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.
CBC will have live coverage of today’s fiscal update starting at 4 p.m. ET. Watch it on CBC News Network, listen to it on CBC Radio One or stream it on CBC Gem or our CBC News app.
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.”
National COVID-19 modelling shows cause for concern, even as B.C.'s curve flattens – CTV Edmonton
Despite a flattering curve, modelling shows British Columbians need to reduce their interactions to avoid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
According to Canadas’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, there is worrisome news from new modelling data that shows the pandemic’s growth is escalating rapidly in Canada, and Canadians need to restrict their social interactions or the problem will get worse.
“Unless public health measure are intensified, we will not be able to suppress the current rate of epidemic growth,” said Tam at a press conference on Friday.
The data projects almost 800,000 cases nationwide and nearly 20,000 deaths by Jan. 24.
While B.C. is faring better than other provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, Dr. Brian Conway of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre says we are far from immune to the trend of growing cases.
Conway says the modelling indicates British Columbians need to reduce our interactions to avoid a surge in cases.
“The model suggests that if we continue to act as we have in the previous few weeks that the cases, the number of cases, will continue to increase,” said Conway Friday after looking at the numbers.
Adrian Dix, B.C.’s Health Minister, struck a cautiously optimistic tone Friday, noting the province’s COVID-19 case numbers had flattened in recent days.
Although Dix indicated tighter restrictions didn’t appear likely anytime soon in B.C., he said what matters most is that folks stay vigilant.
“The virus isn’t interested in your orders or our speeches or anything else,” said Dix Friday in Victoria. “What’s more important is our actions.”
Adding to the uncertainty of the coming months, the modelling numbers do not take into account the more transmissible variants of the coronavirus recently discovered in the U.K. and South Africa and now present in Canada, including B.C., but only in very small numbers so far.
On Thursday, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it will be important to contain the cases of variants and identify them early.
“So it may be that we’re in a very similar place to where we were in February of last year, where if we can find them and catch them early we can prevent that variant from spreading,” she said.
Separate modelling to reflect the potential impacts of the variants will be done in the coming weeks.
Pfizer to resume COVID-19 vaccine shipments to EU within two weeks but Canada says no changes yet – Global News
The pharmaceutical giant announced Friday it would be temporarily reducing the number of vaccines shipped in order to upgrade one of its facilities in Europe.
“We will be back to the original schedule of deliveries to the European Union beginning the week of January 25,” Pfizer said in an online statement late Friday. Arianna Podesta, a spokesperson for the European Commission, confirmed the revised schedule in an emailed statement to Global News.
As of Saturday, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said there were no updates to Pfizer’s announcement, which saw vaccine shipments to Canada will be cut in half for the next four weeks.
Canada’s shipment of Pfizer vaccines for the week of Jan. 18 remains “largely unaffected,” Anand said.
She added the federal government was in touch with Pfizer representatives to “reiterate firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible.”
“This is an evolving situation,” Anand said.
In response to multiple requests for clarification, Pfizer said “the principal of equity is used when considering allocation of doses worldwide and we expect to have more information in the coming days.”
The move has left many provinces scrambling to adjust their vaccine rollout plans. Some, like Alberta and British Columbia, have publicly expressed concerns over how the delays will affect their vaccine schedules. Manitoba has paused new vaccine appointments until the country is back on schedule.
In Ontario, health officials have extended the amount of time between administering the second dose of the vaccine up to 42 days after receiving the first, while Quebec will allow up to 90 days in between doses.
Anand noted that the delay in shipments will not affect Canada’s long-term goals of having enough doses to vaccinate everyone wants the vaccine by the end of September, saying that “this is a temporary reduction. It’s not a stoppage.”
Coronavirus: Fortin calls Pfizer delay a ‘bump in the road,’ but says Canada will still meet vaccine target
“We are going to see continued vaccines coming in from Pfizer and of course Moderna over the next weeks, but there will be a reduction in doses, and that is the purpose of my being here,” she said Friday.
“It’s going to be temporary, it’s not a loss, and we will make up those doses.”
So far, Canada has received about 380,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine. Anand added that the additional 20 million doses Canada secured this week are still on track to arrive by Q2.
The news highlighted the importance of adhering to public health guidelines as reiterated by Canada’s top health officials calling for “further intensified” measures while presenting an updated COVID-19 federal modelling on Friday.
If Canada does not find a way to slow the spread of the virus, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said the country could be facing 10,000 cases per day by the end of the month. The total number of cases could also increase by almost 100,000 by Jan. 24, and lead to upwards of 2,000 deaths, the federal modelling showed.
Over a short period of time, vaccinations will do little to curb the virus’ transmission. However, Tam said “if we ease measures too soon, the epidemic will resurge even more strongly.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Ontario allows second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to be delayed amid shortage – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
The Ontario government has updated its recommendation for when some people should receive the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine after it was announced that there will likely be a shortage.
The new recommendation comes after the federal government announced earlier there will be a “temporary” delay of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments due to expansions of the company’s European manufacturing facility. It could result in a 50 per cent cut in shipments in January.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said in a statement on Saturday morning that long-term care and high-risk retirement home residents – and their essential caregivers – who received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine will receive their second dose in 21 to 27 days.
Staff who were vaccinated within the homes will also receive their second dose within this time period.
The government said that for all other people who received the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine they will now receive their second dose between 21 and 42 days.
People who received the Moderna vaccine will receive their second dose after the scheduled 28 days.
The vaccine adjustments align with the recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), the government said.
Ontario was expecting to receive more than 160,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the final two weeks of January, a delivery schedule that’s now in doubt.
Health Minister Christine Elliott told CTV News Toronto on Friday the province is awaiting further details on the “the exact allocations” and the “timing of those allocations” but said the province is once again reserving vials of the vaccine to ensure second doses are administered.
“We have some in reserve to make sure that we are going to be able to do the second doses in the appropriate period of time. So no one needs to worry about whether they will get their second dose or not,” Elliott said.
As of 8 p.m. on Friday, 189,090 initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ontario.
-With files from CTV News Toronto’s Colin D’Mello
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