Freeland's Budget Speech Viewed as 'Self-Congratulatory': Federal Research

Freeland's Budget Speech Viewed as 'Self-Congratulatory': Federal Research
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 19, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Isaac Teo

In-house research by the federal government found that some participants in an online focus group thought the budget speech delivered by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was “self-congratulatory.”

The study was conducted by market research firm Leger on behalf of the Department of Finance, to gauge public opinion on the Mar. 28 budget speech, as first covered by Blacklock’s Reporter. The findings were released on Mar. 31.

The speech was evaluated, on the same day, by 31 selected participants, who researchers noted, “struggled, post-speech, to recall specific positive moments in the speech itself beyond dental care.”

In the context of women in the workforce as mentioned in the Budget, the study found English-speaking respondents under the age of 40 “often commented that aspects of the speech felt self-congratulatory.”

“Participants were somewhat cynical and questioned about what had been actually accomplished or how useful the information was,” said the report.“The self-congratulatory criticism came up again when discussing the government’s efforts to address rising costs.”

In her budget speech, Ms. Freeland said inflation “has fallen for eight months in a row” and that the Bank of Canada predicted that the rate will “drop to just 2.6 percent” by the end of 2023.

The Leger study said the minister’s speech on inflation dropping was received “particularly negatively” among the group. “Some participants felt like the prices were still high and did not see an improvement on that matter,” it added.

As of Sept. 19, Statistics Canada reported the country’s consumer price index in August stood at 4 percent.

‘Typical Rhetoric’

The focus group was split into four categories, namely English-speaking adults under 40 years old, English-speaking adults 40 or older, French-speaking adults under 40, and French-speaking adults 40 or older.

Researchers noted the older French-speaking group shared a similar sentiment with their younger English-speaking counterparts when it came to the “rhetoric” contained in the speech.

“While most participants generally agreed that the speech had been clear and understandable, some stated their impression that the speech had been typical rhetoric and self-congratulations,” they wrote.

According to the findings, the younger French-speaking respondents felt the speech lacked concrete announcements or initiatives.

“Many commented that while the intent was to reassure and use statistics to portray a brighter picture of the situation in Canada, the speech did not include any concrete measures to help Canadians face issues of affordability.”

Across all age groups, there were some who concluded Ms. Freeland’s speech was disconnected from economic realities of inflation and housing.

“Several participants noted that housing was largely omitted from the budget speech, along with details on the implementation of measures to help families cope with rising grocery prices."

In a similar vein, the message on how Canada is moving towards a green economy was not received with much enthusiasm.

“The measures on the green economy left many participants indifferent or even uninterested,” researchers wrote.

‘No Clear Connection’

Ms. Freeland’s speech also mentioned the war in Ukraine, urging Canadians to never take their freedom and democracy for granted. “We have the power to shape our country’s future—and we must always be sure to use it,” she said.

The study said participants found the reference puzzling.

“The view was that it was unclear how the war and Canada’s support fit into the budget. There was no clear connection as to why it was being discussed,” it said, referring to the under 40 English speaking respondents.

For English-speaking participants 40 or above, the research found that every time Ms. Freeland mentioned Russian President Vladimir Putin or Ukraine, “ratings on the dialer decreased.”

The study said, after the speech, there were mixed feelings about whether Canada is heading in the right direction.

"The most pessimistic ones were cynical about follow through and did not expect the budget to change anything. The more neutral ones seemed to welcome the budget announcements rather positively but remained skeptical about its feasibility and concrete implementation by the government.”

As for the most optimistic participants, they acknowledged the “challenging circumstances and multiple ongoing crises” but stressed that Canadians “were in a much better situation compared to most other countries,” the report concluded.