OTTAWA—NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he is confident — based on briefings that included a conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — that Thursday’s federal budget will honor the deal he made to prop up the Liberal minority government in exchange for action on a suite of progressive policies.
In an interview with the Star on Tuesday, Singh said he expects the budget will include a “down payment on a national dental care program,” new spending on affordable housing, and initial steps to increase taxes on big banks and remove some government supports for the fossil fuel sector.
To Singh, it’s evidence the government will pass the first test of the deal the NDP struck with the Liberals two weeks ago, in which New Democrats bought pledges on some policy priorities for the price of their support on confidence votes until June 2025.
“There’s a strong indication of good faith, because they followed the agreement and provided us with information and a sense of what’s going to happen,” Singh said.
“That gives us the confidence they’ll meet our expectations.”
The deal includes eight measures the government pledged to act upon this year. While Singh said some of those aren’t budgetary, like the commitment to pass a bill to legally protect the new national child care program over the long-term, he expects “key” priorities to be spelled out in the budget the Liberals table in Parliament on Thursday.
That includes a $500 increase to the Canada Housing Benefit that helps low-income people pay their rent, and “significant” new spending on Indigenous housing. Singh said he also anticipates the Liberal budget will extend the government’s “rapid housing initiative” — launched in 2020 with $1 billion in public money — for another year, and create a new official definition of “affordable housing” to ensure public funds benefit people who need help the most.
Beyond that, Singh said he expects “steps” on the Liberals’ pledge to create a three-per-cent surtax on banks and insurance companies with profits above $1 billion, as well as an indication the Liberals will dismantle at least one of two policies. the NDP identified in last year’s federal election as “fossil fuel subsidies.”
And he is confident the budget will fulfill the pledge in the deal to create a program this year that provides dental care to children 12 and under without insurance coverage for families that make less than $90,000 per year.
In their discussions with the government, Singh said the NDP pushed to ensure the dental program for this age group is included, along with spending plans to expand it to all Canadians without dental insurance by 2025. And while he does not know all the specifics about the planned spending — he said the briefings dealt in general with areas under the Liberal-NDP deal — the communication left him believing the Liberals will hold up their end of the bargain.
Singh said the talks involved Liberal and NDP staff, the party’s house leaders, as well as a meeting between Trudeau and Singh himself.
“I expect the agreement to be honored, which is good for people. But there will be things (in the budget) that we’re not going to be happy about,” Singh said.
That includes an expected tax credit for oil and gas companies which spend money on carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology — a Liberal policy proposal that environmentalists view as a harmful support for the heavy-emitting fossil fuel sector. The NDP also wants Ottawa to go further with tax increases on corporations and the rich—something New Democrats say the Liberals rejected in their negotiations for last month’s deal.
But Singh said his party can disagree with some aspects of Thursday’s budget and still support it as outlined under the deal.
“It’s still the Liberal party governing. They’re going to make decisions that we don’t agree with,” he said. “What we’ve done is forge an agreement to get certain things done and we’re confident that …there will be meaningful action on those things.”
The opposition Conservatives, meanwhile, have savaged the deal as a “backroom” coalition that will herald reckless government spending and increase Canada’s already-high rate of inflation.
“Thursday is fast approaching and with it we will see our first ever NDP-Liberal budget, a budget that promises a hard veer to the left with big spending and fiscal irresponsibility,” interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen said Tuesday during Question Period.
Speaking to the Star, Singh said the Conservatives have failed to achieve any concrete policies in the almost three years Canada has had a minority government. And if Canada’s federal deficit — last forecast at $144.5 billion for 2021-22 — increases in Thursday’s budget, Singh said the Liberals will only have themselves to blame.
“If they increase the deficit, that’s because they didn’t have the courage to tax the super rich more — and they could have,” Singh said.
“But our expectation is they’re going to follow through on what they promised to do. That’s because we worked hard, we continued to have updates and our teams continued to meet, and so we used our position to be able to obtain the results that we fought for.”
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