OTTAWA – Addressing the social and economic inequalities that left racialized women, youth and Canadians facing the greatest economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is a top priority for recovery, said Minister of Finance Bill Morneau.
Mr. Morneau presented a “portrait” of federal finances on Wednesday for the first time since the pandemic hit a large part of the Canadian economy.
He argued that the government is well aware that certain groups of the population are suffering more than others.
“This crisis has exposed and amplified many inequalities in Canada,” said Mr. Morneau.
In many cases, the same people have also been more affected by the virus itself, in part because women, recent immigrants, racialized Canadians and Aboriginal people are more likely to be employed in jobs where the contagion is a risk, like in healthcare, retail and warehouse work.
Documents take care to note that although racialized Canadians are more likely to work in economic sectors hard hit by the virus – including healthcare, accommodation and food services – little data has been collected to really understand the impact on visible minorities and other marginalized communities.
For example, there is no racial breakdown of those who applied for the Canadian emergency benefit.
In addition, few data were collected on the ethnicity of COVID-19 cases. A recent Ottawa Public Health report found that two-thirds of the cases in the past six weeks confirmed on its territory were racialized Canadians or recent immigrants, but this report was limited in scope and for one city.
The economic portrait notes that women, youth, the working poor, racialized Canadians, Aboriginal people and recent immigrants have all experienced higher rates of job loss or shorter hours, and do not see little, if any, positive effect from the economic recovery.
Male-dominated sectors, such as construction and manufacturing, have recovered more quickly than the service, tourism and accommodation industries, where women and immigrants tend to be employed more proportion.
New Canadians in particular have so far been very few back to work, the report said.
Businesses owned by women and racialized Canadians were more likely to report lower orders and fewer customers and an increased need for rent relief.
Women have also been hit hardest by the closure of schools and daycare centers. Those with children under the age of six experienced much larger reductions in hours worked than women without children or older.
“In the future, everything we do must focus on growth, resilience and creating opportunities for those who have been most affected by this crisis,” said Mr. Morneau.
“This pandemic has identified clear gaps and gives us a chance to correct them.”
It is not clear how the minister plans to do this. The government has specified that part of the $ 14 billion in aid offered to the provinces to help them relaunch their economies safely must include investments in childcare services.
“We have been very clear that access to child care will be extremely important for the return to work,” said Mr. Morneau at a press conference. Women have been hit hardest during this pandemic, so our actions must take this challenge into account. ”
But a month after Ottawa put the $ 14 billion on the table, the provinces have not yet accepted Ottawa’s demands for access to this money.
Little information has also been released on how the government intends to try to level the playing field in order to close the gaps that led to inequality during the pandemic.
Morneau said the government is focused on restoring the economy for the time being and that the longer-term stimulus plan is still being developed.
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
Video: Coronavirus: Quebec hardens the tone towards bars (Le Devoir)
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- Heat wave and pandemic: consumption of drinking water explodes
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