April 20, 2021 3:30am
The centrepiece of the first federal budget in two years is the battle against COVID-19.
Federal Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland unveiled the three-year, $101.4-billion spending plan on Monday afternoon, which promises growth for e-commerce, an industry that has experienced growth during the pandemic. The budget has also promised continued help for small businesses and others who are struggling.
The budget includes an ambitious investment in a national childcare program. A sum of $30-billion will be spent over five years to try to cut all childcare fees by half before the summer of 2022. The ultimate goal, according to the budget, is to have childcare cost no more than $10 a day within five years, at a cost to Ottawa of about $9-billion.
Global News reports that the budget also covers programs that help federal wages and subsidies, as well as employment benefits, through at least September of this year. The extension of benefits was made necessary by the current third wave of the pandemic.
Additional help for those affected by the pandemic is reflected in an extension of a tax credit for low-income workers, expanded sick leave benefits, and the waiving of interest payments for student loans.
Also, $3-billion is proposed to be invested over five years for the provinces to implement standards in long-term care.
Response to the budget proposal was quick. Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole of the Conservatives says the budget is only going to cost Canadians more in the future.
“For months, as provinces pleaded for more vaccines, the Liberals have been plotting an election,” said O’Toole in a statement. “When Justin Trudeau tables his budget this afternoon, Canadians can expect the Liberal government to incur massive new financial commitments that he expects future generations to pay for.”
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the budget is too little, too late, and only favours the wealthy.
“The Liberals have been promising childcare for 28 years, pharmacare for 24 years, and they made election promises about a federal minimum wage. If they had any intention of doing it, it would already be done,” said Singh. “During the pandemic, Justin Trudeau offered Canadians the least help possible. The NDP had to force him to do better.”
The budget, if approved, will push Canada’s debt past the $1-trillion mark. However, The Toronto Star reports that the federal deficit for the past year will be kept below $400-billion, with projected deficits as low as $30.7-billion by the 2025-2026 fiscal year.