Inflation, cost of living top of mind for opposition parties ahead of fiscal update

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As the federal government prepares to deliver its fiscal update on Tuesday, opposition parties are calling on the governing Liberals to address inflation and the cost of living.

The Conservatives, the Official Opposition, are calling on the Liberals to freeze any tax increases set to take place on New Year’s Day and introduce a plan to phase out deficit spending.

“Our demands are very simple: less tax, less deficits, less inflation,” said Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre, who laid out his party’s demands on Sunday.

Specifically, the Conservatives say there should be a freeze on the federal carbon tax and payroll taxes, which are set to increase in January.

Poilievre, who has recently blamed government spending for rising prices, said he wants to see the Liberals lay out a plan to bring spending back to pre-pandemic levels.

“The temporary, timely and targeted need for assistance during lockdowns was appropriate at that time, but now we need to get spending back to normal,” he said.

WATCH | What’s expected in the fiscal update, Bill 21 back in the spotlight | At Issue: 

What’s expected in the fiscal update, Bill 21 back in the spotlight | At Issue

The At Issue panel discusses what to watch for in the federal government’s upcoming fiscal update and how it might address inflation. Plus, the panellists look at Quebec’s Bill 21 and why it’s getting renewed attention in Ottawa. 13:42

Earlier in the week, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also said he wants to see the Liberals address inflation and rising costs when he laid out his party’s asks for the fiscal update.

“This is an opportunity for the Liberal government to tackle inflation,” he said. “We want this government to respond to the pressures that are raising the cost of living.”

Singh specifically called on the Liberals to address rising housing costs by targeting housing speculation and investing in more affordable housing. He also said the government should put a price cap on cellphone service.

In an interview on CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live, Minister of Small Business and Economic Development Mary Ng hinted that inflation and the cost of living will be addressed in the fiscal update, but she didn’t go into details.

“I think what Canadians should expect to see is what we have committed to as a government, making sure that life is more affordable for Canadians,” she said.

The Bloc Québécois hasn’t officially said what it would like to see from the fiscal update, but in recent weeks, the party has been pushing the government to stop counting income from pandemic benefits as employment income — arguing it reduces money given to seniors through the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

Inflation at record-high level

The fiscal update comes as inflation continues to plague the economic recovery in Canada and other developed countries, with the price of everything from food to energy rising at rates not seen in decades.

Statistics Canada says the country’s inflation rate jumped to a new 18-year high of 4.7 per cent in October, led by sharply higher prices for energy. A year ago, the inflation rate in Canada was 0.7 per cent.

When the cost of energy is taken out of the calculation — leaving just the overall cost of consumer goods such as food, shelter, clothing, housing, health care and recreation — the inflation rate drops to 3.3 per cent.

While that number is still above the Bank of Canada’s inflation target of two per cent, it’s well below the 6.2 per cent inflation rate being experienced in the United States.

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