Federal Conservatives say the party may support some, but not all, of the Liberal government’s $4.6-billion affordability package after previously dismissing the plan as inflationary spending.
Speaking with reporters after a closed-door caucus meeting, Conservative MP Michael Barrett indicated that his party “may support” Bill C-30, which would allow the government to double low-income Canadians’ GST tax credit for six months.
“This is not one of the steps that we asked them to take, but giving people a break on their taxes is one way to do that,” he said. “This is very much a made-in-Canada Liberal inflationary crisis, and Bill C-30 is a way – we don’t believe it’s the best way – but it is a way for them to address some of the challenges that the folks who are the most hardest hit by this affordability crisis are facing.”
The Liberal government introduced Bill C-30 on Tuesday, along with Bill C-31, which implements dental payments to uninsured parents with children under 12, and a boost in rent supports. Both programs are for lower-income Canadians.
The measures are related to the NDP’s March deal to keep the minority Liberal government in power until 2025 in exchange for action on a list of policy files.
Mr. Barrett said the Conservative Party can’t support Bill C-31 on dental care and rent support, saying it would contribute to inflation and interfere in provincial jurisdiction.
After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the package last week in New Brunswick, new Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said it would make inflation worse.
“The problem with spending more money as the 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 Opposition Leader in Question Period this week, Mr. Poilievre and his caucus called on the government not to raise Employment Insurance premiums, Canada Pension Plan contributions and the federal carbon price in 2023.
Employment Insurance premiums, which employees and employers pay to fund income support benefits in the event of a job loss, have been frozen at 1.58 per cent of insurable earnings since 2020.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, confirmed on Wednesday that premiums will rise to 1.63 per cent in 2023.
The minister later told reporters she had requested a Finance Department analysis of the cost and impact of Mr. Poilievre’s proposed E.I. freeze.
She said a premium freeze would save Canadians about $31 in 2023, at a government cost of roughly $2.5-billion. She said that’s roughly the same cost as the plan to double the GST credit, which would support about 11 million individuals. Single Canadians without children would receive up to $234 extra, while couples with two children would receive up to $467 extra, according to the government.
“That’s it. Thirty-one bucks,” Ms. Freeland said of Mr. Poilievre’s E.I. proposal. “Now I put that against a plan – take our GST tax credit – that gives nearly $500 to families who really, really need it and reaches 11 million households. And I would say our targeted, meaningful support is the right compassionate choice.”