Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says she must strike a balance between helping Canadians suffering from the effects of inflation and pursuing a policy of fiscal restraint — or risk making the cost of living problem worse.
In an interview airing Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live, Freeland, who also serves as deputy prime minister, said she was open to further action on affordability issues but that she believes measures already underway — worth $8.9 billion — would help alleviate the impact on Canadians.
“I have to strike a balance. One is supporting Canadians with affordability challenges and the other is fiscal restraint, because I don’t want to make the Bank of Canada’s job harder than it already is,” Freeland told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.
The Bank of Canada has a mandate to maintain Canada’s inflation target, which is two per cent (within a one to three per cent range) per year. Freeland said it was the bank’s responsibility to deal with inflation and she respected its independence.
In a speech earlier this month, she argued that previously announced programs — including boosts to benefits for low-income workers, increasing other inflation-indexed benefits and implementing the government’s child-care and dental programs — would help with affordability concerns.
Freeland reiterated that view in the interview airing Sunday, saying money from those programs was already on its way to Canadians.
‘It’s OK to be mad’
The finance minister acknowledged the frustration felt by many Canadians around rising prices, particularly for key everyday goods. She said friends have been sending her pictures of prices at the pumps, and she’s aware that groceries are more expensive.
“And for a lot of Canadians, it is causing real hardship. I really understand that,” she said.
Asked about the general unease many Canadians feel about the economy, Freeland struck a similar tone.
“I say it’s OK to be mad,” she said. “It’s OK to be mad at me. I really understand that this is an incredibly challenging economic time. It’s really, really hard for a lot of people.”
The federal government has been under fire concerning inflation from both the opposition Conservatives and the New Democrats. The Liberals have a supply-and-confidence agreement with the NDP to keep the minority government afloat on key votes.
Opposition on the attack
In response to Freeland’s speech, Conservative MPs Dan Albas and Gérard Deltell issued a statement criticizing what they call the government’s “tax-and-spend” strategy.
“This flawed economic approach eats away at the earnings of hard-working Canadians and ignores the most basic principle of economics: that spending during an inflationary crisis will only fuel inflation further. Yet, the Liberals continue down this path with reckless abandon, inflicting more inflationary pain on Canadians.”
The NDP, which has argued that corporations are taking advantage of inflation to increase profits, says the government should put an “excess profits tax” on oil and gas companies and give money back to Canadians through the GST/HST credit and child benefit.
Leader Jagmeet Singh called Freeland’s approach “absolutely insulting.”
‘Soft landing’ still possible
Freeland met earlier this week with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who said recently that a recession in the United States is not “inevitable,” although inflation is “unacceptably high.”
Canada still has a path to a “soft landing,” Freeland said, where the country could stabilize economically following the enormous blow of the COVID-19 pandemic without the severe recession feared by many.
Freeland maintained an upbeat tone about Canada’s ability to weather global economic uncertainty, especially when compared with other G7 countries.
“The challenge is not over, but I truly believe that we’re going to get through this together,” she said.
Wolf found dead by roadside, another still missing after ‘suspicious’ B.C. zoo escape
ALDERGROVE — One of the wolves that escaped its enclosure at the Greater Vancouver Zoo this week has been found dead on a roadside, and a second wolf is still missing, the zoo’s deputy general manager said Thursday.
Menita Prasad said both the zoo’s perimeter fence and the grey wolf enclosure were deliberately “compromised” early Tuesday, allowing the zoo’s nine adult wolves to escape while five cubs stayed inside the enclosure.
All but two of the adults were contained within the zoo’s property, she said.
The zoo in Aldergrove, B.C., has been shut for three days as workers and conservation officers searched for the wolves, while Langley RCMP investigate the incident as a suspected case of unlawful entry and vandalism.
The fences had been cut, Prasad said. An earlier statement from the zoo said the escape was “suspicious, and believed to be due to malicious intent.”
Searchers were “heartbroken” to find a three-year-old female wolf, Chia, dead by the side of 264 Street in Aldergrove on Thursday morning, Prasad told a press conference through tears.
It’s presumed Chia was hit by a car, she said.
A one-year-old female wolf named Tempest is still missing and believed to be in the vicinity of the zoo, Prasad said, adding that the animal, which was born at the facility, has a slim chance of surviving in the wild.
Prasad described Tempest as a “shy wolf” who poses no threat to public safety, though she said she could not say what the wolf might do if a person approached her. She urged anyone who sees the animal not to approach her and instead call authorities to report the location.
The wolf’s prime motivation would be to get back to her family, she said.
“As a result of this senseless act, our wolf pack has lost two family members,” Prasad said. “We watched these wolves grow up. We consider the animals at the zoo a part of our family.”
