Ringing in the New Year is a time to spend with friends and family, but it is also a time to reflect on the year gone by, while setting new priorities for the year ahead. As we all know, a lot can happen in the span of a year and while there is always more work to be done, we have continued to make progress on many of the issues that matter most to Northerners.
There are a number of national initiatives that have had a very significant impact here at home. For example, the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) has lifted almost 300,000 kids out of poverty across Canada. Last year, families in the Kenora riding alone received a total of more than $73 million in tax-free CCB payments, as well this past July we increased this important family benefit ahead of schedule.
Improving the quality of life for seniors is also a key priority for this government. That’s why we lowered the eligibility age for Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) from 67 back to 65. Each month up to 17,000 seniors who turn 64 years old on or after December 1, 2017, are automatically enrolled for the GIS benefit. As of July 1, OAS benefits have also been increased. This means that a single senior receiving OAS and the GIS, with no other income, will be eligible to receive approximately $1,487 a month.
The New Horizons for Seniors program provides opportunities for seniors in the North. Earlier this year, the Kenora riding received more than $200,000 for nine New Horizons projects. We also received over $88,000 in Enabling Accessibility Funding, which makes our community more accessible for those with mobility issues. St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church received $50,000 toward the installation of a new elevator, and the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre received $38,142 towards the installation of intercom systems, push-button door openers, and washroom accessories. These are just but a few examples of what we need to do to improve the lives of seniors and we still need to do much more.
Just this past August I was pleased to see that funding for the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) received $4-million to continue their ground-breaking research. In further recognizing the importance of water, we made additional investments, including; $480,000 to Grand Council Treaty #3 and Lake of the Woods Sustainability Foundation to protect and enhance water quality. These investments coupled with a previous $5.5 million investment will help protect the health of our waters in the Lake of the Woods basin and beyond.
Safe and reliable transportation is also top-of-mind for many Northerners, so we made a number of investments in our local airports. Recently, we celebrated the grand opening of the Kenora airport through an investment of more than $2 million. We also invested over $10 million to ensure the long-term viability of the Red Lake Municipal Airport.
Moving into 2019, our transportation infrastructure remains at the top of the priority list, including the twinning of Highway 17, and building all-weather roads. In addition, we need to continue to modernize our broadband Infrastructure in order that we are better able to compete in the 21st century.
Making housing more affordable is a fundamental issue for everyone in the riding. Since 2016, more than $5.7-billion has been invested in housing projects across Canada. The Kenora riding alone received investments of over $49-million, which means 917 affordable housing units have been built or repaired. Furthermore, over $16-million has been invested into housing subsidies, making 5,219 rental units more affordable for Northerners. That’s why I support Canada’s first ever National Housing Strategy (NHS), 10-year, $40-billion plan that will make finding a place to call home a reality for many Canadians.
It is also an indisputable fact that Canadians are feeling the impacts and costs of climate change first hand. In the North, we see the very real signs of climate change on a daily basis, and we see these effects worsen year after year. In Ontario, extreme weather is being felt in the heatwaves and floods and devastating windstorms.It is our responsibility to tackle climate change head-on, and not pass the burden on to our children and grandchildren. This government is committed to doing what is necessary to protect our environment for future generations.
One of the biggest challenges we face living in the north is equal access to health care. I’ve been advocating for a new hospital in Kenora and I am encouraged to see the work being done by representatives from Kenora and Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, as well as local Indigenous leaders. It has long been understood that the Lake of the Woods District Hospital needs replacing, but only through cooperation with everyone in the area can we make that hospital a reality. In Sioux Lookout, we’re strongly advocating for the completion of the next phase in the Meno Ya Win Health Centre, to increase their capacity to care for community members that need care. Put simply, rural healthcare needs are vastly different than in urban centers and I will continue working to modernize and improve our healthcare services for all people in the North.
While these are just some examples of our accomplishments and the priorities moving into the New Year, I look forward to working together with our provincial and municipal leaders in 2019. As always, representing you in Ottawa is an honour and in the coming year, I am confident that we will make the North an even better place to call home.
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