The federal government is set to table a budget in parliament next week, the first in over two years as the Liberal grappled with emergency spending amid the COVID-19 pandemic last spring and summer.
The last budget was tabled in March 2019 and passed a vote in the House of Commons three months later. However, as the COVID-19 made inroads into Canada by the spring of 2020, elected officials passed emergency spending measures while wrestling with the challenges of conducting parliamentary business in physically distanced and virtual settings.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will present the 2021 federal budget in the House of Commons on Monday, April 19.
“I’m hoping for, number one, our economic recovery,” said Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. “That has to be the main focus.
“How do we bring in corporations and companies into Canada to invest? How do we get Canadian to invest in Canadian businesses so we can build our tax base up to pay the debt?”
While the Liberals never tabled a budget last spring, Freeland provided a fall economic update, which outlined nearly half a billion dollars of pandemic-related spending in response to COVID-19.
“Hopefully the government will come out with a plan of how we’re going to move forward, hopefully taxes aren’t ridiculous. We’ll see where they come with that. It’s hard to assume. They won’t tell us until the day of, the budget, then they bring it forward…but I think there’s some things we have to be careful of the cost, if they’re looking at giving more money out — we do need to support our businesses for sure — but we have to have a plan for how to pay everything back.”
The budget, considered a matter of confidence, must pass a majority vote in the House of Commons. Given that the Liberals are a governing minority, the party will have to secure additional support from another party or Members of Parliament.
If the vote doesn’t pass a majority threshold, it could potentially trigger a federal election.
“I think people right now, first of all, want to get our businesses back up and running, we want to get the economy going again safely, so we need more people vaccinated to put this COVID-19 to bed,” said Morrison. “I think people are more interested in that than having an election.”
Voters have gone to the polls in provincial elections over the course of the pandemic, including British Columbia. The Liberals, with input from Elections Canada, have submitted a bill that proposes temporary tweaks in case of a federal election to implement physical distancing protocols, expand mail-in voting and spreading out a general election over three days.
Morrison charged that the NDP have already signalled that it will support the Liberal budget “no matter what.”
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was pressed about his party’s potential support for the Liberal budget during a media availability at Parliament Hill on Tuesday, where he identified budget priorities such as childcare, paid sick leave and a national pharmacare program, among others.
“Imagine the budget is introduced, a confidence motion, and we vote against this, triggering an election in the middle of a third wave,” said Singh, in remarks that were broadcast on Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC). “Ontario is in a lockdown, numbers are increasing across the country, people are angry, frustrated and afraid. That would be the wrong thing to do. I do not think that would be a symbol of leadership, to plunge the country into an election at this time.”
However, Singh also accused the Liberals of wanting an excuse to hold an election, and said the NDP will hold the Liberals accountable for past promises.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he has had conversations with leaders of the four major parties over the last two days to discuss the upcoming federal budget.