Jagmeet Singh said he has received an advance briefing on Thursday’s budget and expects to see “first steps” toward national dental care and other NDP priorities.
The NDP Leader held a news conference Tuesday to outline what he expects to see later this week when Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tables the 2022 federal budget.
The budget will provide the first financial details related to the recently announced parliamentary co-operation agreement, in which the NDP will vote to keep the minority Liberal government in power until June, 2025, in exchange for action on a list of NDP priorities.
The agreement specifically states the NDP will support four Liberal budgets as part of the deal.
The March agreement included pledges to launch a new dental care program for low-income Canadians, starting with under 12-year-olds in 2022 and full implementation by 2025.
It also committed the government to pass a Canada Pharmacare Act by 2023 and provide the provinces with “additional ongoing investments” for health care.
The deal did not include cost estimates for these pledges. As a result, the budget will be closely watched for details related to the price tag and timing of these commitments.
Mr. Singh said he also expects to see measures that address housing shortages and climate change, given they were also mentioned in the deal with the Liberals.
“We’re looking at this as certainly a first test,” he said.
The Liberal-NDP agreement included several procedural elements, including a guiding principle of “no surprises.” To that end, Mr. Singh said his team has been kept in the loop as budget day approaches.
“One of the elements of the agreement is that we receive early briefings on the budget and we’ve received that,” he said. He did not provide further details.
In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Conservative MPs repeatedly raised the agreement with the NDP to warn that Thursday’s budget will be big on spending.
Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen pointed to concerns recently expressed by former Liberal cabinet ministers – such as John Manley and Anne McLellan – that their party may be veering too far to the left of the political spectrum.
Mr. Manley, a former Liberal finance minister and deputy prime minister, recently criticized the current government’s fiscal policies, telling The Globe and Mail that “tax and spend is not a growth agenda.”
Liberal and NDP MPs combined with the Bloc Québécois this week to defeat a Conservative motion that criticized the government’s “excessive” spending. The defeated motion also called on the government to present a federal budget “rooted in fiscal responsibility, with no new taxes, a path to balance, and a meaningful fiscal anchor.”
“Gone are the days when these Liberals followed the advice of their moderate colleagues like John Manley and Anne McClellan,” said Ms. Bergen. “Instead, their inspiration for the budget will come from the fringes of the NDP movement. Isn’t it true that this budget will ignore the need to address inflation and the cost of living, and instead give in to the extreme demands of the NDP?”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government’s handling of the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our choice, contrary to Conservatives, was to make sure families didn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head,” he said. “We will always have Canadians’ back. We will always do it responsibly, in a fiscal way.”
In his news conference, Mr. Singh also listed areas of concern with the Liberal government’s approach. He said the NDP does not support government funding for carbon capture and storage technology in the energy sector. He also said the NDP opposes calls for Canada to increase defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP and expressed concern that the Liberals have not yet agreed with the NDP that new tax hikes on companies and the “ultra rich” are needed to cover the cost of new social programs.
“We’re going to continue to push for the other revenue increases,” he said.
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