Canada to spend heavily on coronavirus but 'no blank cheques', finance minister says

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland attends a news conference on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable/File Photo

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will continue spending heavily to combat a coronavirus pandemic but the government’s response is limited and temporary, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday.

Freeland made her remarks to a Toronto economic forum after analysts and opposition politicians questioned the fiscal consequences of spending more than C$200 billion ($151.7 billion) in aid programs and racking up the biggest budget deficit in 75 years.

“There are no blank cheques, and there are no free lunches,” Freeland said in prepared remarks.

“Our fiscally expansive approach to fighting the coronavirus cannot and will not be infinite. It is limited and temporary,” she added, promising more details in a fall fiscal update that she said was due soon.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month said Canada would spend what it took to support Canadians and businesses, noting that interest rates are at record lows.

“For countries that can afford to borrow and spend, now is not the time for half-measures ... the risks of withdrawing support too soon outweigh the dangers of spending too much,” said Freeland.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Lisa Shumaker