04/29/2019 15:00 EDT | Updated 04/29/2019 20:45 EDT

NDP Calls On Trudeau Government To Take Back $12M For Loblaws Fridges

The New Democrats want the government to “put people first.”

Adrian Wyld/CP
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on April 29, 2019 in Ottawa.

OTTAWA — New Democrats want the federal government to take back the $12 million pledged to Loblaw Co. to help the grocery retailer upgrade its fridges to higher efficiency models.

NDP MP Daniel Blaikie tabled the opposition motion Monday to "put people first." Text of the motion claims the government has given corporate executives and lobbyists "too much access to and influence" over its agenda.

"$12 million dollars over the entire federal budget may not sound like a lot, but it's a symbol," Blaikie said, during a House of Commons debate.

Watch: Multi-million federal grant for Loblaws draws ire

"It's an important symbol of the government finally finding the spine to say no to corporate interests and put the interests of everyday working Canadians first," he said. Reclaiming the $12 million, he added, would be "the smallest possible start."

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters that it is also "offensive" for the government to subsidize the fossil fuel industry in light of "realities faced by climate change" that impact families in "devastating" ways.

He suggested the oil and gas subsidies undermine the government's messages about having an effective climate plan.

The federal government announced $1.6 billion in new loans and financial supports last year to mitigate the impact of low oil prices crippling Alberta's energy industry.

Singh called on the government to shift its focus towards the long-term by investing more in green energy to ensure the industry can create more jobs later.

He repeated criticism about the government's partial pharmacare plan as proof the Liberals are "so brazenly influenced by corporate interests." The government needs to reclaim the $12 million promised for Loblaw Co. and to reinvest the money "for Canadians who need it" instead of a billionaire company with a billionaire owner, he said.

Nathan Denette/CP
File photo of a shopper leaving a Loblaws store in Toronto on May 3, 2018.

There was a wave of criticism against the federal government earlier this month after Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announced the $12-million funding package for Loblaw Co., Canada's largest grocery retailer.

The money is on top of the $36 million Loblaw Co. has pledged of its own money to upgrade its refrigeration equipment to reduce its carbon emissions. The government estimates that upgraded fridges in 370 stores will reduce the company's annual emissions by approximately 23 per cent.

Loblaw Co. was one of 54 successful applicants to the Low Carbon Economy Fund — which is one arm of the government's climate plan.

Sean Fraser, parliamentary secretary to the environment and climate change minister, told the Commons that funding applications are weighted if they have the greatest impact on our emissions for the lowest cost.

McKenna's spokesperson Sabrina Kim said the Loblaw Co. application went through a "competitive, rigorous and fair process." Emissions reductions related to the project are expected to be "equivalent to taking 50,000 cars off the road each year," she said.

Corporate and lobby influence is 'endemic': May

In the House, the NDP and Conservatives threw partisan jabs at the Liberals and at each other during the debate about corporate influence over the government.

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis rose to press the NDP for its position on corporate competitiveness. NDP MP Charlie Angus later called the prime minister "head butler for the uber rich" to make his party's point.

Their partisan barbs moved Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to speak.

She suggested the NDP motion's wording should be changed to take "some of the partisanship out of this motion" because corporate and lobbying interests in policy-making is an "endemic" problem that faces all parties and previous governments.

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