Newly leaked Cabinet documents show that Ottawa produced an internal estimate in February of the GDP impact of nationwide lockdowns, figures that Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland did not provide when told. asked during a committee hearing in June on the government’s use of the Emergencies Act.
Minutes of a cabinet-level meeting attended by Ms Freeland, which took place the day before the government invoked the law, show that ministers were told that the blockades were causing economic losses of 0.1 to 0.2% of GDP per week.
Canada’s GDP is around $2.6 trillion, which means that the estimate showed that the Canadian economy was losing between $2.6 and $5.2 billion per week. The source of this economic estimate is unclear due to the magnitude of the cuts.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet invoked the law on February 14 for the first time in Canadian history as a way to resolve several highly disruptive lockdowns by people who primarily opposed COVID-related restrictions.
A set of highly redacted cabinet-level documents were made public this week in Federal Court as part of a legal challenge seeking judicial review of the government’s use of the law. The documents included the revelation that the prime minister’s national security adviser, Jody Thomas, told the full cabinet on the evening of February 13 that there was potential for a breakthrough with protesters who had blocked the streets of the downtown Ottawa for weeks.
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A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said this week that the decisive comment referred to talks that took place at that time between protesters and the City of Ottawa. However, the federal government concluded that these talks would not succeed.
Invoking the Emergencies Act triggers the legal obligation for a special joint committee of MPs and senators to hold hearings and consider whether the government’s decision to use the special powers was appropriate.
In May, the committee heard from two senior Finance Canada officials – Assistant Deputy Minister Isabelle Jacques and Director General Julien Brazeau. In response to questions from MPs, they both said the ministry may have produced an analysis of the economic impact of the blockades, but neither was sure or had seen this information.
“I did not receive at that time, certainly any figures on this,” Ms Jacques told the committee.
Tory MP Glen Motz then followed the minister directly at a committee meeting on June 14 with a series of questions about the economic assessments produced, if any.
Ms Freeland responded by discussing the concerns expressed by business leaders at the time, but did not provide any national GDP impact figures.
She made an opening statement to the committee that included Statistics Canada estimates of the day-to-day business effects of the blockages caused in Alberta, Manitoba and the Ambassador Bridge in Ontario.
“I personally had many conversations and read many reports that made me very concerned about the economic consequences of the illegal blockades and the occupation,” she replied to Mr. Motz. “I have spoken directly with Canadian business leaders, who have told me that they are hearing investors say their confidence in Canada as an investment destination has been shaken.
Later in the hearing, NDP MP Matthew Green echoed the same question: “I need to know if the government had, within their department – within your department, your department – facts that meant that the economic impacts of the occupation were significant. enough,” he said. “I’m going to ask you the question directly: what were the economic impacts of the occupation, and were they significant enough to meet the national security threat threshold, under section 2 of the CSIS Act? ?
When Ms Freeland again responded with general comments about the economic impact, Mr Green said, “Can you quantify it?”
“I’ve had many conversations with Canadian business leaders,” she replied.
“It’s not enough,” replied Mr. Green.
In an interview Friday, Mr. Green said the failure to release the figures sooner is part of a pattern of Liberal government stonewalling.
“In fact, I think it’s outrageous that these numbers have been around all the time,” he said.
Conservative MP and emergency preparedness critic Dane Lloyd said in a statement that the government had not been entirely honest with Canadians about its decision to invoke the law.
“It is concerning that the Liberal government has not been candid with Canadians about the existing economic impact,” he said. “It is clear that the Liberal government was more interested in dividing, cornering, stigmatizing and insulting Canadians, rather than seeking a solution using existing powers and practices.
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