With the financial cost of the COVID-19 pandemic at the national and provincial levels continuing to mount, the long-term impacts of fighting the outbreak are starting to come into focus.
Last week, the federal government announced that the national deficit has ballooned to more than $350 billion. The majority of the increase is due to COVID expenses such as the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy programs.
For his part, Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the federal government is spending prudently and in the public interest.
“Some will criticize us on the cost of action,” said Morneau. “But our government knew that the cost of inaction would’ve been far greater.”
Outgoing federal Conservative leader Andrew Sheer counters that the federal Liberals are not up to the job.
“The prime minister’s track record proves that he cannot be trusted to lead Canada through the recovery,” said Sheer. “Coming out of the pandemic, every single country on the planet will be desperately competing for the same opportunities and the same investments. So where is the prime minister’s plan to set us apart?”
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is calling for the introduction of a wealth tax to help cover the costs associated with the battle against COVID.
“Let’s ask the wealthiest to bear the blunt of the pandemic, not the families and working people who are struggling to get by,” said Singh.
The COVID-19 pandemic has already caused widespread suffering for people who have lost their jobs, their businesses, and in many tragic cases the lives of beloved family members and friends.
And of course, in the end, it will be the ordinary taxpayers and private businesses that will be covering the financial costs now piling up in the billions of dollars.
Judging by the reaction to last week’s deficit numbers, COVID-19 has become not only a health and financial crisis, but also a political fight.
The big question today is are Albertans and their fellow Canadians prepared to see COVID-19 become a football to be kicked around by publicly-funded politicians?
Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.