Remarks on the last day of the Cabinet retreat
I want to begin by thanking the people of Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island for being such wonderful hosts these past few days. I’ve been on the island already a couple of times this summer and it’s such a special part of Canada. We’ve got the whole team here, we’ve had a productive retreat, and I know we’re all really excited for the work ahead.
But let me start, though, with a quick update on the wildfire situation out west and in the north. We’re relieved to hear that fires may be coming under control and that critical infrastructure in the Northwest Territories remains intact. At Monday’s incident response group meeting, Minister Sajjan updated us from the ground in B.C. We also discussed how to make sure people from the Northwest Territories can return home when it’s safe.
The Canadian Armed Forces continue to be deployed on the ground to support, and Service Canada is helping evacuees. We’re on the ground, we are helping, and we will continue to be there. I want to thank all the brave firefighters battling blazes across the country this summer, and I want to, again, thank all Canadians who’ve stepped up to open their communities, to open their homes to people fleeing. In difficult times, Canadians really show who they are when we’re constantly there to help out each other.
Our government is thinking of everyone affected by the forest fires. We will continue to follow the situation, and we will continue to be there for everyone.
Now the world has faced a lot of shocks over the past few years, from the pandemic to Putin’s illegal invasion of Europe, to global inflation, through a worsening climate emergency, and Canadians have felt it and are feeling it every step of the way. From the very first meeting of this new Cabinet to this retreat, I’ve told ministers that our most important job is to protect the promise of Canada, to build a society where when people work hard, they get ahead. Where Canadians are safe in their communities and in the world. Where they’re secure in the knowledge that the services they rely on from health care to income support after retirement will continue to be there for them. Where we’re building an economy focused on the middle class and people working hard to join it.
We’re facing many challenges, but I can tell you that our team is very motivated. Over the summer, we met with people across the country, we listened to them. This week, we had the opportunity to hear from experts. Our priority continues to be doing everything we can to help people lead the life they want to live.
So, let me talk to you about two of our core priorities. The first is the rising cost of housing. Canadians in the middle class, or who are working hard to join it, are up against this challenge, and this is a challenge that’s been decades in the making. Our government has been stepping up over the past years. At this retreat, we studied historical trends and data from StatCan’s long-form census, which are helping us understand these issues even more clearly.
Yesterday, we heard from experts and directly from Canadians who are facing these problems. Everyone agrees that it’s a complex issue that requires solutions that bring together all orders of government, the private sector and the non-profit sector. From zoning to corporations heating (sic) homes as assets, to the rising cost of building supplies, there’s no doubt that we all have a lot of work to do because more and more vulnerable people are at risk of homelessness.
Middle-class Canadians who want to build equity through homeownership feel increasingly like that dream is out of reach. And now, more and more renters in the housing market means rising demand is causing rent to rise for everyone. So, this government is focused on getting more housing built and making sure families have places to grow.
According to recent reports, we all need to challenge ourselves to do more, and we need to work together across the country. We need to build a housing market that works for everyone, we all agree that the entire housing sector needs to work together. Our team is determined to continue the work already begun with programs like the National Housing Strategy, the Housing Accelerator Fund, which is helping increase the supply of housing, and the Tax-Free First Home Savings Account to help people save for a downpayment.
As a federal government, we’re going to continue working hard and showing leadership to bring all sectors together and all orders of government, because it takes all of us working together to get this done. To date, we’ve helped almost two million Canadians find a place to call home, and we’re currently on a path to double construction of new housing over the next decade so we can meet the growing housing needs of Canadians.
Second, today I want to talk to you about another priority, giving the next generation of Canadians a chance at success. We cannot talk about the cost of housing without talking about the impact on young people. Whether they are homeowners or tenants, the next generation is under tremendous stress with regard to housing.
To young Canadians, I want to say something: You’ve had two crucial years of adulthood dramatically interrupted by COVID, and then you were hit by global inflation and increased interest rates. These events upended your educations, your first jobs, your early years of building a career and a network. So we’ve been working hard to make sure that our economy has great jobs for you, we’ve eliminated interest loans on loans for your-… interest on loans for your education, and we’re helping you save up to buy a home, but we know there’s lots more to do.
We owe it to you to take action so you can fully benefit from the promise of Canada, so you can succeed and access all the opportunities that generations before you had, so that you can have both a healthy economy and a healthy environment in strong, vibrant communities long into the future. As a team, this is one of our top priorities.
Cabinet members are ensuring there is accountability and making sure every promise made to Canadians is kept. Continuing to provide accessible, affordable, and quality daycare across the country. Providing affordable dental care. Strengthening public health care. Pursuing meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
We’re also tackling climate change across the economy through everything from huge projects that are cutting pollution on an industrial scale to a price on pollution that puts a quarterly rebate worth hundreds of dollars in people’s pockets.
This summer has been marked by terrifying and devastating wildfires from coast to coast to coast. Communities have watched fires destroy their homes and businesses, and virtually no place in Canada has been left untouched by dangerous air quality due to the smoke. Climate policies are more urgent than ever, Canadians cannot afford leaders who want to roll them back.
In these times, Canadians need a government that believes in them and invests in their future, not one that thinks damaging cuts are the solution to everything. Our economy is strong and growing, with the second-highest GDP growth in the G7 this year, second only to the United States, and almost a million more Canadians have jobs than before the pandemic, and wages are going up.
Our government is making sure that as our economy grows, it remains an economy that works for all Canadians. Canada is the best country in the world, let’s make it even better.