Parliament resumes work with focus on cost of living and housing reforms

MPs will return to their seats in the House of Commons on Monday as the ruling Liberals roll out new housing and cost of living initiatives in the hope of ending their party’s blow at the polls.

While the Conservatives, whose poll numbers are shining, are making a comeback, the Liberals are facing their worst poll numbers in eight years, and voters are looking for a sign that the government understands and can help ease persistent fiscal problems. them at night.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who has been criticized for offering bland talking points about Canada’s post-pandemic economic growth in response to questions about inflation, appeared to acknowledge that pressure on Saturday.

Speaking at the Progressive International Leaders Summit in Montreal, Freeland said Canada’s efforts to weather the economic blows of the pandemic are important, but meaningless to a family trying to put food on the table today.

“For exhausted and frustrated Canadians, having been through so much over the past three years, I know that recounting the battles they have fought and won is boring if not downright alienating,” she said.

“What Canadians want, need and deserve is for us to address the real pain that so many are facing right now, and to offer a hopeful and achievable vision for Canada’s future.”

The Liberals have so far responded to calls for help in the cost-of-living crisis by offering two additional GST rebates — each worth up to $467 for a family of four — and one $500 housing subsidy for low-income renters. The NDP wants the Liberals to offer housing relief again this fall.

Meanwhile, Dalhousie University’s annual Canadian Food Prices Report shows that the average family of four saw their annual food bills rise by about $2,000 between 2020 and 2022. The 2023 report forecasts another increase of $1,065 this year.

The Liberals are now turning to the retail sector to help reduce food costs. At the same time that the House of Commons reopens on Monday morning, Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne will meet with the CEOs of Canada’s largest grocery chains and insist on coming up with a plan to ease food prices by Thanksgiving.

The presidents of Loblaws, Metro, Sobeys, Walmart Canada and Costco were invited to attend the meeting. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned last week that if retailers can’t show a path to lower prices, the government may take steps to force the issue.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, whose party struck a deal with the Liberals to support government on key votes in exchange for government action on some NDP priorities, has long pushed for a windfall tax on grocery outlets generating record profits.

Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill on Sunday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre dismissed the Liberal grocery meeting as a mere political sham.

He asked: “Will lettuce prices return to their original price by Thanksgiving?” “Are carrots going to go back to their original price by Thanksgiving because of this big picture deal with grocery store executives? This is more political theater.”

Poilievre said he would address the cost of food by eliminating the carbon price. This price is not applied directly to grocery stores but can indirectly increase food production and transportation costs.

The Bank of Canada said this month that the carbon price contributes about 0.15 percentage points to overall inflation. This amount was the same whether inflation was at its peak of 8.1 percent in June 2022 or 3.3 percent in August.

Housing has become another major concern for Canadians recently – a recent Leisure poll indicated that a third of Canadians listed inflation as their top issue, while about a sixth said housing affordability.

This affordability problem is largely driven by a lack of supply. Canada needs to increase home construction plans by 3.5 million homes by 2030, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation says.

Stimulating construction, especially the construction of rental units, is also crucial. The Liberals head into the parliamentary session with a new promise to remove the goods and services tax from the cost of building new rentals.

Mike Moffat, an economist and housing expert at the Smart Prosperity Institute, helped author a report in August advising the federal government on options to solve the housing crisis. Removing the GST from new rental construction was on his list and he expects it could add between 200,000 and 300,000 rental units in Canada by 2030.

On Monday, Poilievre plans to introduce legislation that includes a new housing policy that also includes abolishing the goods and services tax. He also intends to promise additional money to cities that increase housing starts, while those that don’t will see their federal housing dollars reduced.

Liberal housing programs, such as the accelerator fund that funnels money to cities that break down barriers to building new homes, are highly bureaucratic with limited success, Poilievre said.

He insisted that his plan would come without any papers for the cities.

Liberals see weakness in conservatives on climate, as Poilievre has yet to explain what his climate change plan would look like beyond eliminating the carbon price.

Environment Minister Stephen Guilbault intensified his attacks on Poilievre over the summer as the world saw record temperatures and Canada saw millions of hectares of forest and hundreds of homes destroyed by wildfires.

The battle between liberals and conservatives over energy and environmental policy will heat up again next month when Guilbault is expected to present his plan to reduce emissions from oil and gas production.

Monday also marks the official start of the public inquiry into foreign interference. It is not yet clear when the public hearings will be held, but the first report is scheduled to be released at the end of February.

Canadian Press

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