The Canadian News

Freeland facing calls to prioritize economic growth as budget date confirmed

The 2023 federal budget will be presented on Tuesday, March 28, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Friday, with stakeholders calling for the massive fiscal document to include a plan to promote economic growth.

Rising in the House of Commons to confirm the date—per tradition—Freeland said the full presentation of the state of the Canadian economy and further Liberal spending plans will be focused on clean energy, making life more affordable, and job growth.

With anticipation that the economy will slow in the months ahead, potentially leading to a recession, the budget will likely continue to show what the Liberals consider to be fiscal restraint as the Bank of Canada tries to get inflation under control.

Though with Canadians and businesses feeling the pinch of high interest rates, it’s possible the federal government could be looking for ways to help alleviate the pressures being felt by the higher cost of living and housing prices.

Within minutes of the news breaking, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre was calling for Freeland to cap spending, cut taxes, and reverse the federal government’s “inflationary deficits that are driving up interest rates.”

The last time Freeland presented a federal budget, in April 2022, the Bank of Canada’s interest rate was at 0.50; it currently sits at 4.50.

Expected to be included in Budget 2023 will be the recently-finalized $196 billion health-care funding deals with the provinces, as well measures aimed at ensuring Canadian companies can be resilient in the face of a challenging economic landscape and competitive global markets.

The look at the state of Canada’s books will come on the heels of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit the week prior, and just ahead of a two-week break in the House of Commons allowing MPs to spend time in their ridings promoting the package Freeland will be unveiling.

Finance Canada officials, who for some time have been parsing the stacks of pre-budget submissions from various industries and sectors, will also have to factor in the Liberals’ commitments to the New Democrats, with key planks of the two-party confidence deal due to come to fruition this year.

In a statement, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he’s holding economic roundtables ahead of the spring budget, to seek the expertise of workers and economists.

“The cost of everything has outpaced paycheques, and eight consecutive interest rates made life even harder. Families are feeling like the system is rigged — no matter what they do, prices go up, the ultra-rich get richer, and the regular families find it tougher and tougher to keep up,” Singh said.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau believes everything is fine — because for his friends, they are. And I reject Pierre Poilievre’s plan for more cuts to things like EI and people’s pensions.”

Business Council of Canada senior vice president of policy Robert Asselin said in a statement that the 2023 budget is coming “at a time when Canada faces intense competition for jobs and investment, including the impact of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, and long-term economic and fiscal headwinds.”

He’s calling for a focused federal response that would see Canadian productivity boosted, and long-term economic growth secured, elements Asselin notes will “take more than one budget.”

The Coalition for a Better Future—co-chaired by Lisa Raitt and Anne McLellan—said it’s looking forward to seeing how the 2023 federal budget focuses on economic growth, after 2022 saw a “mixed bag” when it came to Canada’s economic performance.

recent report from the coalition noted the number of “headwinds” Canada is facing, such as the aging population, while noting production and employment losses from the pandemic have rebounded.

“It’s time to be ambitious and reimagine what we’re capable of achieving as a country. It’s time to raise our sights and embrace a bold vision for inclusive, sustainable economic growth and opportunity for all,” said Raitt and McLellan.

The fall economic statement issued in November 2022 projected the federal deficit at $36.4 billion in 2022-23, down from the $52.8 billion forecast in the April 2022 federal budget. Freeland also forecasted that federal coffers could be back to balance by 2027-28. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, February 13, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

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