Affordable Housing and Groceries Bill—Consideration of Subject Matter in Committee of the Whole

By: The Hon. Marty Klyne

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Senator Klyne: Thank you and welcome. Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, recent data from Food Banks Canada reveals a distressing trend: a significant rise in food insecurity across the country. There were nearly 2 million visits to food banks across Canada last March — up 32% from March 2022. Moreover, according to the report, one third of food bank users were children, representing more than 600,000 food bank visits that month.

The survey finds that the main reasons for using a food bank are the costs of food and housing, as well as low wages.

I will move on to another question to save time: How does this legislation aim to break the cycle of food insecurity, particularly in communities where it coexists with housing challenges? What measures are being taken to ensure that the benefits of this bill reach diverse populations, including marginalized or vulnerable communities, Indigenous peoples and those in remote or rural areas? The second part to that question is the following: How does the government plan to measure the success and impacts of Bill C-56? Is the baseline data established as of today or prior to COVID-19? Would pre-COVID data be considered the benchmark? How long before the optimal results will be reached?

Ms. Freeland: That’s a very important but complicated question with many different parts. Senator, thank you very much for asking the question, and for starting off by talking about the most vulnerable among us. There is a food bank just at the end of my block that is run by my church, and I see that the lines are longer, and it breaks my heart.

I think it breaks the hearts of everybody here, and it should. Thank you for focusing our attention on it.

I will start by saying that Bill C-56 will help all Canadians. It will help the most vulnerable among us, but it is not the end of the story. There is a lot more that we need to do, and that we are doing. Since we are talking about Bill C-56 specifically, I will say a couple of things quickly: First, you are quite right to say that a key element in the life of a person or a family, and whether you can afford your life or not, is whether or not you have affordable housing. That is very often the most expensive part of people’s lives. That’s why we are so focused on having more affordable housing for all Canadians.

We believe that a big part of the answer is supply, supply, supply, and that’s why you see measure after measure — week after week — focused on that. That will help everyone, including the most vulnerable —

The Chair: Madam Minister, we have to move on to the next senator.

Ms. Freeland: There is a lot that we need to do.

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