Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press
The federal Conservatives and New Democrats both delivered forceful pleas to the government on Tuesday to do more to address the cost−of−living crisis in Canada, though the parties diverged on what they want to see from the Liberals.
Interim Tory leader Candice Bergen accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being “vindictive” in his staunch opposition to her party’s proposals on inflation, saying that by trying to punish her party politically, he is in fact punishing Canadians.
Bergen referenced the Conservatives’ proposal from this winter to provide tax relief by lifting the GST on fuel and suspending the carbon tax in April.
“Both times it was clear (Trudeau) was saying no to us because of politics, because it was us who asked him for it because it was our idea,” she said.
The party introduced what Bergen called an “omnibus motion” in the House of Commons, which urged the Trudeau government to temporarily suspend the GST on gas and diesel, suspend the carbon tax and remove all federal COVID−19 restrictions.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, on the other hand, called on the government to extend the excess profit tax on financial institutions to include major oil and gas companies and corporations making record profits amid inflation.
Singh urged the Liberals to immediately give between $500 and $1,000 back to working families by doubling the GST tax credit and increasing the Canada Child Benefit.
“That’s going to go directly to families in need, to workers, to ordinary families. They need help now,” he said.
He said the NDP wants the government to acknowledge companies have seen a “windfall” in excess profits. The government is also enjoying a windfall as inflation drives up the amount of GST it is collecting, Singh said.
“So that windfall should be just redistributed to people.”
Innovation Minister François−Philippe Champagne said inflation is happening across the globe, largely driven by the war in Ukraine increasing the cost of fuel and food, and his government is taking action by making child care more affordable.
Last month, Trudeau said the GST rebate and Canada Child Benefit are already indexed to rise each year by the annual rate of inflation.
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said 70 per cent of the increased prices at the pump have to do with what is happening internationally, specifically with crude oil.
A quarter of the increase is from taxes, particularly provincial taxes, Guilbeault said, while the price on pollution accounts for five per cent of the increased fuel prices.
Guilbeault also argued that most Canadians are getting more money back into their pockets through rebates than what the carbon price is costing them.
Asked about the Liberal government’s proposed solutions to the affordability challenges, including the national child−care plan and the child benefit, Bergen said that response is not good enough.
“People are paying over, in some provinces, $2 a litre for gas. People can’t afford groceries, they can’t afford rent, much less a mortgage trying to buy a house. It’s not enough because it’s not working,” she said.
“The best way to provide relief for Canadians is to cut taxes, not promise them a cheque might come in the mail, and you should be happy with an extra 100 bucks every four months. It is not working,” Bergen said.
Singh also touched on the timing and breadth of the Liberals’ response.
“People can’t afford to wait. Tell that to a family that right now is hungry because they cannot afford groceries. They can’t afford to wait. Can’t do it,” he said.
About 12 million people receive the GST rebate and 6.4 million Canadian children qualify for the child benefit.
Government House leader Mark Holland said the Conservatives are the ones being obstructionist, charging that the Official Opposition is solely interested in blocking the work of the Commons and behaving as if they have a majority.
Unlike when the Liberals work with the Bloc Québécois and the NDP to move legislation and there’s a “give and take,” the Conservatives don’t offer anything, said Holland.
“I’m here in a minority government, I’m willing to work with anybody,” he said, adding the Liberals were able to work together with the Conservatives in the past, including on the bill to ban conversion therapy.
feature image: The Canadian Press