Fiscal guardrails will be ‘anchored’ by the time recovery plan rolls out: Freeland

Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland holds a news conference on the second day of the Liberal cabinet retreat in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says by the time the government begins rolling out a massive coronavirus recovery plan, they will be clear about what job numbers they will need to see to rein it in.

In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Freeland said while the fall economic statement she presented in her first formal fiscal document since taking over the finance portfolio this summer didn’t offer specifics on those targets, those will be clear when the plans kicks off.

“I thought it was important to be transparent with Canadians that we will need a growth plan and to also be transparent about the fact that we need to let things settle down a little bit more,” she said.

“If you have guardrails on the road, they need to be physical and anchored to something. Once we start driving down the road, let me assure you, there are going to be some very clear, anchored, material, concrete guardrails there.”

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Read more: Canada hints at ‘major’ coronavirus recovery plan but still no brakes on spending

The fall economic statement one week ago doubled down on the extensive spending programs the federal Liberals have put in place to keep a variety of benefits and support measures flowing to Canadian businesses and workers amid the economic ravages of the pandemic.

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It also forecast the federal deficit will jump to roughly $382 billion this fiscal year, and that spending programs will need to stay in place until “deep into 2021.”

Only once the virus is under control will the government roll out in force an economic recovery plan that officials last week vowed will hit between $70 billion and $100 billion over three years, depending on how bad the pandemic continues to damage the economy in the coming months.

But the details on how the government plans to measure the program’s success were hazy.

Read more: What the fiscal update does and doesn’t tell us about the coronavirus vaccine roll-out

Officials pointed to metrics around jobs: unemployment rates and hours worked, for example, but gave no clear targets for whether the spending would continue until the country returns to pre-pandemic levels, or some other target entirely.

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Freeland said the focus remains for now on getting the virus under control.

She said the government is leaving “no stone unturned” in the bid to secure potential vaccines.

The government currently has agreements for seven candidates, the first of which are expected to be rolled out to roughly three million Canadians at the highest risk of the virus between January and March.

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