Five things to know about the government's plan to tackle affordability in Canada

·3 min read

OTTAWA — The Liberals launched the fall sitting of Parliament Tuesday by tabling two new bills with more than $4.5 billion in spending they hope will ease the rising cost of living for modest-income Canadians.

Here are five things to know about the government's new affordability plan:

1. The Liberals hope to double GST credits

Roughly 11 million people who already qualify for GST credits will get double the relief for about six months under the proposed bill. If it's passed, single people without kids would receive up to an extra $234, and couples with two children would receive up to an extra $467 this year. Seniors would get an extra $225 on average, the government estimates.

2. Some kids are eligible for dental-care dollars

Children under the age of 12 whose families have an annual income under $90,000 qualify for a new dental-care benefit if they don't already have dental insurance. The federal government says qualifying families will get up to $650 per child per year, depending on their income.

While the Canada Revenue Agency will ask for details about dental appointments and expect parents to keep receipts to show how the money was spent, the government says it won't come calling if families don't spend every cent the way it was intended.

If the CRA finds people have intentionally misled them or used the funds improperly, though, they could face a fine of up to $5,000.

The benefit is only a temporary measure while the federal government works on a more comprehensive, long-term dental-care program.

3. A little help is coming for people whose rent eats up their paycheques

One of the proposed bills would also create a one-time $500 top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit. The cheque would be available to families with an income below $35,000, or singles earning less than $20,000, who also spend at least 30 per cent of their income on rent.

The idea is to make rent more affordable for low-income renters who are struggling with the cost of living.

4. The timing of payouts will depend on how quickly the bills become law

The bills contain about $4.5 billion in spending, $3.1 billion of which was not already set aside in the 2022 budget.

Government ministers are keen to get the bills through the House of Commons quickly so cheques can be delivered by December — a particularly difficult month for many cash-strapped families.

They can be certain the bills will pass with the help of the NDP, who called for all three measures, but how fast that happens could ultimately be up to the opposition Conservatives, who take issue with the Liberals' method of tackling affordability.

5. Politicians are sparring over whether the spending will make inflation worse

Newly minted Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre came out swinging against the Liberals, alleging their plan "prints more cash, borrows more money and throws gasoline on the inflationary fire the prime minister has created."

In a press conference, Associate Finance Minister Randy Boissonnault countered by saying the spending is "not an inflationary move" because it's going to people who are struggling and don't have savings to dip into.

He said the new spending is a fraction of the overall Canadian economy, which is around $2.6 trillion. "So this is like throwing a stone in the lake — the lake doesn't flood. And that's what we're being very careful to do."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2022.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press