Transcript: Reviving the Economy After Covid-19 | Oct 26, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and purple tie.

A caption on screen reads "Reviving the economy after COVID-19. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says YES, THE NUMBERS ARE GOING UP AND YES WE'RE IN THE MIDST OF THE SECOND WAVE OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC IN ONTARIO, AND YES, THE ECONOMY IS STILL IN PRETTY DESPERATE CONDITION. BUT... SOMEDAY, THIS WILL ALL BE BEHIND US. WE'LL HAVE A VACCINE. BUSINESSES WILL RE-OPEN. THE QUESTION THEN BECOMES, HOW DO WE GROW THIS WOUNDED ECONOMY TO CREATE NEW JOBS AND LOWER OUR STRATOSPHERIC DEFICITS? WE HAVE FOUR GUESTS WHO SPEND AN INORDINATE AMOUNT OF TIME THINKING ABOUT JUST THAT. AND SO, WE INTRODUCE THEM, AS IS OUR CUSTOM HERE ON THE AGENDA, FROM FURTHEST AWAY TO CLOSEST TO OUR STUDIO, STARTING... IN VANCOUVER, BC, WITH: JIM STANFORD, HE'S THE ECONOMIST AND DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRE FOR FUTURE WORK...

Jim is in his fifties, clean-shaven, with short, receding white hair. He's wearing a black suit, white shirt and printed beige tie.

Steve continues AND, THREE IN THE NATION'S CAPITAL. IN DOWNTOWN: TREVIN STRATTON, CHIEF ECONOMIST AND VICE PRESIDENT AT THE CANADIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE...

Trevin is in his thirties, with wavy black hair gelled back and a boxed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt and blue tie.

Steve continues IN THE GLEBE: PAMELA CROSS, LAWYER AND TAX PARTNER WITH THE FIRM BLG, THAT'S BORDEN LADNER GERVAIS...

Pamela is in her thirties, with long blond hair. She's wearing glasses and a black blazer.

Steve continues AND IN NEPEAN, ECONOMIST ARMINE YALNIZYAN, ATKINSON FELLOW ON THE FUTURE OF WORKERS...

Armine is in her fifties, with shoulder-length curly gray hair. She's wearing glasses and a black blazer.

Steve continues IT'S GREAT TO HAVE YOU FOUR ON OUR PROGRAM TONIGHT. HERE IS THE PROBLEM THAT WE HAVE INVITED YOU FOUR IN TO FIX. ARE YOU READY? SHELDON, BRING UP THIS GRAPHIC AND LET'S EXPLAIN WHAT'S UP HERE. WE HAVE JUST UNDERTAKEN THE LARGEST ANNUAL DECLINE IN ECONOMIC OUTPUT ON RECORD.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "The Ontario economy tumbles."

Steve reads data from the slate and says
WE'VE LOST 1.2 MILLION JOBS BETWEEN FEBRUARY AND MAY OF 2020. THE ONTARIO BUDGET DEFICIT OF 37.2 BILLION DOLLARS IS WHAT'S PROJECTED FOR THE YEAR 2020-2021. THE ECONOMY IS EXPECTED TO GROW 5.1 percent IN ONTARIO NEXT YEAR, BUT IT FELL 6.8 percent THIS YEAR. OBVIOUSLY A MISMATCH. AND EVEN WITH AN ECONOMIC REBOUND, ONTARIO IS STILL EXPECTED TO BE OFF BY MORE THAN 300,000 JOBS. ALL OF THOSE NUMBERS COURTESY OF A NEW STUDY THAT JUST CAME OUT FROM THE FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE OF ONTARIO, WHICH HAS DONE A LOT OF GOOD WORK LOOKING INTO THE ECONOMIC RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS PANDEMIC. OKAY. WE ARE GOING TO BREAK UP OUR DISCUSSION ESSENTIALLY INTO THREE DIFFERENT PARTS. DO WE NEED SPENDING INCREASES OR SPENDING CUTS GOING FORWARD? WHAT DO WE WANT TO DO ABOUT TAXATION POLICY? AND GIVE ME ANY OTHER BRIGHT IDEAS YOU MIGHT HAVE. SO THOSE ARE ESSENTIALLY THE THREE AREAS OF INVESTIGATION, AND I WANT TO START... JIM, START US OFF ON THIS. LET'S SEE IF WE CAN AGREE ON WHAT THE MISSION OUGHT TO BE HERE. I WOULD ASSUME THAT JOB 1 IS TO GET THE 300,000-PLUS PEOPLE IN ONTARIO WHO LOST THEIR JOBS BACK INTO THE WORK FORCE, AND I ASSUME THAT ALL OF THE POLICY PRESCRIPTIONS I'M GOING TO HEAR FROM YOU FOR ARE GOING TO BE AIMED TO DOING JUST THAT. BUT MAYBE I'M WRONG IN THAT ASSUMPTION. SO YOU TELL ME: WHAT'S JOB 1 IN THIS PANDEMIC?

The caption changes to "Jim Stanford. Centre for Future Work."

Jim says I HATE TO BE PREDICTABLE, STEVE, BUT YOU'RE 100 PERCENT RIGHT. JOB 1 IS GETTING THOSE JOBS BACK, NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. IT'S A HUGE DEFICIT, AND HUGE IS THE ONLY WORD YOU CANUSE. THE INCREASED SPENDING TO FIGHT COVID AND PROTECT SOME OF THE HOUSEHOLDS THROUGH THIS TERRIBLE TIME. THE SOLUTION IS CLEAR. WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO RIDE OUT THIS CATASTROPHE. THE GOVERNMENT IS ABSOLUTELY GOING TO HAVE TO MAINTAIN ITS SPENDING AND PROBABLY INCREASE IT, FRANKLY, AT LEAST IN THE MEDIUM TERM. AND THEN AS THE ECONOMY RE RECONSTRUCTS AND WE PUT PEOPLE BACK TO WORK PAYING TAXES THAN COLLECTING CERB AND SOME OF THE OTHER PROGRAMS PUT IN PLACE. THE KEY TIGHT ROPE THE GOVERNMENT IS WALKING NOW IT CAN'T DERAIL THE JOBS BY OBSESSING ABOUT DEBTS AND DEFICITS.

