This past last week was very busy in Ottawa, with several important NDP-inspired bills and the fall economic statement.
That statement, presented by the Liberal government to provide an update on its economic plan, was meant to be an opportunity to truly help those Canadians who are struggling to get by.
It does mention $1.3 billion in funding to build an estimated 7,000 homes people can actually afford, a measure put forward by the NDP. Unfortunately, it puts those expenditures off until 2025 while Canadians need this help right away.
We should have much bolder investments in affordable, non-profit housing that matches the gravity of our housing crisis. We needed an acquisition fund to keep people in their affordable homes, as well as low-interest financing for post-secondary education institutions to build affordable student housing and for provincial and municipal governments to build public housing on public land.
Bill C-56, debated last week, calls for two measures the NDP has long pressed the government to act on—elimination of the GST on the building of rental accommodations and strengthening the Competition Act to lower grocery prices. The latter is even in (federal NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh’s private member’s bill now before the House of Commons.
The NDP is also looking for more concrete measures that will lower grocery bills and put money back in people’s pockets with another doubling of the GST rebate. We want the list of food items exempted from GST expanded and the implementation of the national school food program promised by the government four years ago.
So, what was in the “win” column (for the NDP) in Ottawa this week?
After decades of NDP advocacy, alongside the labour movement and decades of opposition from both Liberal and Conservative governments, we finally saw the current government introduce new “anti-scab” legislation to prevent the shameful act of locking out union workers and hiring replacement workers.
This vital piece of legislation was part of the supply and confidence agreement between the NDP and the government, and once it is passed, we can level the field at the bargaining table, avoid or shorten labour stoppages and increase the benefits and respect workers deserve.
Last week, Parliament also passed Bill C-57, an updated and expanded free-trade agreement with Ukraine. Ukrainians are fighting harder than ever for their freedom and this agreement will be especially important when Ukraine begins to rebuild once it is victorious.
The measure of success of free-trade deals must not be just the profits made by Canadian companies. It must also include measures that support good labour conditions, good environmental regulations and human rights laws on both sides. This new agreement with Ukraine does that.
As well, we know the war (with Russia) is a significant reason for food and energy price inflation around the world, including here at home. It was shameful to see the Conservatives vote against the bill, citing a carbon tax concern that is entirely spurious. The agreement doesn’t force either side to have a carbon tax and Ukraine has had its own carbon price since 2011, long before Canada.
Ottawa can be a very partisan place, often with the Conservatives and Liberals pushing agendas for their CEO friends. This week, however, if you read beyond headlines, there was progress and good work done.
Richard Cannings is the NDP MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.