over 5%, whereas Thorncliffe Park has 58% child poverty. The nature of this is stunning.
Our party has been very clear on our agenda of ensuring that the middle class is raised up and that people aspiring to get to the middle class are also raised up.
I want to focus my attention today on those who are aspiring to join the middle class. One of my main agenda items is that, as we look at 2016, 2017, and 2018, we actually have a very aggressive platform to not only help the middle class, but to ensure that those who are in poverty, and in particular those children who are facing the kinds of struggles that some of us have known ourselves but others have only known about, have every chance and every opportunity.
Salma Jabeen is a resident in my riding. Her four-year-old daughter would like to have tae kwon do and gymnastics lessons, and to have the kinds of toys that she sees other children have. Salma's husband is a security guard, and on their income they simply cannot afford the kinds of things that other children in Canada have come to expect.
Equally, Sarah Jordan, who lives just across the valley in Leaside, recognizes that she is a privileged Canadian. I am very proud to say that she and her sister Claire have united together to form Sarah and Claire's Food Drive. They are looking at a way to partner these neighbourhoods to ensure that we in Canada have a way of distributing our resources to make sure that people have a fair start, that children have the best advantage in life.
Last Sunday the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence and I hosted a town hall on next year's budget. I cannot express how very proud I was, and what a great privilege it was for me to commend our Minister of Finance for his tremendous efforts toward lifting children out of poverty. The Canada child benefit is going to lift literally hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. This is tax-free income going into families' households. It will make a difference. Parents will be able to pay the rent. They will be able to provide groceries, and to provide those special things that children want, such as lessons and activities, which not only sustain but enrich their lives. It will make sure Canada is the country we want it to be.
What I see in today's article is that those who have more also want to live in a country where all have more to benefit from, and more access to those things that are beneficial to their lives. As we implement this budget, there is an opportunity for Canadians to say they want the very best quality of life for every Canadian.
We want to make sure that Canadians who have been here six days, six weeks, six months, six years, 60 years, or for generations, or first nations who have built this country, can all share equally in the resources and the opportunities that we have. The cornerstone parts of this budget, looking at the way we live together, the covenants that we have as Canadians, are going to ensure that Canada is built upon the sense that we have of taking care of each other.
However, the report that came out today is disturbing. I think it should be on the mind of every member of the House of Commons that each of us has a responsibility to look beyond those who we might know individually on our own personal level, and look to those in our community who are hiding in places of poverty that we simply do not get to often enough. I think that when we open up our minds to that, we have the chance to actually make a difference in our world. I am very proud to support the budget and the implementation acts that will make sure that it comes into being, because it is the opportunity for us as Canadians to make sure that our country is built on those foundations.
Of course, my first concern are for the children in my riding, that child poverty is reduced; that we actually have targets, that we actually can say that at the end of the day we have made a difference so that there are children who are getting post-secondary education, getting the careers they want, and that they have enough food to eat to succeed well in school. I think this budget is doing that.
However, I will be a little critical of my own government, because I think it has put the emphasis only on the middle class without actually celebrating what this budget is doing for those who are beneath the middle class, and we have not lost sight of those people. In our communities there are people who are being left behind. Therefore, we are ensuring that we have better employment insurance, that we have old age security, that Canada pensions are stronger and better, that we bring the age of retirement back down to 65 from 67, that we encourage infrastructure spending that will create more jobs to make sure that people are employed, and that we have a foundation upon which to build. This is what this budget is about.
This budget, at its heart, is a people budget. It is people centred, and it is going to make a difference in the lives of people we care about, every one of us in this House.
I do not think that we have a monopoly on social care and social conscience on this side of the House. I have seen that exhibited by members in all parties across the aisle. I have heard their stories and I think that this budget is worthy of their support. They should have a chance to look at this budget so that every member of this House has an opportunity to say that it is a budget that is changing the nature of Canada. It is well funded. It has targeted investments. It is going to invest in infrastructure that is going to make a difference. It is going to help people get to work as we invest in transit and roadways. It is going to ensure that our country is being built on that strong foundation. It will make a difference in the lives of every Canadian.
Therefore, I encourage those on the other side of the House to take the time to read the budget. They will have the sense that this budget is changing the way Canadians covenant with each other to build the economy and make sure that we can share in it equitably.
I am proud to offer my support for the budget. I think that Canada is a richer country, because we are able to share with each other. As newcomers make their way in this country, we have a sense that they will contribute to the economy, but we have to give them a chance.
The Minister of Finance has done a brilliant job of consulting. He is continuing to listen and he will continue to offer the kind of leadership that Canadians are looking for.
I thank members, and I anticipate their support for this budget.