The House of Commons has agreed to rise two days ahead of schedule on Wednesday, and will shortly break until Jan. 30, 2023, despite a series of lingering crises plaguing Canada’s health-care system and economy.
The motion to adjourn, proposed by government House leader Mark Holland, was adopted by unanimous consent following what became the final question period of the year.
That means after MPs will be able to return to their ridings after concluding their scheduled business for the day, which included a tribute to former Liberal cabinet minister Jim Carr. A vase of flowers sat on his empty seat as they spoke.
The House of Commons passed a series of bills before adjourning, including the Liberals’ online news bill that will require tech giants to pay for the news content they share on their platforms. A private Senate bill creating new Criminal Code offences for human organ trafficking also received royal assent.
Two new bills were also tabled — one of which narrowly fulfills a Liberal promise to introduce measures to amend the Indian Act to add new registration entitlements by the end of 2022. It will not come up for debate until Parliament resumes next year.
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Among the issues left for MPs to address upon their return will be consistently high inflation and rising interest rates, a fight with provinces and territories over health-care funding amid a strained system, and pending gun control legislation.
Inflation — and the Liberal government’s response to it — has dominated proceedings in Parliament as Canadians continue to feel financially squeezed heading into the holidays.
According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, the annual rate of inflation held steady at 6.9 per cent in October amid dropping pressure on grocery prices.
Food prices were up 10.1 per cent year over year in October, down slightly from the 10.3 per cent hike in September, StatCan said in its report last month.
Meanwhile, to tamp down inflation, the Bank of Canada once again raised its key interest rate last week, to 4.25 per cent. That’s the highest level since 2008.
Speaking to his Conservative caucus earlier Wednesday, Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre criticized the government for not doing enough to keep food prices and interest rates down, blaming Liberals’ spending for driving up inflation.
He said inflationary pressures have forced one in five Canadians to cut meals and 1.5 million people to access food banks in a single month.
A recent poll by Ipsos conducted for Global News suggested just over half of Canadians are worried they won’t have enough money to feed their families in the months ahead, and are growing increasingly concerned about the state of the economy.
The Liberals have pointed to a temporary doubling of the annual GST benefit to $500, boosts to rental supports and a new children’s dental care benefit as examples of targeted relief that will help vulnerable Canadians without fanning the flames of inflation.
But the Conservatives have pushed the government to curb spending and cut the carbon price in order to further drive down costs for Canadians, while the NDP have focused on home heating taxes and food costs, which they say are being driven by profiteering by major grocery corporations.
A move to enshrine a definition of “assault-style” firearms the Liberals aim to ban in Canada will also be waiting for the government to address upon its return next month. Opposition members of the public safety committee examining the proposed legislation are pushing for more consultation, as Conservatives and firearms supporters argue the bill would ban hunting rifles and other commonly-used guns.
Hospitals and clinics across Canada, meanwhile, are being pushed to their breaking points by an influenza epidemic and growing cases of respiratory syncytial virus in children, along with the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal government has promised to meet premiers’ continued demands to boost contributions to health-care spending, but have yet to come to an agreement on specifics.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking to reporters before he entered the House of Commons for question period, brushed off NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s recent statements that he was willing to pull his party’s support from its confidence-and-supply agreement over his government’s approach to health care.
“The reality is we’re ambitious parties that are progressive in our values in trying to get things done for Canadians.”
The confidence-and-supply agreement signed between the two parties last spring would see the NDP support the minority Liberals on key votes until 2025 in exchange for action on key policies.
The doubling of the GST credit and the introduction of dental benefits fulfilled some of the top issues pushed by the NDP.
—With files from the Canadian Press