First federal budget in two years has a clear focus on COVID recovery with money earmarked for child care and raising minimum wage

After over a year of fighting back COVID-19, it comes as no surprise, the federal government’s first budget in two years is all about pandemic recovery.

The Trudeau Government handed down its first budget since before the pandemic struck, and in it are a number of provisions the feds say will help support economic recovery.

The 2021 budget contains $101.4 billion in new spending and includes some $30 billion towards a national child-care plan. “This is a budget focused on middle-class Canadians,” said Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. The budget also contains provisions to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and promises $17 billion for green initiatives. It is expected the new spending will generate or maintain some 500,000 jobs across the country.

The more than 700-page budget also indicates the federal deficit stood at $354.2 billion for 2020 but will decline to $154.7 billion for the current fiscal year, 2021-2022. A stronger-than-expected economic recovery on the global level said to be behind the declining deficit. There is no projected date by which the federal government expects to pay down its debt.

“We are not suffering because of endogenous flaws or imbalances within our economy. Rather, the COVID recession is driven by an entirely external event, like the economic devastation of a flood, blizzard, wildfire or other natural disasters,” added Freeland.

The Trudeau Government last tabled a federal budget on March 19, 2019. One was not tabled in 2020, as the government cited the uncertain economic effects brought about by the pandemic. This represented Freeland’s first budget as Finance Minister, having taken up the post from ousted cabinet minister Bill Morneau.