Steve says TREVIN, POST PANDEMIC, WHAT'S GOING TO BE JOB 1.

The caption changes to "Trevin Stratton. Canadian Chamber of Commerce."
Then, it changes again to "Getting back on track."

Trevin says JOB NUMBER ONE RIGHT NOW IS OBVIOUSLY GETTING THE PANDEMIC UNDER CONTROL AND THAT CERTAINLY NEEDS TO BE THE PRIORITY. THERE WON'T BE AN ECONOMIC RECOVERY UNTIL WE'RE ABLE TO DO THIS. WHEN IT COMES TO THE ECONOMY ITSELF, I AGREE WITH JIM. OUR PRIORITY NEEDS TO BE GETTING CANADIANS BACK TO WORK. CANADIANS CANNOT RETURN TO THEIR NORMAL LIVES UNTIL THEY'RE GAINFULLY EMPLOYED. AND IT'S CLEAR RIGHT NOW WITH THE SECOND WAVE IN CERTAIN PARTS OF THIS COUNTRY THAT WE'RE IN WHAT A LOT OF ECONOMISTS LIKE US ARE CALLING A K-SHAPED RECOVERY WHERE SOME SECTORS, THE ONES THAT ALMOST REQUIRE PHYSICAL PRESENCE FOR THEIR BUSINESS MODELS TO WORK, HAVE SHUT OPERATIONS ONCE AGAIN AND THEY'RE GOING TO BE SOME OF THE HARDEST HIT SECTORS. AT THE SAME TIME THERE ARE OTHER SECTORS OF THE ECONOMY THAT HAVE STARTED TO RECOVERY AND ARE NEAR WHERE THEY WERE PRE-PANDEMIC. DESPITE A LOT OF THE SUPPORT PROVIDED TO CANADIANS AND BUSINESSES DURING THIS TIME PERIOD, AT THE END OF THE DAY IT WON'T BE GOVERNMENTS THAT CREATE JOBS, IT'S BUSINESSES THAT DO. SO THOSE SECTORS AT THE TOP SIDE OF THE "K," WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO PUT IN PLACE THE POLICIES THAT WILL STIMULATE INVESTMENT AND GROWTH FOR THE ECONOMY TO CREATE THOSE JOBS. JUST AS IN EVERY DOWNTURN, IT'S FIRST FELT ON MAIN STREET WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT AND THE ECONOMY STARTS WHEN THE BUSINESSES REOPEN.

Steve says ARMINE, TAKE US TO POST PANDEMIC. WE'VE GOT THE THING UNDER CONTROL. NOW WE HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WHAT'S JOB 1. WHAT DO YOU SAY IT IS?

The caption changes to "Armine Yalnizyan. Atkinson Foundation."

Armine says IT'S SO DIFFICULT TO PUT MY MIND THERE RIGHT NOW, STEVE, BECAUSE WE ARE LOOKING AT AN UNPREDICTABLE AMOUNT OF ECONOMIC DEVASTATION. SOME OF THE BUSINESSES ON MAIN STREET THAT TREVIN WAS TALKING ABOUT WILL NOT SURVIVE, AND THE LONGER THE PANDEMIC GOES ON, THE MORE WILL NOT SURVIVE. AND IN SMALLER TOWNS, THAT'S GOING TO RESHAPE MAIN STREET FAR MORE THAN ANYTHING THAT PUBLIC POLICY CAN DO. SO GETTING PEOPLE BACK INTO JOBS IS NOT AN EASY THING. I THINK IN THE IMMEDIATE INTERIM, I'M NOT SURE THAT THIS IS THE GOVERNMENT TO DO IT, BUT I THINK IN THE INTERIM, GETTING THE WORK DONE THAT WE NEED, WHICH INVOLVES REBUILDING PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE TO BE ABLE TO MAINTAIN PURCHASING POWER AND GET THE STUFF DONE THAT WE NEED DONE, BECAUSE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF COVID IS POPULATION AGING AND A TIGHTENING LABOUR MARKET, NOTWITHSTANDING TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGES. SO I THINK WE NEED TO GET USED TO THE IDEA OF GOVERNMENTS DOING MORE THAN THEY HAVE IN THE LAST 40 YEARS GOING FORWARD, AND A LOT OF GOVERNMENTS HAVE AN ALLERGY TO THINKING THAT WAY.

Steve says NOW, WHEN YOU SAY I'M NOT SURE THIS IS THE GOVERNMENT TO DO THAT, ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT THE ONTARIO OR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT?

Armine says YES, NO, THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT. I THINK WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE ONTARIO... THE ONTARIO ECONOMY, SO I WAS THINKING ABOUT WHAT CAN THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT DO. OF COURSE, THE APPROPRIATE LEVEL OF CARRYING DEBT AND DEFICIT IS AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL, SO I THINK IT'S ENTIRELY APPROPRIATE THAT THE... THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL PROVINCES GETTING TOGETHER AND SAYING THE FEDS HAVE TO DO MORE ON A LOT OF DIFFERENT FRONTS, AND I THINK THAT'S EXACTLY THE RIGHT WAY TO FINANCE THE FUTURE OF THE WORK THAT WE NEED DONE, WHICH WILL BE MORE THROUGH THE PUBLIC SECTOR THAN WE'RE USED TO.

Steve says OKAY.

