‘Now is the time to get things done,’ says former Liberal staffer after retirements end

The confidence and supply agreement between the Liberals and NDP appears to be in good shape as Parliament returns for the fall, strategists say, even as both parties seek to address growing frustrations over rising cost of living and to prepare for the election of a new Conservative leader.

Sheamus Murphy, a former senior federal and Ontario Liberal government official, said hill time that after a year in office and without the need for pre-election positioning, the government will seek to advance its major priorities.

“Now is the time to get things done,” said Murphy, now a partner and federal practice lead at Counsel Public Affairs. “You look at those mandate letters and that’s when the government really needs to check off things off that list.”

Besides the cost of living, Murphy pointed to health care reform, housing shortages and the government’s overhaul of the legislative framework for the online world as other key issues the Liberals will work on this fall.

Counsel Public Affairs’ Sheamus Murphy says now is the time for ministers to work on their mandate letters and tick off the dots. Photo courtesy of Sheamus Murphy

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (PapineauQue.) was due to announce on Sept. 8, the last day of the cabinet retreat in Vancouver, that the government was taking three steps to address affordability, according to The Canadian Press report. These included $650 a year to pay for dental care for children under 12, a one-time $500 rent supplement, and a temporary doubling of the GST tax credit for low-income households.

The first two points flow directly from the agreement between the Liberals and the NDP, and the increase in the GST rebate is also something the NDP has asked for. But Trudeau’s scheduled press conference was delayed, and when he appeared before the cameras several hours later, it was to react to the death of Queen Elizabeth.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (Burnaby SouthBC), in Halifax for his party’s first in-person caucus retreat since the pandemic began, was also scheduled to deliver the NDP’s response to Trudeau’s Sept. 8 announcement, but that press conference was also canceled.

NDP caucus chair Jenny Kwan, right, said her party “will continue to fight for the government to address the affordability crisis”. Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

Talk to hill time earlier in the day, NDP Caucus Chair Jenny Kwan (East Vancouver, British Columbia) said his party had pushed for dental care to be included in the deal with the Liberals because it was something Tommy Douglas had considered many years ago. “Universal health care means head-to-toe care, and that includes dental care.”

Kwan declined to discuss the NDP’s response to the government’s planned affordability measures, but said the NDP would “continue to fight for the government to address the affordability crisis.” She said Canada was seeing “corporate greed at its peak” and called on the government to double the GST rebate, increase the Canada Child Benefit, increase housing support and tackle rising the cost of food.

Former Liberal staffer Christian von Donat said hill time that it was up to the NDP to decide if they were happy with the deal with the Liberals, because the party in power would always be in control to determine “what is achievable”.

Von Donat is vice president of government relations and strategy at Impact Public Affairs, and was previously chief of staff to Liberal MP Yvonne Jones (Labrador, NL). He predicted the NDP would show some flexibility on exactly how the dental plan and other elements of the deal are rolled out, as they are “not able to opt out of the deal.” agreement” for the time being. But he added that if the NDP sticks to the deal once in a while and then decides to walk away from it at a later date, when it makes more political sense, it will have to explain why certain compromises that were once acceptable are no longer acceptable.

Cam Holmstrom, who was an NDP staffer under former leaders Jack Layton and Thomas Mulcair, said hill time he expected to see the NDP continue to pressure the government to keep its end of the bargain on dental care and other elements of the supply and confidence agreement.

Holmstrom, now the head of government relations firm Niipaawi Strategies, said the NDP needed to keep talking about inflation and the cost of living, “especially when the Conservatives come in, putting a very populist spin on it.”

He said Singh has already started talking more about rising corporate prices and pointing out the large profit margins at grocery stores and some other large retailers and manufacturers during the pandemic. Holmstrom said these companies were “taking advantage of the moment to increase their profits and put money in their own pockets”, beyond any increase in their input costs, and called for a similar excess profits tax. to those envisaged in other G7 and G20 countries. .

“My wife and I just got groceries, and we’ve never spent so much on groceries in our lives,” he said. “It can’t be a new normal for society to have 17% inflation on staples like soup.”

Affordability and cost of living top Liberal, NDP pension plans

Christian von Donat of Impact Public Affairs argues that government should be seen as making a difference to the cost of living. Photo courtesy of Christian von Donat

The Liberals and NDP each announced in advance that their respective meetings after Labor Day – a cabinet retreat for the Liberals in Vancouver and a caucus retreat for the NDP in Halifax – would focus on affordability and ‘economy.

Singh said in a Sept. 7 press release that his party is calling on the government to double the GST tax credit, increase the Canada Child Benefit by $500, provide $500 in rental assistance through the Canada Housing Benefit and to provide dental assistance for children. care.

Murphy said the government will look more to targeted measures to help marginalized people who are most affected by the rising cost of living, rather than general measures which, by putting money in people’s pockets of everyone, will end up thwarting what the Bank of Canada is trying to do against inflation.

“Everyone wants to see new programs, but [the Liberals] must roll out the initiatives they have already launched.

Murphy pointed to the continued rollout of the government’s childcare scheme, describing it as “a massive social program that affects one of the basic expenses of young parents”.

Later in the fall, Murphy said there was a chance the Liberals would strike a health care accord with the provinces. “And they’ll also start laying the groundwork a bit more for pharmacare, which is in the second half of the Liberal-NDP deal.” There is work to be done to prepare the ground for this. I expect to see further developments on this front.

Von Donat said he didn’t think the government’s existing programs and affordability measures would be enough to address the general population’s frustration with the rising cost of living. “In my opinion, the government must consider other measures. I’ve heard too many stories from people who aren’t political, who are worried about the current state of the economy,” von Donat said. “Canadians face the pinch.

He said the promised dental program and existing programs like the Canada child benefit may be good programs on their own, but they’re not getting the attention of more people. voters as would a deeper rebate, or the temporary gas tax relief that some prime ministers have tried.

Von Donat clarified that he was not advocating similar federal gas tax cuts, but rather emphasized that, for political reasons, a government must be seen to be making a difference on the issue of the cost of fuel. life. “I don’t mean to be rude about it, but it’s something the government needs to have in its calculations. They are on par with a Conservative Party which does not yet have a permanent leader,” he said.

Niipaawi Strategies’ Cam Holmstrom says dental care is a cost-of-living issue for families who don’t yet have dental coverage. Photo to hand out

Holmstrom disagreed that supporting dental care for children under 12, which is the first phase of rolling out dental care in the Liberal-NDP deal, does not solve cost of living issues for many households.

“The people I hear saying that dental care isn’t a cost of living issue are people who already have dental coverage,” Holmstrom said. “There are a lot of people who don’t have dental insurance and have to pay out of pocket. Or they make other choices. It’s a barrier to getting people back into the workforce, and it’s part of good health.

“If you’re a young family and you’re talking about trying to keep your kids’ teeth clean, or having to pay for surgery, or having to pay for braces, believe me, that counts in your costs. Do I pay for gas or do I pay for groceries or do I pay my rent or my mortgage? »

kphilipupillai@hilltimes.com

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