BREAKING: Trudeau can't put figure on debt, says projects require 'invention and imagination'

"Making projections about what our economy could look like six months... or a year from now, would be an exercise in invention and imagination," Trudeau said.

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal QC

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed media on Tuesday, providing updates on the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.

Yesterday, news broke that those who wrongfully claimed CERB could face fines of up to $24,000 and even jail time. Trudeau commented on the matter today, saying: "during the pandemic, our government has been there for Canadians...

"On Saturday, we shared draft legislation with the opposition parties which included additional proposals to help people... We will also strive to make CERB payments more flexible, while making sure who those who knowingly and wrongfully claimed the CERB face consequences."

Trudeau said that it would be "a while" before employment rates return to their pre-pandemic normal, and that continued discussions have been taking place to bring employment rates back to those levels.

"The CERB was put in place in a way that we knew would maximize the speed to reach millions that needed it. That's why we didn't put a tremendous amount of complicated cheques and background checks and verification upfront... We always knew from the beginning that there would be mistakes, and indeed small numbers of fraudsters who would take advantage of it," said the prime minister.

Trudeau said that there was likely a number of people who mistakenly took multiple federal payouts. "Those people will simply have to pay back the one that they shouldn't have taken, and we're not looking at punishing people who made mistakes, obviously," he said, before scolding those who intentionally took advantage of the government's crisis response.

"We will make sure that we're punishing people who try to take advantage of this situation... We've put measures in place that will allow us to go after the deliberate fraudsters who are trying to game the system for criminal benefits."

Economic projections require 'invention and imagination'

Regarding the undisclosed financial toll that the coronavirus pandemic will have, Trudeau said that it was "very difficult" to know what the total costs will be, depending on "how many businesses reopen, and to what percentage."

"There are so many things that we simply don't know, that making projections about what our economy could look like six months from now, or a year from now, would be an exercise in invention and imagination," the prime minister said.

Trudeau said that his government would remain transparent, but that a "proper fiscal update" was something "that includes, usually, projections on three to five years in the future that we simply don't know about."


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