OTTAWA – Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland presents the fall economic statement in the House of Commons, followed by questions and comments from opposition MPs.
This is the federal government’s first detailed fiscal update since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced a cancellation of the March 2020 budget presentation by Freeland’s predecessor Bill Morneau. This is also Freeland’s first fiscal update since becoming Canada’s first female federal finance minister.
“Our government’s plan is focused on fighting this pandemic, supporting Canadians and ensuring that once the virus is defeated we can invest in growth and jobs for everyone. We will do whatever it takes to help Canadians through this crisis. We will invest in every necessary public health measure. We will support Canadians and Canadian businesses in a way that is targeted and effective. And we will ensure the Canadian economy that emerges from this pandemic is greener, more inclusive, more innovative, and more competitive than the one that preceded it, with a stronger, more resilient middle class.,” said Minister Freeland.
Conservatives: “Where is the Plan?”
The plan drew swift comment and criticism from Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole.
“Canadians have only asked one thing of this government: what is the plan? This Fall Economic Statement answers that question – there is no plan,” charges O’Toole. “I am really glad the Liberals took my proposal from my leadership platform this spring on support for parents by boosting the Canada Child Benefit. I’m glad because this was a concrete proposal to help families, and especially moms, who need it the most. But we know Canadians need more.”
“The truth is the Liberals’ economic response has been erratic and confused. Millions more Canadians were put on the CERB than necessary when their jobs could have been maintained if the Liberals had implemented a wage subsidy earlier. The Canadian economy was already showing serious signs of weakness before the pandemic hit. Ignoring our warnings, the Liberals took pride in running large structural deficits and raising taxes in good economic times. Now, Justin Trudeau is running a historic deficit of almost $400 billion – and still leaving millions of Canadians behind.”
O’Toole says, “We need to get this country working again. With a government that will put the prosperity of all Canadians ahead of the special interests of a select few, Canada will emerge from COVID-19 stronger, richer, and more determined than ever before. Canadians deserve certainty, clarity, and competence from their government. Canadians deserve a real plan for the challenges we face today, so that our children will have opportunities tomorrow.”
Kenora MP Eric Melillo says, “Today’s economic update underscores what we’ve known all along – the Liberal government was not prepared to handle this crisis, and they still don’t know how to move Canada forward. Canadians deserve a real plan for vaccines, for testing, and preserving our economy.”
Green Party: FES Stopped Short
Responding to today’s Fall Economic Statement 2020 (FES), Green Party Leader Annamie Paul noted that the FES stopped short of presenting a comprehensive plan for the path forward on completing the social safety net and launching a green recovery plan that would accelerate progress towards a net-zero carbon economy.
“The FES includes welcome elements,” said Ms. Paul. “We are particularly pleased to see the government adopt Carbon Border Adjustments, which I proposed in the spring and which will protect Canadian businesses. There are also enhanced investments in the infrastructure, projects and those sectors which will move us toward net-zero by helping to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“However, a piecemeal approach is no substitute for a robust green economic recovery plan. Such a plan would include: a 60 per cent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 with enforceable targets and timelines starting in 2025; a Carbon Budget setting out the maximum GHG emissions permissible to keep with the 1.5 degrees threshold; annual incremental increases in the carbon tax; and a 100 per cent renewable energy national electricity corridor. So while the government acknowledged in the FES that many of its international peers have already announced their own green recovery plans, it has yet to produce one for Canada.
“And even as we recognize that the airline sector is struggling and needs support, the government must keep in mind that the object of any bailout should be the workers and not the corporations. Furthermore, any support should be conditional upon the sector agreeing to meet targets consistent with the goal of cutting GHG emissions, and on agreeing to a detailed implementation plan that includes enforcement mechanisms.”
- To date, more than eight of every 10 dollars spent in Canada to fight COVID-19 and support Canadians has been spent by the federal government and this unprecedented support has prevented economic scarring and stabilized the economy.
- The Fall Economic Statement proposes new measures to see Canadians through the pandemic and support a robust and resilient recovery, including:
- To fight COVID-19, investments in testing and tracing, procurement of personal protective equipment, and a suite of measures to protect people in long-term care, and $150 million to improve ventilation in public buildings and help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- To support businesses big and small through the second wave, increasing the maximum rate of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to 75 per cent for the period beginning December 20, 2020 and extending this rate until March 13, 2021, and extending the current rates of the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Lockdown Support until March 13, 2021. Both programs will be there for businesses until June 2021.
- To support Canada’s hardest-hit industries, like tourism, hotels, arts and culture, and the air sector, new support including the new Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program.
- To help families with young children through the pandemic, provide temporary support of up to $1,200 in 2021 for each child under the age of six for families entitled to the Canada Child Benefit.
- To make a down payment on our recovery, support for Canadians to make their homes greener and more energy efficient, a plan to plant 2 billion trees and laying the groundwork for a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care System.