No timeline for federal budget amid coronavirus uncertainty, Trudeau says

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Coronavirus outbreak: No timeline for federal budget amid COVID-19 uncertainty, Trudeau says
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is being transparent about the billions of dollars being spent to get Canada and Canadians through the COVID-19 crisis. But he says the government has not yet been able to figure out how to bring in a federal budget because there is so much uncertainty in the weeks and months to come – May 4, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says there is no timeline for when his government will table a federal budget because of the “extraordinary” uncertainty posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The government had been scheduled at the end of March to release its first budget since winning re-election as a minority. But that release was scrapped when the House of Commons suspended on March 13 as part of a nationwide shutdown to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Since then, Trudeau has rolled out hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency spending and tax deferrals to support workers laid off or facing restricted hours because of the economic shutdown.

During his daily briefing with journalists on Monday, Trudeau was asked when Canadians will see a full budget outlining the government’s spending priorities for the year, and said it’s hard to tell.

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“A budget in normal times is a forecast of the measures that will be presented in the year to come. Right now we are in a period of uncertainty — extraordinary uncertainty — as to what might happen next month or in three months,” Trudeau said, adding that talks on how to provide some kind of update are “ongoing.”

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“We’ll find ways to share this with you but we have not yet been able to determine what the best way is of looking at a budget or an economic update or maybe another way of sharing information with Canadians about what we foresee for the months to come.”

He was also asked whether an interim economic update could be possible, and did not rule that out.

“Nothing is off the table,” he said. “I think we need to be able to instill confidence in Canadians, they need to be able to feel we have a plan to respond to this challenge.”

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was asked about the matter earlier in the day as well.

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He said while he understands why one hasn’t been tabled during the crisis, he believes the time has come to begin preparations for either a budget or a fiscal update before the summer.

“I think this is the right time to plan a budget. Perhaps not this week, perhaps not even this month … however, the Department of Finance can start the preliminary work to prepare a budget,” he said.

“Before Parliament adjourns for the summer, I think that an update, a budget, a plan to manage the economy during the next several months is necessary. That’s a decision that will be made by the government but we will put pressure to ensure the government is transparent with Canadians.”

Several provinces are in the very early stages of beginning to lift some of the restrictions on their economies, though Ontario and Quebec continue to see consistent new daily cases.

The provinces are the two hardest-hit by the virus.

Overall, there have been 3,682 deaths from the virus in Canada and 59,474 confirmed cases.

Globally, deaths are at 247,838 and there are more than 3.5 million confirmed cases.

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