As Members of Parliament returned to Ottawa on Monday, kicking off the autumn session, the issue of affordability continues to dominate the parlimentary agenda. This follows its constant emphasis throughout the spring and summer seasons.
Following a series of meetings with his newly-formed caucus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a host of new initiatives. The government, under the guidance of newly appointed House Leader Karina Gould, pledged to prioritize Canadians’ concerns over the following 11 weeks before the Christmas recess.
Gould indicated in her messaging that an immense workload awaited the government, one that the Canadian public expects them to devise solutions for collaboratively, rather than resorting to partisan positions. She reiterated the Liberals’ commitment to progressing concrete actions that would immensely enrich the lives of their constituents.
In a move to fulfill campaign promises, Gould disclosed the government’s plans of immediately introducing legislation that sought to eliminate the GST from new rental construction, extend emergency business loans, and reform competition laws.
The upcoming bill seems to echo some of the policy proposals put forth by opposition parties. This has notably sparked a dispute, with Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accusing the Liberals of appropriating his GST proposal, even though it was previously scrapped in an earlier Trudeau election pledge.
In response, Gould invited Poilievre, whose party had been leading in the summer polls, to cooperate with the government instead of expressing an untimely tantrum.
The Leader of Opposition Parties displayed a shared concern for affordability issues while traveling across the country and participating in locally organized events during summer. Ground reality had provided them a narrow peek into the various challenges their voters faced, predominantly those concerning their financial wellbeing as well as their concerns for the country’s future.
It was universally agreed upon that the cost of living was the defining matter of this season. The parties were, however, seeking to distinguish themselves with their proposed solutions to this issue.
Poilievre highlighted that the Conservatives’ approach this fall would markedly contrast the “reckless coalition” of the Liberals and New Democrats. Furthering this sentiment, he unveiled a new advertisement intending to reinforce his party’s message.
On the other side, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh expressed a firm intention to stand firm against Canada’s most profitable corporations through a private members’ bill. This bill aims to enhance the power of Canada’s Competition Bureau to fall corporate powers and practices such as price gouging.
Singh, despite presenting a legislation that closely mirrors those of the Liberals, urged the Parliament to adopt his version for quicker implementation, potentially before the Christmas holidays.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet identified climate change, senior living and housing costs, and immigration as their primary areas of concern. Meanwhile, the Green Party outlined a wide range of issues like housing investment, environmental restoration, politics of division, and food security.
In contrast to the continued debate on affordability, the inauguration of the session’s Question Period saw housing affordability become the main area of contention between Trudeau and Poilievre. In Trudeau’s response to criticism regarding his previous pledges, he stated that the Liberals were working closely with municipalities to boost the housing supply by reducing bureaucratic red tape and revising outdated zoning policies.
Further, the government’s other legislative priorities, such as the bail reform Bill C-48 targeting repeat offenders, provide a hint of the Liberal minority’s future plans. Gould says the government’s primary areas of focus will be on affordability and public safety.
It is clear that the new session will see the Parliament tackle important issues that have a profoundly significant impact on the everyday lives of ordinary Canadians. The underlying expectation from all parties is to judiciously push forward on their promised legislations to improve affordable access to housing, business loans or to implement nation-wide pharmacare plans.