Last week, the federal government released the Fall Economic Statement (FES). As is always the case, speculation about what policy priorities would be included in the economic update was rampant in the lead-up to the FES.
Someone with a significant stake in the outcome of the FES was NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
The Liberal-NDP supply and confidence agreement, signed in 2022, hinges on the government following through on key promises in exchange for the NDP’s support on confidence and budgetary matters.
Key items on the NDP’s wish list include: pharmacare, affordability measures and amendments to the Competition Act. What did the NDP get in this year’s FES, and what priorities still need to be delivered on?
There were some notable wins for the NDP in the FES. The majority of the $20.8 billion in new spending in the FES will support housing construction. As part of their proposed affordability measures, the NDP has been pushing the Liberal government for funding for affordable housing initiatives, specifically co-op and public housing builds. The FES included $1 billion for a new affordability-focused fund that will support non-profit, co-op and public housing builds over three years. The goal is 7,000 new homes built by 2028.
The FES did not include any new rebate-style benefits for Canadians, but the government is promising to continue with its prior commitments to work with the major grocery stores to stabilize prices and to establish a “Grocery Task Force”.
The NDP were supportive of these steps when they were originally introduced but recently, NDP members have criticized the government over lack of results. Despite the public dressing down, the NDP agreed to support the Liberal’s grocery bill, Bill C-56, in exchange for a series of amendments inspired by Singh’s own Private Members Bill.
The FES would also amend the Competition Act to strengthen tools available to tackle abuse of dominance by big corporations including predatory pricing and by enhancing protection for consumers. The NDP has been pushing for months to reign in the grocery giants and there is no doubt that these measures appeal to the party’s membership.
The recent introduction of Bill C-58 was also a major win for the NDP. When the bill, which would ban replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces, was introduced by Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan, he repeatedly thanked NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice for his help throughout the process. The tabling of Bill C-58 is yet another accomplishment for the NDP and a product of their collaboration with the government.
Despite what appears to be a slew of accomplishments by the NDP, a real temperature check on the state of the relationship was the complete lack of pharmacare provisions in the FES.
The introduction of pharmacare legislation is the crown jewel of the agreement and it is critical to the ongoing support of the NDP. The agreement states that pharmacare legislation must be tabled before 2024.
But for those who are looking for trouble in paradise, all is not yet lost. NDP sources told the Globe and Mail yesterday that the NDP is open to waiving the end-of-year deadline. Both the Liberals and NDP have noted that discussions have been productive, and talks remain ongoing.
For now, the NDP seem to be appeased by the efforts of the Liberal government to fulfill their end of the supply and confidence agreement. Time will tell whether the relationship between the two can go the distance.