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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, on March 9, 2021.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau says a federal budget is “coming soon” as his government faced criticism Tuesday for allowing the longest gap between federal budgets in Canadian history.

The Prime Minister was asked at a news conference to respond to a Globe and Mail report that Ottawa has ruled out releasing a budget in March or early April. Since 2015, the Trudeau government has released three budgets in March and one in February. Next Friday will mark two years since the government last tabled a budget.

“We will be announcing the date of the upcoming budget in due course. But I can tell you that we are focused very much on getting us through this global pandemic that has been the challenge that we face for a full year now,” he said. “We are working on the budget. It will be coming soon.”

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In the House of Commons Tuesday, the Conservatives used an opposition day to trigger a day-long debate on budget priorities. The motion from Conservative finance critic Ed Fast calls on the government to ensure the next budget includes specific measures to help workers in highly affected sectors such as hospitality, tourism and charitable organizations. It also calls for repayable loans to airlines in exchange for consumer refunds and restrictions on executive compensation, among other measures.

“It is utterly irresponsible for this Liberal government to go two full years without tabling a budget for Canadians to see,” Mr. Fast said Tuesday during Question Period. “That’s the longest period in Canadian history without an economic plan. Without a plan, we can’t reopen our economy, can’t get Canadians back to work or help the hardest-hit businesses.”

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the Conservative motion calls on the government to do what it is already doing. She also criticized the Conservatives for simultaneously criticizing and supporting emergency pandemic spending.

Researchers at the Library of Parliament analyzed the number of days between each budget since 1867. As of March 9, 2021, it has been 721 days since the last federal budget was tabled on March 19, 2019. Prior to this, the longest period between two budgets was 651 days, between Feb. 28, 2000, and Dec. 10, 2001.

Bloc Québécois MP Xavier Barsalou-Duval said the Liberal government’s decision to go two years without a budget demonstrates a lack of accountability.

“Canada is the only country in the G7 that hasn’t tabled a budget,” he said in the House of Commons, in reference to 2020. “The Liberals seem to have forgotten that they lead a minority government. ... We can only imagine what they would do if they had a majority. It would be unbelievable.”

The NDP said the Conservative motion’s recommendations are similar to NDP demands for the government to support the hardest-hit sectors and said there’s no reason for the Liberals to delay action.

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“I call on the government to get support to those organizations while it is dragging its feet on getting a budget out the door,” NDP MP Gord Johns said.

Meanwhile, a Parliamentary committee heard Tuesday from deputy finance minister Michael Sabia, who was brought in to the government last year to help craft Ottawa’s postpandemic recovery plan, which will be outlined in the 2021 budget. The former head of Quebec’s pension plan said encouraging companies to further digitize must be a national priority.

“Because that’s where the jobs and Canada’s economic growth will come from in the years ahead,” he said. “And it’s an area where, if I can speak personally, I’m particularly interested in in terms of finding the new locomotives of growth for our national economy. This one is hugely important.”

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