Armine says IF WE DO IT RIGHT.

Steve says IF WE DO IT RIGHT. PAM CROSS, JOB 1 IS WHAT?

The caption changes to "Pam Cross. Borden Ladner Gervais LLP."

Pamela says I AGREE THAT JOB 1 IS GETTING PEOPLE BACK TO WORK. BUT I THINK THAT WE HAVE TO APPRECIATE THAT WE ARE IN A GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT, AND WE REALLY DO NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT CANADA'S SYSTEMS ARE COMPETITIVE, BECAUSE OUR BORDERS ARE VERY POROUS. THEY'RE POROUS IN TERMS OF CAPITAL INFLOWS AND POROUS IN TERMS OF OUR LABOUR FORCE. AND I THINK THE PANDEMIC HAS ACTUALLY ACCELERATED SOME OF THE CHANGES THAT WERE PROBABLY COMING DOWN THE ROAD IN ANY EVENT, BUT WE REALLY DO NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT THE RESPONSES HERE ENABLE OUR BUSINESSES TO ACTUALLY GROW AND SUCCEED IN A VERY, VERY COMPETITIVE GLOBAL MARKET. AND THAT IS SOMETHING I THINK THAT WILL CHALLENGE ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT AS THEY TRY TO RETREAT FROM SOME OF THE SUPPORTS THAT THEY'VE PUT IN PLACE AND HAVE THAT FILLED BY THE PRIVATE SECTOR. I REALLY DO THINK WE HAVE TO KEEP OUR EYE ON WHAT'S HAPPENING GLOBALLY.

Steve says OKAY. JIM, I'M GOING TO PUT YOU IN THE PREMIER'S OFFICE. LET'S SAY ABOUT A YEAR FROM NOW WHEN PRESUMABLY WE HAVE A VACCINE, PEOPLE ARE TAKING IT, THERE'S MORE CONFIDENCE THAT PEOPLE ARE GOING BACK TO WORK, AND YOU'VE GOT HIS EAR TO GIVE HIM SOME ADVICE ON THE FOLLOWING: "PREMIER, THE DEFICIT IS THROUGH THE ROOF. YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO CUT SPENDING." OR "PREMIER, THE DEFICIT MAY BE THROUGH THE ROOF BUT YOU CAN'T STOP SPENDING." WHAT'S THE ADVICE?

The caption changes to "Jim Stanford, @JimboStanford."

Jim says CERTAINLY A YEAR FROM NOW, EVEN IF WE HAD THE VACCINE TOMORROW, STEVE, MY ADVICE WOULD BE THE SAME. YOU CANNOT STOP SPENDING. THE PRIVATE SECTOR DOES CREATE JOBS, AS TREVIN SAYS. BUT WHERE I DISAGREE WITH TREVIN IS THE IDEA THE GOVERNMENT DOESN'T CREATE JOBS. THAT'S ABSOLUTELY WRONG. THE GOVERNMENT CREATES A LOT OF JOBS. IN FACT THE SHARE OF JOBS IN THE ECONOMY THAT IS GOING TO BE ATTRIBUTED TO PUBLIC SERVICES, PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT, DIRECT PUBLIC SECTOR HIRING IS GOING TO GROW, AND NOT JUST DURING THE PANDEMIC BUT FOR THE NEXT THREE OR FOUR OR FIVE YEARS. EXPERIENCE SHOWS THAT WHEN YOU'VE HAD A SHOCK LIKE THE ONE THAT WE'RE GOING THROUGH, THE PRIVATE SECTOR DOES NOT JUST BOUNCE BACK MAGICALLY. CONSUMER CONFIDENCE IS DAMAGED. INCOMES ARE DAMAGED. BUSINESS INVESTMENT IS DOWN. MANY BUSINESSES AREN'T SURVIVING. AND THIS IS WHERE YOU ABSOLUTELY DO NEED GOVERNMENT TO KEEP THE BALL ROLLING IN TERMS OF THE MACROECONOMIC MOMENTUM THAT CONTRIBUTES TO JOB CREATION AND INCOME GROWTH AND RISING TAX REVENUE. SO I THINK ECONOMISTS AROUND THE WORLD, INCLUDING NOT SURPRISINGLY THE IMF AND THE WORLD BANK LAST WEEKEND AT THEIR ANNUAL MEETING SAID: GOVERNMENTS, DO NOT STOP SPENDING. IN FACT, INCREASE SPENDING. IF YOU GET INFATUATED WITH TRYING TO REDUCE THE DEFICIT, WE'LL TAKE A SHORT TERM SUPPLY SHOCK FROM THE PANDEMIC AND CONVERT IT INTO A YEARS' LONG DEPRESSION. THAT'S THE RISK THAT WE FACE. SO MY ADVICE TODAY AND NEXT YEAR WILL DEFINITELY BE, "PREMIER, YOU HAVE TO INCREASE SPENDING ON CHILD CARE, ON HEALTH CARE, ON SCHOOLS, ON PHYSICAL INFRASTRUCTURE TO GET THE ECONOMY... GIVE IT SOME POSITIVE MOMENTUM ONCE AGAIN."

Steve says ARMINE, I'M GOING TO ASSUME YOU'RE IN THE SAME MEETING WITH THE PREMIER AS JIM IS. AND WHEN THE PREMIER COMES BACK AT YOU AND SAYS, "I'VE GOT A DEFICIT THAT'S ALMOST NEAR 38 BILLION DOLLARS AND I JUST CAN'T KEEP BORROWING THAT MUCH MONEY YEAR AFTER YEAR AFTER YEAR, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO TELL HIM?

The caption changes to "Armine Yalnizyan, @ArmineYalnizyan."

Armine says I'M GOING TO BE SAYING THAT ASKING FOR ASSISTANCE AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL IS APPROPRIATE. LOOK, WE'RE GOING TO BE FACING A TSUNAMI EFFECT BECAUSE OF COVID. BUSINESSES ARE GOING TO SHUTTER. PEOPLE ARE NOT EITHER GOING TO BE ABLE TO PAY THEIR MORTGAGES OR NOT BE ABLE TO PAY THEIR RENT. WE DO NOT WANT THE DEBT TO BALLOON ON THE SHOULDERS OF THOSE LEAST ABLE TO AFFORD IT AND WHO ARE PAYING THE HIGHEST COST FOR THAT DEBT. WE WANT AS FAR AS THE [indiscernible] OF DEBT GOES TO ACTUALLY PUSH THE RISK ON THE SHOULDERS THAT ARE THE BROADEST AND THAT IS GOING TO BE THE FEDERAL LEVEL. SO I THINK GETTING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO BE AN EQUAL PARTNER IN MORE OF THE SPENDING, THE DEFICIT SPENDING IS THE ROUTE TO GO, I THINK THIS IS NOT A GREAT TIME TO RAISE TAXES... IT MIGHT BE THE RIGHT TIME TO CLOSE OFF CERTAIN TAX LOOPHOLES...

Steve says HOLD OFF ON THAT, ARMINE. WE'RE GOING TO GET TO TAXATION IN A MOMENT. YOU AND JIM HAVE HAD YOUR MEETING WITH THE PREMIER, AMONG OTHERS. AS YOU LEAVE THE PREMIER'S OFFICE YOU NOTICE WAITING ANXIOUSLY TO GET IN FOR THEIR TIME ARE TREVIN AND PAMELA. SO YOU ALL LOOK AT EACH OTHER WITH A BIT OF A LEERY GLANCE AND TREVIN AND PAMELA GO INTO THE PREMIER'S OFFICE AND SIT DOWN. TREVIN, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO TELL THE PREMIER OF ONTARIO AND HIS FINANCE MINISTER ON WHAT THEY OUGHT TO DO ON SPENDING NEXT YEAR?

The caption changes to "Trevin Stratton, @TrevinStratton."

Trevin says SO GOVERNMENTS HAVE A VERY IMPORTANT ROLE TO PLAY IN ECONOMIC RECOVERY, BUT PUTTING CANADIANS ON THE GOVERNMENT PAYROLL IS NOT NECESSARILY AN ECONOMIC RECOVERY PLAN IN AND OF ITSELF. AND I THINK A LOT OF THE DEBATE AROUND DEBT AND DEFICITS IS... I MEAN, IT'S ALMOST A FALSE CHOICE. PEOPLE FRAME IT AS EITHER YOU'RE FOR AUSTERITY OR BECAUSE INTEREST RATES ARE LOW, YOU'RE FOR JUST UNLIMITED SPENDING. AND IT ALMOST IGNORES THE REALLY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS, WHICH IS NOT WHETHER WE SHOULD BE SPENDING, I KNOW VERY FEW CALLING FOR AUSTERITY RIGHT NOW, IT IS HOW MUCH CAN AND SHOULD WE BE SPENDING AND WHAT SHOULD WE BE SPENDING IT ON? THESE ARE VERY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS CONSIDERING THE DEFICIT THAT WE'VE RACKED UP SO FAR. THERE IS AN IMF STUDY THAT CAME OUT EARLIER THIS WEEK, AND CANADA HAS THE DISTINCTION OF RUNNING THE LARGEST DEFICIT AMONGST ALL COUNTRIES AT ALMOST 20 percent OF GDP. AND SO THIS IS GOING TO HAVE A HUGE IMPACT ON CANADA AND CANADIANS, AND SO, YOU KNOW, WE HAVE TO THINK ABOUT, WELL, ARE WE SPENDING THE RIGHT AMOUNT, NOT NECESSARILY SPENDING ITSELF IS IMPORTANT, BUT ALSO WHAT WE'RE SPENDING IT ON. THERE WAS A REPORT FROM RBC EARLIER THIS WEEK SAYING IN THE SECOND DEGREE OF THIS YEAR THE AMOUNT THAT WENT TO HOUSEHOLDS SURGED BY A WHOPPING 56 BILLION DOLLARS, VERSUS 23 BILLION DOLLARS THAT WAS A DECLINE IN EARNED WAGES AND SALARIES. AND SO, YOU KNOW, THAT 30-PLUS BILLION DOLLAR DIFFERENCE IS MONEY THAT COULD BE SPENT ON OTHER ASPECTS OF ECONOMIC RECOVERY, WHETHER CHILD CARE OR INFRASTRUCTURE. THESE ARE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS WE NEED TO BE ASKING.

Steve says YOU SAY THAT AND, PAMELA, THE FINANCE MINISTER COMES BACK AT YOU AND SAYS, "OKAY, GIVE ME ADVICE HERE. WHAT DO I DO ABOUT TAXATION? DO I LEAVE THEM THE WAY THEY ARE? DO I CUT THEM? WHICH ONES DO I RAISE OR CUT?" PAMELA, HELP ME UNDERSTAND WHAT WE SHOULD DO.

The caption changes to "Reforming the tax system."

