Alternative Federal Budget lays out comprehensive plan to protect the public, workers, families and critical services amid COVID-19

March 17, 2020

Experts urge short, medium and long term action to support communities and buffer against impacts of ongoing pandemic 

OTTAWA–Facing highly volatile headwinds due to the combination of COVID-19, plummeting oil prices and the collapse of world financial markets, the Alternative Federal Budget (AFB) released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) lays out a roadmap and fiscal plan to safeguard public health, support essential public services and tackle inequality that puts so many at increased risk. 

“Adopting the measures recommended by the AFB would put Canada in the best position possible to weather the uncertainty ahead, protecting workers, families and critical public services,” says CCPA Senior Economist and Alternative Federal Budget co-ordinator David Macdonald. “Our plan is ambitious, but should be considered only a baseline, as bolder measures will most likely be required in the weeks and months to come.”  

The AFB plan was drafted before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, but many of its proposed actions would easily double as short, medium and long term policy responses to the crisis. AFB2020 would address the immediate needs of workers, shore up the resilience and responsiveness of social programs, and ensure that the needs of vulnerable communities are adequately addressed. 

Recommendations include (see full document for more): 

  • Short term: Make employment insurance (EI) easier to access by reducing the hours requirement; create an emergency EI fund to cover those who are sick but don’t otherwise qualify (e.g., gig workers, the self-employed); boost EI’s payments to all workers, but low income workers in particular.
  • Medium term: Create a new transfer for low-income families of $1,800 per adult and child; boost transfers to low-income seniors; expand the Canada Housing Benefit to support rent payments for low-income Canadians in self-isolation; eliminate interest on student loans.
  • Long term: Boost federal health care transfers to the provinces and territories to ensure social programs are insulated from reductions in GDP growth (otherwise funding will fall in 2020); implement a National Seniors Care Strategy for long-term care, close tax loopholes and strengthen Canada’s fiscal position by taxing extreme wealth and income; establish a $1-billion (over 10 years) National Decarbonization Strategy and a Just Transition transfer to retrain fossil fuel workers and workers in communities currently dependent on oil and gas.

The AFB’s priorities have always addressed both the basics and the big picture. Assistance and support is targeted to workers, families, communities and sectors that need it most, and to a robust public sector with broad programs that improve sustainability and equity on a socially transformative scale. The AFB addresses impacts of low-wage, precarious work while meeting our commitments to the environment, reconciliation and the elimination of poverty. 

“Now is the time to think beyond standard fiscal fixes and bank bailouts. At this time of unprecedented uncertainty globally, the AFB’s prescriptions––to strengthen our society and economy in the short and long term––are the cure,” says Sheila Block, CCPA-Ontario senior economist.

About the Alternative Federal Budget: Now in its 25th year, the AFB is a collaborative effort bringing together leading Canadian economists and sectoral experts to present progressive policy solutions with the means to pay for them.

The CCPA is an independent, non-profit charitable research institute founded in 1980.


The Alternative Federal Budget 2020: New Decade, New Deal is available for download at For more information and interviews, contact: Alyssa O’Dell, CCPA Media and Public Relations Officer, at 343-998-7575 or [email protected].