Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is delivering her first major speech since the budget today, outlining $8.9 billion in financial supports her government has introduced already to help Canadians deal with rising inflation.
“We know that Canadians are worried about inflation and that they’re asking what their government is going to do about it,” Freeland said in a media statement.
“That’s why we have a new Affordability Plan — $8.9 billion in new support this year — that is going to put more money in the pockets of Canadians at a time when they need it most.”
Freeland’s speech to the Empire Club in Toronto also touches on strategies to enhance competitiveness and productivity and manage debt, and the role of the Bank of Canada in keeping the economy stable.
Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre has accused the Bank of Canada and its current governor, Tiff Macklem, of worsening inflation through its pandemic-era policy of quantitative easing.
He’s also vowed to fire Macklem if he becomes prime minister — a promise that has prompted criticism from some who say the Conservative MP is unfairly politicizing an institution that has always operated at arms-length from partisan politics.
The measures already announced by the federal government in the 2022 budget and cited by Freeland in today’s speech include:
Boosting the Canada Workers Benefit by $1.7 billion this year. Individual workers can now receive up to $1,395 a year in benefits, while a family can qualify for up to $2,403 annually. Those amounts are almost doubling, with a boost of $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for families.
Increasing Old Age Security (OAS) by 10 per cent, providing up to $766 in new support in the first year starting in July.
Providing a one-time Housing Affordability Payment of $500 for low-income Canadians.
Reducing the cost of child care by an average of 50 per cent by year’s end and bringing it to an average cost of $10 a day by 2025-26.
Providing free dental coverage for Canadians earning less than $90,000 a year, beginning with children under 12, in 2022.
Increasing benefits indexed to inflation, including OAS, the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Child Benefit and the GST credit.
The federal government says the GIS is already 4.9 per cent higher than it was a year ago because of inflation, and that other indexed benefits will also increase.
Opposition critical of repeat announcements
The NDP and the Conservatives have been pressing the Liberal government on the inflation issue for weeks. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told the House of Commons during question period Wednesday that re-announcing programs that were unveiled in the budget is not enough.
“One out of four Canadians will lose their homes if interest rates continue to rise. One out of four Canadians are going hungry because they can’t afford their groceries,” Singh said.
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“The minister of finance is going to give a speech … which was supposed to respond to their needs, but is instead going to be a re-announcement of previous measures, none of which will help people right now.”
Singh said the federal government needs to take steps to help people immediately by delivering direct financial support to families.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while programs such as the federal child care plan were rolled out months ago, their financial effects are only being felt now as they start to take effect.
In a speech Wednesday, interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen said that the Liberal government needs to make temporary cuts to the GST and carbon taxes on fuel and diesel.
“That would help a lot to bring down the cost of gas and frankly everything else,” she said.