Future government spending to focus on hard-hit sectors, green economy: Duclos

As the Liberal government embarks on $100 billion in stimulus spending over the next three years, the treasury board president says the focus will be on supporting sectors hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and bolstering the green economy.

“First we are going to bounce up by looking after those sectors and those workers that have suffered more from the recession, and will bounce forward by investing in the green and more safe…more just economy,” Jean-Yves Duclos said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday.

His comments come just days before the unveiling of the government’s spring budget, which will be the first time in two years Canadians will receive a full picture of Ottawa’s finances.

The Liberals plunged into a record deficit in an effort to prop up businesses and support Canadians through the COVID-19 shutdowns, and with a deficit nearing $400-billion, some experts have questioned whether further spending is the right approach.

While we know the economy will bounce back, Duclos says many groups are at risk of being excluded from the recovery.

“I'll use a key word, which is responsibility. The first thing that we need to be responsible for is the more than half a million workers who are still out of a job, or have lost a lot of their income compared to last year, so yes, the economy will bounce back and is bouncing back, but not everyone is benefiting from it, including women, younger Canadians, racialized Canadians, and workers with a lower wage,” he said.

In their November 2020 fall economic statement, the Liberals acknowledged that the “she-cession” of the last year would only be reversed with access to affordable child care.

The statement pledged $20 million to develop a federal child-care and early learning secretariat; another $15 million to sustain the existing Indigenous secretariat; an additional $420 million in the 2021-22 year to attract and retain early childhood educators; and $75 million over the same time period to improve the quality and accessibility of Indigenous child-care programs.

The Liberals also at the time promised spending on initiatives focused on a green recovery, such as new money for home retrofits, zero-emission vehicles, and tree planting.

Asked whether there will be a fiscal anchor in the budget on Monday, Duclos said, “you'll see that we'll be responsibly using the fiscal resources that we have, we will be mindful of the current emergency, for which austerity would not work.”

He added that while exiting the recession, it’s import Canada doesn’t “under-invest too quickly.”

The International Monetary Fund’s executive board said in its annual report in March that while Canada’s COVID-19 support has been unprecedented, a medium-term fiscal anchor is needed “to guard against a potential weakening of credibility in the fiscal framework.”

Business Council of Canada President and CEO Goldy Hyder echoed this sentiment in a separate interview on Question Period.

“We need an anchor that shows that the government is serious and understands that this is not all about the spending side of a ledger, there’s also a capital side of the ledger that we need to ensure that we address,” Hyder said.

With a file from CTVNews.ca’s Rachel Aiello.