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

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Cases have gone up in Northern Health in the past week, as they have all over B.C. (K-J Millar/Black Press Media)
Northern Health reports new highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Nineteen cases were reported to Public Health last Tuesday (Nov. 17)

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

(Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared Thursday.
COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site

14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at this time

A man has been arrested after a Nov. 11 break and enter at the Sandspit Airport, Queen Charlotte RCMP said in a media release on. Nov 17. (Black Press Media files)
Man arrested after Nov. 11 break and enter at local airport

Queen Charlotte RCMP investigate recent spate of break and enters

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

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

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

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,

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

Most Read