OTTAWA: The Canadian Government is doing everything it takes to protect Canadians’ health and jobs and to put COVID-19 behind us as quickly as we can, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday.
In a speech to the Toronto Global Forum on: Canada’s plan for a strong economic recovery from COVID-19, Freeland said Canada would foster the strongest, most resilient, most innovative, globally competitive, and inclusive economy possible.
Freeland said: “We are providing support to those who need it is what we have done and will continue to do. “It is the economically smart thing to do. And it comes back to this guiding principle of pandemic response: Our economy will only be able to recover fully once we have defeated the virus.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed the speech and tweeted: “No one should have to face this pandemic alone – not workers, not families, not business owners. That’s why we’ve stepped up to help. And that’s what the Deputy Prime Minister spoke about today at the Toronto Global Forum.”
Talking about the economic rationale driving the government’s response to the pandemic, Freeland explained the strategy that underpins Ottawa’s phased plan for a robust, lasting recovery from the coronavirus recession and that “We are doing everything in our power to keep Canadians healthy, safe and solvent.”
“Since the spring, we have been swept up in a tempest and forced to sail in uncharted waters. But our government has a plan. We have a compass. We know now how to get to a safe harbour and what to do when we arrive there.
“We’ve put in place strong measures to help Canadian workers and Canadian businesses; to fund our provinces and territories directly; to buy vaccines, PPE and testing technologies; and to provide quarantine hotels and contact tracers. “And last spring, when they were needed, the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces went in to care for, and protect, our elders.”
Freeland was the keynote speaker on the last day of the three-day virtual conference, which was attended by several politicians, global business leaders and academics from many countries to exchange views on global issues.
Freeland said: “We believe passionately in a Canada where we take care of each other, particularly the most vulnerable among us – seniors, women, young people, Indigenous Peoples, Black and other racialized Canadians.
And, I am proud to say, that is what Canadians are doing, with our government’s support, from ocean to ocean to ocean.” She emphasized that Canadian policies have a heart but they are driven just as powerfully by a prudent, dispassionate economic calculus.
“Because the truth is that we are living through a particular moment in history when doing good – supporting each other through a hard time, is exactly what is required to do well – keeping our economy strong, as the coronavirus ravages the world.”
Freeland, however, cautioned the economic solution to fighting the pandemic would not be cheap. Medical care and PPE and therapeutics and vaccines and testing and tracing would cost a lot of money. She also pointed out how the secondary cost of shutting down of establishments like restaurants.
limiting travel across borders and limiting social contacts would be even more expensive.
Her speech, which did not mention any additional spending announcements stressed the Liberal government’s intention to continue spending their way through the pandemic.
“Now, if you were to play the penny-pinching devil’s advocate, you might argue that these economic restrictions need not, necessarily, weigh on the federal purse.
“The pandemic burden could, some might contend, be borne mostly by the individuals directly affected. That would be, I suppose, a rugged boot-strapper’s solution. “It is just not practically possible, never mind fair, to ask workers to stay home, or businesses to shut their doors, without providing the support they need to compensate for lost income.
She continued: “The second calculation underlying our coronavirus spending is this: The wisest macro-economic approach to this global pandemic is to help Canadian businesses and Canadian families get through to the other side, without going broke.
We want to give our businesses and our households a bridge, so that as many of them as possible make it through, viable and intact. Now, as I’ve said, this is the compassionate thing to do. It is also the pragmatic thing to do.”
Freeland added: “If we can keep permanent economic harm to a minimum; if our businesses are able to get back to full speed the moment restrictions are lifted; if Canadian families have the means to spend on the goods and services they will then want and need, then, when the virus is vanquished, our rebound will be more rapid and more robust.”
Promising large-scale government investments, Freeland said: “As the Prime Minister has said: We can and will do everything in our power to limit job losses and business closings, and minimize the decline in economic activity.
“We will need to build our way out of it. Targeted, carefully thought-out investment – on a meaningful scale – is how we will climb out of the recession most quickly.”