Thursday July 7, 2022 | VICTORIA, BC
Editorial insights by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
A flock of political folks visited at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm in downtown Victoria on Tuesday.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was there with his family — wife Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu and baby daughter Anhad age 7 months, together with Victoria MP Laurel Collins and her husband James McNish and baby Alora age 14 months. At one point they got right into the goat pen with other public visitors, and enjoyed the excitement of the popular dinner-time goat stampede.
Chatting with media amidst the chickens and peacocks strutting around, Singh told Island Social Trends that the federal NDP are pushing for a payment of up to $1,000 to low-income Canadians as a way to help with inflationary pressures. Over the past few months rising cost of gasoline has impacted the cost of everything, seen starkly in the cost of food at grocery stores which receive all their stock by way of truck, ferry and airplane.
Oil prices around the world have increased due to COVID-related supply chain issues and economic sanctions imposed on Russia due to their invasion of Ukraine.
GST & Child Benefit top-up:
Singh explained that the payments to low-income Canadians will be targeted to those already on programs like the Canada Child Benefit and GST-rebate. Economists say that payments targeted in that fashion do not contribute to inflation, as not everyone receives them.
It’s about wealth redistribution in the system, using a ‘windfall tax’ by taxing corporation who’ve made exceptional profits during the pandemic and “are making record profits during this inflationary period”.
Earlier in the day he chatted with people in Nanaimo along with Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Lisa-Marie Barron. He heard stories first hand about the impacts of the rapidly rising cost of living. He mentioned one man age 65 who is “not looking forward to much of a pension”, and that “life is getting really hard”.
“We need to give some help to people,” Singh said. “We’re looking at a tool to give help to working families, to workers and seniors in a way that is going to help those that are feeling the squeeze of the rising cost of living and the increase in interest rates,” he told media during a media scrum at the children’s farm.
“If the only solution to inflation is increasing interest rates, that’s just going to make life even harder for those folks that are feeling the squeeze right now,” said Singh. “So our plan is to target using the GST tax credit and the Canada Child Benefit. That will target about 40 percent of Canadians,” he explained.
“We want to send about $1,000 out. That’s going to lift some of the pressures from their shoulders,” the NDP leader said. He noted a the results of a recent survey where one in four Canadians is going hungry in the last few months, as they find groceries the only area they can cut back in order to meet other expense obligations like rent, transportation and medications.
“We know we need something. Because if left to nothing, people are really going to be in a rough spot,” Singh concluded.
Health care system struggling:
“Our health care system is really struggling right now,” Singh told media in Victoria. He says that Laurel Collins, MP (Victoria) is hearing a lot of input about that: the health care system is “overworked, under staffed and under resourced”.
“People aren’t getting the care that they need. The wait times are so long for emergency room visits and surgeries,” said Singh.
“For decades now, the federal government hasn’t been paying its fair share of the health care costs that are split between the federal government and the provinces and territories,” said Singh. Provinces and territories are responsible for the delivery of health care services.
It used to be a 50/50 partnership between the federal government and the provinces and territories, but over the years has been reduced to just 22 percent presently coming from the federal government.
CHT increase should have conditions:
This week at the national level, the NDP Leader has also been talking about the importance of the Canada Health Transfer (CHT). Until now, that’s been BC Premier John Horgan’s top project. Singh told Island Social Trends that he will continue to be supportive of an increase in the transfer.
On Tuesday — ahead of his visit to the children’s farm with his family — Singh had a private meeting with Premier Horgan to discuss this. “Premier Horgan has been a large voice in this, but we’ve also been championing this, asking questions in Question Period numerous times.” Collins has been vocal on this, notes Singh.
“We need to defend our public health care system,” Singh said.
Premiers negotiating with Ottawa:
Though ultimately, that’s the job of the 13 provincial and territorial premiers (as the Council of the Federation / COF) to bring that demand to the negotiating table with the prime minister.
Given the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the federal Liberal government and the federal NDP opposition (announced March 22, 2022), it puts Singh in a tricky spot to be supportive of a fellow NDP leader on behalf of all Canadians, while not upsetting the apple cart of governance stability that the Confidence and Supply Agreement provides to both the NDP and all Canadians.
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during the pandemic in response to Horgan’s and the COF’s request for an increase in the federal portion of the CHT up to 35% (up from 22%), he is open to an increase. But he said that the increase would be discussed in more detail after the extraordinary and unprecedented fiscal pressures of COVID-19 on provincial health care systems had leveled off.
When asked on Tuesday if Singh thinks the CHT increase should be issued with ‘strings attached’ (i.e. conditions), he readily said yes. That does differ from Horgan’s stance that the provinces should just get more cash, implying that it would of course be spent wisely. Singh says that conditions required of increased health care funds to the provinces would offer a type of accountability for delivering on improvements and/or stability to health care.
Horgan hosting Council of the Federation in Victoria, July 11 & 12:
The BC government will be hosting the upcoming Council of the Federation (COF) meeting on July 11 and 12 in Victoria at the Fairmont Empress. BC Premier John Horgan is the COF Chair.
The Canada Health Transfer discussion and negotiation tops the agenda; they will also discuss affordability issues and economic recovery. The provinces and territories are likely to present a concerted front to the Prime Minister.
All jurisdictions have been hard hit by covering the costs of the health care response to COVID, as well as the opioid crisis (most noticeable in BC) and mental health issues that have surfaced strongly across the board.
From a purely political point of view, the timing is not good for the COF and their CHT demands as Horgan prepares to step back from being Premier of BC. Although everyone of course is supportive of Horgan’s choice to step back from being BC NDP Party Leader (while remaining an MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca for the rest of this term), it does probably mean less momentum for the CHT issue after this July 2022 COF meeting, at least for a while.
The current COF Vice-Chair is Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, leading a Progressive Conservative government.
It’s ironic that Horgan’s own health issues could be a stumbling block for the momentum of needed health care funding for everyone across the country. Horgan is one the only NDP Premier in Canada at this time.
Premier Horgan still pitching for Canada Health Transfer increase (April 21, 2022)
Premiers push for higher federal health-care funding (February 4, 2022)
Trudeau & Horgan: Omicron, Canada Health Transfer, disaster response (January 4, 2022)
Horgan congratulates Trudeau on Sept 20 election win (September 22, 2021)
===== ABOUT THE WRITER:
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Cert PR, has been covering politics of the west shore and South Vancouver Island since 2008, with a focus as well on BC and national issues since 2019.
Through Brookeline Publishing House Inc she publishes Island Social Trends as an online news portal (at islandsocialtrends.ca since mid-2020), based in Langford, BC. Previous to that, Ms Brooke’s series of publications was the quarterly print MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), the weekly print Sooke Voice News (2011-2013) and the weekly print/PDF and online news portal West Shore Voice News (2014-2020).
Mary has lived in various parts of Canada including Toronto, Saskatoon, Regina, and Greater Victoria (Oak Bay, Sooke and Langford). She has published magazines, books and other publications along the way.