Federal finance minister touts budget's COVID relief, housing plans

·2 min read
“We have really significant investments in people, in businesses, especially in small businesses, in tourism,” said federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland about the latest budget. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
“We have really significant investments in people, in businesses, especially in small businesses, in tourism,” said federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland about the latest budget. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said she believes her budget, which was tabled yesterday, will be "extremely positive" for New Brunswick.

The budget is the first tabled by the Liberal government in two years.

The Liberals did not introduce a budget last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Freeland said this budget is about helping Canada recover from the pandemic.

"We have really significant investments in people, in businesses, especially in small businesses, in tourism," said Freeland.

"We know how hard it's been to get through COVID. This budget is about the whole country, it's about New Brunswick coming roaring back from that."

But it does include some stimulus spending that may not be welcomed by New Brunswick's premier.

Wage supports

Looser qualifying terms for Employment Insurance introduced after the CERB program ended will be extended.

But Premier Blaine Higgs has said the EI program has made it difficult for some employers to find workers.

"We're bringing more temporary foreign workers in and our own people are going home, going on EI, because they qualify," Higgs told CBC News in March.

"This has been a problem. We have to find a way through this. This is an ongoing issue for companies that can't get workers to work.

Premier Blaine Higgs complained that qualifying for EI was too easy and it was having a negative effect on the work force in New Brunswick.
Premier Blaine Higgs complained that qualifying for EI was too easy and it was having a negative effect on the work force in New Brunswick.(Ed Hunter/CBC )

"I have a lot of respect for the premier … sometimes we have to agree to disagree," said Freeland.

She said she expects job numbers to look much better in the summer, but maintains supports are still needed.

"With COVID, there are a lot of people who want to work who were working before COVID, who just can't find a job," said Freeland.

"Across the country, we are 460,000 jobs short of the employment levels we had before COVID and I just don't think it's fair to leave those people out on the street."

Housing

The budget also has features aimed at affordable housing.

The province has seen a real estate boom since the start of the pandemic.

But this has raised concerns about the affordability of housing.

A boom in real estate, with housing like these garden homes in Saint John being snapped up before they're even completed, affordable housing concerns are growing. The federal budget offers $2.2 billion in a nationwide effort to help.
A boom in real estate, with housing like these garden homes in Saint John being snapped up before they're even completed, affordable housing concerns are growing. The federal budget offers $2.2 billion in a nationwide effort to help.(Robert Jones/CBC)

Freeland plans a national tax on vacant, foreign owned homes.

"The idea there is that homes are for Canadian families to live in," said Freeland.

"They shouldn't be a vehicle for offshore money. So I think that's going to be one measure that's going to help make homes affordable."

Freeland also said the budget plans for $2.2 billion nationwide to fund new housing construction.