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 Langley School District has issued COVID-19 notifications for two more schools. (Langley Schools)
Two more Langley schools added to COVID exposure list

District says individuals are isolating at home

Eleven bags of litter along 200th Street was collected by seven volunteers on the weekend. (Jocelyn Titus/Special to The Star)
Seven volunteers pick eleven bags worth of trash along 200th Street in Langley

Jocelyn Titus, founder of Earth Ninjas and Clean Up Aldergrove group held a pick on Sunday

The lease on Hangar 17 at Langley Regional Airport is being disputed in court, as the Township tries to end it and the tenant tries to hold on. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Battle over Langley Airport hangar goes to Court of Appeal

A judge has frozen any eviction until the case is decided

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

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

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

Photo: Surrey RCMP
Surrey RCMP arrests two boys, age 16, during dial-a-dope investigation in Whalley

Sergeant Elenore Sturko said one boy is ‘alleged to have been in possession of a loaded handgun at the time of his arrest’

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Most Read