Conservatives say they may support part of Liberals’ affordability plan after criticizing it as inflationary

Conservative MP for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes Michael Barrett speaks to the media before attending the Sept. 21 caucus in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Federal conservatives say the party may support some, but not all, of the Liberal government’s $4.6 billion affordability packages, having previously dismissed the plan as inflationary spending.

Speaking to reporters after a behind-closed-doors caucus, Conservative MP Michael Barrett hinted that his party might “support” Bill C-30, which would allow the government to extend the GST tax credit for low-income Canadians for six months long to double.

Mr Barrett said Conservatives had urged the government to take meaningful steps to tackle the affordability crisis caused by high inflation rates.

“It’s not one of the steps we asked them to take, but giving people a tax break is one way to do it,” he said. “This is very much a liberal inflationary crisis made in Canada and Bill C-30 is a way – we don’t think it’s the best way – but it’s a way for them to address some of the challenges ahead.” on which stand the people who are hardest hit by this affordability crisis.”

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The Liberal government introduced Bill C-30 on Tuesday, along with Bill C-31, which would implement dental payments to uninsured parents with children under 12 and an increase in rent subsidies. Both programs are aimed at low-income Canadians.

The measures come in the context of the NDP’s March deal to keep the liberal minority government in power until 2025 in exchange for action on a list of political files.

Mr. Barrett said the Conservative Party could not support Bill C-31 on dental care and rent subsidies because it would contribute to inflation and interfere with provincial jurisdiction.

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After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the package in New Brunswick last week, new Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said it would make inflation worse.

“The problem with spending more money as a solution to inflation is that it simply pours more gasoline on the inflationary fire,” Mr Poilievre said at the time.

During his first two appearances as official leader of the opposition during the question period this week, Mr. Poilievre and his caucus urged the government not to increase employment insurance premiums, Canada Pension Plan contributions and the federal carbon price in 2023.

Unemployment insurance premiums, which workers and employers pay to fund income support benefits in the event of a job loss, have been frozen at 1.58 percent of insurable income since 2020.

Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, confirmed on Wednesday that premiums will rise to 1.63 percent by 2023.

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The minister later told reporters she had requested an analysis from the Treasury Department on the costs and implications of Mr Poilievre’s proposed EI freeze.

She said a premium freeze would save Canadians about $31 in 2023 at a government cost of about $2.5 billion. She said that’s about the same cost as the plan to double the GST credit, which would support about 11 million people. Single Canadians with no children would get up to an extra $234, according to the government, while couples with two children would get up to an extra $467.

“That’s it. Thirty-one dollars,” Ms. Freeland said of Mr. Poilievre’s EI proposal. “Now I’m going to put that against a plan — take our GST tax credit — of the families who really, really need it, almost $500.” dollars and reaches 11 million homes, and I would say that our targeted, meaningful support is the right compassionate choice.”

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