National Legislative Update – March 10, 2023

Federal Budget News

Today, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that the federal budget would be tabled on March 28th, at the end of the day. This year’s budget is expected to be significantly more modest than previous years, with the Finance Minister saying as much when asked. Some large questions remain when considering this goal, however. The federal government has recently signed deals to significantly increase healthcare transfers to the provinces, which will need to be accounted for beginning in this year’s budget. Additionally, the NDP has signalled that they expect a plan for national pharmacare to be put in place this year, and depending on the implementation timeline, that may need to be factored into this year’s budget as well. Just as over the course of last year, questions also remain as to Canada’s defence spending, which is currently quite modest, and does not meet NATO’s minimum requirement of 2% of GDP. With various types of assistance being sent to aid Ukraine, as well as promises of increased procurements for the Canadian Forces themselves, it is likely that an increase in defence spending is also being discussed on the Hill.

CHG will be providing analysis of the federal budget when it is released.

Long Awaited Grocery Hearings Begin

This week, the Agriculture committee called the CEOs of Loblaws, Safeway and FreshCo to testify on inflated grocery store prices. The CEOs defended their respective franchises, saying that food inflation is a global problem. MPs were quick to point out that grocery prices have increased at nearly double the rate of inflation over the past year, and all three of the summoned CEOs represent chains which have all outperformed their average revenues over the past 5 years.

The CEOs were also asked whether they would provide detailed financial statements to the Competition Bureau. All of the CEOs stated that they already were. Furthermore, when asked, all of the CEOs stated their support for the idea of the creation of a “grocery code of conduct”, an idea being floated by some MPs.

The Competition Bureau will be delivering a report to Parliament looking into whether a lack of competitiveness is to blame for the increase in grocery prices. The Bureau will deliver the report, along with recommendations, to Parliament sometime in June.

The Committee also voted this week to invite the CEOs of Walmart Canada and Costco Canada to testify.

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