Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gives Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland the thumbs up after she delivered the federal budget in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Monday April 19, 2021. The federal government unveiled spending plans to manage the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and chart an economic course for a post-pandemic Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gives Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland the thumbs up after she delivered the federal budget in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Monday April 19, 2021. The federal government unveiled spending plans to manage the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and chart an economic course for a post-pandemic Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Federal Budget 2021: Liberals extend COVID-19 aid with election top of mind

The government will need to get at least one opposition party to support it to avoid a pandemic election this spring.

The first federal budget in more than two years extends Ottawa’s COVID-19 “lifeline” for workers and struggling businesses another few months as it aims to pull Canada through the pandemic once and for all.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s first crack at a budget plan is also widely viewed as a pre-election platform with more than $100 billion in new spending over the next three years targeting a wide variety of voters, from seniors and their caregivers, to parents and business owners.

“This budget is about finishing the fight against COVID,” Freeland said, in her budget-day speech. “It’s about healing the economic wounds left by the COVID recession. And it’s about creating more jobs and prosperity for Canadians in the days and decades to come.”

The government will need to get at least one opposition party to support it to avoid a pandemic election this spring.

Canada’s net debt is now over $1 trillion for the first time ever, after a $354 billion deficit for the pandemic year just over. It is expected to keep climbing with deficits of $155 billion this year, and $60 billion in 2022-23.

That is driven in part by more than $100 billion in new spending over the next three years, including costs to maintain federal wage and rent subsidies and aid for laid-off workers, until September now, instead of cutting them off in June.

Freeland is also looking ahead to the post-pandemic Canada the Liberals want to see, one that has $10-a-day childcare, the ability to produce its own vaccines, national long-term care standards and small- and medium-sized businesses equipped with the workers and technology they need to survive.

It also includes a greener, cleaner Canada, with a promise of more than $17 billion in climate change programs, much of it in the form of incentives to encourage heavy industry to curb their emissions and grow Canada’s clean technology sector.

All of it comes with a pandemic-sized asterisk that things could still change drastically if vaccine supplies are delayed or they prove not to work that well against emerging variants of the virus. The budget includes alternative scenarios that show where the fiscal picture might go if the worst-case scenarios of the pandemic play out.

Those risks seem even more real as the country is battling the worst wave of the pandemic yet with record hospitalizations and patients in critical care, and doctors and nurses warning repeatedly of a health care system on the brink of collapse.

Freeland acknowledged the weight the pandemic continues to bear on Canadians.

“We are all tired, and frustrated, and even afraid,” she said. “But we will get through this.”

The pandemic has thrown everything off course for more than a year, including the plan the Liberals intended to use after the 2019 election. For the Liberals first four budgets, every one went with a title about the middle class — growing it, investing in it, making it stronger.

This time, Freeland — who is making history as the first female finance minister to table a federal budget — went with “A recovery plan for jobs, growth and resilience.”

That plan focuses on helping some of those hit hardest in the last year — sectors like tourism, as well as low-wage workers, small and medium-sized businesses, women and young people.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

2021 Federal BudgetCoronavirusFederal Government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Supporters gather during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop cafe in Mirror Alta, on Saturday May 8, 2021. The Whistle Stop was shut down by AHS for not complying with COVID-19 rules. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Police hand out tickets to dozens leaving anti-lockdown protest in Alberta

Hundreds gathered outside the Whistle Stop Café in the hamlet of Mirror, Alta.

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Alberta leads the Prairie provinces in being the first to take COVID-19 vaccine bookings for pre-teens. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leads Prairie provinces in accepting COVID vaccine bookings for pre-teens

The province begins accepting appointments for kids as young as 12 starting today

FILE - In this March 3, 2021, file photo, a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine can be given to adults 30+ who can’t wait for mRNA: NACI

Panel says single shot vaccine can be especially useful for populations unable to return for second shot

Alberta’s environment department has known for years that toxins from old coal mines are contaminating populations of the province’s official animal, the bighorn sheep. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Craig Bihrl
Alberta government knew bighorn sheep contaminated with coal mine selenium, scientist says

Jeff Kneteman says Alberta Environment has known about the problem in bighorn sheep for years

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau receives his COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccination in Ottawa, Friday, April 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
75% of Canadians need 1st vaccine dose to have more normal summer: Trudeau

The country is on track to hit a major milestone on the road to COVID-19 herd immunity Tuesday, with 40% vaccinated with a 1st dose

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Alberta to stop giving first doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot as supply dwindles

There aren’t any confirmed shipments of AstraZeneca coming, and the province only has 8,400 doses of it left

Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

League eased some tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for fully vaccinated clubs

File photo
Arrest made for armed robbery in Millet, Wetaskiwin RCMP continue to investigate

Wetaskiwin RCMP are investigating an armed robbery took place May 4, 2021 in Millet, Alta.

Dr. Karina Pillay, former mayor of Slave Lake, Alta., is shown at her medical clinic in Calgary on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
10 years later: Former Slave Lake mayor remembers wildfire that burned through town

Alberta announced in 2011 that an unknown arsonist had recklessly or deliberately ignited the forest fire

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman travelling from Alberta found dead in B.C. park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Most Read