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As Ottawa marks one year since the "Freedom Convoy" arrived in the national capital, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he understands the anger and concerns protesters have while also promising "good, long-term jobs" as a way to relieve pressures Canadians are facing.

Dozens gathered outside Parliament on Saturday to mark the anniversary as members of the Liberal party were attending their caucus retreat discussing their upcoming priorities for when the House of Commons resumes Monday.

"We can feel it, how times are tough right now. We have a global economic slowdown, combined with inflation, combined with higher interest rates," Trudeau said Saturday before meeting with Liberal MPs.

"A lot of people are feeling a lot of pressure."

Trudeau said he expects there to be a global economic slowdown for the next six to 12 months, but promised his Liberal government would provide more targeted supports without adding to inflation.

He said the Liberals and New Democrats want the same thing heading into the next sitting, like expanding dental care.

Other shared priorities under their confidence-and-supply agreement include pharmacare legislation this year, and the introduction of a "just transition" bill to help create a green economy that has protections for energy workers built into it.

Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson said he prefers calling it a "sustainable jobs" bill because that's what it's meant to create. He said in the next few months his government will introduce further policy on green technology projects, with a bill coming within the year.

Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said the government is just getting started when it comes to job creation within the green energy sector, touting recent industrial investments in Ontario.

Job creation a priority as Liberal caucus wraps up on anniversary of 'Freedom Convoy'. #CDNPoli #Jobs

Last year Champagne announced his government is giving $259 million to General Motors of Canada in Oshawa, Ont., to advance electric vehicle manufacturing. The government says the investment will result in thousands of jobs.

"I would say last year was the appetizer. The main course is this year," Champagne said Saturday.

He said "having a good job" is the best for combatting inflation, promising that "we'll have even more for Canadians" this year.

Trudeau said part of his government's agreement with the New Democrats, which was signed last March, "is about creating good long-term jobs into the future."

"Canada is well positioned for the coming years, and we have to pull together the way Canadians do during these difficult times," Trudeau said.

"That's what I look forward to doing in Parliament, and quite frankly that's what I know Canadians will do. In tough times we pull together. We don't throw up our hands and say everything is broken."

Trudeau was referencing Pierre Poilievre who said "everything feels broken'' in Canada when the Conservative leader addressed his caucus on Friday.

Canada's economy is facing a "turbulent" year but the federal government still has some spending room for big priorities like a new health-care deal with the provinces, Associate Finance Minister Randy Boissonnault said earlier this week at the Liberal cabinet retreat in Hamilton.

On Feb. 7, Trudeau is set to meet with Canada's premiers to discuss further health-care funding, but the amount is still unclear.

"We'll find out in about eight or nine days from now," Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Saturday, which marked the last day of the Liberal caucus retreat.

The government will also table legislation this year related to pharmacare and long-term care, Duclos said.

On Monday, all members of Parliament will return to the House of Commons, where they are set to debate enshrining a national child-care system into federal law.

Ottawa has struck deals with provinces and territories to reduce child care across Canada to an average of $10 a day by 2025-26.

The government says bringing the deals into a national child care law will ensure the system remains in place for the future.

MPs will also study Bill C-13, the official languages act, during a committee meeting on Tuesday.

The proposed bill is aimed at fostering and protecting the use of French in federally regulated private businesses in Quebec, but it has been criticized by anglophone communities in that province.

Official Languages Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said if the bill were to pass, it will not result in anglophones losing any of their rights.

"We recognize that French is in decline in this country and we can't minimize that. That is the reality," she said Saturday.

"Our official languages legislation is also put in place to make sure that we respect and protect our official language minority communities, but that also includes anglophones in Quebec."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2023.

Keep reading

Whereas full employment is a policy choice of a monetarily sovereign country like Canada and would reduce poverty, enhance labour bargaining power, help reverse the decline in the wage share experienced over the last 30 years, and help decrease the high level of household debt, the federal government should ensure full employment (defined as a job offer to all those able and willing to work) through appropriate fiscal stimulus that achieves a productive and sustainable economy by:

a. hiring off the top - including accelerated infrastructure and enhanced government services through a Just Transition framework, and

b. hiring off the bottom - by means of a Job Guarantee program (including training) delivered through lower levels of government and by non-profit community groups in areas such as helping the aged, youth recreation and education, public arts and culture, and environmental stewardship.

Footnotes:

1. Keynes quote:
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/12/wray-on-krugman-and-currency-sove...

“The Conservative belief that there is some law of nature which prevents men from being employed, that it is “rash” to employ men, and that it is financially ‘sound’ to maintain a tenth of the population in idleness for an indefinite period, is crazily improbable – the sort of thing which no man could believe who had not had his head fuddled with nonsense for years and years…".

2. Full employment a choice PM can make
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/full-employment-is-a-policy-ch...

"In the real world, currency-issuing governments have no ­intrinsic financial spending constraint. They can purchase whatever is for sale in their own currency, including all unemployed labour desiring work. Mass unemployment is a ­political choice.

***
The government should introduce what I call a job guarantee by making an unconditional job offer at a socially ­inclusive minimum wage to anyone willing and able to work. The buffer of jobs would normally be small and would shrink as private sector activity recovers. No inflationary pressures arise because government would not be competing for labour at market prices. There is no market bid for the unemployed."

3. What is Modern Monetary Theory, or “MMT”?
http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2013/03/what-is-modern-monetary-theor...

"The essential insight of Modern Monetary Theory (or “MMT”) is that sovereign, currency-issuing countries are only constrained by real limits. They are not constrained, and cannot be constrained, by purely financial limits because, as issuers of their respective fiat-currencies, they can never “run out of money.” This doesn’t mean that governments can spend without limit, or overspend without causing inflation, or that government should spend any sum unwisely. What it emphatically does mean is that no such sovereign government can be forced to tolerate mass unemployment because of the state of its finances – no matter what that state happens to be.

Virtually all economic commentary and punditry today, whether in America, Europe or most other places, is based on ideas about the monetary system which are not merely confused – they are starkly and comprehensively counter-factual."

4. William Mitchell is Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia
http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=34412

Blustein (2008: 230) documents the findings of a plethora of research studies that have focused on the importance of work for psychological health.

1. “the loss of work has been consistently linked to problems with self- esteem, relational conflicts, substance abuse, alcoholism, and other more serious mental health concerns”.

2. “the loss of work has been associated with a notable decline in the quality of neighborhoods, a decline in the quality of family relationships, and an increase in crime as well as problems in other critical aspects of contemporary life”.

3. “the loss of employment opportunities … [leads] … to a marked disintegration in the quality of life, with corresponding elevations in drug abuse, criminal activity, violence, and apathy.”