Canada pledges $4.5 billion to fight Omicron variant of COVID-19

Dec 14 2021, 10:35 pm

Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, provided an update on the nationwide fiscal situation as we head into the new year.

economic plan Chrystia Freeland

@cafreeland/Twitter

The update is meant to provide a transparent report of Canada’s financial situation and updates the government’s plan to finish the fight against COVID-19 and ensure a strong recovery for everyone.

“By delivering significant fiscal policy support to the economy and avoiding the harmful austerity policies that followed 2008, our investments have supported a rapid and resilient recovery so far. In fact, we have recovered 106% of the jobs lost at the peak of the pandemic. But we know there is more to do, and the future remains uncertain as Omicron has reminded us, COVID-19 threatens us still. As 2021 draws to a close, finishing the fight against COVID-19 remains our most important national project,” says Freeland.

The update includes some money for BC, which has seen devastating flooding. Ottawa has earmarked $5 billion for flood relief and recovery.

According to Freeland, about $4.5 billion will be spent on responding to the Omicron variant of COVID-19. That money includes funding for workers who might need to isolate or are in lockdown.

Among the other highlights of the plan: 

  • $1.7 billion to increase access to rapid testing supplies across Canada, helping to identify cases early, break the chain of transmissions, and reduce outbreaks.
  • $2 billion to procure lifesaving COVID-19 therapeutics and treatments.
  • $100 million through the Safe Return to Class Fund and $10 million for First Nations on-reserve schools to improve ventilation in schools and protect students, teachers, school staff, and parents from outbreaks.
    • The government also proposes to expand the Eligible Educator School Supply Tax Credit so teachers can claim a refundable tax credit worth 25% (up from 15%) of up to $1,000.
  • $70 million to support ventilation projects in public and community buildings like hospitals, libraries, and community centres.
  • The proposed new Small Businesses Air Quality Improvement Tax Credit of 25% of the cost of upgrading ventilation systems and air filtration, up to $10,000 per location and $50,000 in total.
  • One-time payments to alleviate financial hardship of Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and Allowance recipients who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) in 2020.
  • Provide debt relief to students who need to repay the Canada Emergency Response Benefits they were not eligible for by proposing to offset it with the amount they would have been eligible for under the Canada Emergency Student Benefit.
  • $50 million to help relieve supply chain congestion in Canada by launching a call for proposals under the National Trade Corridors Fund to assist Canadian ports with the acquisition of cargo storage capacity and other measures to alleviate congestion.

According to the update, the government’s final deficit for 2020-21 is lower than projected in the last federal budget.

Ottawa Fiscal Update/Budget.ga.ca

Ottawa Fiscal Update/Budget.ga.ca

Earlier this year, Ottawa forecast a deficit of $154.7 billion, but the new report shows the deficit is expected to be $144.5 billion.

Freeland also used her speech to talk about childcare in Canada.

“Within five years, Canadians will proudly rely on $10-a-day child care just as our universal publicly accessible healthcare system has come to define us as a society. This is an historic accomplishment which will transform the life of every parent in Canada — and of every future parent in Canada, for generations to come.”

Amanda WawrykAmanda Wawryk

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