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Federal budget 2021: Liberals extend COVID-19 aid with election top of mind

Federal wage and rent subsidies will be maintained until September


OTTAWA — The first federal buddget in more than two years extends Ottawa’s COVID-19 “lifeline” for workers and struggling businesses another few months as it aims to pull Canada through the pandemic once and for all.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s first crack at a budget plan is also widely viewed as a pre-election platform with more than $100 million in new spending over the next three years amid record-smashing deficits.

Canada’s debt is now over $1 trillion for the first time ever, after a $354 billion deficit for the pandemic year just over, and an expected deficit of $155 billion for fiscal 2021-22.

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That is driven in part by more than $100 million in new spending over the next three years, including costs to maintain federal wage and rent subsidies and aid for laid-off workers, until September now, instead of cutting them off in June.

Freeland is also looking ahead to the post-pandemic Canada the Liberals want to see, one that has $10-a-day childcare, the ability to produce its own vaccines, national long-term care standards and small- and medium-sized businesses equipped with the workers and technology they need to survive.

All of it comes with a pandemic-sized asterisk that things could still change drastically if vaccine supplies are delayed or they prove not to work that well against emerging variants of the virus.

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