Justin Trudeau said that he may not keep the benefits that his government created to help Canadians impacted by lockdowns once the pandemic is over, as they should not be permanent reforms to Canada’s social safety net.
Emergency benefits were given to millions of Canadians, after they lost their jobs following the imposing of lockdowns by provincial governments during the first wave of COVID-19. During this time, Canada saw historic job losses and poor stock market prices.
New government handouts, which provide $2,000 a month to Canadians who remain unemployed due to COVID-19 restrictions, have been extended until next summer. Trudeau has not ruled out what will happen post summer 2021, as his government watches to see how things play out.
The Canadian Press reported that Trudeau said at an event hosted by the Financial Times that while government aid programs are helpful during the pandemic, that doesn't mean that they'll remain useful once the pandemic is over.
He added that it is unlikely that the extra benefits will stick around. Saying "Let's not pretend that something that works right now gives us stability."
"That's not a measure that we can automatically continue in a post-pandemic world. I think there are really important reflections to have on how we provide income support and how we make sure that everyone is given opportunities."
Trudeau’s CERB, which was given to 8.9 million unemployed Canadians, cost $81.6 billion dollars from March to October. Since then, the three new programs that have replaced CERB have cost $2.3 billion. There are still over one million Canadians who are out of work.
However, the number of Canadians who are needing these benefits is on the rise, as provinces reimpose lockdowns to deal with the second wave of the coronavirus. Trudeau said in his talk with the Financial Times that his government kept the programs in place due to the possibility of more layoffs due to a rise in cases.
Justin Trudeau also pleaded to premiers earlier this week to not hesitate on imposing further restrictions and lockdowns, saying that his government would once again be there to provide aid to those affected by such policies.
Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland is set to appear before the senate finance committee Thursday to testify on Bill C-9, which provides additional benefits for Canadians.
Appointed progressive senators have been vocal support for a basic income program, however Trudeau has not committed to that, saying "What we're doing now shouldn't be conflated with things that we might or could do in the future. I think we have to get through this before we start designing a whole new universe of social supports."
A basic income project could cost up to $71.4 billion in the first year, and would rise to $197.2 billion by 2025, according to the parliamentary budget officer.