OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives and New Democrats both urged the government on Tuesday to do more to address Canada’s cost of living crisis, though parties have diverged on what they want to see from the Liberals.
Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen has accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being “vindictive” in his fierce opposition to his party’s proposals on inflation, saying that by trying to punish his party politically, he is punishing by Canadians do.
Bergen referenced the Conservatives’ proposal this winter to offer tax relief by lifting the GST on fuel and to suspend the carbon tax in April.
“Both times it was clear (Trudeau) was telling us no because of politics, because we asked him, because it was our idea,” she said.
The party introduced what Bergen calls an “omnibus motion” in the House of Commons, which urges the Trudeau government to temporarily suspend the GST on gasoline and diesel, suspend the carbon tax and remove all restrictions federal related to COVID-19.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, said there should be stronger measures against companies profiting from the crisis and that excess profits should be redistributed to Canadians in need.
When the cost of living rises, it hurts workers and families, while it benefits those at the top who make more profits, Singh said.
“Most ordinary working families, we want to give them money directly between $500 and $1,000 per family. This will go directly to families in need, to workers, to ordinary families. They need help now,” he said.
Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said inflation was happening around the world, largely because of the war in Ukraine which was increasing the cost of fuel and food, and that his government was taking action, including making child care more affordable.
Last month, Trudeau said the GST rebate and the Canada Child Benefit are already indexed to increase each year based on the annual rate of inflation.
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said 70% of the increase in prices at the pump is related to what is happening internationally, particularly with crude oil.
A quarter of the increase comes from taxes, particularly provincial taxes, Guilbeault said, while the price of pollution accounts for 5% of the increase in fuel prices.
Guilbeault also argued that most Canadians get more money back in their pockets from rebates than what the carbon price is costing them.
Asked about the Liberal government’s proposed solutions to affordability issues, including the national child care plan and the child benefit, Bergen said the answer wasn’t good enough.
“People are paying more, in some provinces, $2 a liter for gas. People can’t afford groceries, they can’t afford rent, let alone a mortgage to buy a house. It’s not enough because it doesn’t work,” she said.
“The best way to relieve Canadians is to cut taxes, not promise them a check might come in the mail, and you’d have to settle for an extra $100 every four months.” It doesn’t work,” Bergen said.
Singh also touched on the timing and extent of the Liberals’ response.
“People can’t afford to wait. Tell that to a family who is hungry right now because they can’t afford to buy groceries. They can’t afford to wait. I can’t do it,” he said.
About 12 million people receive the GST rebate and 6.4 million Canadian children are eligible for the child benefit.
Government House Leader Mark Holland has said the Tories are the stonewallers, accusing the Official Opposition of not wanting to block the work of the Commons and behaving as if they had a majority.
Unlike when the Liberals work with the Bloc Québécois and the NDP to bring forward bills and there’s a “win-win,” the Conservatives aren’t offering anything, Holland said.
“I’m here in a minority government, I’m ready to work with anyone,” he said, adding that the Liberals have been able to work with the Conservatives in the past, including on the bill to Ban conversion therapy.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 7, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION