Highlights of the federal government’s fiscal update


OTTAWA — Key elements from the federal government’s fiscal update, delivered by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland Monday afternoon:

The pandemic response from Ottawa. The total cost of the federal response to COVID-19 amounts to $490.7 billion, or nearly 83 per cent of federal and provincial aid. That means $8 out of every $10 in support comes from Ottawa, down from $9 out of every $10 from the July fiscal snapshot.

The “Netflix tax.” For the first time, Netflix and other foreign streaming giants such as Amazon and Apple TV+ will be subject to sales tax in Canada, according to the fiscal update. The government says GST/HST will apply to all companies that provide digital services — which means Netflix would charge sales tax on subscriptions north of the border. While the European Union moved to tax digital platforms two years ago, Canada says it is prepared to act “unilaterally, if necessary.”

Work-from-home tax break. Employees working from home with “modest expenses” in 2020 can claim up to $400, based on time spent at the dining-room desk. Canadians can make the claim “without the need to track detailed expenses,” and the tax man “will generally not request” confirmation from employers, according to the fall economic statement.

Increasing fiscal-stabilization payments. Responding to a call from provinces whose finances have taken beatings, the Liberals say they’ll increase the maximum payment under a program designed to help provincial governments deal with temporary economic shocks. The cap will go from $60 per resident, set in 1987, to $170 per person and increase with economic growth.

Support the troops. The government is also proposing to sign off on an additional $600,000 to top up the Veterans Emergency Fund that would ensure more financial support for veterans whose well-being is at risk “due to an urgent and unexpected situation.”