She said the “search and rescue operation” would continue and is asking for the public’s help “to reunite Tempest with her family.”
“She is a small wolf with grey brown puppy fur and white markings on her muzzle and her brow,” Prasad said.
Anyone who spots Tempest is asked contact the Greater Vancouver Zoo, Langley RCMP or the BC Conservation Officer Service by calling 1-877-952-7277.
The zoo, which is about 55 kilometres outside Vancouver, is set to reopen on Saturday, Prasad said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2022.
The Canadian Press
COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in Canada stable, but higher than past summers – Global News
COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths and confirmed case counts across Canada are relatively stable after an early summer wave, but they remain far higher than past years, data shows.
As of Wednesday, Canada is seeing an average of 3,475 lab-confirmed cases and 44 deaths per day, according to provincial and territorial data compiled by Global News. Currently, 5,158 people are in hospital with COVID-19, including 305 patients who are in intensive care.
While those numbers are down slightly from the brief wave of infections in June and July, they remain far higher than the rates seen during the summers of 2020 and 2021.
In past years, there was an average of roughly 350 patients in hospital per day during the summer months. Even as hospitalizations climbed in August 2021 and into September of that year, they peaked at half the current rate.
The current death rate has also vastly eclipsed past summers, when the average number of deaths per day was in the single digits.
Previous evidence pointed to the summer months as predictable lulls in the pandemic, as people spend more time in outdoor spaces where there is less transmission of the virus.
But the more infectious Omicron variant upended that thinking, and further mutations — including the current BA.5 subvariant and its predecessor, BA.2 — have led to more waves of infections this year than in the past.
The World Health Organization warned on Wednesday that BA.5’s dominance has led to a 35 per cent increase in reported COVID-10-related deaths globally over the past four weeks.
In the last week alone, 15,000 people died from COVID-19 worldwide, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“There is a lot of talk about learning to live with this virus, but we cannot live with 15,000 deaths a week. We cannot live with mounting hospitalizations and deaths,” he said at a press conference.
“We cannot live with inequitable access to vaccines and other tools. Learning to live with COVID-19 does not mean we pretend it’s not there. It means we use the tools we have to protect ourselves and protect others.”
COVID guidelines for fall: Expert urges Canadians to look out for flu as well
Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam has said the country is in a period of pandemic transition that will likely lead to further waves this year, warning back in June that COVID-19 “has not left the stage.”
Public health officials have shifted their focus toward a potential serious wave in the fall and winter. Planning is underway to provide vaccine booster doses to all adults that request one, while ensuring vulnerable populations receive an extra dose.
Experts say the boosters are important, as current vaccines do not sufficiently protect against Omicron and its subvariants, allowing for “breakthrough cases” and even reinfections among vaccinated people.
“However, there is evidence that if you have the vaccine, more than likely you don’t end up in the hospital,” said Dr. Horacio Bach, an infectious disease researcher and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia.
“People (infected with COVID-19) will say, ‘It’s just kind of a flu, that’s okay, I’ll stay home.’ That is the result of the vaccines.”
Expert says Canada can expect a spike in COVID-19 variants cases during fall and winter
The Public Health Agency of Canada notes that between June 6 and July 3 of this year, unvaccinated cases were three times more likely to be hospitalized and four times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to vaccinated cases.
Tedros urged everyone who has access to a booster dose to get one, and to continue to wear masks when it is impossible to keep distance from others.
As of Monday, 86.1 per cent of the Canadian population has received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, while 82.4 per cent have received at least two doses. Yet just under half — 49.7 per cent — have gotten at least one more booster dose.
Despite hospitalizations nationally remaining relatively stable, signs are emerging that more patients are being admitted with symptoms.
Hospitalizations are on the rise in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, according to the most recent updates. Most provinces besides Quebec have shifted to reporting data weekly, while Saskatchewan is due to release its first monthly report on Thursday.
To date, provinces and territories have confirmed more than 4,125,000 cases of COVID-19 including 43,471 deaths.
— With files from Rachel Gilmore
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Commercial bankruptcies rising in Canada, says business lobby group – CBC News
A small business lobby group says commercial bankruptcies are rising in Canada and even more small businesses are at risk of closure.
Statistics Canada data shows small business insolvencies have been on an upward trend since May 2021.
But the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says its own survey data indicates only 10 per cent of Canada’s small business owners would file for bankruptcy if their business was no longer solvent.
It says 46 per cent of business owners say they would simply stop operating rather than go through the bankruptcy process.
The CFIB also says more than one in six Canadian small business owners say they are currently considering going out of business.
The lobby group wants government support to help Canada’s small business sector get through the next few months and deal with challenges like pandemic-related debt and supply chain issues.
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