Economic impact of COVID-19 second wave on Canada has been deeper than expected: Finance Minister

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks to news media before unveiling her first fiscal update, the Fall Economic Statement 2020, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada November 30, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The economic impact of the second wave of COVID-19 in Canada has been deeper than expected and the government must be agile to ensure it can respond to gaps in supports should any emerge, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday.

Freeland told a Vancouver business group by video conference that the government hopes the supports it has put in place will get businesses and Canadians through to the end of the pandemic, but did not discount additional aid if needed.

“The virulence of the second wave and its economic impact is a little deeper than people thought it would be,” Freeland said.

“I am hopeful that we now have the social safety net ... to get through to the end of COVID. But I believe you have to be flexible,” she said. “If we find that there are some gaps, obviously we will be agile and look to fill those gaps.”

Freeland unveiled a historic C$381.6 billion ($296.6 billion) deficit on Monday, and pledged up to C$100 billion in stimulus spending once the virus is under control. Canada has spent C$322 billion on direct COVID-19 supports so far.

Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Marguerita Choy