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Ottawa’s fiscal update shows billions more in deficits this year and next

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OTTAWA — Canada’s federal budget deficit will be billions of dollars deeper than it was supposed to be this year and next, according to the Finance Department.

The figures released this morning show that the Liberals’ projected deficit of $19.8 billion for the 12-month period that ends in March is now slated to hit $26.6 billion.

And next year’s deficit is expected to be $28.1 billion, before accounting for promises the Liberals will unveil in their 2020 budget.

The Liberals’ election platform projected four years of deficits of more than $20 billion, including almost $27.4 billion in the upcoming fiscal year that begins in April 2020.

The Finance Department says the deeper deficit is largely driven by changes to how employee pensions and benefits are calculated, but also accounts for a tax break that takes effect on Jan. 1.

Still, the Liberals say their preferred measure of the state of federal finances — which calculates the deficit relative to the size of the economy — will keep improving, if not as quickly as it was supposed to.

Spending is also expected to go up faster on the Canada Child Benefit than the Liberals projected earlier this year, a reflection of pegging the value of payments to inflation and “an increase in the projected number of children eligible.”

The government also says that increased spending announced in the March 2019 budget will be “entirely offset” over the coming years by what the Liberals higher-than-anticipated personal and corporate income-tax revenue.

At the same time, revenues will decline for excise taxes and duties this year — largely from the Liberals’ lifting retaliatory tariffs on American steel and aluminum earlier than they planned — and over the coming years from “lower expected growth in taxable consumption.”

Federal officials are also promising the first phase of a spending and tax review that the Liberals say will result in $1.5 billion in savings starting next fiscal year, which the government has accounted for.

The update provided today from Finance Minister Bill Morneau comes on the heels of a week where the opposition Conservatives accused the government of creating the conditions for a “made-in-Canada recession.”

The government, however, projects that the economy itself will continue to grow over the coming years at roughly the rate calculated in the March budget.

The Finance Department projects growth will be 1.7 per cent this year and 1.6 per cent next year, after weakness late last year and early this year, particularly in the mining and oil-and-gas sectors. The projections would make Canada the second-fastest-growing economy among G7 countries, behind only the United States.

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Record one million job losses in March: StatCan

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OTTAWA — More than one million Canadians lost their jobs in the month of March, Statistics Canada is reporting. The unemployment rate has also climbed to 7.8 per cent, up from 2.2 percentage points since February.

Canada’s national statistics agency released its monthly Labour Force Survey on Thursday, using March 15 to 21 as the sample week – a time when the government began enforcing strict guidelines around social gatherings and called on non-essential businesses to close up shop.

The first snapshot of job loss since COVID-19 began taking a toll on the Canadian economy shows 1.1 million out of work since the prior sample period and a consequent decrease in the employment rate – the lowest since April 1997. The most job losses occurred in the private sector and among people aged 15-24.

The number of people who were unemployed increased by 413,000, resulting in the largest one-month increase in Canada’s unemployment rate on record and takes the economy back to a state last seen in October, 2010.

“Almost all of the increase in unemployment was due to temporary layoffs, meaning that workers expected to return to their job within six months,” reads the findings.

The agency included three new indicators, on top of the usual criteria, to better reflect the impact of COVID-19 on employment across the country.

The survey, for example, excludes the more commonly observed reasons for absent workers — such as vacation, weather, parental leave or a strike or lockout — to better isolate the pandemic’s effect.

They looked at: people who are employed but were out of a job during the reference week, people who are employed but worked less than half their usual hours, and people who are unemployed but would like a job.

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Employee at Ottawa’s Amazon Fulfillment Centre tests positive for COVID-19

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OTTAWA — An employee who works at Amazon’s fulfillment centre on Boundary Road in Ottawa’s east-end has tested positive for COVID-19.

Amazon says it learned on April 3 that an associate tested positive for novel coronavirus and is currently in isolation. The employee last worked at the fulfillment centre on March 19.

Two employees told CTV News Ottawa that management informed all employees about the positive test in a text message over the weekend.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Amazon spokesperson Jen Crowcroft wrote “we are supporting the individual who is recovering. We are following guidelines from health officials and medical experts, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees at our site.”

The statement also says that Amazon has taken steps to further protect their employees.

“We have also implemented proactive measures at our facilities to protect employees including increased cleaning at all facilities, maintaining social distance in the FC.”

CTV News Ottawa asked Amazon about the timeline between when the company found out about the positive COVID-19 case and when employees were notified.

In a separate email to CTV News Ottawa, Crowcroft said “all associates of our Boundary Road fulfillment centre in Ottawa were notified within 24 hours of learning of the positive COVID-19 case.”

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Ottawa facing silent spring as festivals, events cancelled

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This is shaping up to be Ottawa’s silent spring — and summer’s sounding pretty bleak, too — as more and more concerts, festivals and other annual events are cancelled in the wake of measures meant to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The province has already banned gatherings of more than five people, and on Monday officials announced city parks, facilities and services will remain shut down until the end of June, nor will any event permits be issued until at least that time.

“This leaves us with no choice but to cancel the festival this year,” Ottawa Jazz Festival artistic director Petr Cancura confirmed Monday.

This was to be the festival’s 40th anniversary, and organizers announced the lineup for the June 19-July 1 event the day after Ottawa’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. 

The Toronto and Montreal jazz festivals had already pulled the plug because of similar restrictions in their cities, so Cancura said the writing was on the wall.

“We have a few contingency plans to keep connecting with our audience and working with our artists,” Cancura said.

People holding tickets to the 2020 festival can ask for a refund or exchange for a 2021 pass.

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