Liberals to Focus on Affordability and Public Safety in Fall Sitting, Says Minister Gould

Government House Leader Karina Gould says the Liberals will focus on affordability and public safety in the upcoming fall sitting.
Liberals to Focus on Affordability and Public Safety in Fall Sitting, Says Minister Gould
Minister Karina Gould stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Oct. 17, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Noé Chartier

The Liberal government’s legislative priorities for the fall sitting in the House of Commons are affordability and public safety, says Government House Leader Karina Gould.

This will include tabling a bill on national pharmacare, a result of the Liberals’ deal with the NDP to keep their minority government in power until 2025.

“Our actions in the coming weeks and months are motivated by one thing: Canadians are hurting and our team will be there to help,” Ms. Gould said on Parliament Hill on Sept. 18.

The Liberals are pursuing new measures on housing amid elevated real estate prices compounded by higher interest rates.

Following a Liberal caucus retreat in London, Ont., last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a set of upcoming measures to address affordability issues, such as removing the GST on new rental builds.

The prime minister also talked about compelling grocers to reduce their prices and reforming the Competition Act to “make large businesses more accountable.”

Ms. Gould said all of the measures discussed by Mr. Trudeau in his Sept. 14 announcement would be presented “imminently” in an omnibus bill.

Whereas the Conservatives may support the removal of a tax on new housing projects, they’re not likely to back a new tax on grocers, which the Liberals say they are ready to do if the industry doesn’t find a solution to high prices.

Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland were scheduled to meet with major grocers in Ottawa on Sept. 18 to discuss the matter.

On the GST measure, Ms. Gould was asked by reporters why the government isn’t introducing it as a standalone bill to get it approved faster.

“What we’ve seen over the past couple of years is that the Conservatives don’t like to admit publicly that they’re against something that is popular, right?” she replied.

“We saw that with childcare, we saw that with dental care. Mr. Poilievre still doesn’t want to say what he would do, should he become prime minister, on dental care, because his position will be highly unpopular with Canadians.”

Affordability and public safety are themes that Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre has been hammering on continuously since he took the helm a year ago. His party has since forged a two-digit lead in the polls over the Liberals.

Other Priorities

On the public safety angle, the Liberals were able to have their gun control Bill C-21 clear the House before the summer break and it is now in the hands of the Senate.

Other legislative priorities in that domain include bail reform Bill C-48, said Ms. Gould, which the Liberals introduced following pressure from provinces and law enforcement.

The killing of an Ontario Provincial Police constable last winter by a violent repeat offender suspect out on bail sparked debate about federal bail laws.

Another public safety priority for the Liberals is the passage of Senate Bill S-12, the Sex Offender Information Registration Act. The bill completed its third reading in the Senate last June and will be transferred to the House for review.

Other government priorities include strengthening the port system and railway safety with Bill C-33 and implementing a Digital Charter with Bill C-27. Ms. Gould said the Liberals also seek to pass Bill C-34, which seeks to give additional powers to cabinet to review and block transactions that could be injurious to national security.

Ms. Gould, who was shuffled to the position of House leader during the summer, did not mention the intention to table legislation pertaining to a foreign influence registry.

Conservatives, experts, and groups targeted for interference by the Chinese regime have been calling more loudly for the implementation of a registry in recent months, following multiple national security leaks in the media depicting widespread interference by Beijing.

An inquiry into foreign interference, with the terms and commissioner being approved by all major parties, begins on Sept. 18.

Other projects for which the Liberals are unlikely to move forward this session include the Online Harms legislation, which would likely impose a form of censorship on the web, and the plan to impose a digital tax on online businesses.

Ms. Gould said those are “extremely important for us,” but didn’t commit to a timeline for their introduction.