No matter where you are in Canada, the vast majority of Canadians have felt the pinch of tightening belts in the cost-of-living crisis. This includes the government, who say they’re trying to ease the pressure in the fall fiscal update through a handful of means that likely won’t cost taxpayers much.
From child airplane seat selection to right to repair and mobile roaming, proposals targeting Canadian consumers make up many of the announcements in the fall economic statement (FES), which is effectively a supplement or update to the vision laid out in the federal budget.
“That is why we are making generational changes to competition law in Canada. Including by cracking down on predatory pricing and other tactics that big corporations use to raise costs for Canadians,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said.
The FES discusses measures taken earlier this year, including Innovation Minister Francois-Phillippe Champagne calling on Canada’s major grocers to find ways to stabilize prices. Like Champagne’s prior comments, the FES says further actions are not ruled out, including tax measures for the grocery sector.
The document also emphasizes in-progress work on Competition Act reforms, including honing in on “predatory pricing” by large companies. A government official says the high price of groceries is part of this, but the broader focus on this work is economy wide and not meant to target any specific industry.
As part of a suite of measures against “junk fees,” the government announced in the fiscal update that they will work with the Canadian Transportation Agency to get rid of seat selection fees for children under the age of 14. The goal is to have these children be able to sit beside an accompanying adult at no extra charge.
There’s also more proposals on bank fees.
The FES says that these bank fees can be as high as $50 and disproportionately impact low-income Canadians who may not have access to overdraft protection due to their credit history. The government has given itself a Budget 2024 deadline for an update on how this will be addressed.
Meanwhile, the CRTC is being tasked to investigate international mobile roaming charges and provide an update on concrete steps to address them next year.
The government is still working on its right to repair rules, which were first announced in Budget 2023.
The goal of right to repair regulations is to give mean businesses must provide consumers with avenues to repair things like appliances and electronics.
The general theme of what future legislation is expected to look like is that if a manufacturer makes a repair technique available to at least one third party, it can’t prevent others accessing the necessary equipment.
For example, if an auto-manufacturer gives your local mechanic access to technology necessary to fix an onboard computer system they would not be able to block other mechanics from accessing that same technology.
However, manufacturers would still be able to keep repair solutions deemed proprietary to themselves.
This is expected to be included in future Competition Act reforms.
Between a world of financial service apps and cryptocurrencies, the way Canadians bank is becoming increasingly digital.
To better protect Canadians’ financial information, the government says they will attach open banking legislation to Budget 2024. The goal of this legislation would be to regulate access to financial data.
The FES says that data-driven services like financial apps require users to share their banking information with these technology companies, which the government says is currently an unregulated space and leaves Canadians vulnerable to security, privacy and liability risks.
As for cryptocurrency, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions begins consultations this month with financial institutions on how to implement the public disclosure of crypto-asset exposure in pensions.
That would mean Canadians with pensions could see how much and which types of volatile cryptocurrency their funds holds stake in.
This was first announced in Budget 2023, and was pushed to the forefront when the Ontario Teachers’ Pension suffered losses from the collapse of crypto exchange, FTX.
One of the few affordability measures outlined in the FES that is costed is the expansion of EI benefits for adoptive parents to 15 weeks, the same as maternity benefits. This was promised in the budget earlier this year but reiterates the promise with costing outlines.
The benefit would also apply to surrogate parents.
The FES proposes legislation to expand this shareable EI benefit for the roughly 1,700 families that adopt children each year. It is expected to cost $48.1 million over the next six years, and $12.6 million annually after that.
The goal of this expansion is to give new, adoptive parents more time to welcome their new child into the home.
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