Minister Freeland calling on Canadians for ideas on how to 'unlock the pre-loaded stimulus'
Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said she’s reticent to suggest a new wave of government spending will be enough to stave off COVID-19’s economic fallout this winter, warning Canadians that the government doesn’t “have a crystal ball” and that the pandemic’s path has been hard to predict thus far.
In an interview Friday, Freeland didn’t rule out spending more in order to reduce the damage of worsening COVID-19 conditions. She said that attempts by economists to forecast the impact of the pandemic have been “consistently wrong.”
“I think people underestimated the initial impact of the coronavirus on the economy, then they underestimated how strong the recovery would be in the summer and I think people have underestimated what the impact of the second wave of the virus would be,” she said.
“I think we all need to be very humble and be very aware of the fact that there's huge uncertainty out there.”
On Monday, she unveiled a Fall economic update that included measures meant to fight the pandemic with the government now projecting a $381.6-billion deficit this fiscal year and up to $100-billion in stimulus over the next three years. However, some observers told BNN Bloomberg the document was light on details when it came to some of the relief programs being outlined.
Freeland said the federal government will remain “very disciplined” when it comes to differentiating long-term spending with the temporary spending needed to overcome the pandemic.
She said the COVID-19 relief measures outlined in the economic update are intended to create a “robust” safety net that will protect Canadian businesses and households until at least next summer.
“I’ll never say never and if we do spot holes in the programs, we’ll do what we can to fix them,” she said.
Freeland said the growing possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine serves as a “light at the end of the tunnel” the government can now aim for as it plans its spending.
“We know vaccines are coming and what we’re trying to do is to create a bridge for Canadian businesses to that endpoint, which is now in sight,” she said.