The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance
Pandemic relief for businesses: Senate committee urges more equitable, accessible and predictable support
November 18, 2020
Ottawa – Members of the Senate Committee on National Finance urged quick passage of the federal government’s latest COVID-19 relief bill in a report released Tuesday — but they also highlighted many areas where the government could strengthen support for Canada’s beleaguered businesses.
Some new and cash-strapped businesses risk being excluded from support measures in Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy), the committee heard. For example, businesses without a track record of expenses would not be eligible for rent relief, while businesses that have lost money but have not been forced to close or restrict activities due to public health orders would not receive top-ups that could save them.
The business community’s concerns arose during Senate finance committee meetings about Bill C-9. The committee’s examination of the bill is the first time a standing committee has considered legislation providing financial support related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the report, committee members made a number of observations about actions the federal government should consider. These include launching measures targeted to sectors that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus, establishing indicators to assess the performance of the government’s financial support programs and ensuring that businesses receiving financial support from taxpayers do not provide dividends and bonuses to shareholders.
The committee also urged the government to reinstate regular reporting of its COVID-19 spending and to clearly communicate how businesses can apply for relief programs.
- The new rent relief program, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), is expected to cost $2.2 billion until December 2020. It replaces the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program. Officials from the Canada Revenue Agency said they hope to issue CERS cheques in the first week of December.
- CERS includes a “lockdown support” program that would provide a 25% top-up to businesses subject to a public health order that requires them to stop or restrict operations for at least a week.
- The bill would require businesses to pay their rent before receiving CERS; Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told the committee that the federal government is preparing new legislation to remedy this.
“Our study provided a significant opportunity for business leaders to speak directly to parliamentarians about their needs. The government should pay careful attention to what the business community has told us when crafting new programs and legislation.”
- Senator Percy Mockler, Chair of the committee
“It is important to me that businesses benefitting from these programs not be allowed to pass on dividends and bonuses to shareholders. Taxpayer dollars should not be used to enrich shareholders.”
- Senator Éric Forest, Deputy Chair of the committee
“This study shows the value of Senate committee work. While we understand the need to act swiftly, it is crucial to take the time to listen to Canadians so that Parliament can provide the help they need.”
- Senator Marty Klyne, Deputy Chair of the committee
“Businesses need our help. By supporting them — and listening to them — we are helping more Canadians keep their livelihoods during this time of uncertainty and fear.”
- Senator David Richards, member of the steering committee
- Read the report.
- Follow the committee on social media using the hashtag #NFFN.
- Sign up for the Senate eNewsletter.
For more information:
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