Pamela says WE HAD A TAX SYSTEM OVERHAULED 60 YEARS AGO AND COULD HAVE DONE WITH AN OVERHAUL PRIOR TO THIS. I THINK ONE OF THE THINGS OUR TAX SYSTEM CURRENTLY FACES AS A CHALLENGE IS THE FACT THAT IT IS OVERLY COMPLICATED AND ALTHOUGH I AGREE THAT CERTAINLY THERE'S ALWAYS BEEN TINKERING WITH LOOPHOLES IN THE TAX SYSTEM, I THINK THAT WE ARE FACED WITH A SITUATION WHERE WE VERY QUICKLY NEED TO ADDRESS SOME FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES WITH THE WAY OUR TAX SYSTEM WORKS. AND THE WAY IT TAXES CERTAIN TYPES OF ACTIVITIES IN THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY. FOR EXAMPLE, DIGITAL TAXATION IS SOMETHING WE ARE REALLY LAGGING BEHIND ON, AND AS WE CAN SEE WITH OUR CURRENT REMOTE WORKING, BUSINESSES ARE ADAPTING AND WILL BE MUCH MORE DIGITAL IN THEIR APPROACH TO THEIR OWN BUSINESSES. WE NEED TO MAKE SURE OUR TAX SYSTEM CAN ADAPT TO SOMETHING LIKE THAT. THERE ARE MANY, MANY SITUATIONS WHERE THE TAX SYSTEM IS JUST TOO COMPLICATED. I DO THINK THAT THE TAX SYSTEM HAS TO SIMPLIFY ITSELF AND ALIGN ITSELF WITH NOT JUST TODAY'S ECONOMY BUT THE ECONOMY WE'RE GOING TO FACE AS WE COME OUT OF THIS CHALLENGE. AND I DO THINK THERE'S A LOT OF WORK TO BE DONE TO GET US THERE. THE OTHER SPEAKERS, RIGHTLY SO, HAVE SAID: WE HAVE A LOT OF INVESTMENTS THAT WE HAVE TO MAKE, WHETHER IT'S IN HEALTH CARE OR OTHER IMPORTANT SOCIAL POLICY ISSUES. THOSE ARE FUNDED IN LARGE PART THROUGH THE TAX SYSTEM. AND WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR TAX SYSTEM IS COMPETITIVE AND WILL PRODUCE HIGH PAYING JOBS AND STRONG BUSINESSES AND SUPPORT CAPITAL INVESTMENT SO THAT OUR PRIVATE SECTOR CAN HELP FUND THE CHALLENGES THAT WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO PAY FOR.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says TO WHICH, PAMELA, THE PREMIER WOULD SAY: "OKAY, I KNOW I NEED A COMPETITIVE TAX SYSTEM, BUT GET SPECIFIC WITH ME. WHAT TAXES DO I NEED TO LOWER? WHICH ONES CAN I RAISE?"

Pamela says I THINK I WOULD LOOK AT THIS IN A STAGED APPROACH. IN THE IMMEDIATE SHORTER TERM, THERE ARE A FEW THINGS, THAT ARE SOME LOW HANGING FRUIT THAT REALLY COULD BE LOOKED AT. AND THE VERY FIRST THING I'D SAY WOULDN'T EVEN REQUIRE A LEGISLATIVE AMENDMENT. WE NEED OUR TAX AUTHORITIES TO BE MUCH MORE ATTUNED TO THE NEEDS OF OUR TAXPAYERS, AND WHEN THEY'RE CONDUCTING AUDITS, WHEN THEY'RE ENGAGING WITH TAXPAYERS, THERE'S BEEN A LOT WRITTEN ABOUT HOW OUR TAX AUTHORITY ACTUALLY DEALS WITH TAXPAYERS. THE AUDITOR GENERAL COMMENTED ON THE FACT YOU CAN'T EVEN GET A PHONE CALL ANSWERED. WE NEED TO GET A LOT OF THAT OUT OF THE SYSTEM. AND THEN WE NEED TO BRING IN SOME LOW HANGING FRUIT. WE COULD LOOK AT SOME OF THE SOLUTIONS THAT OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE CONSIDERED ON THE SHORT TERM, THINGS LIKE PROVIDING SOME RELIEF ON CONSUMPTION TAXES TO IMPROVE CONSUMER SPENDING. I DON'T AGREE WE SHOULD BE RAISING TAXES. I THINK THIS IS NOT SOMETHING THAT MOST TAXPAYERS WOULD BE ALIGNED WITH AT THIS POINT IN TIME. BUT I DO THINK THAT THERE ARE SOME AREAS, DIGITAL TAXATION, POTENTIALLY CONSUMPTION TAXES WHERE WE COULD TRY TO GIVE A HOLIDAY ON CONSUMPTION TAXES TO ENCOURAGE CONSUMER SPENDING. THERE ARE SOME SHORT-TERM WINS THAT COULD POTENTIALLY SHORE UP THE ECONOMY IN A DIFFERENT WAY.

Steve says TREVIN, AFTER PAMELA FINISHES HER ANSWER, THE EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT TO THE PREMIER INTERRUPTS THE MEETING BY SAYING, "OH, GUESS WHAT? I'VE GOT JUSTIN TRUDEAU AND CHRYSTIA FREELAND ON HOLD. CAN I PUT THEM ON SPEAKER PHONE AND MAYBE YOU COULD OFFER THEM SOME ADVICE, TREVIN, WHILE WE'RE AT IT. WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THEM TO DO ON TAXATION?

