Scott Newark's picture
Synopsis of Govt Economic Statement
Posted on Dec 03, 2020

There has not been a formal Budget presented to Parliament for over a year due to COVID-19. The Government has however introduced a number of measures that include significant increases in funding all of which have been approved by specific Bills introduced for that purpose. This Economic Statement is different in that it provides a broader overview of intended government actions and spending going forward to deal with COVID-19, supporting the restoration of the economy and various other policy issues that the Government intends to proceed with.

Interestingly, the Economic Statement details immediate intended actions (estimated at $25B) as well as future actions over the next three years (estimated at $75B). The Prime Minister has confirmed that there will be a confidence vote on the Statement which means if it is defeated that there will be an election thereafter.

This ‘political’ aspect of the Statement is also reflected in the format of the Statement which is very similar to a formal Budget (237 pages) and the fact that it contains future intended actions and spending on policy issues albeit in less than clear context as noted below:

“We also know that some measures can take time to plan and to organize. We will spend the winter working hard with Canadians so that we will be ready to shift into high gear when the virus is under control. That is why we are announcing the scope of the plan now, and committing to come back in Budget 2021 with more details.” [p.71]

The following synopsis provides extracts of promised actions and allocations which are of potential relevance to the safety and security communities.

Pandemic related goods and services
The media has confirmed the ability of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to enter into contracts worth up to $500 million for pandemic-related goods and services — with no competitive bids or tendering — was quietly put into place at the end of March with an expiration date of Sept. 30. On Oct. 1, the government renewed that capability, this time with no fixed expiry date. Providing funding to supply EM systems to seniors in long term could arguably meet this broad criteria.

Border Measures
$764.8 million over two years, starting in 2020-21, on a cash basis, to strengthen border and travel health measures, including maintaining quarantine facilities for international travellers, as well as to support voluntary isolation sites in municipalities across Canada.

To help control the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, the government has also put in place restrictions and protective measures at its borders:

  • In March, Canada and the United States mutually agreed to temporarily restrict all non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border to protect people on both sides of the border while ensuring the flow of essential goods and services.
  • All travellers entering Canada, whether or not they are Canadian citizens, are subject to a mandatory quarantine.
  • The government has also enhanced the presence of public health officials at key points of entry. To manage risks, international travellers continue to be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 prior to entering the country.

Long-term Care and Canadian Armed Forces Support for the COVID-19 Response
The devastating COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes have highlighted the gaps in standards and care for our most vulnerable. A large majority of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities and seniors residences. In Quebec and Ontario these have been 81% and 70% of the fatalities, respectively, as of November 25.

$418 million in 2020-21 to support the Government of Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including assistance provided to provincial and territorial governments.

From April to July 2020, Operation Laser deployed women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to support 54 affected long-term care facilities across Quebec and Ontario. At peak response, 1,942 CAF personnel were helping care for residents.

In addition to these efforts, and building on what has been learned from the CAF deployment in long-term care homes, the Government of Canada is committing up to $1 billion for a Safe Long-term Care Fund to help provinces and territories protect people in long-term care and support infection prevention and control. Funding will be contingent on a detailed spending plan, allocated on an equal per capita basis and conditional on provinces and territories demonstrating that investments have been made according to those spending plans. Provinces and territories will be able to use this funding to undertake a range of activities including carrying out infection prevention and control readiness assessments, making improvements to ventilation and hiring additional staff or topping up wages.

Veterans Emergency Fund
$600,000 in 2020-21 for the Veterans Emergency Fund to provide financial support to veterans.

Support for Veterans’ Organizations
Funding of $20 million in 2020-21 for Veterans Affairs Canada to create a temporary Veterans Organizations Emergency Support Fund.

Fighting the Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis has taken far too many lives in Canada. The government has adopted a harm reduction approach which includes funding safe consumption sites.

However, the COVID-19 crisis has coincided with a worsening of the opioid crisis and a surge in opioid deaths.

