Affordable Housing and Groceries Act Bill C-56
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise to address Bill C-56, our affordable
housing and groceries act, as affordability is an issue of great concern to
many of the constituents in the riding of Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill,
which I have the privilege of representing.
Affordability continues to be a major challenge for Canadians. Despite the
inflation rate decreasing from a high of 8.1% last June to 4% last month,
prices remain high. As we all recognize, global events, including COVID-19
and the post-COVID economy, the climate crisis and, of course, the
unconscionable invasion of Ukraine by Russia have contributed to high
inflation worldwide. Even though the Canadian economy has done well,
compared to most other countries, it is of little solace to Canadians who
are struggling. While global inflation was not caused by the Government of
Canada, it is the responsibility of us all to continue to put forward
measures to help Canadians.
The pandemic created a unique challenge through the closure of businesses,
the creation of labour shortages and the disruption of supply chains. For
the first time, for many, we saw some of the worst consequences of an
interconnected global economy. The reality was exacerbated by extreme
climate events such as flooding, forest fires and heat waves that have swept
across countries and continents. In fact, 2023 was the worst year on record
for wildfires in Canada. In addition to all that, the war on Ukraine
impacted vital food exports that Canada, as well as many other countries,
rely on. This conflict has increased global commodity prices, further
exacerbating inflation and affordability issues here at home.
Inflation in Canada has decreased to 4% from a high of 8.1% in June 2022, as
I have already said, and that is considerable progress. However, the stark
rise in oil and gas prices due to large cuts by the Saudi Arabia energy
minister and OPEC highlights the precarious nature of this commodity and
illustrates that we are not yet at the stable prices Canadians need. A lot
of the increase in inflation recently was due to the rise in oil and gas
world commodity prices.
A noteworthy point by Tiff Macklem asserts that the source of inflation is
from these impactful global events and not, as the opposition believes, that
putting a price on pollution is the driving force. In fact, Tiff Macklem,
who the opposition loves to quote, calculated that the price on pollution
only contributes 0.15 percentage points to inflation, a very small
percentage of the inflation we have experienced. This does not take into
account the cheques that Canadian households, in provinces that are part of
the federal backstop program, receive four times a year, which help to
offset these increases. Additionally, while we have no specific estimates of
the inflationary impact of climate events, we do know that there has been a
great deal of money spent fighting these events. The decreased food supply
due to climate change has had an additional impact on inflation rates.
While we must fight the climate crisis, we must also fight the affordability
crisis. Thus, we are introducing additional measures to do just that. We are
introducing measures to respond to the affordability challenge. With Bill
C-56, our affordable housing and groceries act, we are proposing amendments
to the Excise Tax Act and the Competition Act to make rental housing more
affordable and encourage greater competition to stabilize prices.
First, we are removing GST on new rental housing for apartments, student
housing and senior residences to encourage newbuilds to support the housing
crisis. It is not the only answer, but we have heard from many housing
advocates that this will definitely help. Increasing supply in all sectors
of the housing market will drive down rental rates. This measure is being
applied to all rental units that are being built. This plan is a
continuation of the Liberal government's 2015 commitment to affordable
housing with the social infrastructure funding stream and other programs, so
this is building on actions that have been taken.
This government has been putting forward measures to address the housing
affordability crisis for years, but we see that more is needed. This is an
additional measure that will help increase supply and bring down rental
costs. This is also meeting the SDG objectives of reducing poverty,
inequalities, improving health care and creating economic growth.
Additionally, we have done many things to address the cost of groceries. I
sit on the agriculture committee. We have had two studies on food prices,
one on food security and one on grocery prices. A number of recommendations
were made in these studies, and the proposed changes to the Competition Act
would address many of these.
However, we still need to do more. Therefore, the government, the Prime
Minister and Minister Champagne called in not only the heads of the major
grocery chains but also the heads of the—
Madam Speaker, they have called in the heads of the grocery chains as well
as the heads of major food manufacturers to come speak with the government
and work together to come up with further solutions, because we all have to
work together. We know when grocery chains are making record profits and
CEOs and others in the C-suite are getting high-level bonuses that Canadians
need to know they are also concerned about other stakeholders, such as their
loyal customers and their frontline employees, who need help given to them
We are proposing reforms to the Competition Act to foster competition across
the economy, with a focus on the grocery sector, in addition to these other
measures we have taken. Of course, we also gave the grocery rebate to try to
help with affordability.
We have modernized competition law and the necessary enforcement to combat
price-fixing in all sectors by applying some of the highest penalties in the
world. We did it with the help of public consultation to ensure Canadian
voices were engaged and heard.
We would also introduce amendments that would eliminate big business mergers
with anti-competitive effects, enable the Competition Bureau to conduct
precise market studies and stop anti-competitive collaborations that stifle
small businesses, especially small, local grocers.
We also need to take the necessary steps to collect public data on the costs
throughout the agri-food supply chain, including disaggregated data on costs
of primary agriculture food and beverage processing and food retail sectors.
We know farmers are working hard across Canada. We know they need support
and we do not want to see any more pressure put on them.
In addition, there would be funding for indigenous-led initiatives in remote
and northern areas to improve infrastructure that supports food security in
the communities. The recommendation recognizes the unique challenges
attributed to vulnerable communities in times of crisis and would facilitate
measures to support and protect them.
There were several other recommendations made in these studies, and we are
following up on most of them.
We know this government has lived through some of the most challenging
global events in history. The opposition likes to confuse correlation with
causality, but just because something happened at the same time as something
else does not mean it is caused by it. We have heard time and time again
experts who have cited that the causes of this global inflation are the
three Cs: climate change, COVID and conflict. Those are the three major
reasons for this inflation, and we are doing everything we can as a
government to try to help Canadians fight inflation and deal with the issue
All of us here will continue working on affordability to ensure a prosperous
marketplace that fosters economic growth and a comfortable standard of
living for Canadians and their families. We see them, we hear them and we
are acting to correct this affordability crisis.