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  • Writer's pictureLeah Taylor Roy

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

as well.

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

of affordability.

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.


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