Liberals under pressure to extend business and worker COVID-19 benefits ahead of Oct. 23 deadline

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The federal government is facing calls from business and labor leaders to extend emergency COVID-19 benefits before it expires on October 23, a move not explicitly promised in the Liberal Party’s election platform Was.

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Extensions supported, including The federal NDP, note that Canada’s economy has not yet fully recovered from the pandemic, and that some parts of the country are currently experiencing an alarming fourth wave of the virus.

The most popular pandemic-relief program for business – the government’s wage and rent subsidies – is set to expire on October 23, along with a suite of programs for individuals who have lost work due to COVID-19 , including Canada Recovery Benefit, Canada. Recovery Sickness Benefit and Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.

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Canadian Chamber of Commerce President Perrin Beatty said many businesses still face public-health limitations that prevent them from being self-sustaining.

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“it’s important [the subsidies] Keep going,” said Mr. Beatty. “By bringing them this far, we can’t let people drown 50 feet from shore.”

Many businesses have relied on federal funds to make up for shortages related to the pandemic. According to government data, wage subsidies, which are intended to help employers build payroll, have sent $93.4 billion to 4.4 million applicants so far, while rent subsidies, which cover a percentage of a business’s rent, have sent $93.4 billion to 4.4 million applicants. has paid $6.5 billion. 1.7 million applicants.

Heavy subsidies to workers and businesses during the pandemic are the main drivers of the large federal deficit, which stood at an estimated $354.2 billion in 2020-21, according to the April federal budget. This year’s estimated budget would be $154.7 billion, while the Liberal Party Platform estimated it to be $156.9-billion.

Earlier this year, the federal government unveiled an option for a wage subsidy called the Canada Recovery Hiring Program, which covers some of the cost of taking on new employees. The Treasury Department and the Canada Revenue Agency declined to provide figures for that program.

During the recent election campaign, the Liberals promised not to extend all COVID-19 benefits. Instead, the party’s platform to expand the Canada Recovery Hiring Program included $405 million. The party only pledged $689 million to provide temporary wage and rent assistance to the tourism sector. The platform said they will provide temporary support reimbursement of up to 75 percent of their expenses to eligible businesses.

Business groups I spoke to, including the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Retail Council of Canada, Restaurants Canada and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, all suggested that the majority of their members preferred to use wage subsidies. Recruitment benefits.

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Beth Potter, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said she was happy to see help for her industry, as much travel is still restricted.

“We’re going to see how we get these businesses going by next summer,” she said.

However, the pace of recovery has been slow in other sectors as well. Carl Littler, senior vice president of public affairs at the Retail Council of Canada, said the retail industry has been uneven: Some stores have seen record sales, while others, such as apparel retailers or shops that rely on foot traffic from office buildings, have been rolling. went As a result of the change to work from home.

Mr Littler said the Retail Council supports increasing wage and rent subsidies as long as some clauses are still in place need them. And he said the organization supports the expansion of the government’s personal assistance programs, despite warnings earlier in the pandemic by some business groups that they could turn people off work.

“We think it’s easy for people to blame those programs for a tight labor market,” Littler said. He cited other factors, such as workers leaving industries facing lockdown.

Canadian Labor Congress President B. Bruske Similarly said individual assistance programs should be increased.

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“Of course there is still a need. There are still many people who are unable to return to the workforce for various reasons,” she said, adding that subsidies should be supplemented with new training programmes.

Asked about the government’s plans for its COVID-19 support, Alex Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, called on the Liberal platform to expand the hiring program and provide wage and rent subsidies for the hardest-hit businesses. pointed to specific promises. He did not specify specifically how the government would handle the imminent termination of the second current program.

“Our government is always watching the COVID situation carefully to determine the best way forward,” he said in a statement. “We know the fourth wave is hitting parts of the country very hard and as we have it throughout this time of crisis, we will do whatever it takes to support people and businesses.”

The Liberals were re-elected last month with a minority of seats in the House of Commons and will need the help of at least one other party to pass the law.

The Conservative Party declined to provide specific comment about the expansion of the programmes.

Conservative MP Michael Barrett said in a statement: “Conservatives have consistently supported the measures to ensure that those struggling most in the pandemic.” “We want to see economic recovery for Canadians in all regions and in all areas.”

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The Conservative campaign platform did not promise to expand existing COVID-19 support programs, but it did propose a number of new programs aimed at helping hard-hit sectors and workers. These included a temporary “Super EI” to provide more generous employment insurance benefits during the recession, and a doubling of Canada Workers Benefits.

The NDP platform pledged $3.2 billion to expand the Canada Recovery Benefit and $1.8 billion to expand the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy.

“We believe that COVID is not over and support is needed. And so we have explicitly mentioned it in our forum,” said Peter Julian, NDP MP and finance critic. [that] Wage subsidy should be abolished in a few weeks which is wrong.

A document explaining the federal government’s pre-election decision to extend the termination deadline for recovery benefits for individuals from September 25 to October 23 said doing so would cost $2.1 billion. The clarification, published in the Canada Gazette on 1 September, acknowledged that the expansion could have some negative consequences for economic productivity.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that real GDP shrank 0.1 percent in July and remained 2 percent below pre-pandemic levels. The economic damage of the pandemic varies widely between regions. For example, spending on food services and housing increased in July as a result of loosened restrictions, but overall activity in that sector was still 21 percent lower than in February 2020.

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