Chrystia Freeland details $ 8.9 billion in financial aid in major financial speeches

Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer Chrystia Freeland gives her first major speech since the budget today, outlining the $ 8.9 billion in financial support her government has already put in place to help Canadians deal with rising inflation.

“We know Canadians are worried about inflation and that they are asking what their government will 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 will put more money in the pockets of Canadians at a time when they need them most.”

Freeland’s speech to the Empire Club in Toronto also touches on strategies to increase 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 exacerbating inflation through its pandemic-era policy of quantitative easing.

He has also promised to fire Macklem if he becomes prime minister – a promise that has given rise to criticism from some who say the Conservative MP is unfairly politicizing an institution that has always operated at arm’s length from party politics.

The measures already announced by the federal government in the 2022 budget and quoted by Freeland in today’s speech include:

  • Increase 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. These amounts have almost doubled, with a boost of $ 1,200 for individuals and $ 2,400 for families.

  • Increases Old Age Security (OAS) by 10 percent, giving up to $ 766 in new support in the first year starting in July.

  • Provides a one-time $ 500 one-time affordable home payment to low-income Canadians.

  • Reducing the cost of childcare by an average of 50 percent by the end of the year, bringing it to an average cost of $ 10 a day in 2025-26.

  • Offers free dental care to Canadians earning less than $ 90,000 a year, starting with children under 12 by 2022.

  • Rising benefits indexed to inflation, including OAS, Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), Canada Pension Plan, Canada Child Benefit and GST credit.

The federal government says GIS is already 4.9 percent higher than a year ago due to inflation and that other indexed benefits will rise as well.

Opposition is critical of repeated announcements

The NDP and the Conservatives have been pressuring the Liberal government on the issue of inflation for weeks. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh told the House of Commons during the question-and-answer session on Wednesday that re-announcing programs revealed in the budget is not enough.

“One in four Canadians will lose their homes if interest rates continue to rise. One in four Canadians go hungry because they can not afford their groceries,” Singh said.

WATCH | ‘We go for a hard ride’: John Manley on inflation, risk of recession

‘We go for a hard ride’: John Manley on inflation, risk of recession

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

“The Minister of Finance will give a speech … which should correspond to their needs, but instead will be a re-announcement of previous initiatives, none of which will help people right now.”

Singh said the federal government should take steps to help people immediately by providing direct financial support to families.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while programs such as the federal childcare plan was rolled out months ago, their economic effects are only being felt now that they are starting to take effect.

In a speech Wednesday, interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen said the Liberal government needs to make temporary cuts in GST and carbon taxes on fuel and diesel.

“It would help a lot to reduce the price of gas and frankly everything else,” she said.

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