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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes a statement in Ottawa on Sept. 5.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is in Vancouver this week for a cabinet retreat, says his government will focus on the economy when Parliament resumes later this month.

The Official Opposition Conservatives are scheduled to unveil their new leader Saturday, just more than a week before members of Parliament return to Ottawa on Sept. 19.

It is widely expected that Pierre Poilievre, a former finance critic who has campaigned heavily on economic themes, will win the leadership and square off with Mr. Trudeau in the House of Commons.

“Our focus this week as we kick off what will be a busy and important fall of parliamentary work is on the economy. It’s hearing from Canadians, working with Canadians, to solve the very real pressures they’re facing,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters Tuesday at a news conference.

The federal cabinet retreat began Tuesday afternoon and is scheduled to wrap up on Thursday. The full Liberal caucus is then scheduled to gather next week in New Brunswick.

Mr. Trudeau said examples of an economic focus include federal funding for child care and support for housing programs.

Cabinet to debate whether new cost-of-living support is needed, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said she’s focused on solutions for Canada’s labour shortage.

“We’re looking at impacted sectors to see what we can do with maximizing work-force participation of groups that traditionally haven’t been involved in the labour market – think of Indigenous youth, persons with disabilities. We need to tap into these talent pools,” she told reporters as she headed into meetings on Tuesday.

“It’s kind of incredible to think that a year and a half ago, my entire job was around finding jobs for workers, and now it’s finding workers for jobs.”

Ms. Qualtrough said Ottawa is just about to enter negotiations with the provinces on labour market agreements that would make labour mobility more accessible.

Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities, said his government has “obviously heard” about affordability issues in every part of the country.

“Our focus is to continue the work we’ve been doing as a government for Canadians ... principally on questions of importance in terms of economic issues, affordability, housing, inflation – things as important as childcare agreements that have lowered the cost of childcare for Canadians in every province, things as important as the Canada child benefit,” he said Tuesday.

“We understand the anxiety of Canadians, and that is the focus of our work here in Vancouver.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trudeau announced a $1.4-billion loan for a massive new rental development led by a Vancouver-area First Nation. Mr. Trudeau said the project exemplifies his government’s focus on Indigenous reconciliation, climate change and expanding the housing supply.

“We’re coming together in one of Canada’s major cities to be part of putting forward solutions to make a difference for Canadians,” he said.

Mr. Poilievre’s economic themes have primarily focused on the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and housing becoming unaffordable to many Canadians.

While the pandemic led to large government deficits in order to fund emergency supports for individuals and businesses, Ottawa and the provinces are suddenly reporting better-than-expected revenues thanks to a rebounding economy and high commodity prices.

That boost in revenue could be short-lived, however, as central banks ratchet up interest rates in an effort to cool inflation, which runs the risk of creating a recession.

In addition to addressing economic concerns, the Trudeau government – along with the provinces – are under public pressure to improve Canada’s health care system. A recent Nanos Research survey for The Globe and Mail found respondents gave the system a failing grade and seven in 10 Canadians said access to health care has worsened compared with before the pandemic.

Mr. Trudeau has promised to raise the rate of increase of health transfers, but premiers have expressed frustration at the lack of progress in talks with Ottawa.

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