Qualtrough says the feds will spend ‘whatever it takes’ amid COVID-19 pandemic

OTTAWA — Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough says the government is going to spend “whatever it takes” on its COVID-19 measures, despite concerns already emerging from Canada’ budget watchdog about fiscal sustainability.

She made the comment during an interview with CTV Question Period Host Evan Solomon, airing Sunday.

“I think the first priority of our government as you said is to spend whatever it takes to keep Canadians safe, particularly related to COVID,” Qualtrough said.

“We will not be in any way frugal in our efforts to make sure Canadians stay safe.”

Her comments come as Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux warned in his Sept. 29 Economic and Fiscal Outlook that Canada’s spending is teetering dangerously close to becoming unsustainable.

Speaking to Solomon during an interview airing Sunday, Giroux explained that fiscal sustainability is generally defined as debt that “does not go on increasing forever as a percentage of GDP.”

He said that Canada’s current debt to GDP ratio will keep increasing over a five year span, before finally beginning to decrease slightly.

“[This] is putting it on an increasing track and dangerously leaning towards ever increasing debt to GDP ratio, unless there’s an increase in taxes or reduction in other types of spending,” Giroux said.

He also noted that these calculations were made without including any new spending that the government laid out in the throne speech.

“I can’t speculate how much this is going to cost us. We don’t know what’s coming,” Qualtrough said when Solomon asked if a $500-billion or even $800-billion deficit is out of the question.

“We had the fiscal fire power going in and we are being reasonable in our approach to economic support for Canadians in these really unprecedented times. Yes, it’s a massive amount of spending.”

Still, despite repeated pressing, she would not provide any ceiling when it comes to this year’s ballooning deficit — which is currently on track to hit $330 billion.

“I’m not prepared to sit here and give you a number, to be honest that’s not the conversation framing that we have,” Qualtrough said.

“We know we have to be responsible with the way we spend Canadians’ money, but we also are very, very convinced that the way that we’re going to get through this is to support Canadians individually, but also businesses, and take on the debt so Canadian families don’t have to take it on themselves.”

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