Trevin says IN THE LARGEST ECONOMIC DOWNTURN IN ALMOST A CENTURY, WE USE ALL THE TOOLS AT OUR DISPOSAL AND TAXES ARE AN IMPORTANT TOOL. IN FACT IT'S ALREADY BEEN HELPFUL TO PEOPLE IN TERMS OF SMALL BUSINESSES AND TAX DEFERRALS THAT HAVE ALREADY TAKEN PLACE DURING THE FIRST WAVE OF THE MESSAGE. AND AS OUR ECONOMY CONTINUES TO OPERATE BELOW CAPACITY, THERE ARE A LOT OF SHORT-TERM THINGS WE CAN DO WITH OUR TAX SYSTEM THAT WOULD HELP CANADIANS AND BUSINESSES. WHAT ABOUT AUTOMATED FILING FOR SIMPLE TAX RETURNS, RIGHT? IF YOU ARE A LOW INCOME SINGLE MOTHER WITH TWO CHILDREN, YOU CAN LOSE AS MUCH AS 13,000 dollars IF YOU DON'T FILE A TAX RETURN OR RENEW YOUR ELIGIBILITY FOR THE CANADA CHILD BENEFIT. AND SO THIS IS MONEY THAT'S ALREADY IN THE SYSTEM THAT YOU CAN BE ABLE TO USE, RIGHT? AND HAVE SOME DEDUCTIONS FOR CHILD CARE EXPENSES. AS WAS MENTIONED BY PAM A TEMPORARY HST HOLIDAY THAT HAS BEEN DONE IN SOME EUROPEAN COUNTRIES AS WELL. WE'VE SEEN CHANGES TAKING PLACE IN THE ECONOMY AS WELL THAT WILL REQUIRE CHANGES TO OUR TAX SYSTEM, LIKE INDIVIDUAL CANADIANS WORKING FROM HOME AND THERE'S A FORM, T2200 YOU HAVE TO FILL OUT. IF ALL THE CANADIANS WORKING FROM HOME FILL THIS OUT, IT'S GOING TO BE 20 MILLION DOLLARS PIECES OF PAPER THAT ARE GOING TO HAVE TO BE FILED AT CRA. WHY NOT HAVE THAT A CHECK BOX IN YOUR RETURN ITSELF. THERE ARE OTHER ASPECTS TOO. A LOT OF US AGREE TAXES SHOULDN'T BE GOING UP IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC. THERE IS AN ESCALATOR TAX THAT'S SCHEDULED TO GO UP ON ALCOHOL TOO. THERE ARE THINGS WE CAN DO. ABSOLUTELY OVER THE LONGER TERM, WE HAVEN'T DONE A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW OF OUR TAX SYSTEM IN OVER HALF A CENTURY. A NUMBER OF OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE LIKE THE U.K., LIKE NEW ZEALAND, THAT HAS RESULTED IN ECONOMIC GROWTH IN THEM DOING SO. AND JUST LOOKING AT HOW TO ADJUST THE TAX [indiscernible] TO MAKE OUR ECONOMY MORE ATTRACTIVE AND CREATE JOBS AT THE END OF THE DAY.

Steve says THE PREMIER'S EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT WALKS IN, YOU TWO OUT. I WANT TO HEAR FROM THE OTHER TWO NOW. JIM AND ARMINE WALK BACK IN. THE FINANCE MINISTER AND PRIME MINISTER ARE ON THE SPEAKER PHONE AND THEY ALL ASK: JIM, WHAT DO WE DO ON TAXES? DO WE RAISE THEM? IF WE DO, WHICH ONES?

Jim says I REALLY WANT TO BE AT THIS MEETING, STEVE. I'M LOVING THIS WHOLE SCENARIO...

[LAUGHTER]

Jim continues OF HAVING ALL THE DECISION MAKING IN FRONT OF ME AT THE SAME TIME. THANK YOU. I DON'T DISAGREE, FRANKLY, WITH SOME OF THE THINGS THAT TREVIN AND PAMELA HAVE SUGGESTED. TAX SIMPLE FIX. IT TOOK ME 15 MINUTES TO DO MY INCOME TAXES THERE. IT TAKES ME FIVE HOURS IN CANADA. THERE'S NO REASON WE COULDN'T SIMPLIFY SOME OF THOSE THINGS FOR SURE. FRANKLY I THINK SOME OF THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TAX SYSTEM, BOTH THE LEVEL OF TAX AND THE DESIGN OF IT, IS VASTLY OVERESTIMATED, TYPICALLY BY PEOPLE WHO ARE TRYING TO GET GOVERNMENT TO DO SOMETHING FOR THEM. A VESTED INTEREST OF SOME KIND OF TAX BREAK OR LOOPHOLE IN THE NAME OF COMPETITIVENESS, A RATE REDUCTION, THAT WILL BENEFIT THEM. BUT TO LOOK AT IT FROM THE ECONOMY-WIDE PERSPECTIVE, TAXES ARE NOT OUR PROBLEM. I WOULDN'T BE IN FAVOUR OF INCREASING TAX REVENUE AT THIS POINT. I DO NOT ACCEPT THAT TAXES HAVE TO GO UP EVEN ON THE WEALTHY TO PAY FOR THIS PANDEMIC. THE PANDEMIC CAN PAY FOR IT NOW. THE CRUCIAL CHALLENGE IS SPENDING AGGREGATE DEMAND. THEY HAVE WEAK IMPACTS, PARTICULARLY IN THE SHORT RUN. IT'S LIKE PUSHING ON A STRING TO GIVE SOMEONE A CONSUMPTION TAX HOLIDAY OR SOME OTHER KIND OF TAX BREAK RIGHT NOW WHEN PEOPLE ARE FEARFUL OF WHAT'S GOING AROUND THE CORNER AND THEY'RE GOING TO HANG ONTO THAT MONEY. BY ALL MEANS, LET'S EXPLORE WAYS TO MAKE OUR TAX SYSTEM EFFICIENT AND FAIRER. IF THEY'RE COLLECTING ENOUGH MONEY TO PAY FOR THE SOCIAL PROGRAMS. BUT DON'T THINK SOMEHOW TAXES ARE GOING TO FIX THIS PROBLEM. WE NEED SOMETHING MUCH MORE DIRECT AND POWERFUL
[indiscernible]

Steve says ARMINE, ALMOST IN UNISON, CHRYSTIA FREELAND AND ROD PHILLIPS, THE FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL FINANCE MINISTERS SAY: WHAT TAXES SHOULD I RAISE, ARMINE, IF THE DEFICIT IS TOO BIG AND WE NEED MORE REVENUE, WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

