OTTAWA — The Liberals have done enough to honor their deal with the NDP, but that doesn’t mean the federal budget will pass unopposed.
“We still have critics and critics,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Thursday. “We are concerned, deeply concerned, about the approach to the environment.”
He said the government should spend more on clean energy instead of giving subsidies to fossil fuel companies.
New Democrats maintained that position in Question Period on Friday, with Quebec MP Alexandre Boulerice saying in French that the billions in subsidies to oil and gas companies and the approval of the Bay du Nord project in Newfoundland show that Liberals think they can solve the climate crisis by giving more money to the fossil fuel sector.
He called for funding for green jobs, a sentiment shared by Alberta NDP MP Heather McPherson, who demanded clean jobs training for workers in her province and legislation on a just transition to a clean economy. green.
Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson responded that there is significant funding for Alberta and other prairie provinces to diversify their economies as well as $4 billion to develop the critical minerals sector.
“We will actively work with the Province of Alberta and with industry to ensure that we move forward in a way that will create a clean economy, a prosperous economy and help workers and communities this transition,” he said.
The Conservatives, for their part, have focused on heavy spending promises in the budget that they say will increase inflation and make it harder for Canadians to enter and stay in the middle class. Finance critic Ed Fast accused the government of tabling a “tax and spend” budget.
“Every day we ask this government what it is doing to make life more affordable for Canadians and every day it tells us how much money it is spending,” he said. “It’s not about how much money you spend. It’s about the results you get, and by that standard, this government has failed.”
Rachel Bendayan, Associate Minister of Finance, responded that her government’s investments are producing results, pointing to Statistics Canada jobs figures released on Friday which showed the country’s unemployment rate had fallen to a low not seen since the late 1970s.
Friday is the first of four days of debate on the government’s budget motion. The Conservatives will have the chance to amend it first, then the Bloc Québécois. Both parties have indicated they will vote against the Liberals.
Leaders of the Green Party and Bloc Québécois have also stepped up criticism of the budget’s environmental promises.
Amita Kuttner said on Thursday the plan to get to net zero was not enough to meet Canada’s emissions reduction targets and the Greens wanted the budget to focus on climate change across all policy areas.
Yves-Francois Blanchet, for his part, said he thinks the Liberals intend to be the “instrument” of the oil and gas industry.
“The difference between this government and the Conservatives is that the Conservatives would admit it,” Blanchet said Thursday.
Three of the four opposition parties praise the Liberals’ focus on housing.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the commitment to double the number of homes built each year over the next decade is the “historic ambition” of this budget.
The $14 billion in new housing spending also includes a two-year ban on foreign buyers, targeted funding for municipalities to build affordable housing and money to double the tax credit for home buyers. of a first home.
Kuttner said the Greens were “very happy to see the promise of 6,000 units” of co-op housing.
Singh said his party has forced the Liberals to reconsider what the government considers affordable housing. It is now calculated at 80% of the average market rate rather than 80% of the median income, a definition which “would have resulted in unaffordable housing”.
Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen said on Thursday that the Official Opposition had not found what they were looking for in the housing plan.
“This is a typical, classic NDP spending and tax budget,” she told a news conference.
The Conservatives have spent the final weeks of Question Period talking about Thursday as the release of Canada’s first NDP budget, demanding to know if the Liberals will give in to the NDP’s “extreme demands.”
Bergen said the Liberals had “lost their way”, leaning more to the left.
“The liberals we knew only 10 years ago have ceased to exist.”
The Conservatives were happy to see over $8 billion allocated to the defense budget. They introduced a motion in the House of Commons earlier this week to increase defense spending to 2% of Canada’s GDP, a significant increase that NATO allies have been calling for.
The budget plan will increase spending to 1.5%, according to finance officials.
This element of the plan does not suit the Liberals’ main dance partner, but it is not enough to cause the confidence and supply agreement to collapse.
This means that when Parliament resumes after a two-week break, the government can breathe easy knowing it has the numbers to survive any vote of confidence on the budget motion.
Government House Leader Mark Holland said the debate would continue on April 25, 26 and 27.
After that, the budget implementation bill will be debated in its own right.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 8, 2022.
Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press