Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland defend a ‘fiscally responsible’ budget despite deficits and risk of recession

OTTAWA: A federal budget setting $43 billion in planned new spending is “fiscally responsible” despite deficits, rising public debt and the risk of a mild recession because it sets high ambition for clean-tech investments that will expand the Canada’s economy, Finance Minister says Chrystia Freeland.

Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to an Ottawa-area daycare center on Wednesday, presented the benefits of the budget and pushed back at some economists who criticized the new spending when so much economic uncertainty is in the air.

Freeland, who is also deputy prime minister, compared her plans to provide $80 billion over the next decade in tax credits and incentives to attract more “green” investment to the economic boost Canada is already getting from the Liberals’ $30 billion early learning . and child care program.

Freeland’s budget said that while the $10-a-day daycare is not supposed to be fully implemented until 2026, six provinces have already reached that target and it is already boosting the economy, it said.

As a result, the labor force participation rate for women ages 25 to 54 has grown, reaching a “record high of nearly 86 percent, compared to just 77 percent in the US,” said the Freeland budget.

Trudeau echoed Freeland, boasting that, “A lot of what the United States is doing right now with the Cut Inflation Act (a $369 billion plan to jump-start the American clean energy transition) it is trying to catch up with the work that Canada has been doing steadily for the last four years, as the US moved away from dealing with environmental responsibility.”

The day after the budget was presented, Trudeau’s political critics focused on what they saw as loopholes.

The only new housing measure is $1.9 billion to increase indigenous housing options in urban, rural and northern areas, and the government is targeting money in previous budgets that is only now being implemented, such as a tax-free savings account. for first-time homebuyers, and the $4 billion housing accelerator to help municipalities expedite zoning permits and other approvals.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh took credit for the investment in indigenous housing and the extended GST credit worth $2.5 billion, but told his group and reporters: “We are not satisfied.”

Later, in the House of Commons, Singh challenged Trudeau to do more on housing: “Will the government take the housing crisis seriously and ultimately build more houses that people can afford faster?”

The high price of owning or renting is a key element in conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s attacks on liberals. On Wednesday he criticized the budget, saying that Canadians “who do the job deserve a country that works for them, not a tax-profligate runaway NDP budget like we have today.”

The budget projects a deficit of $40.1 billion for the next fiscal year and says it will cost Ottawa $43.9 billion in service charges on the total public debt, set at $1.2 trillion.

Singh, the NDP leader, said his MPs will vote on the budget because it ultimately allocates $13 billion for a national dental care plan that Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says will eventually cover some 9 million Canadians. who earn less than $90,000 and have no place of employment. dental benefits.

By the end of this year, the fledgling dental care plan that already covers children under 12 will be extended to children under 18, the elderly and disabled in that income category of less than $90,000, he said.

Tuesday’s budget also built on old promises to tackle racism and hate, noting that misinformation and disinformation, the only reference to either topic in the entire document, is “increasingly” hurting the canadians.

That includes committing just under $50 million over five years to expand a federal program that helps offset the cost of security upgrades for places of worship, some schools and community centers. Ottawa will also launch its long-touted national action plan to combat hate later this year, which Liberals said during the last election would be in place by 2022.

There is also an additional $25.4 million set aside over five years for Canada’s anti-racism strategy, and a supplemental $25 million for the Black Canadian Communities Support Initiative, which supports black-led and black-serving organizations. blacks.

And the budget promises new rules to force banks and finance companies to disclose the diversity, or lack thereof, on their boards and senior management.

The budget sets aside money to fight foreign interference, although it does not include a specific amount for review work being carried out by former Governor-General David Johnston or for any possible investigation he may recommend into Chinese election interference in Canada.

However, it allocates $49 million for the RCMP to track and combat foreign interference, and $13.5 million to establish a foreign interference office within Public Safety, and promises new financial oversight tools to address foreign interference, though not details were given.

“We will continue to make sure that our security services, our police, our investigative agencies have the necessary resources to respond to the very real and ongoing threats of foreign interference, whether it be in our business, in our politics. , in our academic institutions,” Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday.

“This is something we have always taken seriously. We’ve laid out significant structures and ways to address it, and we’re going to continue to work with experts like David Johnston to make sure we’re doing everything we can,” he said.

The budget froze the alcohol excise tax, which is indexed for inflation and would have risen 6.3 percent, after a fierce lobbying campaign in Ottawa. The tax will be frozen at 2 percent for one year.

Freeland’s budget also imposes a new airline security fee on the cost of plane tickets even though the government promises to apply “junk charges” such as excess baggage fees or roaming charges.

He promised a smorgasbord of other measures to be presented in legislation.

These include a ban on cosmetics tested on animals or advertising cosmetics tested on animals; an extension of up to five weeks for seasonal EI applicants in 13 regions; a new Crown corporation to increase research and development in Canada; faster processing of privately sponsored refugees; the power of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to “require the electronic submission of asylum applications”; more powers for Canada Post to open packages; and new rules in the Canada Elections Act for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by federal political parties

The budget also promises new scabies legislation for federally regulated industries. Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan told reporters he hopes to introduce a bill by the end of the year, saying “in a G7 country, we have an economy to run and you want to make sure supply chains don’t are interrupted”.

He admitted that how to minimize work stoppages is a burning issue of concern for Canada’s trading partners in the US.

“One thing I learned early on, you know, you’re managing a CP Rail strike and all of a sudden you’re getting calls from the White House and text messages from the US Ambassador in the middle of the night and Marty Walsh, the Secretary of State. Work, it’s calling you, it occurs to you, yes, we are intimately, intricately linked. And yes, you want to do well, that’s for sure.”

With files by Raisa Patel


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