Post-COVID-19 Canada: What the federal budget tells us about the end of the pandemic

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As the Liberal government unveiled its proposals for the coming years of federal spending in its first budget in over two years Monday, it also started to paint a rough outline of what Canada might look like after the COVID-19 pandemic that shattered lives and shuttered businesses finally ends.

From childcare aimed at paving the way for women to re-enter the workforce to a new hiring program that would help foot the bill of giving Canadians new jobs, the budget offered small glimpses into the government’s vision of a post-COVID Canada – and a timeline for when that might come to pass.

“This budget is about finishing the fight against COVID,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said, speaking Monday in the House of Commons.

“It’s about healing the economic wounds left by the COVID recession. And it’s about creating more jobs and prosperity for Canadians in the days and decades to come.”

But as variants emerge and race against the country’s vaccination efforts, the reality of the weeks and months to come remain foggy. Global News combed through the budget to figure out clues help to shine some light on the government’s vision for the pathway out of the pandemic.

When will Canada reopen?

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly reiterated that all Canadians will be able to get vaccinated by the end of September, public health officials and politicians alike have been hesitant to provide any firm timeline with respect to a reopening.

But the budget provided some hints about which reopening dates the government is putting its money on. The budget says the government expects Canada’s economy will “fully” reopen over the summer.

The whisper of a tangible timeline was unveiled as the feds announced theirs for scaling back emergency COVID-19 benefits, including Canada Response Benefit (CRB) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

The CRB will remain in place until September, the budget said — but it will be “stepping down to $300 a week after July 17 as our economy fully reopens over the summer.”

The summertime reopening date was reiterated as the budget laid out timelines for scaling down other emergency benefits.

“Budget 2021 proposes to extend the wage subsidy until September 25, 2021. It also proposes to gradually decrease the subsidy rate, beginning July 4, 2021, in order to ensure an orderly phase-out of the program as vaccinations are completed and the economy reopens,” the budget read.