Chrystia Freeland to deliver major speech on economy, inflation today

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will deliver her first major speech since the budget today to outline the programs her government has introduced to deal with rising inflation.

“The deputy prime minister’s address will focus on the global challenge of inflation and the real, tangible steps that the federal government is taking to make life more affordable for Canadians.” Freeland’s press secretary Adrienne Vaupshas said in an email.

Freeland is expected to use her speech to the Empire Club in Toronto to deliver her assessment of the state of the economy and explain how she sees the measures introduced by her government helping Canadians make ends meet.

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“We could be heading into a recession,” said former Liberal finance minister John Manley. “Everything is kind of negative right now.”

Those measures include increases to the Canada Child Benefit, Old Age Security, the Canada Housing Benefit and the Canada Workers Benefit.

An official speaking on background said the changes to the Workers Benefit could increase annual payments by up to $2,400 for low-income workers.

The official said the speech also will discuss the role of the Bank of Canada in keeping the economy stable and the government’s plans to manage debt and increase competitiveness and productivity in the medium term.

Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre has accused the Bank of Canada and its current governor, Tiff Macklem, of worsening inflation through its pandemic-era policy of quantitative easing. He’s also vowed to fire Macklem if he becomes prime minister — a promise that has prompted criticism from some who say the Conservative MP is unfairly politicizing an institution that has always operated at arms-length from partisan politics.

The programs Freeland is expected to discuss in her speech are not new — all were outlined in the budget. The finance minister is expected to make the case that those programs will address the affordability crisis sweeping the country. 

Opposition criticizes repeat announcements

The NDP and the Conservatives have been pressing the Liberal government on the inflation issue for weeks. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told the House of Commons during question period Wednesday that re-announcing programs that were unveiled in the budget is not enough.

“One out of four Canadians will lose their homes if interest rates continue to rise. One out of four Canadians are going hungry because they can’t afford their groceries,” Singh said.

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Desjardins chief economist Jimmy Jean predicts it could be three to six months before inflation peaks.

“The minister of finance is going to give a speech … which was supposed to respond to their needs, but is instead going to be a re-announcement of previous measures, none of which will help people right now.”

Singh said the federal government needs to take steps to help people immediately by delivering direct financial support to families.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while programs such as the federal child care plan were rolled out months ago, their financial effects are only being felt now as they start to take effect.

In a speech Wednesday, interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen said that the Liberal government needs to make temporary cuts to the GST and carbon taxes on fuel and diesel.

“That would help a lot to bring down the cost of gas and frankly everything else,” she said.

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