Mr. Speaker, it is good to be here talking about housing. The Conservatives talk a really good game. During question period and during the last 15 minutes, there has been passionate discussion of housing. However, when the rubber meets the road, they are nowhere to be found.
The Leader of the Opposition just glossed over his loss of 800,000 units of housing. When someone questioned him on it, he had the gall to answer with insults. The reality is that there was no action on housing in the decades previous. We find ourselves in a crisis that is decades in the making, but we are ready and are up to the task.
There is something the leader said that I do want to correct. He said that housing starts were down. Housing starts are actually up 4%: 20% in Toronto and 98% in the city of Montreal.
This is fundamentally an important issue for all Canadians, and what does the Leader of the Opposition want to do? He wants to go to war with municipalities. However, municipalities understand the crisis before them. It is one thing to come up here and pound a desk and say they are going to take away infrastructure money from municipalities. That does not work.
We need to work with municipalities. We need to focus on infrastructure, because infrastructure is what is going to get housing built. We cannot just take an empty field and plop houses down on it. The aliens the Leader of the Opposition talks about that took away housing are not going to deliver them on lands, on empty fields. There needs to be sewage. There needs to be water. There needs to be electricity. There need to be all of the services that are required. That is forgotten.
The Conservatives would rather have a big speech, puff up their chests, pound their desks and ignore the reality of getting housing built. It is about rolling up our sleeves. It is about getting the job done. They are not interested in that. They are just interested in slogans.
Their plan is to cut funding to municipalities and increase the tax on rental construction. The Leader of the Opposition spent the first few minutes of his speech talking about taxes. He left out the part where he is going to raise the GST on purpose-built rental construction. It is shocking.
I would like to point to a housing expert, Mike Moffatt, who said of the Conservative plan, “This is a sign that the federal Conservatives don't understand the urgency or scale of the housing crisis.” Again, they pound their fists. They yell. They scream. They jump up and down. They call members names. They heckle. However, they have no plan. They have smug comments and smug heckles, but no plan to actually get the job done.
They can look Canadians in the eye and say they will do it, but they are not going to do anything to do it. They are going to yell at people and cut their salaries and then starve municipalities of infrastructure funds. That is all they have. That is not going to get anything built. Their plan is to do less than what they were doing when they were in government, which is nothing. It is shocking that they want to take steps backwards on this file.
I look to cities across the country. I have met with mayors and municipal officials. I have met with municipal officials in my own community. There are infrastructure challenges. In the city of St. Catharines, sewer upgrades are required to get more housing built. We can approve a permit for a 20-storey building, but if there is no sewer capacity, we cannot build it.
I know it is not fun or sexy to talk about sewer capacity in this place, although some people may think it is very on point to be talking about sewer capacity in the House of Commons, but these are the important things that are required to get housing built. If the leader just wants permits to be approved, maybe that is a great thing, but if infrastructure money is not going to be applied and the federal government is not going to be there, then the Conservatives do not understand the depths of this crisis.
This is fundamentally a crisis not only of housing, but also of infrastructure. We need to do more, and we need to be partners with municipalities and provinces. The more partners we have, the more housing we can get built.
We are ready for this. The housing accelerator fund is already seeing results. We have had partners across the country. We have seen that, in Kelowna, Halifax, London and Hamilton, housing is getting built. We are making more housing legal in this country. The Minister of Housing is accomplishing this with as of right four units housing being built in these municipalities.
This will allow for greater housing built for generations in this community with the housing accelerator fund, and to also fund those infrastructure needs and those bottlenecks. Again, they talk a good game. We can pound our desks, and we can yell and scream, but the member did not mention the bottlenecks in our system and how he is going to accomplish that, apart from going to war with the mayors, which is something I do not think Canadians want us to do. They want us working together. They want us to come up with a plan for more housing and work together.
I genuinely look forward to more of these announcements and to see more municipalities step back from NIMBY policies, which have plagued municipalities across this country, and ask how we get more housing built. I know in my hometown, there are many ambitious councillors who want to see that work happen, and I am looking forward to hopefully making announcements there soon.
Over the course of generations, we have seen communities across the countries make decisions that actively restrict the ability of communities to build houses for their residents. It creates challenges for building livable communities, but the Government of Canada has stepped up to directly support more housing. We are actively working with all partners in the government and private sector to solve this generational challenge.
Again, we did not hear from the Leader of the Opposition how we are going to work together on housing. He is just going to yell at bureaucrats. He is going to get into fights with mayors. That is not how we get anything built in this country. I guess that explains his record as the so-called housing minister under the Harper government, when nothing got built and there were 800,000 fewer units of affordable housing when the Conservatives left office.
Through the national housing strategy, we have seen housing get built or repaired. We have had 126,000 units of housing repaired and 113,000 new homes. The Conservatives would tell us that they did not support that and they would not support that. They would already be 200,000 more units behind if they were in charge. Adding that to the list, that would have been a million units fewer of affordable housing if they had continued to be in charge and if the member had continued to be the minister.
Things are changing. There is an understanding. We are going to continue to work with our municipal partners across the board, and that is why we have brought forward legislation to remove the GST on purpose-built rental housing. What are the Conservatives doing on that? A tangible thing they can actually do is help expedite this. They are stalling and delaying, and are not working with the government.
The Conservatives talk a good game, and I am sure there will be many more passionate speeches about how the Conservatives care, but when it comes to tangible things they can do, like voting for the affordability legislation before this Parliament, they are no where to be found. They are silent on the issue, and silent on any effort to actually approve homes. I get that their nature is to want to get into a fight. They want to yell, scream and hurl insults, and come up with slogans. I think their environmental plan is based on recycling slogans, but slogans do not get anything built.
Unfortunately, that is where the Conservatives are. We are ready to stand up and work with municipal and provincial partners. We are going to get housing built. This plan is half-baked at best. It is not going to work. We are going to get the job done.