While COVID-19 has left the Canadian economy in a state of uncertainty, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising an economic and fiscal update of sorts is coming next month.
The Liberal minority government has been under increasing pressure to offer Canadians more information on the state of the country’s finances during the pandemic.
Trudeau said just one week ago that a fiscal update at this time would be “an exercise in invention and imagination” if the economy, for the most part, is “frozen or in a coma.”
But the prime minister announced Wednesday (June 17) an economic and fiscal “snapshot” is coming July 8.
He said a full economic update — one that would include forecasts of what will happen in the next three to five years — at this time would be unrealistic.
“Over the past number of months we have put forward in full transparency updated numbers every two weeks to the finance committee [related to COVID-19] measures that we’ve put forward,” Trudeau.
“At the same time, it would be useful to pull together all these different measures so people understand the scale of what this country has done.”
The prime minister said the fiscal snapshot would also include comparing response measures undertaken by Canada to those of other countries as well as “a sense of what the coming weeks or months could look like.”
“I think it would be a little unrealistic to project much further than a few months because things are changing so rapidly,” he said.
Trudeau said that Ottawa’s response to the pandemic is moving from an emergency phase to a recovery phase, and the federal government will have to adjust its measures as it goes.
But he cautioned the government will have to take on additional responses if a second wave hits Canada.
The prime minister would not offer a timeline on when a full economic update or budget would be presented to Canadians.
Instead, he said the government is occupied with responding to the immediate situation and “we will continue to reflect on when that timing might be right as the situation stabilizes.”
Meanwhile, the prime minister also the government would be making further announcements at “the appropriate time” about the potential for either Vancouver, Edmonton or Toronto to serve as one of two potential hub cities for the NHL when pro hockey resumes.
The idea has the support of both B.C. Premier John Horgan and B.C. Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry, and Trudeau said talks are continuing between his government, the provinces, local health authorities and the NHL.
“We are, as I said, open to making arrangement as long as the principals of keeping Canadians safe, first and foremost, and preventing the spread of COVID-19 are respected,” he said.
Trudeau also revealed the federal government was earmarking $500 million for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) annual discovery grants.
The additional NSERC funding will offer help to Canadian researchers studying viruses, developing artificial intelligence and other fields of research.
Fish and seafood workers will also be getting additional support with applications opening up in the next week to assist industry, according to Trudeau.
The Canadian Fish and Seafood Opportunities fund will help producers access new markets and reach new customers.
Seafood processors, meanwhile, will be able to apply for support though the Canadian Seafood Stabilization fund.
That fund, launched in the spring, will help processors with measures such as purchasing personal protective equipment.