A recent study in Ontario found that over the first 15 weeks of the pandemic, there were 695 opioid-related deaths, a 38 per cent increase over the previous 15 weeks. Similarly, British Columbia has also experienced a large increase in opioid-related deaths and overdoses. In June 2020, 181 British Columbians died due to opioid use, compared to 76 in June 2019. British Columbia paramedics reported nearly 7,500 overdose calls in summer, the highest ever in a three-month stretch. Between April and June there were 302 opioid-related deaths in Alberta, up from 2018’s previously recorded three-month high of 211 deaths.

To support Canadians struggling with problematic substance use, and building on significant funding provided in Budget 2018 and Budget 2019, the government will provide an additional $66 million over two years, starting in 2020-21, to support community-based organizations responding to substance use issues, including to help them provide frontline services in a COVID-19 context.

The Canada Emergency Business Account
To date, the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) has provided over 790,000 small businesses and non-profits with interest-free loans, partially forgivable if paid back by December 31, 2022.

Initially providing loans of up to $40,000, with up to $10,000 forgivable, the CEBA program will soon be expanded, allowing qualifying businesses to access an additional interest-free $20,000 loan, in situations where there is need. Half of this additional amount, up to $10,000, would be forgivable if the loan is repaid by December 31, 2022.

Regional Relief and Recovery Fund
Businesses, workers and communities in every corner of Canada have been impacted by COVID-19. To help support those businesses unable to access other federal pandemic support programs, the government announced the $962-million Regional Relief and Recovery Fund on April 17, providing significant funding through Canada’s Regional Development Agencies. The government increased funding on October 2, bringing total support to more than $1.5 billion.

  • $568 million for Western Economic Development
  • $34 million for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
  • $72 million for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario
  • $436 million for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
  • $281 million for Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions
  • $170 million for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

To date, this program has protected over 102,000 jobs and supported over 14,700 businesses, including over 8,500 clients in rural areas and 5,100 women-owned businesses. To better ensure the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund can continue to support small businesses unable to access other federal pandemic support programs, including replicating newly announced Canada Emergency Business Account loan limit increases, the government is proposing a top-up of up to $500 million, on a cash basis, to Regional Development Agencies and the Community Futures Network of Canada, bringing total funding to over $2.0 billion in this fund.

The government is also proposing to provide up to $3 million to the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency for foundational economic development projects that will support small businesses in Canada’s Territories.

To better tailor support to businesses in Western Canada, in recognition of its diverse regional economies, the government proposes to introduce a new approach to regional development in the West by creating separate regional development agencies for British Columbia and the Prairies, adding a new, seventh Regional Development Agency in British Columbia. Additional details and investments will follow.

Support for the Air Sector
To support small and regional airports in making critical investments in health and safety infrastructure, the government proposes to provide additional funding of $186 million over two years, starting in 2021-22, for the Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP). Small federally-owned airports, which are not currently eligible for ACAP, would also be eligible to access the program for 2021-22 and 2022-23.

To support large airports in making critical investments in safety, security and transit infrastructure, the government proposes to provide $500 million over six years, starting in 2020-21, to establish a new transfer payment program. The government will consider supporting further airport investments to help address the health, safety and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Rent relief and nearly $700 million in capital investments are en route to airports over six years. Another $206 million in support is bound for regional aviation, including smaller airlines, via a new "regional air transportation initiative" overseen by regional development agencies.

The $686 million in airport aid includes $500 million over six years, starting this year, to back infrastructure spending at large airports that would include massive transit projects, such as the new light-rail station at the Montreal airport.

Support for Innovative Businesses
To ensure that innovative, intellectual property-rich firms have the support they need to face the challenges presented by COVID-19, it is proposed that $250 million over 5 years, beginning in 2021-22, be provided to the Strategic Innovation Fund. Through its continued support of large-scale transformative projects, the Strategic Innovation Fund will help Canada’s most innovative firms and industries weather the pandemic and grow into world leaders that will help drive growth and create jobs in the Canadian economy.

The Liberal government's fiscal update sketches out a program that will provide low-interest loans of up to $1 million for badly hurt entrepreneurs.

The aid, dubbed the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP), comes on top of a newly expanded emergency loan program already in place for small businesses, and technically is not limited to certain industries.

