OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives and New Democrats both delivered forceful pleas to the government on Tuesday to do more to address the cost-of-living crisis in Canada, though the parties diverged on what they want to see from the Liberals.
Interim Tory leader Candice Bergen accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being “vindictive” in his staunch opposition to her party’s proposals on inflation, saying that by trying to punish her party politically, he is in fact punishing Canadians.
Bergen referenced the Conservatives’ proposal from this winter to provide tax relief by lifting the GST on fuel, and to suspend the carbon tax in April.
“Both times it was clear (Trudeau) was saying no to us because of politics, because it was us who asked him for it, because it was our idea,” she said.
The party introduced what Bergen called an “omnibus motion” in the House of Commons, which urged the Trudeau government to temporarily suspend the GST on gas and diesel, suspend the carbon tax and remove all federal COVID-19 restrictions.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, on the other hand, called on the government to extend the excess profit tax on financial institutions to include major oil and gas companies and corporations making record profits amid inflation.
Singh urged the Liberals to immediately give between $500 and $1,000 back to working families by doubling the GST tax credit and increasing the Canada Child Benefit.
“That’s going to go directly to families in need, to workers, to ordinary families. They need help now,” he said.
He said the NDP wants the government to acknowledge companies have seen a “windfall” in excess profits. The government is also enjoying a windfall as inflation drives up the amount of GST it is collecting, Singh said.
“So that windfall should be just redistributed to people.”
Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne said inflation is happening across the globe, largely driven by the war in Ukraine increasing the cost of fuel and food, and his government is taking action including by making child care more affordable.
Last month, Trudeau said the GST rebate and Canada Child Benefit are already indexed to rise each year by the annual rate of inflation.
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said 70 per cent of the increased prices at the pump have to do with what is happening internationally, specifically with crude oil.
A quarter of the increase is from taxes, particularly provincial taxes, Guilbeault said, while the price on pollution accounts for five per cent of the increased fuel prices.
Guilbeault also argued that most Canadians are getting more money back into their pockets through rebates than what the carbon price is costing them.
Asked about the Liberal government’s proposed solutions to the affordability challenges, including the national child-care plan and the child benefit, Bergen said that response is not good enough.
“People are paying over, in some provinces, $2 a litre for gas. People can’t afford groceries, they can’t afford rent, much less a mortgage trying to buy a house. It’s not enough because it’s not working,” she said.
“The best way to provide relief for Canadians is to cut taxes, not promise them a cheque might come in the mail, and you should be happy with an extra 100 bucks every four months. It is not working,” Bergen said.
Singh also touched on the timing and breadth of the Liberals’ response.
“People can’t afford to wait. Tell that to a family that right now is hungry because they cannot afford groceries. They can’t afford to wait. Can’t do it,” he said.
About 12 million people receive the GST rebate and 6.4 million Canadian children qualify for the child benefit.
Government House leader Mark Holland said the Conservatives are the ones being obstructionist, charging that the Official Opposition is solely interested in blocking the work of the Commons and behaving as if they have a majority.
Unlike when the Liberals work with the Bloc Québécois and the NDP to move legislation and there’s a “give and take,” the Conservatives don’t offer anything, said Holland.
“I’m here in a minority government, I’m willing to work with anybody,” he said, adding the Liberals were able to work together with the Conservatives in the past, including on the bill to ban conversion therapy.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press
Russia is 'weaponizing' food, Joly tells Commonwealth partners – CBC News
Commonwealth leaders, meeting for the first time in four years, discussed food security and the risk of starvation as Canada’s foreign affairs minister sought to lay the blame for the impending crisis at the feet of Russia.
“What is clear to us is that Russia is weaponizing food, and putting a toll on many countries around the world, and putting 50 million lives at risk,” Mélanie Joly told reporters late Friday, while giving a recap of the first day of the Commonwealth meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.
Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest grain exporter and reportedly has more 30 million tonnes of grain in storage, waiting for export. Farmers are said to be building temporary silos and are worried because the summer harvest is only weeks away.
