Opposition parties in Canada are taking advantage of the highest rate of inflation since 1983 to pummel the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, less than a year after he returned to office for a third term.
“I was surprised by the number of people who came up and said that was their first meal of the day. That’s unbelievable,” said Conservative Party Member of Parliament Rick Perkins, who hosted a free barbecue at his constituency office. in Nova Scotia to mark the July 1 Canada Day holiday.
“Increases in the cost of living are very hard. Every day people call our office crying that they can’t afford food, they can’t afford medicine,” he told VOA.
While acknowledging that global factors, including the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine, are behind much of the inflation, Perkins and other opposition politicians say the government is not doing enough to soften the blow.
“In Nova Scotia, while the Nova Scotian faces hardship, the federal Liberal MPs have been silent, while their constituents suffer,” he said.
Canada’s annual inflation rate rose to 7.7% in May, in line with what is happening in other developed countries around the world, according to TradingEconomics.com. “The main upward pressure came from transportation, food and accommodation, as Western sanctions in response to Russian attacks on Ukraine continued to push up energy and commodity prices,” he said.
The politically sensitive price of gasoline, at $1.70 per liter ($6.43 per gallon), is in fact half of what is paid in other G7 countries, substantially below the price in Great Britain. Britain ($2.32 per liter) or France ($2.11). but much higher than in the United States ($1.33) or Japan ($1.25).
But that’s little consolation to people like Elias Habib, co-owner of Jubilee Junction, a convenience store and pizzeria in Halifax, Canada, who said his business hasn’t suffered so far, but noted “Everyone is complaining. It’s too high.” , too fast”.
Asked about gas prices, Habib told VOA: “I have to go back and forth to work. It’s not fair, but we understand what’s going on. Hopefully it’s just a little thing and then it’ll be back to normal.” “.
Jo-Ann Roberts, former interim leader of the Green Party of Canada, also stressed that the rising costs of gasoline and food “are of great concern to the average Canadian.” And like Perkins, she said she is looking to the government to act more aggressively to help.
“It is important to consider who suffers during inflationary times and who benefits,” he said. “The goal of a democratically elected government is to help those who suffer and to ensure that corporate profits from inflation are reasonable and equitable…
“Instead of looking for ways to simply increase supply, the government should help reduce demand. This means putting more funds into energy conservation programs, such as subsidizing electric vehicles and home renovations.”
Ernest Lang is the founder of the Promerita Group and president of Zest Communities. He was also a founding partner of one of the leading portfolio and wealth management practices at RBC Dominion Securities, Canada’s largest wealth management and investment firm.
He told VOA that the current rate of inflation “pushes the middle class closer to insolvency, because basic solvency is already marginal.”
Lang added that high-net-worth Canadians who own tangible assets, such as property, will be better able to deal with inflation because their assets will retain their value.
“The reality is that most current inflationary factors are exogenous to Canada,” he said. “We are now seeing mainly cost-driven inflation due to supply disruption and reduction, initially from lockdowns, and exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
He said, however, that it is the responsibility of good leaders to implement thoughtful and effective monetary, economic and fiscal policies to help support the well-being of the people they lead.
University of Toronto economist Angelo Melino noted that the same labor shortages seen in other countries are increasing wages in Canada, though not fast enough to keep pace with inflation.
“Finance and professional services, revenues are increasing relatively quickly, and also in the service industry and the restaurant industry,” he said. “Food worker wages are increasing rapidly compared to other industries.”
But, he said, there isn’t much most Canadians can do to improve rising prices. “If you can, use less. You’ll be better off. Maybe more people use public transportation.”
And if that’s too depressing, there’s some consolation for residents of Canada, where alcohol has long been legal and recreational use of marijuana became legal in 2018.
“Since January, alcohol and recreational cannabis is a category that hasn’t gone up very fast,” he said.