Skip to main content

Freeland peppered with affordability questions, as MPs set to swiftly pass GST boost

Appearing before the House of Commons Finance Committee on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland defended the government's response to Canadians' affordability concerns as "focused" and fiscally responsible.

"I think the support we're talking about today, the GST tax credit, is actually now support that everyone around this table agrees is the right thing to do," Freeland said, appearing before the committee to testify about Bill C-30, one of the Liberals' two affordability-focused pieces of legislation. "It's targeted, it's focused, it reaches the people who need it the most. And we have really been careful to keep an eye on spending."

With the passage of the bill through the House all but a foregone conclusion, Freeland was peppered with questions from opposition MPs on a range of topics during the hearing, from the government's handling of inflation and resulting increasing federal revenues, to the carbon tax, and the impact the crisis in Ukraine is having on global economies.

Tabled by the federal government on the first day of the fall sitting, Bill C-30 seeks to implement the promised doubling of the GST credit for six months. 

According to the government, boosting the credit would mean single Canadians without children would receive up to an extra $234; a couple with two kids would receive up to an extra $467; and seniors, on average, would receive an extra $225.

While the Conservatives have decided to join the other opposition parties in supporting the legislation—what the Liberals are calling "targeted tax relief"—during the hearing, several MPs used their time to challenge Freeland on her economic approach.

"It's curious minister that you only seem to want to show up here when you're asking for $2.6 billion in taxpayers' money," said Conservative MP and finance critic Dan Albas, calling for Freeland to come back and participate in the committee's separate study into inflation generally. "I think there's a lot of issues outside of C-30 that we need to have discussion on," Albas said.


One Liberal MP used her time slot to talk about the Conservatives' continued calls for the government to cancel planned “tax increases”—references to scheduled hikes to the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance premiums—and ask Freeland why she thinks it's a bad idea.

"If I talk to people my riding of Davenport (Ont.) they will say that they continue to be worried. They see the rising costs of food. They see that in general their cost of living are going up… And it seems like there's no end in sight. I know we have a number of new targeted measures that we're introducing to help with the increased cost of living, but can you maybe spend a minute or two to tell us why it continues to be important for Canadians to be contributing to the Canada Pension Plan as well as to Employment Insurance?" asked Liberal MP Julie Dzerowicz.

In response, Freeland said that she said it's important for all MPs to recognise Canadians' cost of living concerns, noting that Bill C-30 isn't going to be a cure-all, before going on to condemn the Conservatives' current position on CPP and EI.

"I strongly believe that in these times of uncertainty it is our responsibility as legislators to give Canadians the security that comes from knowing your pension is going to be there when you retire and you need it, EI is going to be there if you lose your job," she said. "And that's why our government strongly believes that it would be a real mistake, and a dereliction of our duty towards Canadians to do anything to harm the integrity of these two essential programs."


Following Freeland's testimony, MPs on the committee heard from officials in the Parliamentary Budget Officer's office, and then conducted a clause-by-clause review of the six-page piece of legislation. It passed with no amendments. 

Finance Committee Chair Peter Fonseca is now expected to present the unchanged bill back in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“That may be a record time,” Fonseca said before adjourning the meeting.

Just prior to the committee hearing, all parties agreed—as they did in seeing the bill pass into its current stage—that once the committee has completed its review, it would be fast-tracked through the final stages and sent off to the Senate, which could now happen by mid-week. 

The government says approximately 11 million individuals and families would receive a boost through the GST rebate hike, which is set to administer $2.5 billion in additional funding to current recipients before the year’s end, if the bill passes in time.

While the boost to the rebate for Canadians with low-to-modest incomes was not a commitment included in the Liberal-NDP deal, it was something NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his caucus had been pushing for, for months.

While questioning Freeland on why it took until now for the government to move on this proposal, NDP MP and deputy finance critic Peter Julian tried to get her to commit to a specific timeline for seeing this promised funding landing in eligible Canadians' bank accounts.

In response, Freeland didn't offer a specific date but noted that since the benefit is being sent to existing receivers of the GST rebate, making the payments should be fairly smooth once the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is granted the authority from Parliament, to send them.

"Let me put it this way: the faster we move at committee, in the House of Commons, in the Senate, the more quickly the CRA can get the payments to Canadians," Freeland said. "I would like to get these payments to Canadians as quickly as possible. And, now that all of us agree that it's the right thing to do, I think there are no good excuses for procedural delays." 



ANALYSIS What do the policies Poilievre's party passed say about the Conservatives' future?

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre spent the summer speaking about housing affordability, a core focus that attendees at the party's Quebec City convention were quick to praise him for. But by the end of the weekend, delegates opted to instead pass policies on contentious social issues. What does that say about the Conservatives' future?



opinion Don Martin: With Trudeau resignation fever rising, a Conservative nightmare appears

With speculation rising that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will follow his father's footsteps in the snow to a pre-election resignation, political columnist Don Martin focuses on one Liberal cabinet minister who's emerging as leadership material -- and who stands out as a fresh-faced contrast to the often 'angry and abrasive' leader of the Conservatives.


OPINION Don Martin: Life in Trudeau's brain defies imagination

Getting inside Justin Trudeau's head these days requires a vivid imagination. The prime minister's bizarre statement on the Middle East war this week reflects a distorted view that human-shielded resistance by Hamas terrorists can be overcome with "maximum restraint" by Israel's military. Top Stories

Here is Canada's unseasonably mild December forecast

December is predicted to be unseasonably mild across Canada, thanks to a "moderate-to-strong" El Nino and human-caused warming. Warming and precipitation trends will be stronger in some parts of the country than others, and severe weather is still possible, meteorologists say.

Stay Connected