Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmale believes issues surrounding inflation and cost of living are likely to get worse in 2023.
After a tumultuous 12 months that has seen the country come out the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, another very different threat has emerged forcing most Canadians to re-think their household budgets.
Inflation hit a new 39-year high last June, rising to 8.1 per cent. Increased prices at the pumps led to a drastic rise in grocery prices, while much higher interest rates, bumped up seven times by the Bank of Canada since March, has seen accommodation costs, whether through home ownership or rentals, spike considerably.
“These are challenging times for most Canadians,” Schmale told The Highlander. “The cost of living crisis looks like it will be with us for the foreseeable future. Food bank usage is up, with the number of first-time users through the roof in Ontario. More and more people are making tough decisions over whether to pay their rent or mortgage, pay their electricity bill, or buy food. That is extremely concerning.”
Schmale blamed the federal government for printing too much money and overspending throughout the pandemic. He said federal printing presses had created $400 billion of new money since February 2020. He has been critical of several recent federal investments, including a five-year $30 billion plan to subsidize childcare options across the country, and a $5.3 billion spend to improve dental care services for medium to low-income families.
While he was supportive of programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and Canada Emergency Business Account, he feels the government didn’t do a good enough job policing who qualified for supports and who didn’t.
“Tens of millions of dollars went to prisoners and people outside the country that should not have gotten those supports… when you consider that, and that half of the $400 billion printed did not go towards COVID-related supports, we could have printed significantly less money, and as a result our inflation rate would have been a lot less.”
The Consumer Price Index, used to determine inflation, was up 6.3 per cent in December.
Asked what the Conservatives would have done differently to support Canadians while also staving off inflation, Schmale said “we would have been more diligent. We wouldn’t have spent beyond our means. We wouldn’t have printed so much excess currency, devaluing everyone’s dollar.”
He’s remaining optimistic that Canada can avoid a recession this year, and said his primary focuses in 2023 will be bolstering housing, health care and internet connectivity options in the riding. He also wants to see the federal government assisting provincial partners to provide greater mental health supports for Canadians.
“There was definitely a problem before, but the pandemic has exasperated things. It’s been a difficult few years for everyone,” Schmale said. “I know the provinces are responsible for providing a lot of these services, but the feds have to step up and deliver on some of their election promises [to invest in mental health supports]. People are struggling, and they feel like they don’t have anywhere to turn.”