The country’s Black Sea ports of Odesa, Pivdennyi, and Mykolaiv and Chornomorsk serve as major terminals — shipping about 4.5 million tonnes of grain per month, but a Russian naval blockade is preventing movement.
A recent report from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) concluded that Russia is taking advantage of transportation bottlenecks to attack Ukraine’s food storage facilities.
Russian forces have attacked grain silos across the country and stolen an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 tonnes of grain from occupied regions, according to Ukraine’s Defence Ministry.
The CSIS report, posted online on June 15, noted “Russia destroyed one of Europe’s largest food storage facilities in Brovary, roughly 19 kilometres northeast of Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv.”
The subject of the Russian blockade of Ukraine grain exports will also be at the centre of the G7 leaders meeting, beginning Sunday in Germany.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last week delivered a scathing critique of the crisis, blaming the U.S. and not the Russian military actions in Ukraine for endangering food security, and rising inflation and fuel prices.
He reinforced the message in a phone call last week with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was one of the Commonwealth leaders to skip this week’s meeting.
Africa is heavily reliant on Ukrainian and — to a lesser extent — Russian grain.
For those leaders who did show up in Rwanda, Joly said Canada has been clear in assigning blame for the crisis.
Sanctions not to blame, Joly says
“This is not the fault of the Western sanctions,” she said. “This is really Putin’s war of choice that is affecting food security around the world.”
Ten members of the Commonwealth abstained from condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in a United Nations resolution last spring.
Joly said she believes Canada made “headway” at the conference in convincing some of those nations to stand more firmly with Ukraine, but she wasn’t specific.
In a policy session held before the meeting of Commonwealth leaders, there was a call for African countries to be more self-sufficient in food supplies to offset imports.
Agnes Kalibata, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), told the conference said that the agriculture sector in developing countries of the Commonwealth is “heavily underinvested.” She called for adequate funding to boost “the sector productivity, strengthen its resilience and deal with climate change, as well as create jobs, according to local media reports.
Immigration Minister: Applicants can soon expect normal service standards – Canada Immigration News
Canada’s Immigration Minister Sean Fraser believes meaningful steps are being taken to get the immigration system back on track.
Fraser acknowledged ongoing application processing and client experience challenges when he sat down with CIC News for an exclusive interview in Toronto earlier this week.
Minister expects things to return to normal by the end of 2022
“The COVID-19 pandemic hampered our immigration system in two main ways. It shut down a lot of our offices around the world…we lost a lot of our horsepower as a department.”
The second way, he explained, was Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) needed to pivot to transitioning those in Canada to permanent residence since travel restrictions limited the ability of those abroad to enter the country. This was happening as new applications continued to flow in, leading to an accumulation of inventory. Then in August 2021, Canada made the commitment to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees following the Taliban reclaiming power of Afghanistan and since February 2022, Canada has been looking to assist those impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The good news is I see light at the end of the tunnel…we’re on track right now to restore our pre-pandemic service standard by the end of this calendar year for virtually every line of business.”
Minister Fraser added the caveat that the service standard for Canadian citizenship applications may continue to lag a bit due to the inventory growing significantly at the start of the pandemic when in-person citizenship ceremonies were not an option.
Fraser: Three solutions to improve client experience and address backlogs
The minister believes the three solutions to improve the immigration system are “resources, policy, and tech.”
“On the resources side, we’ve added 500 more staff.” He also pointed out the additional $85 million and another $385 million allocated in recent federal budget announcements that will go towards improving application processing.
Meanwhile, Fraser believes Canada will need even higher levels of immigration to meet growing demand to gain Canadian permanent residence.
“The number one policy is our Immigration Levels Plan. We’re not going to chip away at the number of cases in the inventory if we don’t expand the numbers.”
