Monday April 19, 2021 | NATIONAL
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
It’s been over two years since the last federal budget. The last election was in October 2019 and the COVID pandemic hit in full force in March 2020 causing the government to pivot in almost countless ways, including moving fast to deliver economic supports to individuals, families, businesses and entire industry sectors ever since.
In that period, the role of Finance Minister changed hands, with Chrystia Freeland taking the budget reins as former Finance Minister Bill Morneau left Liberal Party Politics with the resignation of his seat in Toronto Centre.
“This budget is about finishing the fight against COVID,” Freeland said today in her budget speech. “It’s about healing the economic wounds left by the COVID recession. And it’s about creating more jobs and prosperity for Canadians in the days and decades to come.”
“We are all tired, and frustrated, and even afraid,” she said. “But we will get through this,” she said, in-keeping with the “we have your back” approach that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has maintained since the beginning of the pandemic.
The government will need to have the support of at least one opposition party to support it to avoid an election during the pandemic this spring. Support from the Conservatives is highly unlikely, so that weight falls to the NDP and/or Bloc Quebecois.
Canada’s net debt is now over $1 trillion for the first time ever, after a $354 billion deficit for the pandemic year just over. The debt is expected to keep increasing, with deficits of $155 billion this year, and $60 billion in 2022-23.
The deficit projected to decline gradually to $30.7 billion in 2025-26, bringing it back to around the level where it was pre-pandemic.
The more than $100 million in new spending over the next three years will include costs to maintain federal wage and rent subsidies and aid for laid-off workers, until September now, instead of cutting them off in June.
Federally-procured supplies of vaccines are generally allowing provinces (in this case BC) to have all adult Canadians vaccinated by the end of June with a first dose and by the end of September with a second dose. Vaccination to a level of community immunity (70%) is considered essential for fully reigniting the economy.
If vaccine supplies are delayed or the products prove not to work well enough against emerging COVID variants, things will need to adapt again. The budget includes alternative scenarios that show where the fiscal picture might go if the worst-case scenarios of the pandemic play out.
Child care promise finally close to happening:
Post-pandemic, the Liberal government wants to see $10-a-day childcare. A policy to provide ‘universal child care’ in Canada has been promoted since the 1980s.
Domestic vaccine production:
The government also wants to see Canada have the ability to produce its own vaccines. As well, on the health file, the new budget introduces the need for national long-term care standards.
Climate change initiatives:
There is a promise of over $17 billion in climate change programs. That is comprised mostly of incentives to encourage heavy industry to curb their emissions and grow Canada’s clean technology sector.
Attention to business:
The federal recovery plan for “jobs, growth and resilience” focuses on helping some of those hit hardest in the last year — sectors like tourism, as well as low-wage workers, small and medium-sized businesses, women and young people. Small- and medium-sized businesses are apparently to be equipped with the workers and technology they need to survive.
Here are some of the top articles to read on today’s budget impacts:
Canada’s debt set to cross $1 million mark – Global News (April 19, 2021)