The federal government will release its long-awaited fiscal update today — a spending plan to help Canadians cope with COVID-19 while recharging the national economy and key sectors battered by the global crisis.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will rise in the House of Commons at 4 p.m. ET today to outline details of her plan to both boost job creation and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Government sources have told CBC News the plan will include new but time-limited spending measures to support hard-hit industries and vulnerable Canadians, while laying the groundwork for the policy priorities presented in September’s speech from the throne.
The update comes in the wake of optimistic reports suggesting promising vaccine candidates could roll out early in the new year — and as COVID-19 caseloads continue to grow alarmingly in some parts of the country. Numbers have reached record highs in some regions, prompting new or extended restrictions and business closures.
The measures in today’s economic statement are expected to include:
- Support for airlines and the tourism and hospitality sector, hit hard by heavy losses due to border closures and lockdowns. The sources suggest the update will include assistance for airlines, hotels and restaurants, and for the companies that supply them.
- Money to help long-term care homes stop the spread of infections.
- Support to help women return to work.
- Stimulus spending for infrastructure projects tied to the government’s promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the economic recovery.
Record deficit projected
The government has not tabled a budget for this fiscal year, but in July delivered what it called a “fiscal snapshot” that projected the deficit would hit a record $343.2 billion.
The Trudeau Liberals last delivered an actual budget in March 2019, when they were still in their first mandate.
The Trudeau government has pushed back at calls to deliver an economic forecast since the current health crisis began, maintaining that the pandemic made it impossible to accurately predict economic growth or the scope of necessary emergency spending.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said the government’s delays in procuring rapid testing and vaccines have put workers and the economy in a “risky” situation.
“There is no plan for the economy if we don’t have rapid testing and vaccines as swiftly as possible,” he said during a news conference in Ottawa Sunday.
“We’re already seeing small businesses teetering on the edge. That is leading to the uncertainty and the concern out there about the wellbeing of tens of thousands of Canadian families that have invested everything in their restaurant or their autoshop or a range of businesses that are close to bankruptcy.”
WATCH | What to expect in the long-awaited fiscal update:
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said today’s update is the perfect opportunity to announce “bold measures” to address the needs of the Canadians most severely affected by the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how fragile the services that were supposed to help people are, and the importance of strengthening our social safety net so that no one is left behind,” he told CBC News.
NDP pushes for child care support
The NDP is calling on the federal government to fund child care services that would allow more parents to return to work safely. It’s also pressing the government to launch a universal pharmacare program.
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said it’s not enough for the government to present a “laundry list” of spending today. With a vaccine expected next year, she said, it must present a green recovery plan with economic and social investments.
“With a glimmer of hope on the horizon, it is vital that we seize this moment to prepare a green recovery plan that will engage every possible innovation, technology and resource at Canada’s disposal to enhance our ability to face challenges,” she said.
The Green Party is calling for a guarantee that any supports the Liberals offer carbon-intensive sectors are “responsible and conditional.” It also wants to see larger investments in projects and sectors that speed up progress toward a net-zero emissions economy.
Business hopes to see long-term growth plan
Business groups say they hope to see a plan today that charts a course through the ongoing crisis to long-term economic recovery and growth.
Canadian Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Perrin Beatty said he wants to see a shift from broad supports to smaller, more targeted federal programs to help the most vulnerable Canadians and sectors, including the restaurant, accommodation, arts and entertainment and retail sectors.
He said he hopes to see a plan that will boost Canada’s business investment and competitiveness — and not a suite of “unaffordable” new permanent programs.
“Even as we navigate our way through this second wave of the pandemic, Canada needs its government to set the conditions for a strong, business-led recovery. Canadian families and businesses continue to pay a high price because of COVID-19, and the hard work of getting Canada’s economy ready for recovery must start now with a clear and coherent plan,” he said in a media statement.
Cash-strapped municipalities are also looking for good news in today’s statement.
Federation of Canadian Municipalities president Garth Frizzell said he hopes to see “clear successor arrangements” to the safe restart agreement, which saw the federal government set aside $19 billion for the provinces to help them weather the second wave and drive job growth post-pandemic.
“The fall economic statement is an opportunity to build on the federal-municipal partnership that has kept Canadians safe, and essential front line services running strong, since the beginning of the pandemic,” he said.
“They rely on us to keep doing that through 2021, and that’s why municipalities need to see a clear commitment that the federal government will continue to work with us to ensure support for municipal operating and transit costs.”