Supporting Community Service Organizations
In a time where donations are going down, the need for support from charities and non-profits has gone up. The government has made significant investments in shelters, food banks, and community organizations, to ensure that Canadians get the support they need. This includes:

$100 million for women’s shelters, sexual assault centres and organizations that provide support and services to those experiencing gender-based violence, including specific supports for Indigenous people experiencing gender-based violence and living off-reserve.

Supporting Public Health Measures in Correctional Institutions

Making Communities Safer
To crack down on gun crime and make our communities safer places to live, the government proposes to provide dedicated funding of $250M over 5 years, starting in 2021-22, for municipalities, community-led initiatives and Indigenous communities, to support anti-gang programming.

This investment will be delivered by Public Safety Canada and will support programs aimed at youth gang interventions through wrap-around supports. This funding will complement the government’s previous investments to support provincial and territorial initiatives.

Police body cameras
$238.5 million over six years and $50 million ongoing to implement a National Bodywork Camera Program for frontline RCMP officers.

Guns and Gangs-Crime Prevention
Also $250 million to support anti-gang programming.

Protecting Communities at Risk of Hate-motivated Crimes
$13 million over 5 years and $2.6 million ongoing to protect communities at risk of hate-motivated crimes, by providing not-for-profit organizations such as places of worship, schools and community centres, with funding to enhance their security infrastructure. This investment will be delivered through Public Safety’s Communities at Risk: Security Infrastructure Program.

Supporting Community Justice Centres
$28.6 million over 5 years to support Community Justice Centres (CJC) pilot projects in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario. CJCs bring justice, health and social services together to address the root causes of crime, divert individuals accused of non-violent offences away from incarceration, and connect them with social supports.

Through the integration of culturally appropriate services, CJCs can help decrease the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples and Black Canadians in the criminal justice system and provide solutions to systemic issues.

National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Building on these investments, the government proposes to invest an additional $781.5 million over 5 years starting in 2021–22, and $106.3 million ongoing to combat systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples and expand efforts to combat violence against Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ and two-spirit people. This includes:

$49.3 million to support the implementation of Gladue Principles in the mainstream justice system and Indigenous-led responses in order to help reduce the  overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples in the criminal justice and correctional systems.

$8.1 million to develop Administration of Justice Agreements with Indigenous communities to strengthen community-based justice systems and support self-determination.

$724.1 million to launch a comprehensive Violence Prevention Strategy to expand access to a continuum of culturally relevant supports for Indigenous women, children and LGBTQ and two-spirit people facing genderbased violence. This strategy will support new shelters and transition housing for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples across the country, including on reserve, and in the North and in urban areas.

Supporting Skilled Newcomers 
To scale up and expand existing supports for the labour market integration of skilled newcomers with a focus on in-demand sectors, such as health, IT, and skilled trades, the government proposes to invest $15 million in 2021-22 in the Foreign Credential Recognition Program. Up to 15,000 skilled newcomers are expected to benefit from this investment.

2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan
$750.3M over five years, starting in 2021-22, to support an increase in permanent resident admissions targets from 2021 to 2023.

Simplifying the Home Office Expense Deduction
To simplify the process for both taxpayers and businesses, the CRA will allow employees working from home in 2020 due to COVID-19 with modest expenses to claim up to $400, based on the amount of time working from home, without the need to track detailed expenses, and will generally not request that people provide a signed form from their employers. This measure will help taxpayers access deductions they are entitled to receive and simplify the tax filing process. Further detail will be communicated by the CRA in the coming weeks.

In Conclusion

COVID 19 has had an unprecedented impact on Canadian society and our efforts for economic recovery from it will also clearly be relevant for the public safety and security sectors. This Economic Statement offers some insight into what the federal government's priorities will be going forward which is useful to be aware of.

Scott Newark is a former Alberta Crown Prosecutor who has also served as Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association, Vice Chair of the Ontario Office for Victims of Crime, Director of Operations for Investigative Project on Terrorism and as a Security Policy Advisor to the governments of Ontario and Canada. He is currently an Adjunct Professor in the TRSS Program in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University.