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Justin Trudeau and Band-Aid solutions to affordability issues: name a more iconic duo.

Be it the carbon tax hiatus for those heating their homes with oil (mostly in Atlantic Canada), or the drop-in-the-bucket grocery rebate, the Liberal government is crossing its fingers and toes that these quick fixes can undo the damage caused by years of their misguided policy making.

The latest shiny government program aimed at distracting voters is a new national school food program — ironically unveiled the same day the scheduled increase to the carbon tax hit Canadian families. The new billion dollar program commits to providing an additional 400,000 meals per year to the country’s roughly 5 million school aged children.

As a headline, who can argue with it? Kids need full bellies to perform well in school, and right now, too many kids are going without. It’s a problem this government ought to be intimately aware of given food bank use is up almost 80% since its re-election in 2019. 

Unfortunately, it is yet another expensive Liberal solution that fails to address overall affordability for families.

Let’s start with the tax on everything, that went up again Apr. 1 and will do rise for the next six years.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimates the carbon tax will cost an Ontario family $627 more than they get back in rebates this year. And while the carbon tax doesn’t show up on your grocery bill, it does cost the entire supply chain that brings food to you, from farmers to truck drivers. Coupled with persistent food inflation and other price increases, it contributes to the $700 more families will spend on food this year.

The Trudeau government’s spending addiction has accelerated inflationary pressure on families. Federal spending under Justin Trudeau has increased 75% since he took office, and program spending is forecasted at $450 billion this year. This is despite warnings from the Bank of Canada on the impact government spending has on inflation, and despite pleas from a majority of Canadians who indicated in a recent Nanos poll they’d like to see Trudeau curb expenditures.

This runaway spending hurts families today, and saddles future generations (yes, the ones who are the focus of this new big government program) with debt. This new food program is an admission from the Trudeau government that they believe the only solution to inflationary pricing is more inflationary spending.

Advocates of national school food programs may want to consider the Trudeau government’s recent track record in delivering large programs before applying their seal of approval. Look no further than the supposed universal, $10-a-day childcare program that those working directly in the system say is grossly unrealistic and underfunded, while they struggle to create more spaces to meet demand. That program, which is not means tested, imposes a one-size-fits-all childcare model on provinces and parents that will cost the treasury over $26 billion by 2026.

Then there’s the national dental care program, which will cost Canadians $4.4 billion each year over the next five years. That is on top of the new national pharmacare program, for which the first phase is estimated at $1.5B but would grow to as much as $40B or more, per year, once all medications are covered according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

Another lofty promise made by the federal government was the commitment to plant 2 billion trees before 2030. We’re nearing the fifth year anniversary of that $3.2 billion dollar announcement against a backdrop of criticism from those working in the industry and very few updates from the government on progress, despite the hefty price tag.

Simply put, the Liberals struggle to deliver the very large programs they commit to. When they do, it is often at a far greater price tag than initially projected. Canadians are right to question whether the $1 billion price tag will remain constant despite inflationary swings or global conflicts that drive up the price of food. They should also ask whether or not the government really thinks this is a program that can and should be wound down after the proposed four year timeline.

If the federal government were serious about addressing access to food for school aged children, it would have made a number of different choices. They would have consulted the provinces, who will be responsible for delivery, before making a flashy announcement – something that hasn’t happened. They could have also introduced this five years ago when they first promised it, rather than as a response to tanking polling numbers.

Most importantly, they’d take a hard look at how their own approach to spending and taxation has made the situation for families so much worse than it needed to be.

Until they do so, programs like this will be awfully thin gruel.

Kate Harrison is a government relations and communications professional and Vice Chair at Summa Strategies. She, her husband and two toddlers live in Ottawa.


  • Kate Harrison

    Kate Harrison is a government relations and communications professional and Vice Chair at Summa Strategies. She, her husband and two toddlers live in Ottawa.