Armine says THIS IS A VERY DIFFERENT QUESTION COMING FROM THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO AND THE PROVINCE OF... AND THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA. AND I WOULD ECHO, OBVIOUSLY, [indiscernible] MY COLLEAGUE JIM STANFORD, THAT TAXES ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. THE PROBLEM IS PURCHASING POWER. AND THERE ARE THINGS THAT WE NEED TO BE DOING AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL THAT DO NOT REQUIRE YOU TO RAISE TAXES. AND I GO TO TREVIN'S POINT, IT'S NOT HOW MUCH WE SPEND BUT WHAT ARE WE SPENDING IT ON? WHAT IS THE RETURN ON THE INVESTMENT FOR THE DOLLARS. INSTEAD OF FOCUSING ON THE DEFICIT OR THE DEBT, WE SHOULD BE FOCUSING ON HOW WE CAN MAXIMIZE POTENTIAL IN GDP GROWTH IN TERMS OF SHORT TERM AND LONG-TERM. SO WE WOULD HOPEFULLY HAVE BOTH LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT LOOKING AT, WHAT ARE WE SPENDING ON? TREVIN MENTIONED EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, EARLY LEARNING AND CHILDHOOD EDUCATION. WE WILL REAP WHAT WE ARE SOWING RIGHT NOW FOR THE COMING DECADES. BY THE WAY, THE POPULATION IS. [indiscernible]. ONE IN FOUR CANADIANS IS OVER THE AGE OF 65. WE HAVE FEWER PEOPLE COMING INTO THE LABOUR MARKET. WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT? ZIP. NOTHING. WE'VE BEEN SEEING THIS SLOW MOVING DEMOGRAPHIC COMING AT US FOR DECADES AND THE SOLUTION IS BRING IN MORE NEWCOMERS AND TEMPORARY FOREIGN WORKERS. WE HAVE TO DO BETTER BY OUR OWN PEOPLE. AS JIM SAID IT'S NOT THE TAXATION SIDE, IT'S THE REVENUE SIDE. AND YOU HAVE MORE PEOPLE CAPABLE OF LEARNING AND EARNING. SO WE ALREADY HAVE A SIGHT LINE ON HOW TO GET THAT HAPPENING. IF YOU SAY THAT IT'S ONLY PRIVATE SECTOR BUSINESSES THAT ARE GOING TO BRING THE JOBS BACK, YOU'RE NOT GOING TO GET THAT PURCHASING POWER IN PLACE IN TIME. SO I WOULD JUST GO BACK TO SAYING... JUST UNDERSCORING: TAXES ARE IMPORTANT. NOT NOW, DEAR. LATER.

Steve says AND, JIM, WHEN THE FEDERAL FINANCE MINISTER COMES BACK AND SAYS, "OKAY, YOU WANT ME TO GIVE AN HST HOLIDAY TO EVERYBODY OR, YOU KNOW, ON SOME THINGS, ON SOME PRODUCTS, OR FOR A PERIOD OF TIME, AND THAT'S GOING TO BALLOON MY DEFICIT EVEN MORE," WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO SAY TO ALLAY HER FEARS?

Jim says OH, I WOULDN'T SUPPORT AN HST HOLIDAY, NOT REMOTELY. I THINK THAT WOULD BE AN ENORMOUS WASTE OF MONEY. I WOULD TAKE THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY AND STRENGTHEN SOME OF THE INVESTMENTS THAT ARE ALREADY BEING MADE. CHILD CARE, FOR EXAMPLE. THERE'S A CONSENSUS NOW THAT CHILD CARE IS AN ECONOMIC NO BRAINER. IT HAS THE IMMEDIATE JOB CREATION EFFECT FROM EXPANDING CHILD CARE CENTRES AND BUILDING THEM. YOU GET THE BENEFIT FOR WOMEN'S LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION. WOMEN HAVE BORNE THE BRUNT OF PARTICULARLY THE DOUBLE BURDEN OF TRYING TO CARE FOR KIDS AT HOME WHILE TRYING TO DO THEIR JOBS AT HOME. THEN YOU GET THE LONG-TERM BENEFITS FROM KIDS WHO GO THROUGH HIGH QUALITY CHILD CARE AND HAVE MORE CAPACITY TO EARN MONEY DOWN THE ROAD. THAT'S THE KIND OF THING I WOULD USE THE RESOURCES TO ROLL OUT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE AND NOT WORRY ABOUT THIS IDEA THAT WE CAN SOMEHOW SNAP THE ECONOMY BACK TO LIFE WITH A BIT OF TAX [indiscernible].

Steve says WE HAVE JUST A FEW MINUTES LEFT. THE PREMIER HAS DECIDED HE WANTS ALL FOUR OF YOU IN HIS OFFICE ALL AT ONCE FOR ONE LAST BRIGHT IDEA. SO WITH A FEW MINUTES LEFT, LET ME GIVE 30, 40 SECONDS TO EACH ONE OF YOU, THE PREMIER SAYS, "GIVE ME ONE OTHER BRIGHT IDEA WE SHOULD DO TO GET THIS ECONOMY GOING AGAIN ONCE WE HAVE THE PANDEMIC UNDER CONTROL." TREVIN, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO TELL HIM?

The caption changes to "Thinking big."

