Parliament is back in session, and although the various parties may have different priorities to start the year, Canadians overwhelmingly agree that one issue above all else needs to be addressed: the rising cost of living. Photo credit: The Globe and Mail/J.P. Moczulski
Though 2023 is a month old, this week marks the first sitting of the House of Commons.
Ministers, MPs and even the Prime Minister himself have returned to Ottawa to tackle important issues that Canadians are facing. So, what are these important issues?
Well, it depends on who you ask. If you ask the government, they will point to one of their 20 unpassed bills and blame the opposition for not rubber-stamping everything and wanting to carefully examine the government’s legislation.
For the opposition parties, the most pressing issue varies. The Conservatives are looking to pounce on the government’s recent spending and cozy relationship with management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Beyond giving the firm millions of taxpayers’ dollars through single-source contracts, the government appears to be using McKinsey to replicate and do the work of the public service. While at the same time, the government has been growing the public service since elected. Since the start of the pandemic, the public service has increased by 12 per cent and has led to the greatest number of public servants in Canadian history.
For the NDP, their focus remains to prop up the government hoping to land some progressive policies that they can take credit for whenever the next election may be. The Liberal and NDP confidence-and-supply agreement remains in place. For this coming session, the NDP will continue to press the government on creating more affordable housing, ban the use of replacement workers when federal unionized employees go on strike and create a universal pharma-care program for all Canadians.
Even if the government does not deliver on the NDP’s wish list, they are likely to still support the Liberals. The NDP is in no shape financially to head to the polls and the Liberals’ polling numbers show that an election could be the end of nearly a decade of power. Any Liberal will agree that they are happy to be unpopular if it means they can hold on to the reins of powers for a few more months or even years until the next mandatory election.
With different priorities in each party, many Canadians are left wondering if politicians can agree on anything. With this session, the answer is yes. Last week all the political parties held national caucus, where MPs from across Canada returned to Ottawa for a few days to discuss what they heard in their ridings over the break and what the plan was for the next few months.
No matter the political party, an overwhelming theme was affordability and the cost of living. Looking at the polls, it is also clear that Canadians are concerned that their money is not going as far as it once did.
A recent study by Abacus Data found that 72 per cent of Canadians are concerned about rising costs and 44 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the economy. Among Liberal supporters, 66 per cent of them are concerned about inflation while 80 per cent of Conservatives are concerned about the impact that inflation is having on their daily lives.
This should come as a shock to no one. With inflation hovering around 6 per cent, the Bank of Canada continuing to raise interest rates, and the cost of groceries getting out of control, not to mention the cost of gas, it is no surprise Canadians are struggling to make ends meet.
Though, there is agreement that everyday items are costing too much, and action is needed. The type of action varies on who you ask in Ottawa. In a few months the government will release Budget 2023, which will inevitably include a number of new spending measures, a few shiny toys to help Canadians fall in love with Justin Trudeau again, and the Liberals’ answer to this affordability crisis.
The opposition parties will complain that it is too much or not enough, depending on the colour of their party. And the average Joe will be caught in the middle, not likely seeing any relief anytime soon.
As politicians are sitting in Ottawa, they may want to think less about how they can dunk on the other party with a mean tweet or a quick one-liner. But instead, find some common ground and make life affordable again. Because if we continue on the path that we are, Canadians’ lives are going to get much harder, people will get angrier and the Canada that we all love and know will be no more. As Red Green would say, “we’re all in this together.”
Daniel Perry is a consultant with Summa Strategies Canada, one of the country’s leading public affairs firms. During the most recent federal election, he was a regular panelist on CBC’s Power and Politics and CTV Morning Ottawa.