As the parliamentary session progresses, and with the government’s “affordable housing and groceries” bill, Bill C-56, yet to be passed, the New Democratic Party (NDP) has reached an agreement with the Liberals. In exchange for their support, the NDP has secured a series of amendments inspired by their own bill, as part of cross-party negotiations.
A comprehensive motion is scheduled for Monday’s return to the House, outlining the legislative path for Bill C-56. This motion is expected to be voted on later in the week and involves the Liberal minority government establishing timelines for each stage of debate and instructions to the House Finance Committee for an expanded scope of the bill’s study.
The motion’s sponsor is Government House Leader Karina Gould, who emphasized the government’s willingness to collaborate with all parties to advance legislation that benefits Canadians.
Bill C-56, titled “The Affordable Housing and Groceries Act,” consists of two main components. First, it aims to encourage the construction of more rental housing, including apartments, student housing, and senior living spaces, by providing a 100 percent GST rebate on new purpose-built rental housing. This rebate is expected to offer $25,000 in tax relief for a two-bedroom rental apartment valued at $500,000, with an estimated cost of $4.5 billion over the fiscal program period.
The second aspect of the bill focuses on strengthening protections for Canadians in the grocery sector, where a few companies dominate the market. Proposed amendments aim to empower the Competition Bureau to investigate and take enforcement actions against unfair practices in the sector, such as price fixing and gouging. Additionally, the Bureau would have the authority to request information through court orders for market studies and prevent large grocers from hindering smaller competitors’ operations.
Despite urging all political parties to support Bill C-56, the legislation has faced delays at the second reading in the Commons, which the government attributes to Conservative obstruction. This delay means there is still a lengthy legislative process before the bill becomes law.
The NDP, led by Jagmeet Singh, has advocated for measures to address anti-competitive practices contributing to high food costs. Singh introduced a private member’s bill titled the “Lowering Prices for Canadians Act,” which addresses similar issues to Bill C-56 but is perceived as more comprehensive.
Through negotiations, the NDP has secured several competition-enhancing amendments to Bill C-56, including increasing the maximum penalty for corporate misconduct, allowing market study inquiries by the Competition Bureau, and enabling action against dominant corporate players engaged in anti-competitive acts.
These amendments, along with one allowing co-operative housing to be eligible for the GST housing rebate, will have the support of Liberal MPs on the finance committee when they are put to a vote.
If the motion passes, Bill C-56 will undergo a second reading vote followed by a rapid committee study. It will then proceed to the report stage and third reading debates before a final vote sends it to the Senate, with the goal of clearing both houses before the holiday break in mid-December.
The government aims to prioritize the needs of Canadians by expediting the passage of Bill C-56, and this collaborative effort between the NDP and the Liberals aims to achieve that goal.
When asked about the Liberal’s accusation of Conservative obstruction and their stance on cracking down on anti-competitive practices and offering GST breaks on rentals, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre emphasized that Justin Trudeau has a majority in his coalition with the NDP and can pass any bill he wants. He referred to it as a distraction from the key issues.