OTTAWA — The coming federal budget should lower taxes, cap spending and make it easier to build new houses, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Sunday as he pinned blame for current economic woes on the Liberals.
Poilievre spelled out his party’s budget priorities in advance of the government’s latest fiscal blueprint, to be presented to Parliament on March 28.
The Tory leader accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of fuelling inflation and making it harder for Canadians to feed and house their families.
Poilievre’s criticism comes as the Bank of Canada relies on interest rate increases to tame high inflation spurred in part by global trends, and the economy heads toward a slowdown and possible recession.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland recently stressed that the government is embracing fiscal restraint to avoid pouring fuel on the flames of inflation.
Even so, the budget is expected to include fresh measures to support Canada’s move to a greener economy and compete with the United States on clean technology.
The document is also expected to account for billions in new spending on health care that will flow through bilateral deals with the provinces.
Conservatives want the budget to make Canada a country “that works for the people who’ve done the work,” Poilievre said.
He outlined three main demands:
— Beef up paycheques by cutting taxes, deductions and clawbacks;
— match every dollar of new spending in the budget with one dollar of savings by cutting back; and
— increase the number of affordable houses by removing government gatekeepers, freeing up land and speeding up building permits.
“The people who do the nation’s work are punished more and more each day in this country,” Poilievre said.
Getting rid of taxes and deficits will lower the cost of gas, heat and groceries, and bring down interest rates “so that Canadians can afford their mortgage payments once again,” he added.
Asked what should be cut to find money, Poilievre pointed to federal funding for the CBC, private consultants and the promised federal buyback of what the government considers assault-style firearms.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is holding economic roundtables with prominent economists ahead of the budget as well as meeting workers and families to learn what would help them most.
“A good job used to get you a home that fits your family, healthy food and some savings for the future,” the NDP leader said in a statement Friday.
But the cost of everything has outpaced paycheques, and consecutive interest rate increases have made life even harder, he said.
“Families are feeling like the system is rigged — no matter what they do, prices go up, the ultra-rich get richer, and the regular families find it tougher and tougher to keep up.”
While Singh’s sober analysis sounds much like the Conservative leader’s refrain, he dismisses the approaches of his main rivals.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau believes everything is fine — because for his friends, they are,” Singh said. “And I reject Pierre Poilievre’s plan for more cuts to things like EI and people’s pensions.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2023.
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press