As the US has seemed to get a grip on its Covid-19 crisis, Canadians have been angered by a chaotic government response that has allowed a third wave to take hold and led to a delayed vaccine rollout.
It is a contrast driven home by the fact that Canada’s case count, when adjusted for population, now exceeds that of the US for the first time since the pandemic began.
“It’s such a reversal of how we felt as Canadians for the last four years of Donald Trump,” said David Coletto, chief executive of Abacus Data, a polling firm. “It’s a bizarro world for us to now look down south and say: ‘What do you mean they’re doing better than us?’”
The federal Liberals have set an ambitious new target for Canada to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions as part of a sweeping set of big-ticket budget measures aimed at fighting climate change while giving Canada’s pandemic-hit economy a green lift.
In her budget speech, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada’s new goal is to reduce emissions by 36 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, up from the 30 percent reduction target first set by the previous Conservative government.
But with U.S. President Joe Biden set to host a virtual climate summit of 40 world leaders later this week, where some believe he may announce a reduction target of 50 percent, it’s not clear Canada’s upgraded plan will be ambitious enough.
Canada’s finance minister Chrystia Freeland delivered the Liberal government’s first budget since 2019, vowing to “punch our way out of the Covid recession” with C$101bn (US$81bn) in spending over three years.
“This budget is about finishing the fight against Covid,” she said during her budget speech, which she delivered to a nearly empty parliament with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seated nearby. “Our country cannot prosper if we leave hundreds of thousands behind.”
In drafting the budget, Freeland said the government drew motivation from mistakes some countries made in the wake of the 2008-09 recession, which showed “the cost of allowing economic hardship to fester”.
Canada’s vaccine rollout got off to a disappointing start, with country after country surpassing Canada in the per capita number of doses that have been administered, despite what seemed like a head start for us.
I first created this bar chart race back in late February. Starting at the beginning of April Canada kicked its vaccine rollout into higher gear. Not top gear, mind you, but we’re no longer the laggard we were.
The chart shows the number of vaccinations administered for every 100 people across a wide array of countries. The figures come from the indispensable Our World In Data project.
More updates will follow as the rollout continues.
While the Reddit-fuelled stock-market frenzy of recent weeks draws scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers, the managers of Canada’s largest pension fund are also watching closely to see what the so-called “meme stock” craze says about governments’ ability to support the economy through pandemic shocks without overheating it.
“Policymakers have been able to intervene with real significant force without having excessive negative impacts on economies,” said Geoffrey Rubin, the chief investment strategist at the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, in an interview with The Logic.
“But I also believe when we see issues like this crop up, these are the kinds of risks that can accompany the kind of significant policy intervention that we’re seeing.”
Even before COVID-19 touched off a global rethink of life in the big city, Raheema Brettingham’s husband, Larry, often mused about selling their home in Toronto’s west end and moving to Vancouver Island. As the lockdown measures tightened and the couple saw their world reduced to strolls around the neighbourhood, he began to press the idea more intently. Even so, the 59-year-old self-described “city girl” felt she wasn’t ready to leave Toronto. “I used to love hopping on the subway to go downtown and meet friends,” she says. “So, every time he talked to me about it, I said, ‘No, no, no.’”
Then in June, Larry, 67, sat down to pen an email to his wife detailing his case for ditching Hogtown. It wasn’t just that pandemic restrictions had robbed them of the urban lifestyle they both enjoyed, he wrote. COVID-19 offered a unique financial reset for the couple. In 2019, both were suddenly laid off within a month of each other – Larry from his job as a software engineer and Raheema from her position at a financial advisory firm – and the pandemic brought their job searches to a halt. While they could get by staying in Toronto, it might entail working for another decade or more. But if they sold and moved to Comox, B.C., where his sister lived, they could easily erase their $400,000 mortgage and have enough to retire right away and, once the pandemic ends, travel the world.
Shortly after reading Larry’s email, Raheema decided to take the leap and, within a month, their detached house was on the market. Purchased for $845,000 in 2011, it quickly sold for a little more than $1.8 million. Meanwhile they were able to snap up a more spacious house just minutes from the ocean for $785,000 in the town of Comox, population 15,000. “I was apprehensive at first, but we’re already settled, and I love this house,” says Raheema, who joined a local newcomers group that is full of other eastern city expats. “I never thought I could enjoy nature the way I do here, and the city is not shut down like Toronto. We made the perfect decision at the perfect time.”
In his Christmas Eve video message, Rod Phillips, finance minister of Canada’s largest province, sat next to a crackling fireplace and commiserated with the people of Ontario that they could not “be in person with as many family and friends as we’d like to”.
In reality Mr Phillips was on vacation at a luxury resort on the Caribbean island of St Barts. Despite rushing back after his trip was exposed, he resigned on New Year’s Eve. The daily tally of politicians and government officials who have flouted stay-at-home recommendations to travel abroad over the holidays has sparked outrage in a country that places a premium on following rules and has a low tolerance for hypocrisy in public life.
When it came time to compile this year’s collection of charts to watch, our seventh annual year-end chartstravaganza, it was obvious the elephant in the room would be 0.125 microns in size. COVID-19 has left its mark on every facet of our lives and by extension, the economy. The disruption to how we live, work and interact with each other caught the entire world off guard. As one economist remarked when approached for a chart this year, “perhaps an epidemiologist would have more insight into 2021 than an economist.”
Still, the struggle to make sense of this pandemic economy and its many contradictions continues. Against this backdrop we reached out to scores of economists, business leaders, investors and analysts and asked each to chose a chart that will be important to Canada’s economy in 2021 and beyond, and to explain why in their own words.
The coronavirus crisis has forced countries around the world to dig deep to save their economies. But when it comes to pandemic spending, Canada is in a league of its own. Ottawa is on track for a $343-billion deficit this year. Compared to 2019, the country is expected to see its fiscal outlook worsen more than any G20 nation, with a change in its deficit equal to 19.6 pe cent of gross domestic product, according to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) most recent fiscal monitor.
While budgetary hawks have expressed deep concern with the federal government’s refusal to commit to a timeline for balancing its books, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended the massive volley of spending by arguing the economy would be worse without it.