A recent surge in Covid-19 cases is forcing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to scale back his plan to outline an ambitious green economic recovery package next week.
In a speech seen as a possible campaign template in the case of an early election, Trudeau is set to pledge an expansion of unemployment benefits, federal money for child care, as well as some pro-environmental elements including a retrofit programme to make buildings more energy-efficient, sources said.
A month ago Trudeau handed the reins of the finance ministry to his deputy prime minister and trusted aide Chrystia Freeland as he promised “bold” solutions in a green strategy that would be outlined on September 23 in what is known as a throne speech.
Sources said he was “thinking big.”
But as the Liberal leader and his ministers huddled behind closed doors on Monday to hammer out the contents of the speech amidst rising Covid-19 cases, Trudeau shifted his focus.
“We need to get through (the pandemic)... in order to be able to talk about next steps,” Trudeau said that day.
Trudeau is expected to pledge federal money for child care, and to tailor the employment insurance programme to cover all Canadians, including the self-employed.
He will also offer help to long-term care homes rocked by the pandemic, sources said on condition of anonymity.
“It would be irresponsible for government to tell people we’re in a recovery phase when we’re not,” one government source explained this week.
But there will be green economic initiatives, too.
“The Throne Speech will give you a roadmap,” a senior government source said, referring to the speech outlining the government’s priorities that is read by the governor general — head of state Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Ottawa.
Some of the investments will be detailed in a “pre-Christmas” fiscal document, and others in a spring budget, the senior government source said.
Retrofitting residential, commercial and institutional buildings to be more efficient and resilient to climate change, which would generate jobs, “is one of those things that you’d want to see earlier rather than later,” the senior government source said.
Incentives for the use and production of zero-emissions vehicles, along with national rules requiring dealers to increase their sales of them, could be coming, sources said, as the government renews its commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
In Ottawa, talk of an early federal election had been building in recent months as support for the Liberal minority government grew during the pandemic and as case numbers declined this summer.
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