Horgan hosts prime ministers meeting to tackle ‘record inflation’ and health care funding

Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the Legislative Assembly in Victoria, British Columbia, February 23, 2020.CHAD HIPOLITO/The Canadian Press

The host of Monday’s meeting of premiers and territorial leaders said the group hopes to learn from each other’s efforts to deal with affordability pressures on the public.

While expectations around the summer meeting of the Council of the Federation have focused on urging the federal government to contribute more money to health care, affordability is also about to be a major talking point in Victoria, BC.

“We’re going to share best practices: what different provinces are doing to address these issues, whether it’s fuel pricing or supply chain issues,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan, in an interview.

Mr. Horgan is chair of the council, which is made up of Canada’s 13 premiers and territorial leaders.

The council meets amid concerns about the cost of living and inflation. Canada’s annual inflation rate hit 7.7% in May, its highest level since 1983. Gasoline prices also soared. Mr Horgan’s own government has come under attack from the Opposition over the cost of housing.

A spokesperson for Quebec Premier Francois Legault called Canada’s economic situation with rising inflation and the cost of living an “inevitable problem” for premiers, although he noted that efforts to secure increased federal health transfers were the top priority of the talks.

On economic issues, spokesman Ewan Sauves added in a statement on Sunday that they will certainly be addressed by the prime ministers. “This is a priority for all governments in Canada, including ours,” he said.

The main responsibility for controlling inflation rests with the Bank of Canada, which is currently raising interest rates at its highest rate in decades in an attempt to calm demand in the Canadian economy to slow the growth of consumer price.

Yet governments have been under pressure on the issue. On the federal government side, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said she is aware of Canadians’ concerns and last month outlined the $8.9 billion the government is spending to meet the cost of living. .

But provincial governments have also come under scrutiny, with the public seeking relief in areas where the provinces have some leverage, such as gas prices, housing allowances and insurance. automobile.

In Ontario, for example, the government has reduced the gas tax by 5.7 cents per liter until the end of 2022, a measure that is expected to cost the province $645 million. In Manitoba, the NDP opposition is calling on the provincial Progressive Conservative government to form an all-party committee to find ways to help people cope with the rising cost of living. Quebec’s spring budget provided a one-time payment of $500 to every adult earning $100,000 or less to help offset the impact of inflation.

A study by the Angus Reid Institute, published last month, found that respondents to a survey were most concerned about the cost of living (63%) ahead of health care at 52%. And at least two-thirds of respondents said their province had failed to cope with inflation.

Shachi Kurl, president of the institute, said there was a message in the research for prime ministers.

“It’s a very, very clear signal from Canadians who are saying, ‘Listen, if you want to ask us what we think, what we’re worried about, what we think you’re not handling particularly well, that’ is the issues or the relief aspect of the cost of living and inflation,” she said.

Mr Horgan is not the only prime minister to ponder these questions as meeting participants head west.

“This first ministers meeting is taking place at a time of record inflation and energy insecurity that we cannot ignore,” Justin Brattinga, spokesman for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, said in a statement.

For that reason, he said, Mr. Kenney will ask his fellow Premiers to reduce interprovincial trade barriers that translate into higher costs for consumers, and will raise concerns about the economic consequences of the Reduction Plan. federal government emissions.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said in a statement Canadians are facing affordability challenges caused by rising prices, stalled supply chains, labor shortages and global disruptions.

“We must address these challenges through immigration-led economic renewal, increased free trade, critical infrastructure, sustainable development, energy security and economic reconciliation,” she said.

With files from Mark Rendell in Toronto.

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