Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (The Canadian Press)

Feds reviewing COVID-19 aid to prep for potential second wave, Trudeau say

He said the government is planning for a worst-case scenario and hoping for the best

The federal government’s ongoing review about the good, bad and possibly ugly parts of its response to COVID-19 will feed into plans for an improved response to a potential second wave of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday.

Speaking outside his Ottawa residence, Trudeau said there are plenty of things that in hindsight the government might have done differently or sooner to respond to the economic fallout from the pandemic.

He didn’t go into details about how things could have changed.

Looking ahead, Trudeau said the federal government will be able to respond with sufficient fiscal room if economic lockdowns are required to combat a second wave of COVID-19.

He said the government is planning for a worst-case scenario and hoping for the best.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau is scheduled to provide an updated snapshot of federal finances next week, which will give an idea of how the government sees the rest of the fiscal year playing out, including figures for a potential deficit.

“There’s certainly plenty of things we would have done differently,” Trudeau said.

“Some things we might have done a little sooner. Some things we might have done a little later but we spent very little time analyzing, wishing we’d done things differently. Those reflections, of course, are ongoing and will continue to be ongoing so that we’re better positioned for a potential second wave and moving forward.”

Reflecting on one of his most recent announcements, Trudeau defended the government’s decision to have WE Charity run a $912-million student service grant that pays students who volunteer this summer up to $5,000.

The design of the volunteer grant has also faced heat for replacing paid work with volunteers earning below minimum wage, and rules that may limit the top payments to students with the financial means to volunteer large amounts of their time.

Trudeau said some 25,000 young people from across the country applied for the grant over the past few days, pointing to the need for a large organization with the necessary reach to deliver the program.

“The WE organization is the largest national youth service organization in the country,” Trudeau said.

“Quite frankly, when our public servants looked at the potential partners,” he added a moment later, “only the WE organization had the capacity to deliver the ambitious program that young people need for this summer.”

He also said it wasn’t a new idea to give “bonus grants” to young people who volunteer “to recognize the value of service.”

The latest federal figures show direct spending at just over $174 billion, including another increase to the budget for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. That is now expected to cost $80 billion.

As of June 21, the government had paid $52.14 billion in benefits to nearly 8.1 million people — a revised figure after officials found counting errors that previously showed over 8.4 million unique applicants. Just over half of those people — nearly 4.1 million — are workers who exhausted their employment insurance benefits as a result of the pandemic, accounting for nearly $23.7 billion in payments, according to the most recent update the government provided to the House of Commons finance committee.

On top of that are tens of billions more in measures designed to leave money in individuals’ and businesses’ pockets. Income taxes aren’t due until the end of the summer, but the Finance Department said Monday that deferrals on remitting sales taxes and customs duty payments won’t last past June 30.

The next day, rent is due.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which represents many small- and medium-sized companies across the country, said a survey of its members showed just under one-third of respondents said they couldn’t afford rent for July unless the Liberals extended a commercial rent relief program.

As of June 21, the program had doled out $152 million in forgivable loans to landlords that agreed to give a rent break to more than 20,000 tenants.

Trudeau said the government intends to extend the program by another month and is working with provinces on a plan to do it, acknowledging that many business owners continue to struggle with cash flow issues.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

Indoor pools in RDCK to reopen Oct. 13

Pools have been closed by the pandemic since March 16

Creston’s Sunset Seed Company closes for good

“It’s time for me to retire, simply put,” said Tom Heal, who became the manager of the family business in 2005

Column: One person can make a difference

“While it’s sad for many to see the Sunset Seed Company close their doors for good, it dawned on me that several were going to miss Tom and his aura more than the goods that he sold”

Nine new COVID-19 cases announced in Interior Health region

The total number of cases since the pandemic started is now at 531 for the region

Terry Tiessen to run as Libertarian candidate in Nelson-Creston

Tiessen previously ran in the 2019 federal election

B.C.’s top doctor encourages Halloween costumes to include masks

Dr. Bonnie Henry will soon be releasing guidelines on how to safely trick-or-treat this Halloween

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

Horgan frustrated as Transport Canada mandate for BC Ferry riders returns

Transport Canada reinstates rule that bans passengers from lower decks

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Reincarnation, baby! Music-making B.C. couple celebrate ‘miracle’ pregnancy

‘I (said) to Adam, ‘I really think this is your brother reincarnated,’ Elise Estrada says

Survey finds doctors worry supplies of flu vaccine, PPE will lag demand

Canadian health officials have said additional flu vaccines have been ordered to meet expected demand

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Most Read