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Chrystia Freeland details $8.9B in measures to tackle affordability in first major speech since budget & More Trending News



deputy prime minister and finance minister chrystia freeland

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 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 said her plan to address inflation and the affordability crisis has five parts: respecting the role of the Bank of Canada, investing in workers, managing the debt, creating good jobs and funding the suite of programs that make up the Affordability Plan.

Freeland’s 40-minute speech to the Empire Club in Toronto also touched on strategies to increase competitiveness and productivity and offered a pledge to increase financial supports if the economic situation worsens.

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.

Calling the criticism of the Bank “economically illiterate,” Freeland said the Bank’s job is to tackle inflation and she reaffirmed that mandate late last year.

“The Bank has begun the work of bringing inflation back within target, and it has the tools and the expertise it needs to keep inflation from becoming entrenched,” she said.

Freeland said the Bank’s reputation was a key reason Canada’s AAA credit rating was reaffirmed and that the institution promotes economic stability.

“At this time of global economic and political volatility, undermining Canada’s fundamental institutions — very much including the Bank of Canada — is highly irresponsible, not to mention economically illiterate,” she said.

The ‘Affordability Plan’

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.

WATCH ‘We’re in for a rough ride’: John Manley on inflation, risk of recession

‘We’re in for a rough ride’: John Manley on inflation, risk of recession

“We could be heading into a recession,” said former Liberal finance minister John Manley. “Everything is kind of negative right now.”

In her speech, Freeland compared Canada’s economic recovery to that of other G7 nations. She said Canada has recovered 117 per cent of the jobs lost during the pandemic — better than the 96 per cent recovery rate in the U.S. — and now has an unemployment rate of just 5.1 per cent.

“This is the strongest recovery in the G7. It’s the strongest jobs recovery in the G7 and Canada’s real GDP is 1.8 per cent above where it was in those awful first weeks [of the pandemic],” she said. 

Freeland said that, despite those positive numbers, she knows some Canadians are suffering due to inflation, which she blamed on the pandemic, interruptions in global supply chains and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Investing in workers, housing

While it is the Bank of Canada’s job to fight inflation, Freeland said the government can help by tackling other issues such as the shortage of workers, especially skilled workers.

“We are doing this by investing in immigration, skills, child care and housing,” she said in French. 

Freeland said Canada has maintained its policies encouraging immigration throughout the pandemic and those new people coming to Canada will be welcomed by employers looking to staff up.

“In the budget, we also set out to invest in the workers who are already here,” she said. “That means ensuring our skilled trades workers can afford to travel to the parts of Canada where their services are desperately needed.”

Those workers, Freeland said, need housing and her government’s promise to double the number of homes built over the coming decade will help ensure people can find affordable places to live. 

Managing the debt

Freeland said that while Canada has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7, she wants debt to decline and said Canada’s “pandemic debt must, and will, be paid down.”

“In tabling the budget in April, I reaffirmed this as our fiscal anchor and I committed to a review and a reduction of government spending, because that is the responsible thing to do,” she said. “I am confident that our plan is the right one.”

Freeland added that she does “not underestimate the economic difficulties and uncertainty of the months to come.”

“We have been through two years of remarkable turbulence. Our challenge now is to land the plane — and a soft landing is not guaranteed.”

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.

“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.

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