The Liberal government is announcing in its first post-pandemic budget several sweeping measures aimed at ensuring Canadians can get back to work while earmarking new funds geared for businesses to tackle a greener future.

The government plans to extend several subsidy programs first introduced last year to help Canadians make it through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as introducing new programs to help businesses recover and grow by hiring more staff. 

Ottawa now plans to extend its popular Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and Emergency Rent Subsidy and Lockdown Support programs to Sept. 25 with an additional $12 billion in funds to continue giving Canadian businesses further stability over the coming months. 

Both of those subsidies will see their rates gradually reduced beginning this July to ensure an orderly phase-out of the programs. It will also require any publicly-listed company that applies for the wage subsidy and found to increase pay for its top executives to pay those funds back. 

Canadians will also now have their one-week waiting period for employment insurance (EI) claims waived, and those who are self-employed, caregivers, or gig workers who may not qualify for EI during the pandemic will receive additional weeks of recovery benefits until Sept. 25. The Liberal government is also earmarking an additional $3.9 billion over three years to increase access to EI benefits and another $3 billion over five years to provide better EI sickness benefits. 

The Liberal government will also spend $595 million this year to introduce the new Canada Recovery Hiring Program to help businesses still trying to recover from the pandemic by subsidizing a portion of the costs employers take to re-open. 

All told, the Liberal government expects to spend about $32.4 billion in additional benefits and subsidies over the next five years to help workers and businesses get through the pandemic. 

"About 300,000 Canadians who had a job before the pandemic are still out of work. More Canadians may lose their jobs in this month’s lockdowns," according to prepared remarks by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. 

"To support Canadian workers as we fight the third wave, and to provide an economic bridge to a fully recovered economy, we will build on the enhancements we’ve made during the pandemic."

In addition to those measures, the Liberal government proposes spending $960 million over three years on new workforce training programs, $470 million over three years in new apprenticeship and trade grants, introducing new legislation to establish a new $15 hourly minimum wage that will also rise with inflation and $8.9 billion over five years to expand the Canada Workers Benefit to support Canadians working low-wage jobs.  

It will also provide $4 billion over four years that will be earmarked to help businesses adopt new digital technologies through microgrants, training, and financing through the Business Development Bank of Canada. 

As well, an additional $7.2 billion will be spent funding the government's Strategic Innovation Fund over the next seven years to support projects mainly in the life sciences, automotive, aerospace, and agriculture sectors, as well as businesses that help support Canada's shift to a greener economy. 

"By making targeted investments in transformational technologies, we can ensure that Canada benefits from the next wave of global investment and growth," Freeland said in a prepared statement.

"The resource and manufacturing sectors that are Canada's traditional economic pillars – energy, mining, agriculture, forestry, steel, aluminum, autos, aerospace – will be the foundation of our new, resilient and sustainable economy."

To help address the massive job and financial losses incurred by Canada's aerospace sector due to the pandemic, the Liberal government plans to spend $250 million over three years for regional development agencies to deliver a so-called Aerospace Regional Recovery Initiative.

Other measures include upcoming legislation to provide new labour protections for gig workers and contract workers in the air transportation sector, new programs for Black and female entrepreneurs, and begin consulting on ways to establish employee ownership trusts.