By Ian Croft
As the number of cases of COVID-19 increase throughout Canada due to the second wave, the federal government is looking to amend the currently existing Income Tax Act (Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy).
During debate in the House of Commons on Nov. 3, Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, MP for LacSaint-Jean, and member of the Bloc Québécois called out the failures of the Liberal Party focusing on how long it took the Liberal Party to amend the emergency rent and income subsidies.
“Over one month has gone by since the government promised to support businesses, but they are still waiting…..First of all, I still do not understand why it took the Liberals over a month to come up with an alternative after the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program ended. On top of that, I also do not understand why, six months after it came into effect and after countless testimonials of its failure, the government still has yet to respond to the criticism of the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program, or CECRA. Do not get me wrong, I am glad the government has come to its senses on this.”
“However, since the start of the pandemic, SMEs (Small and mid- size enterprises) have been constrained not just by the virus, but also by their landlords. Landlords wield a great deal of power over commercial tenants, because they have to absorb a certain loss. Like many from the business sector, the Bloc Québécois has always condemned this situation and repeatedly said that it would be easier to deal with the tenant involved rather than a third party. The program was also far too complex and would not exactly win any awards for ease of access. Ironically, less than half of the $3 billion initially allocated by the government was disbursed. I have been an MP for only one year, but I am told that it is rare for a government to spend less than expected. It is a first.”
Brunelle-Duceppe also commented about how the tourist industry in his constituency was suffering due to COVID-19 and how the current subsidies are unable to keep the industry afloat. After this speech Bow River MP Martin Shields rose in the House to respond to his comments.
“Tourism is important. I enjoy visiting my colleague’s part of Canada. It is a beautiful place in our country, which has an industry that has been hurt.”
“However, there are two parts to this: We need to protect lives and we need to protect liveli- hoods. If we do not protect people’s livelihoods, their lives will be challenging.”
“Over the last eight or nine months there have been many suggestions made to the Liberal Party of things to be changed. With regard to the legislation that is being proposed, I have lost small businesses in my riding because this is too late now.”
“Have businesses been lost in my colleague’s riding because these changes that have been suggested for nine months have not been made?”
Responding to Shields’ comment, Brunelle-Duceppe said, “That is an excellent question. I know people who have closed their businesses because the government took too long to change the emergency assistance programs it had put in place. For six months, the Bloc Québécois has been saying that the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program is not working. The proof is that not even half of the $3 billion for businesses has been spent.”
“I know some of these entrepreneurs personally. They have worked hard all their lives to build up these businesses. The government reacted too late, despite all the advice from the opposition. It should have listened. As a result, fathers and mothers were forced to close their businesses. It is sad and it is hard.”
The amendment will alter the eligibility criteria as well as the subsidies that the government will offer with the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.
This amendment is also intended to extend the federal wage subsidies to June 30, 2021.
Along with this, the amendment will also be adding in options to allow businesses that rent to be eligible for these subsidies.