Trevin says I THINK ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS OR ONE OF THE SILVER LININGS OF THIS PANDEMIC IS THAT IT'S GOT A LOT OF CANADIANS WORKING TOGETHER, WHETHER THAT'S BUSINESS, LABOUR, AND GOVERNMENT, WHETHER THAT'S PROVINCIAL AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS, AND IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT THAT WE'RE ABLE TO BUILD ON THAT MOMENTUM, AND I WOULD SAY FOCUSING ON REDUCING INTERPROVINCIAL TRADE BARRIERS IF WE'RE TALKING TO THE PREMIERS AND ALSO TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. THIS IS SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT FOR AGES NOW IN TERMS OF PROJECTIONS IT SEEMS LIKE WE CAN ADD ABOUT 4 percent REAL PER CAPITA GDP IF WE ARE ABLE TO REDUCE OUR INTERPROVINCIAL TRADE BARRIERS. LET'S BUILD ON THAT MOMENTUM OF PROVINCES AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WORKING TOGETHER...

Steve says THE PREMIER IS GOING TO CUT YOU OFF BECAUSE HE WANTS TO MAKE SURE HE HEARS FROM EVERYBODY BEFORE THE NEXT MEETING COMES IN. ARMINE, WHAT BRIGHT IDEA HAVE YOU GOT?

Armine says I THINK THE BIG THING THAT ONTARIO CAN DO WITH THE BACKING OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS ACTUALLY START TO PIVOT TOWARDS A CLEANER, GREENER FUTURE, AND PUTTING OUR INDUSTRIAL BASE TO WORK TO ACTUALLY HELP BECOME A LEADER IN HOW THE WORLD LOOKS AT ENERGY PRODUCTION, UTILIZATION, AND CONSERVATION. AND I THINK ONTARIO SHOULD BE THE POSTER CHILD FOR HOW WE DO THIS PROPERLY AND PROVIDE EXAMPLES FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD. IN ADDITION, OF COURSE, TO EARLY LEARNING AND CHILD CARE AND MAKING SURE THAT WE ARE ADEQUATELY FUNDING REALLY HIGH QUALITY CARE. THE CARING ECONOMY, THE ESSENTIAL ECONOMY. LET'S MAKE SURE WE DON'T DROP THE BALL ON THAT, PREMIER.

Steve says THAT'S TWO BRIGHT IDEAS. OKAY. THE PREMIER BEING THE KIND OF GUY HE IS, I SUSPECT WE'LL LET YOU GET AWAY WITH TWO IDEAS. OKAY, PAM CROSS, LET'S HEAR YOUR BRIGHT IDEA BEYOND WHAT YOU'VE TALKED ABOUT ON TAXATION.

Pamela says I'M ACTUALLY GOING TO BRING FORWARD ONE MORE TAXATION PET PEEVE WHICH I THINK IS SOMETHING THAT WOULD BENEFIT IF THE CHANGE WERE MADE. THERE IS A TAX DISINCENTIVE RIGHT NOW TO PASSING A BUSINESS FROM ONE GENERATION TO THE NEXT. IT IS BETTER TO SELL YOUR BUSINESS TO A THIRD PARTY THAN IT IS TO KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY. THESE RULES HAVE BEEN IN PLACE FOR MANY YEARS. THIS IS NOT AN OPTION WE WANT OUR CANADIAN BUSINESSES TO HAVE. WE WANT THEM TO BE ABLE TO KEEP THE BUSINESSES IN CANADA AND TO GROW THEM HERE. SO I WOULD SAY, WHATEVER WE DO, PLEASE, GET RID OF THOSE RULES TO MAKE IT AN EVEN PLAYING FIELD. KEEP BUSINESSES IN CANADA IN THE FAMILIES THAT GREW THEM.

Steve says JIM STANFORD, YOU GET THE LAST PIECE OF ADVICE.

Jim says I'M GOING TO CHEAT TOO, STEVE. I HAVE ONE BIG BRIGHT IDEA THAT INCLUDES A DOZEN OTHER IDEAS. I THINK FIGHTING THE CORONAVIRUS IS LIKE FIGHTING A WAR, REALLY, AND I THINK THERE'S A STRONG HISTORICAL ANALOGY TO WHAT HAPPENED IN WORLD WAR II AND AFTER WORLD WAR II, AND I'VE ARGUED FOR A POST-COVID MARSHALL PLAN, IF YOU LIKE, A MULTI-YEAR PLAN INVOLVING, AS TREVIN SAYS, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS, THE PRIVATE SECTOR, UNIONS, OTHER STAKEHOLDERS, AND SAY: LOOK, THIS ECONOMY ISN'T GOING TO SNAP BACK. WE HAVE TO PULL IT BACK. WE HAVE TO REBUILD THROUGH A SYSTEMIC INTEGRATED PLAN TO INVEST IN PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE, PRIVATE INVESTMENT, NEW TECHNOLOGY, A GREEN ECONOMY, THE CARING SERVICES THAT ARMINE TALKS ABOUT. AND WE DID THAT AFTER WORLD WAR II AND WE STARTED WITH A DEFICIT... A DEBT OF 150 percent OF GDP AND IT EVAPORATED BECAUSE WE BUILT AN ECONOMY AROUND IT. I'M OPTIMISTIC THAT WE COULD DO THE SAME THING AFTER COVID, AFTER OUR WAR AGAINST COVID, BUT IT TAKES A PLAN AND DETERMINATION TO PICK IT UP.

The caption changes to "Producer: Steve Paikin, @spaikin; Producer: Cara Stern, @carastern."

Steve says I WANT TO THANK YOU FOUR FOR OFFERING SUCH USEFUL ADVICE TO OUR TWO FIRST MINISTERS AND OUR TWO FINANCE MINISTERS AND I SUSPECT RATHER THAN TRY TO SET UP MEETINGS WITH ALL FOUR OF YOU, WE'LL SEND THEM A TAPE AND THEY CAN PLAY IT IN THEIR OWN SWEET TIME. JIM STANFORD, TREVIN STRATTON, PAM CROSS, ARMINE YALNIZYAN, GOOD OF YOU TO JOIN US ON TVO TONIGHT. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

All the guests say THANK YOU.

Watch: Reviving the Economy After Covid-19