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Trudeau cabinet retreat to focus on cost of living ahead of Parliament’s return – National

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet will kick off a three-day retreat on Monday to discuss their priorities ahead of Parliament’s return.

Trudeau’s cabinet will be in Hamilton, Ont., until Wednesday, and will focus on the cost of living and the economy, his office said in a news release last week.

Canadians have felt the pinch in recent months as the Bank of Canada raised its policy interest rate in its bid to bring down inflation. Some economists are expecting Canada will experience an economic slowdown in 2023, but the severity of it remains in doubt.

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During the retreat, the prime minister’s office said Trudeau and his cabinet will discuss ways to create good middle-class jobs, ways to invest in skills and training and ways to deliver better health care for Canadians.

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Furthermore, they will discuss how to advance the government’s work in fighting climate change and building a cleaner economy, including innovation, supply chain strength and Canadian-built clean technologies.

“This cabinet retreat will be an important opportunity to build on our continued efforts to make life more affordable for the middle class and people working hard to join it, as well as seize new opportunities for Canadian workers and businesses,” Trudeau said in the release.

“In 2023, we will keep working relentlessly to build a better future and a strong economy for all Canadians.”

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The cabinet’s discussions, particularly around health care, will likely be watched closely by the NDP — which is upholding the Liberal minority government through a deal struck last March.

Under that agreement, the NDP agreed to support the minority government on key votes in the House of Commons to avoid triggering an election before 2025. In exchange, the Liberals promised to make progress on NDP priorities, including pharmacare.

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Before the holiday break, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh threatened to pull out of the agreement if Ottawa doesn’t take action to improve health care, which the NDP sees as a national crisis.

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Trudeau has been under pressure to meet with Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers, who are negotiating with Ottawa for increased health-care funding. Trudeau hinted on Jan. 16 that “positive steps forward” on a health-care deal would be announced “in the very near future,” but on Jan. 17, his health minister threw cold water on the notion such a deal was all but finalized.

Singh said last Thursday he wants Trudeau to meet with the premiers.

“The health-care system is in pretty tough straits, but we know things can be better if we invested in it. We know we can turn this around. What we can do now is put pressure on Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal government to fix this problem, to show leadership,” he said, adding the NDP has many options to take if his party feels like Liberals aren’t up to the task.

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“We have the power to withdraw our support. We have the power to make things difficult for the government in Parliament. We have many options and all those options are on the table.”

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Cost-of-living policies the Trudeau’s government passed last fall, including dental-care subsidies for children under 12 in low-income households, one-time rental supplements for low-income renters, and a temporary doubling of the GST tax rebate, had been NDP priorities. The party held a caucus retreat last week to discuss its priorities for the upcoming sitting of the House of Commons.

NDP caucus chair Jenny Kwan said those will include holding Liberals to their word on pharmacare and supporting energy workers who may be affected by federal environmental policies.

The Liberal cabinet retreat will likely set the tone of the government as they prepare its budget for 2023.

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Work on it has already begun, with the government rolling out public pre-budget consultations in December. Last week, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland met with the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare to discuss health care as part of pre-budget consultations.

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Sittings in the House of Commons are scheduled to resume on Jan. 30.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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