Updates on Canada’s finances and resolution of passport backlogs were two of the the biggest matters on the table during Day 2 of the Liberal government’s cabinet retreat in Hamilton, Ont.
The prime minister’s inner circle is in the city for a three-day retreat that’s focusing predominantly on strengthening the economy and making life more affordable for Canadians.
The Liberals hope to map out their priorities ahead of upcoming sessions in Parliament during the stopover.
Justin Trudeau kicked off his day explaining why Hamilton was chosen for the retreat during an interview on 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.
The PM said “really exciting” initiatives like the Dofasco greener steel investment and contributions to a light rail transit project are among recent collaborations with the city aiding a decision to “connect” with the community.
“So there’s lots going on in Hamilton and making sure that our ministers from across the country get connected to this place that so much is happening, is really important,” he said.
Trudeau insisted the confidence and supply agreement with the NDP, propping up the Liberal minority government, is “going extremely well” delivering “things that matter” to Canadians.
He went on to say Canada and North America have a huge opportunity to step up and ease current economic shortfalls through collaboration, amid global supply chain struggles and Russia becoming an unreliable supplier of energy.
“We’re very much focused with President Biden in making sure that they see the value of the ecosystem working with Canada and the United States together,” Trudeau explained.
Trudeau meets with Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath
The prime minister met up with Hamilton mayor Andrea Horwath prior to the starting his session with ministers on Tuesday.
In a largely ceremonial photo op, the two exchanged greetings and their commitment to work “hand in hand” on a number of municipal issues including housing, homelessness, infrastructure and the city’s light rail transit system.
“Really, this is about making sure that … the Prime Minister was aware of some of our needs,” Horwath told Global News.
Burlington MP Gould insists passport backlog 'virtually eliminated'
During a Q and A Tuesday afternoon, social development minister Karina Gould insisted Service Canada has “virtually eliminated” the backlog in processing passports caused by the pandemic.
Service Canada doubled its operational workforce last year to deal with the backlog.
She anticipates that they’ll be delivering up to three and a half million passports this fiscal year — which is more than double what was processed last year.
However, the Burlington, Ont., MP said another surge in demand is likely for passports in 2023 as a wave of 10-year passports, issued for the first time in 2013, are up for renewal this summer.
“One of the big differences for last spring and summer is that we had about 80 to 85 per cent of applications for new passports,” Gould said.
“So first time passport holders, which are more complex. Whereas what we’re anticipating, particularly for this summer, is a higher level of renewals and those are much simpler to do.”
'Important for us not to pour fuel on the flames of inflation,' says finance minister
Canada’s finance minister admitted in her Q and A on Tuesday afternoon there’s “a lot of uncertainty” and “volatility” in the global economy but insists Canada can operate from a position of strength.
“Strongest economic growth in the G7 in 2022 so far, and a very strong jobs position,” Chrystia Freeland said.
“Very strong December jobs numbers, and something that is really important to me, very record high labor force participation.”
Freeland, who is also the deputy prime minister, said the Liberals took “a fiscally responsible approach” in drawing out the April budget and fall economic statement chasing low deficit and debt numbers in comparison to other GDP’s in the G7.
“We pursued that approach for two reasons. The first was we understood that inflation was elevated, and at a time of elevated inflation, it was really important for us not to pour fuel on the flames of inflation, not to make the Bank of Canada’s job harder,” Freeland explained.
She went on to outline the importance of helping Ukraine win its fight against Russia’s invasion this year, suggesting victory would be a “big boost” for Canada and the global economy.
The federal government will also work with the provinces to ensure that health care remains well-funded, recognizing that Canadians are anxious about the state of health care.
Earlier on Tuesday, associate finance minister Randy Boissonault insisted the government still has some spending room for big priorities including a new health-care deal with the provinces despite a potential “turbulent” year for the economy.