In February, Fraser announced Canada would welcome over 430,000 immigrants annually beginning this year, by far the highest levels in Canadian history. He is set to announce the Immigration Levels Plan 2023-2025 by November 1st of this year, which may result in another increase in Canada’s targets.
With respect to the third solution, technology, the minister said that “digital platform modernization is going to greatly increase the reliability and pace of our system.”
“These measures are starting to have an impact…a couple of weeks ago we passed 200,000 permanent residents landed in Canada.” The minister noted this has broken the previous record by 1.5 months.
“Work permits have almost 250% increased compared to last year.”
IRCC’s backlog has surged to 2.4 million persons during the pandemic and the department has struggled to achieve its own targets on the length of time it aims to process applications. Since the start of this year, it has made major announcements and changes as it seeks to reduce the backlog, processing times, and give its clients more certainty. In late January, minister Fraser held a press conference summarizing IRCC’s processing goals including the steps it was taking to increase staff capacity and modernize its processes and technology.
One of the benefits has been the reduction in the Express Entry backlog. The minister told CIC News that all-program Express Entry draws are tentatively set to resume on July 6. In addition, IRCC aims to get back to its pre-pandemic service standard of processing Express Entry applications within six months beginning in July.
Another benefit is that IRCC has introduced and is in the process of introducing more case trackers to allow applicants to review the status of their files. The minister says 17 lines of business will have case trackers by the end of this summer allowing applicants to digitally monitor their status.
While challenges remain, the minister expressed great optimism to CIC News.
“My sense is by the end of this calendar year, new applications coming in will have the kind of certainty that we’ll be able to meet our service standard and people will be dealing with 60 days or 6 months or 12 months, not an undetermined period of time.”
Special interview series with Minister Fraser
CIC News sat down with the minister on June 21, 2022 to discuss the future of Canadian immigration.
Over the coming weeks, CIC News is releasing a special series of articles elaborating on the interview with Minister Fraser on topics including:
Minister Fraser was in Toronto to speak at Collision, one of the world’s largest technology conferences.
© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit CanadaVisa.com to discover your Canadian immigration options.
Rwanda to Germany: Canada to elevate small Commonwealth nations’ concerns at the G7
KIGALI, Rwanda — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says Canada will be bringing the concerns of smaller Commonwealth nations to the G7 leaders in Germany Sunday, particularly the growing threat of famine.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Joly arrived in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, on Wednesday for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, which has been dominated by the concerns of nations that are suffering from food scarcity.
She said Canada is in “listening mode” at the Commonwealth, where leaders of smaller nations are able to speak without the dominating presence of the United States, Russia and China.
Canadian officials have been trying to reinforce that the cause of the shortage is Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
“What is clear to us is that Russia is weaponizing food and putting a toll on many countries around the world, and putting 50 million lives at risk,” Joly told reporters Friday evening in Rwanda.
She said Russia has been targeting Ukrainian ports and grain silos and systematically preventing grain from reaching countries that need it.
Trudeau had attempted to meet with the chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, for several days during the Commonwealth summit but the sit-down was repeatedly postponed and eventually cancelled.
Shortly after Trudeau arrived in Rwanda the government announced Canada would dedicate a new ambassador to the African Union, which has suffered from the food shortages inflicted on the continent as a result of the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Both Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin have met with representatives of the African Union, with Russia blaming Russian sanctions for stopping up the flow of grain.
Trudeau travels to the Bavarian Alps in Germany for the G7 Summit Saturday night, where the conflict with Ukraine will be top of mind.
Joly said she spoke to her G7 counterparts Friday, and expects famine and safe passage for Ukrainian refugees to be the top concern.
Some of the other voices the prime minister has promised to centre at his international meetings belong to youth leaders who spoke at a dialogue event Saturday, focused on issues facing young people around the world.
Some of the delegates spoke about the devastating effects of climate change, particularly around remote island nations where infrastructure cannot withstand natural disasters and rebuilding efforts take years. The onslaught takes a toll on education and health services, one delegate told the forum.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2022.
Laura Osman, The Canadian Press
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