Over the past several months, finance minister Chrystia Freeland’s refrain in regard to the economy has been: “The reality is that Canada is a fantastic country and Canada is doing really well.” However, her bravado and confidence in her government’s fiscal prowess is not a true reflection of Canadians’ nightmarish reality. Photo credit: Twitter/Chrystia Freeland
For many Canadians, their financial situation has reached a tipping point. Whether it is mothers dreading their weekly grocery trips, homeowners losing sleep over their next mortgage renewal, or families visiting food banks to make ends meet, Canadians are becoming more aware of the Trudeau government’s part in their dire economic prospects.
A majority of Canadians (55 per cent) believe the Trudeau government spends far too much according to a recent Ipsos poll for the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI). Two in three Canadians (64 per cent) do not think the government is “allocating funds to the most important issues facing Canada today.”
Renaud Brossard of the MEI comments on the findings, “Not only do Canadians find that the Trudeau government spends too much, but they also find that it spends unwisely. This seems to indicate a disconnect between the Department of Finance and the people whose money is entrusted in its care.”
MEI reports that 60 per cent of Canadians believe that the Trudeau government spending lacks transparency – and that it contributes to Canada’s inflation. Canadians also believe that it has resulted in higher personal income taxes, with three in four believing they are spending too much in income taxes.
Brossard summed up the MEI findings with the observation, “The message Canadians are sending Ottawa is unequivocal. They are asking Ottawa to cut its spending, review its priorities, and reduce their tax burden.”
PM Justin Trudeau and his cabinet heard a similar cry of help from its own Privy Council Office survey that found “almost all” Canadians were “not happy” with the government’s fiscal record and its management of the economy. The report to cabinet stated, “Several felt that issues related to the rising cost of living, a lack of affordable housing, and low wages had been growing for many years and that the Government of Canada should have been better prepared to assist Canadians with these challenges.”
The report concludes: “Most thought that the Government of Canada was on the wrong track when it came to alleviating the financial pressures currently impacting Canadian households.”
Further recent public opinion research reveals there are two specific areas that irritate Canadians. A CTV News survey conducted by Nanos Research reports that more than one in two (53 per cent) believe that the carbon tax is ineffective against climate change. Two of three Canadians (67 per cent) feel that the recent federal carbon tax hikes in pump prices and home fuel and the introduction of the second carbon tax on July 1 was “poor timing” when so many are experiencing financial stress.
The second irritant for Canadians is the excessive hiring of new federal bureaucrats in Ottawa. The facts are that under Justin Trudeau, there are more than 98,000 new bureaucrats on the federal payroll. In the last three years alone – through the pandemic years – 56,000 new positions were added. For every 1,000 jobs in Canada there are now 24.4 federal jobs in 2022-2023, compared to 21.7 in 2014-2015.
Canadians’ increased stress and strain has been met with a series of tone-deaf responses from the country’s finance minister Chrystia Freeland. Throughout the spring session of parliament and into the summer, Freeland’s refrain has been: “The reality is that Canada is a fantastic country and Canada is doing really well.” Canadians have been treated to a lecture of sorts by Freeland…
- At a recent G20 finance ministers’ conference she was ecstatic in announcing Canada’s inflation rate dropped to 2.8 per cent, noting the lower rate “is a significant moment. It should provide a lot of relief to Canadians. I do not have a crystal ball, but I do think that today is a milestone moment.” Freeland then tweeted out “Canada’s plan to bring down inflation is working.”
- The finance minister returned from that conference to hold a media event at a local grocery store to highlight how the government was coming to the aid of strapped Canadians with new one-time relief cheques to families and individuals to offset the rising cost of groceries (a gesture that has been coined the “Trudeau food stamp program”).
- Freeland was in PEI recently where she addressed the impact the carbon tax hikes have on Island tourism and workers’ daily commutes. Her suggestion is that people need to consider public transit or cycling to work and for groceries. She crowed to the Charlottetown audience, “I am right now an MP for downtown Toronto, and a fact that still shocks my dad is that I don’t actually own a car.”
But Freeland’s bravado and confidence in her government’s fiscal prowess is not a true reflection of Canadians’ nightmarish reality. For example, Statistics Canada’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) report for June did indicate a 2.8 per cent inflation rate – but the most significant financial indicators for Canadians are “elevated grocery prices (9.1 per cent) and mortgage interest costs (30.1 per cent).”
The report’s analysis highlighted, “Prices for many grocery items have continued to increase month after month and on balance are 20 percent above levels reported two years earlier. During 2022 the sticker shock in grocery aisles became remarkably broad based with elevated price growth – year over year increases of 10 percent or more – affecting a larger share of overall food expenditures.” The report concludes: “Shoppers are spending more but buying less.”
There are other telltale statistical reports that reveal how Canadians are coping with inflation, the rise in interest rates and increased taxes.
- A Bank of Canada survey states homeowners with variable rate mortgages are cutting household budgets and moonlighting in second jobs: “Many low income households are already buying only necessities, leaving little room for further cuts to their spending.” The bank reports that nine interest rate increases have seen mortgage costs triple.
- A Leger poll found that more than two in five (43 per cent) said they had to change their summer vacation plans due to their finances.
- MNP Consumer Debt Index report indicates 69 per cent of Canadians are now reporting that interest rate increases are affecting their household finances. One in three Canadians say they cannot cover their debt payments and more than half state they are $200 or less away from paying their monthly bills.
- The federal Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy latest report shows that Canadian business insolvencies are at an all-time high. The 1,090 commercial bankruptcies in the last quarter (an increase of 37 per cent over last year) are linked to high inflation and raised interest rates.
The final word on Canadians’ nightmare goes to Matthew Lau of the Financial Post who asserts that the Trudeau government’s excessive spending, deficit financing, and market interference have been the primary factor of the country’s inflationary pressure. Lau factors that Canada’s CPI is about nine per cent higher today than it would have been had it followed the economic course set pre-pandemic. In other words, what the Trudeau government did through the years 2021-23 has created greater inflationary pressure and, therefore an increased cost-of-living for Canadians.
Lau obviously does not agree with PM Trudeau’s or finance minister Freeland’s remarks on the government’s fiscal management when he observes, “It’s when politicians meddle that things become unnecessarily expensive — as is the case in this country despite what its government may say.”
This is the second piece in a two-part series. Read the first here.
Chris George is an advocate, government relations advisor, and writer/copy editor. As president of a public relations firm established in 1994, Chris provides discreet counsel, tactical advice and management skills to CEOs/Presidents, Boards of Directors and senior executive teams in executing public and government relations campaigns and managing issues. Prior to this PR/GR career, Chris spent seven years on Parliament Hill on staffs of Cabinet Ministers and MPs. He has served in senior campaign positions for electoral and advocacy campaigns at every level of government. Today, Chris resides in Almonte, Ontario where he and his wife manage www.cgacommunications.com. Contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.