Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland recently found herself in hot water by suggesting that to meet the rising cost of living, Canadian families should consider cutting their Disney+ subscription to get by rather than expecting their government to do something about it.
Yes, you read that right. You’re just one less Toy Story binge party away from financial comfort. Apparently Avengers assembly is what drives people to insolvency, not out of control greed.
Working people and people on fixed incomes are really struggling with the higher costs of everything. Although she went back on her statement, it is still deeply concerning and problematic that the Finance Minister believes this is the choice people are making.
People aren’t choosing between Disney+ or Netflix, they’re choosing between what bills they can and can’t pay. And this is not just a small group. One in five Canadians skip meals to cut costs. Demand for food banks, a consistent indicator of government failure, has skyrocketed. Food prices are at their highest for 41 years. Salary cannot keep up.
This didn’t just happen. Our government’s refusal to take on rampant inequality, and specifically the ultra-rich’s penchant for tax evasion and avoidance while making obscene profits off the backs of working people, is at the heart of the problem.
The truth is that the ultra-rich 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 profit a day. This government always has their back, having gone so far as to even buy them refrigerators. 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 Authority. Following NDP calls to do so, the agency is asking for submissions by Dec. 16 for a study on what the government can do to provide relief to struggling Canadians.
And it’s not just supermarket moguls who have previously been caught fixing bread prices who are thriving. The Irvings were caught using the same tax loophole for the past half century, so they could avoid 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 the Liberals and the Conservatives won’t hear it. When I proposed a motion in Parliament asking the government to close the loopholes that benefit the ultra-rich, the Conservatives and Liberals wouldn’t even let me finish reading it.
While the Right and the Left may cosplay as political enemies, they are on the same team when it comes to defending the interests of the one percent against yours. Look no further than Ontario, where Doug Ford treated education workers the same way Justin Trudeau treated dockers in Montreal or postal workers in Canada.
While the Conservatives and Liberals may cosplay as political enemies, when it comes to defending the interests of the one percent against yours, they are on the same team, writes NDP MP @nikiashton. #cdnpoli #opinion
Or when Liberals and Conservatives voted together against an NDP proposal to ensure that people earning more than $20 million would not have to pay one per cent tax. So much for Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre’s defense 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 artificially drives up prices.
We need a profits tax, which Minister Freeland has so far rejected for oil and gas companies. The EU has already done this to help people struggling with heating costs. This government must introduce legislation that makes it easier to prosecute price fixing and increase penalties. We must close tax loopholes and go after offshore tax cheats.
Companies that have profited off the backs of working people through the pandemic, that have made record profits, must pay what they owe.
We must stand up for working people, for people on a fixed income and their families.
What we don’t need is austerity. Cuts that would harm those who have nothing left to give – but that is what the Liberal Party is threatening. Freeland recently told his caucus colleagues to expect cuts.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and President of the Treasury Board, Greg Fergus, said: “As long as there’s a good balance in delivering things we need to do, if it 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 that we should all be concerned about.
Niki Ashton is the federal NDP’s tax fairness and inequality and official language critic. She is also Deputy Critic for Indigenous Services, as well as Northern Affairs.