Canada rang up a deficit of $354 billion Canadian dollars in 2020 but it is expected to decrease this year despite CA$101.4 billion in new spending, according to the federal government budget released Monday.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the budget will help Canadians through the pandemic by creating jobs, extending benefits, a new child care program, and green (environmental) investments, all designed to stimulate the economy and foster recovery.
“This budget is a smart, responsive, ambitious plan for jobs and growth that is designed precisely to heal the specific wounds of the COVID-19 recession and to permanently strengthen Canada’s economic muscle,” Freeland told reporters.
The pandemic forced shutdowns of businesses and cost people jobs, particularly women who had to stay home and look after children when schools closed. It also most affected low-wage workers – often women – and younger people, she said.
Federal wage and rent subsidies were extended with a CA$12 billion plan. Unemployment insurance benefits will be increased by CA$3.9 billion and made easier to access.
Measures introduced included CA$3 billion to improve care in nursing homes, CA$2.2 billion for vaccine research, CA$424 million targeted to guarantee that the country’s borders are reopened safely, and CA$100 billion to bolster mental health programs.
The budget also addressed child care, with CA$30 billion spendings over a five-year period to create a national plan designed to increase the number of women in the workforce and provide financial help for those with disabled children.
“This is an economic issue as much as it is a social issue,” it says in the budget. “Child care is an essential social infrastructure. It is the care work that is the backbone of our economy. Just as roads and transit support our economic growth, so too does child care.”
To tackle unemployment, 500,000 new work opportunities will be developed over a five-year period.
As for the deficit of CA$354 billion, it is massive but is forecast by the government to gradually decline to CA$30.7 billion in 2026.
In 2019 before the pandemic, Canada’s total deficit was CA$25.3 billion.