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

The annual Make a Difference Sale in Abbotsford is moving online for 2021. (File photo)
Make a Difference Sale in Abbotsford goes virtual for 2021

Annual auction raises money for world hunger through Canadian Foodgrains Bank

The Bug Girl, written by seven-year-old Sophia Spencer, is being given to 500 B.C. classrooms as part of Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month. (Submitted photos)
Reading challenges part of Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month

Abbotsford-based BC Agriculture in the Classroom participates in 10th annual event

Two teens were sent to hospital after being stabbed Saturday evening. (Shane MacKichan photo)
Two teens stabbed in Abbotsford

20-year-old man has been detained

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
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

Inez Louis, who is strategic operations planner with the health department in the Sto:lo Service Agency, talks about infection control in the latest YouTube video about COVID-19 created in partnership with the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice and the Chilliwack Economic Recovery Network. (YouTube)
VIDEO: Nurse Inez Louis explains how infection control is not social control

The difference is important for Indigenous people to hear in the context of Canada’s colonial past

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Most Read