Feds to consider non-traditional data as pandemic aid reworked, Morneau says

Feds to consider non-traditional data as pandemic aid reworked, Morneau says

OTTAWA — The federal government will look at how measures to revive the economy from its pandemic-induced freeze will impact women and men differently, Finance Minister Bill Morneau promises.

He also suggests that federal officials will consider how any changes to the economic safety net rushed into place for people whose jobs have been affected by COVID-19 could affect racialized communities in Canada.

Morneau is working on a host of changes to federal programs that are now estimated to cost about $153.7 billion, as anti-contagion restrictions are rolled back to allow companies and workers get back to business.

The Liberals teased upcoming announcements Monday about an extension of the emergency response benefit for workers, a revamp of the wage subsidy program and new options Friday for small- and medium-sized businesses to access an emergency loan program.

Morneau told the Senate’s finance committee in the afternoon that officials are working on various economic scenarios to determine how programs should adapt to give support where it’s needed without throttling the recovery.

In developing those next steps, Morneau said the government would consider traditional and creative economic measures that could fit into any eventual budgets.

“Most certainly we will be looking at the typical data we look at, but we will also continue to try and look at other sources of data that are important,” Morneau said.

“A good example is obviously we’ve taken an approach to looking at gender-disaggregated data to come up with approaches that have an impact on women differentially and that kind of approach will be something we’ll consider for other parts of our society.”

He didn’t say when the government will release a budget or economic update. He said there needs to be more certainty about the underlying economy, which will come as restrictions ease.

The pandemic’s economic effects have been disproportionately felt by women and low-wage workers, and work is underway to better understand the impacts on race and visible minorities.

Statistics Canada plans to collect information on race and visible-minority status as part of its monthly jobs report, starting with the survey next month, to provide insights on populations of interest and assist in making evidence-based decisions.

Morneau said one lesson he’s learned during the pandemic is to adapt programs as new data comes in.

One of his cabinet colleagues, Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos, told a midday press conference on Parliament Hill that Morneau would have an announcement in the “near future” on the federal wage-subsidy program based on input from business and labour groups.

The program has paid out $10.5 billion in aid to almost 210,000 companies as of June 8, but that’s at a pace below what the Liberals expected when they first proposed the program. Its budget has been revised down from $73 billion to $45 billion, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged companies anew on Monday to apply for the aid if they hadn’t already.

Duclos disagreed the numbers for the program were disappointing. He suggested numbers would go up now that there is more certainty about reopening plans and when employers can rehire furloughed workers.

“It was an understandable lack of speed initially when that was introduced. Now, that is clearing up,” Duclos said. ”Businesses are understanding better how the system works and businesses have a better ability to see the way forward, economically speaking.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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