Madam Chair, I am very pleased to be taking part in today's discussion.
As everyone knows, the COVID-19 pandemic has created immense costs for all Canadians and brought about the deepest and fastest recession worldwide since the Great Depression.
In Canada, more than three million Canadians have lost their jobs, and another 2.5 million have had their hours significantly reduced. This represents roughly 30% of the pre-pandemic workforce.
Furthermore, Canada's gross domestic product, or real GDP, dropped by 13% from the first half of 2020. As a result of the pandemic, economic activity in Canada declined about three times as much as in the 2008-09 recession, in a much shorter time.
Our government is committed to doing everything in its power to protect the health of Canadians and the Canadian economy during this extremely serious crisis. So far, we are living up to that commitment.
Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan has proved absolutely fundamental in bringing Canadians and businesses through these COVID-19 shock waves and stabilizing the economy. We delivered job protection through the Canada emergency wage subsidy, liquidity support to businesses through programs like the Canada emergency business account and income support to individuals through the Canada emergency response benefit and other recovery benefits.
Canada undertook what has been among the largest and most quickly implemented fiscal responses in the G7, at over 23% of GDP with budget 2021 investments included. While these fiscal costs have been high, we must bear in mind that these decisions were necessary to ensure the safety and health of all Canadians. Analysis by the International Monetary Fund, the IMF, confirms that in the absence of these direct support measures, Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio would not have been much different from what it is today.
The takeaway from this is clear. A failure to support Canadians and businesses would not only have left Canadians alone when they needed our help the most, but would have resulted in almost as large a debt burden, greater human misery and greater long-term economic scarring. The actions we have taken were effective and appropriate. Our support has helped keep food on the tables of millions of families and has staved off a flood of bankruptcies, kept the businesses we depend on going, and preserved our capacity to make a strong recovery. As the IMF has confirmed, our economic response plan was a cost-effective investment to avert what would have been a catastrophic economic collapse.
As a result, the Canadian economy is positioned for a strong recovery and is already showing signs of strength, with Canada's GDP rising by 10% annualized in the fourth quarter of 2020. Economists have significantly revised their forecasts for recovery upward since the fall economic statement. Following a record decline in real GDP in 2020, it is expected to grow by 5.8% in 2021 and by an additional 4% in 2022. The projected level of real GDP by the end of 2022 is almost 2% higher than projected in the fall economic statement.
In addition, real GDP is expected to return to its pre-pandemic level this fiscal year, about six months earlier than previously expected.
As everyone knows, we originally projected a deficit of up to $381.6 billion for 2020-21. However, thanks to a strong economic recovery aided by the remarkable resilience and ingenuity of Canadians across the country, we have spent less than we provisioned for. We are now estimating a deficit of $354.2 billion for the current fiscal year, significantly below our previous forecast.
The investments in jobs and growth in budget 2021 will help put the deficit on a downward trajectory. As noted in the budget, the debt-to-GDP ratio should fall to 49.2% by 2025-26, and the deficit will be only 1.1% of GDP.
We are seeing these positive results because of the investments we have made toward the recovery of our economy, which will enable us to repay our COVID debt. That is why budget 2021 proposed game-changing investments in housing, early learning and child care, students, small businesses, innovation, public transit, broadband and the transition to a cleaner and greener economy.
These investments will permanently bolster Canada's capacity for economic growth. We know that Canada is a country with tremendous human and natural resources to drive growth, and this budget will fuel that. These are investments in our future and they will pay great dividends.
The current low interest rate environment means that we can make growth-enhancing investments that will continue to raise our GDP growth and strengthen our ability to pay down the COVID debt in the future. These investments are not only an investment in our economy, they are also an investment in the lives and futures of Canadians across the country.
We will continue to focus on Canadians who have been most affected and ensure that our recovery includes specific measures to continue to support them as needed. We will create jobs by investing in the infrastructure that supports our communities and the social and economic well-being of Canadians. We will support clean growth and a more prosperous future for Canadians by investing in world-leading research and innovation.
We will give skilled workers the opportunity to connect with businesses. Furthermore, we will help hard-hit businesses invest in new technologies and hire more workers, so that they can move forward and jump-start Canada's economic recovery, as we get it back up and running.
As I have shown today, these investments are responsible and sustainable. They move Canada forward on the premise that finishing our fight against COVID-19 goes beyond simply defeating the virus. It is about healing the economic wounds left by the COVID recession. It is also about securing Canada's long-term economic growth outlook, and budget 2021 sets us on that path. It sets the stage for our victory over this pandemic and a more prosperous future for all.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today. I now have a question for the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity. I am a proud Franco-Ontarian, and our minority language communities and two official languages are very important to me. They make me who I am.
It is clear to me that our government is committed to celebrating and promoting both official languages and that it recognizes the important role our two official languages play in the lives, traditions and culture of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
We know that education in French plays an essential role in shaping and promoting a bilingual country. Education in French must be available to all Canadians. Recent events have shown that our government must play a leadership role, certainly in my region.
Children in minority language communities everywhere, from Moncton to Victoria, including in my hometown, have participated in programs such as French immersion and the explore program, and these communities can speak to how beneficial these programs are, not only for post-secondary studies and access to the job market, but in many other ways. These programs help make our communities more diverse and contribute to preserving our linguistic history.
Our government also recognizes the value of post-secondary studies in the minority language and the importance of protecting the French language and supporting official language minority communities across the country.
Can the minister tell us why it is important to take these actions to promote Canada's two official languages?
What measures are set out in the budget to achieve that?