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

Stats Canada released figures on the 2019 violations handled by RCMP in Penticton on Oct. 29. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Crime rate skyrockets in Penticton from 2018 to 2019

Penticton saw a 52 per cent increase in the crime rate

(Black Press Media files)
Charges dropped against alleged indecent Osoyoos mountie

The RCMP have a separate internal investigation into the officer

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media file)
Summerland crime figures showed decrease in 2019

Policing statistics show drop in crime rates, although violent crimes increased

Four staff members at the Okanagan Men’s Centre have tested positive for COVID-19 since Oct. 23, 2020. (Adult and Teen Challenge OMC photo)
Four positive COVID-19 cases at Okanagan Men’s Centre

Those affected are staff and have been in isolation since Oct. 23

Homes in Summerland have been among the households in Canada to participate in radon testing. (TakeActiononRadon.ca)
Testing finds 38 per cent of Summerland homes have unsafe radon levels

Okanagan community one of 15 involved in national testing program

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Crime up 31 per cent in Vernon in 2019: Statistics Canada

Increase includes a 45 per cent rise in violent Criminal Code violations

A Tuesday Oct. 27, 2020 apartment fire in Penticton killed two and displaced dozens more. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Fatal Penticton apartment fire deemed accidental

The blaze gutted an apartment building on Tuesday morning, killing two people and displacing dozens

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports seven more COVID-19 cases

Eighty-nine cases remain active, none of whom are currently hospitalized

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

This Photoshopped version of the crosswalks near the entrance to the Salmon Arm Arts Centre on Hudson Avenue show what is proposed to help create safety for and show inclusivity to the LGBTQ2S+ community. (Salmon Arm Arts Centre image)
Tri-rainbow crosswalk and Progress flag requested to help make Salmon Arm safe

Council will consider budget requests to help make city inclusive to LBGTQ2S+ community

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Animal care manager Tracy Reynolds confirmed the lynx is the same wildcat that was spotted wandering North Kamloops in broad daylight on Sunday, Oct. 25. BC Wildlife Park.
Lynx found wandering Kamloops taken to BC Wildlife Park

While the lynx’s outward appearance was deemed normal, it actually had an abdominal infection

Most Read