Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (The Canadian Press)

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

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Pedestrians have rights to use highways

A highway is not the exclusive domain of drivers.

Sahtlam Volunteer Firefighters Association has stepped up, in spite of COVID, for a number of charities. (Submitted)
Sahtlam firefighters step up

Sahtlam Volunteer Firefighters Association has a long history of supporting charities

A mobile home fire prompted a quick response from firefighters Saturday around 3:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Mobile home up in flames at Duncan RV Park

One patient burned, EHS on scene

Phaecelia used as a cover crop attracts bees and provides them with high quality nectar. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Cover crops keep soil healthy and productive

We don’t harvest a cover crop and instead dig the tops under when they’re immature and soft

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson Column: Home is where you know your neighbours

My mom has lived at that address for 43 years.

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Most Read