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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and now-Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, attend a news conference in Ottawa on March 11, 2020.

Blair Gable/Reuters

While conspiracy theorists spin fears about Justin Trudeau’s role in the Great Reset, his Finance Minister was preparing the Little Reset.

Far from the grand transformative designs that swirled in Mr. Trudeau’s eyes in midsummer, when he spoke about how this pandemic could also be an opportunity to build a new Canada, the mini-budget Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will deliver on Monday is said to be more focused on the near-term.

The spending plans are to be more centred on COVID-19 and pandemic costs. Instead of sweeping rebuilding programs, there are to be signals about what the Liberals think the recovery will require – expanded child care, for example – with details and money to follow later, in a spring budget.

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That’s part of the political reset the Liberals have been working on since September, when Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals realized how off-key their “build back better” summer rhetoric had become with a second wave coming, and started packing most of that stuff back in the box.

Ms. Freeland’s challenge now is to nod to a few of those things but keep that bigger box of Liberal fancies out of the way.

If the Liberals’ big-spending grand-ambition rhetoric set the wrong tone back in September, when the second wave was just arriving, it is really an off-note right now.

Cases are spiking higher, families are being told they cannot gather for holidays and Mr. Trudeau’s government is scrambling to explain why Canadians won’t get the first vaccine as quickly as citizens of some other countries. The Liberals better not talk too much about building the shining Canada of the future.

That’s one reason Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole held a press conference to say the only economic policy that matters is a plan to increase rapid testing for COVID-19 and roll out vaccines quickly. He obviously doesn’t believe that, because he also talked about controlling spending in the next three years and setting out job-creation policies, and has repeatedly called for a budget plan. But he was right when he said the average family right now is more concerned with getting a vaccine than with the GDP.

That makes Mr. Trudeau’s August promise to “reset” – to build back better and to seize a “window of opportunity” to build a greener and more just Canada – something the Liberal government will prefer to forget for now

Conspiracists have been winding up theorists based on the Great Reset initiative proposed by the World Economic Forum, portraying it as a shadowy plan for global elites to seize more power. Some started to mix in Mr. Trudeau’s own call for a “reset” as if it were proof of this plot – as if anyone who used the word was flashing a secret code. Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre passed on some of this witch’s brew on social media.

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But reset ideas are hardly secret, though often more slogan than plan. They were the centre-left’s big summer fad. U.S. president-elect Joe Biden’s campaign platform was called Build Back Better. That was separate from the same as the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset, which was long on buzzwords if not specifics.

Mr. Trudeau spread talk of a reset, but the ideas mostly got scribbled on PMO whiteboards, but not actually built into solid proposals, with some included in vague phrases in September’s Throne Speech. At one point, talk of the government’s $100-billion green recovery plan leaked into the press, but there was never an actual plan, but rather ideas being gathered by a couple of PMO staffers. Maybe they will be revived next spring. Maybe not.

In the meantime, Ms. Freeland, the Deputy PM and new-ish Finance Minister, has signalled in speeches that she sees her task as one that requires sequencing: get through the crisis first, build a recovery second and recalibrate the finances, and the ambitions, later.

So don’t expect Monday’s Fall Economic Statement to launch a full national child-care plan, for example, so much as Ms. Freeland might signal that the government thinks expanded child care is necessary for a recovery from a recession that has hurt women’s incomes, and will move toward it.

Ms. Freeland has a tricky political balance to carry off. The Finance Minister has to give us an idea of how the finances are going to look in future years, after a 2020-21 deficit expected to clock in around $400-billion, while making Canadians feel the government is keeping its eye firmly on the present.

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