Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland resends to a question after delivering the 2020 fiscal update in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Finance note says lifting lockdowns, restrictions no sure road to economic recovery

Finance note says lifting lockdowns, restrictions no sure road to economic recovery

OTTAWA — Officials believed in late summer that an economic recovery would not magically happen if lockdowns and public health restrictions disappeared, a newly obtained federal document shows.

The internal briefing note says a key to recovery is the level of trust people have in their government’s ability to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to obtain the Finance Department briefing note, prepared in early September.

While restrictions and lockdowns are common ways to reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus, the note also lays out other options, including increased testing and contact-tracing.

It says countries that have managed to reduce transmission of the virus to very low levels have seen more people visit retailers, use transit and head to workplaces.

Countries that haven’t kept COVID-19 under control, including where restrictions have been loose or non-existent, “have had a much more uneven recovery.”

“Lifting restrictions is not sufficient for a full economic recovery,” the briefing note reads, adding that “evidence has shown that to unleash demand, it is critical that individuals also feel safe and confident in the ability of their government to contain the virus.”

The words in the briefing document echo much of what the government heard over the fall, and more recently after the Liberals pledged to spend up to $100 billion if necessary on an economic recovery plan.

“Restoring public confidence in the economy requires systematic, widespread and rapid testing and contact tracing – something we have been calling for since the spring,” said Robert Asselin, senior vice-president for policy at the Business Council of Canada.

“Nine months into this crisis, it is still not in place in most of the country. The patchwork approach to testing and tracing has been inefficient and very costly from both a health and economic standpoint.”

Nearing the end of the year, Canada had recouped just over four-fifths of the three million jobs lost in the spring, and real gross domestic product was about four per cent below pre-pandemic levels after posting a historic decline in the second quarter.

Aiding in that rebound were low levels of COVID-19 transmission, which suggests “Canada has managed to balance both the health and economic risks related to the pandemic relatively well,” the briefing note says.

“Nevertheless, the experience of other countries that have witnessed resurgent or second waves of infection suggest that health risks will remain a threat as we move into the fall and further along the economic recovery path.”

Canada’s economy ticked along even as case numbers grew, providing what experts say is an inkling of hope for 2021 despite the imposition of fresh restrictions in parts of the country.

The restrictions have hit some sectors harder than others. The briefing note foreshadowed how provinces and municipalities may have to more readily close or limit hours for some businesses, such as restaurants and bars, “and will need to be equipped to rapidly identify and trace outbreaks.”

The briefing note also says efficient contact-tracing “goes hand-in-hand” with testing to reduce transmission. By the time the briefing note was written, testing had hit about 48,000 per day in Canada, or abut 0.13 per cent of the population, as of the end of August.

“Evidence varies on the appropriate level of testing, but increased capacity and more rapidly available testing would be an important asset to the economic recovery in the fall,” officials wrote.

Trevin Stratton, chief economist at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said the country needs to start using more rapid tests to get ahead of COVID-19 while officials work to roll out vaccines.

“By knowing who has been recently exposed to the virus, in many cases even when people are infected but asymptomatic, we can contain its spread through accurately targeted responses,” he said.

“This approach will limit the need for blanket response measures like lockdowns, which cause serious collateral damage.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2020.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

economy

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
Not all long-term care workers have received their vaccines including a Red Deer facility

There continues to be confusion in long-term care and supportive living facilities… Continue reading

Cattle graze winter pasture in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies near Longview, Alta. on Jan. 8, 2004. Concern over the provincial government’s decision to drop a coal policy that has protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies for decades is growing among area communities. At least six cities, towns and municipal districts in southwest Alberta have now expressed concern about the decision and the fact it was made with no consultation. The latest is Longview, where mayor Kathie Wight is drafting a letter to the government opposing the move. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
More southern Alberta communities voice concern over province’s plans to expand coal

Concern over the Alberta government’s decision to drop a coal policy that… Continue reading

Some residents say there is no longer an effective Nordegg fire department to respond to emergencies in the West Country. (Contributed photo).
Some Nordegg residents worry about lack of emergency response in the West Country

The possibility of wildfires or accidents is ‘scary’ says former fire leader

(Advocate file photo).
Six idling vehicles stolen in last 48 hours: Red Deer RCMP

Red Deer RCMP said Wednesday six idling vehicles in the city were… Continue reading

Bucs fans set to cheer inside, outside Super Bowl stadium

Bucs fans set to cheer inside, outside Super Bowl stadium

Hamilton Tiger Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli tries to fend off Saskatchewan Roughrider Zack Evans during first half CFL football game action in Hamilton on Thursday, June 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli signs extension with Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli signs extension with Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Ottawa Senators defenceman Thomas Chabot (72) tries to clear Vancouver Canucks centre Jay Beagle (83) from in front of Senators goaltender Marcus Hogberg (1) during second period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, January 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Demko dynamite as Vancouver Canucks beat Ottawa Senators 5-1

Demko dynamite as Vancouver Canucks beat Ottawa Senators 5-1

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) knocks a rebound away from Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Lowry reaches 10,000-point plateau as a Raptor in 115-108 loss to Milwaukee

Lowry reaches 10,000-point plateau as a Raptor in 115-108 loss to Milwaukee

Dallas Stars right wing Alexander Radulov (47) and defenseman John Klingberg (3) celebrates a goal by Joe Pavelski against the Nashville Predators during the third period an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021 in Dallas. (AP Photo/ Richard W. Rodriguez)
‘Sloppy’ hockey is the name of the game early in NHL season

‘Sloppy’ hockey is the name of the game early in NHL season

Ottawa Senators head coach D.J. Smith instructs his team in the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on February 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, David Zalubowski
With less practice time, NHL morning skates making a comeback in 2021

With less practice time, NHL morning skates making a comeback in 2021

Advocates for the homeless hold a protest against the COVID-19 curfew Monday, January 11, 2021 in Montreal. The Quebec government says it will not challenge a temporary court order granted Tuesday that exempts the homeless from a provincewide curfew imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Quebec exempts homeless from ‘cruel’ curfew after court rules order endangered safety

Quebec exempts homeless from ‘cruel’ curfew after court rules order endangered safety

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro addresses a news conference in Calgary on May 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Health minister says Alberta won’t follow Manitoba’s stricter COVID-19 travel rules

Health minister says Alberta won’t follow Manitoba’s stricter COVID-19 travel rules

Most Read