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Trudeau Pivots From Scandal With Rebuild of Canadian Economy

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OTTAWA—Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laid out his plans to rebuild the country’s economy, in an effort to address damage done by the coronavirus pandemic and turn the page on a scandal over the awarding of a contract.

His Liberal government outlined the broad strokes of its near-term agenda in a ceremonial speech to Parliament. The plans include a renewed focus on social policy, with an emphasis on increasing child-care spaces and improving care for the elderly. The government pledged to maintain financial support for the hardest-hit industries, target spending to foster growth in the clean-technology sector and work toward helping the economy add another one million jobs to reach pre-pandemic levels.

Advanced economies such as Canada “are realizing that things should not go back to business as usual. Covid-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities in our societies,” according to a copy of the speech, which was read by Canada’s vice regal. The government said its agenda would address gaps in its social system, invest in health care and create jobs. “This is not the time for austerity,” it said.

These initiatives, telegraphed by Mr. Trudeau and officials before Wednesday’s unveiling, have stirred worries among debt-rating agencies, economists and former officials about the price tag and whether it will harm the country’s fiscal profile. One firm, Fitch Ratings, stripped Canada of its triple-A rating this year.

“One of Canada’s strengths was that there was always a focus on debt sustainability,” said William Foster, vice president and lead Canada analyst at Moody’s Investors Service. “A shift away from that is not credit positive,” he said. The firm maintains a triple-A rating for the economy.

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