Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland recently got into hot water by suggesting that to face the rising cost of living, Canadian families should consider cutting their Disney+ subscription to get by instead of expecting their government to do something about it.
Yes, you read that correctly. You’re just one less Toy Story bingefest away from financial comfort. Apparently, the Avengers assembling is what’s driving people to insolvency, not out-of-control greedflation.
Working people and people on fixed incomes are really struggling with the higher costs of everything. Although she walked back the statement, it's still deeply concerning and problematic that the finance minister thinks this is the choice people are making.
People aren’t picking between Disney+ or Netflix, they’re choosing between which bills they can and can’t pay. And this isn’t just a small group. One in five Canadians is skipping meals to reduce costs. Demand for food banks, a consistent indicator of government failure, has skyrocketed. Food prices are at a 41-year high. Wages can’t keep up.
This didn’t just happen. Our government’s refusal to take on rampant inequality, and specifically the ultra-wealthy's penchant for tax evasion and tax avoidance while they make obscene profits on the backs of working people, is at the core of the problem.
The truth is that the ultra-wealthy have never had it so good. CEO and executive chairman of Loblaw Companies Ltd. and George Weston Limited, Galen Weston, makes over $1 million in excess profits a day. This government always has their back, having gone so far as to even buy them fridges. And it’s very clear, they don’t have yours.
This out-of-control price-gouging is a problem, and the government knows it. We need concrete action on a number of fronts, including from the Competition Bureau. Following NDP calls to do so, the bureau is calling for submissions by Dec. 16 for a study on what the government can do to provide relief for struggling Canadians.
And it’s not just supermarket moguls who have in the past been caught fixing bread prices who are thriving. The Irvings got caught using the same tax loophole for the last half-century, allowing them to get out of paying millions in taxes. Big oil companies have never had such a reliable partner as this government, having received over $15 billion in subsidies in 2022 alone.
But Liberals and Conservatives don’t want to hear it. When I proposed a motion in Parliament calling on the government to close the loopholes that benefit the ultra-wealthy, Conservatives and Liberals wouldn’t even let me finish reading it.
While the Conservatives and Liberals may cosplay as political enemies, when it comes to defending the interests of the one per cent against yours, they’re on the same team, writes NDP MP @nikiashton. #cdnpoli #opinion
While the Conservatives and Liberals may cosplay as political enemies, when it comes to defending the interests of the one per cent against yours, they’re on the same team. Look no further than Ontario, where Doug Ford treated education workers the same way Justin Trudeau treated Port of Montreal dock workers or postal workers in Canada.
Or when Liberals and Conservatives voted together against an NDP motion to ensure people making more than $20 million didn’t have to pay a one per cent tax. So much for Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre's defence of working people — he’s on the side of big bosses, while leaving you to fend for yourself.
The solutions are clear: we need the political courage to take on the most powerful people in our country to stand up for everyone else. We must address the corporate greed that is artificially driving up prices.
We need a windfall profits tax, something Minister Freeland has so far rejected for oil and gas companies. The European Union has already done this to help people struggling with home heating costs. This government must introduce legislation that makes it easier to prosecute price-fixing and increase penalties. We need to shut down tax loopholes and go after offshore tax cheats.
Corporations that have profited on the backs of working people throughout the pandemic, that have made record profits, need to pay what they owe.
We need to stand up for working people, for people on fixed incomes and their families.
What we don’t need is austerity. Cuts that would harm those who have nothing left to give — but that’s what the Liberals are threatening. Freeland recently told her caucus colleagues to expect cuts.
The parliamentary secretary to the prime minister and to the president of the Treasury Board, Greg Fergus, said: “So long as there is a good balance in delivering things that we need to do, if that means some cuts in some places … that works for me.”
While Freeland’s clumsy words show how out of touch she is with Canadians, it’s her endgame we should all worry about.
Niki Ashton is the federal NDP’s critic for tax fairness and inequality and official languages. She’s also deputy critic for Indigenous services, as well as northern affairs.