A “For Lease” sign hangs in a window as a cyclist walks past a commercial store, Monday August 31, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

A “For Lease” sign hangs in a window as a cyclist walks past a commercial store, Monday August 31, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Liberals’ new aid bill faces calls for changes, and for a pause on business audits

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the package has been designed to be flexible

The Trudeau Liberals’ latest attempt at providing emergency aid for the country’s hard-hit companies and their employees is facing demands for change from businesses and opposition MPs.

The Liberals tabled a bill Monday that would extend the federal wage subsidy and stop a previously planned slide in the value of payments.

The bill also creates a new commercial rent-relief program to provide aid directly to businesses. The Liberals’ last version relied on landlords to apply for help, which they didn’t do in great numbers.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the package has been designed to be flexible enough to help companies facing different realities.

How many businesses need the help and how much of the aid gets spent depends on the path of the pandemic, said Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.

She also spoke about the need to keep aid flowing particularly to those affected by lockdowns. She warned that other jurisdictions have seen stimulus spending wasted by rolling back restrictions too far, too fast and having to impose fresh lockdowns.

“We will be spending more … if it turns out that the second wave is really, really rough, and people need more support,” she said.

“If we get through it, if we do the right thing … and we’re all able to keep working, then we will spend less on these programs.”

The draft legislation has been met with mixed reactions from business groups that have been begging the government for extra aid to help cover costs while their revenues lag.

For others, the concern stems from new restrictions that have limited the number of customers a restaurant can hold, or closures ordered by public health officials to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Conservatives used their time on the House of Commons agenda Tuesday to ask the Liberals for extra flexibility in the federal wage subsidy and commercial rent-relief programs, and for a pause until next June on federal audits of small businesses.

“Can you imagine a small business holding on by a thread and having the tax collector descend on you with an audit? I think it’s horrible. It’s unfair,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said during a morning press conference.

“We’re trying to show that we can improve the response … and I hope the government sees this.”

READ MORE: Canada on track to see 8,000 new COVID cases a day if contacts not cut by 25%

The government’s bill, known as C-9, would revamp the rent-relief program to cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest on a sliding scale based on revenue declines, with an extra 25 per cent available to the hardest-hit firms.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which represents thousands of small and medium-sized companies, sounded a positive note about the legislation but wanted to make sure all firms subject to lockdowns or restrictions would qualify for the extra help.

The association also asked the Liberals to allow companies to apply for rent relief retroactively if their landlords failed to apply in the last few months.

“Rent relief is critical to the survival of many Canadian small businesses, especially with some provinces entering a second lockdown and requiring businesses to close again,” said Laura Jones, the association’s executive vice-president.

Alla Drigola of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the legislation, as written, doesn’t remove arbitrary caps on rent relief that had been a key concern raised with the Liberals as the government revamped the program.

“This punishes businesses that have several locations, especially those in expensive downtown cores,” said Drigola, the chamber’s director of parliamentary affairs and of policy for small and medium enterprises.

She also said that businesses are hopeful the government will up the base wage subsidy from 65 per cent to at least 75 per cent, which is what the Liberals provided during the first wave of the pandemic.

MPs on the House of Commons status of women committee were told in a Tuesday meeting that the wage subsidy should be extended to include hiring in home daycares so female entrepreneurs can return to work.

“Female business owners continue to indicate that child care is their No. 1 issue,” said Penny Wise, president of 3M Canada. “These are some easy, practical and incredibly helpful actions that the government could undertake now.”

The latest federal figures on the wage subsidy show it has paid out almost $45.3 billion in subsidies to 340,210 different companies.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusLiberals

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

School District 27 announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 this week at Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘It was just a matter of time’: SD27 superintendent confirms two COVID-19 cases at LCSS

An entire PE class is self-isolating as Interior Health engages in contact tracing

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 70 new cases overnight

The total number of cases in the region is now at 1,426

A volunteer with the Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association for the past 12 years and its current president, Mike Rispin moved to the lakecity in 1991. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
OUR HOMETOWN: Rispin skates through pandemic at helm of minor hockey

“I never did plan on staying here, but I liked the outdoor activities,” Rispin said.

Members of the Williams Lake Fire Department responded to the Salvation Army in downtown Williams Lake late Wednesday morning (Nov 25). (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Salvation Army closed Wednesday for venting

Williams Lake Fire Department responded

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

The grey region of this chart shows the growth of untraced infection, due to lack of information on potential sources. With added staff and reorganization, the gap is stabilized, Dr. Bonnie Henry says. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 tracing to keep up with surging cases

People now notified of test results by text message

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Dr. Hurst says it’s best to frame the conversation from a place of care, stressing safety precautions.

Most Read