If Canadian PM Justin Trudeau can’t get his agenda passed in parliament, his government could fall.
The Canadian federal government unveiled details of its legislative agenda for fresh support for businesses hit by the coronavirus in the Speech from the Throne presented by Canada’s Governor General Julie Payette on Wednesday, September 23rd before the 43rd Parliament. This was the second time Payette delivers the throne speech. The measures announced are focused on supporting small businesses, described as “the lifeblood of communities and the backbone of the economy” and which have been devastated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the government pledged to extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy through next summer, expand the Canada Emergency Business Account to assist businesses with fixed costs, and improve the Business Credit Availability Program. The government also said it “will work to target additional financial support directly to businesses which have to temporarily shut down as a result of a local public health decision.”
Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), said in a statement that the extension and expansion of CEWS and CEBA were “both very positive measures.” Nevertheless, the CFIB was hoping for specific supports to address rent relief, one of the most significant fixed costs that small businesses have had to face during the pandemic.
The government’s Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, which has been extended through September, has been widely criticized for its strict criteria. According to a CFIB survey, just 15% of small businesses used the program, and only 20% of those who did found it either very or somewhat helpful.
“We’re hoping that the Canada Emergency Business Account extension will be another way of getting at the rent relief issue since it is meant to cover fixed costs,” Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB’s vice president of national affairs, told CBC. Pohlmann added that the direct financial support for businesses that have to shut down temporarily—one of the new initiatives unveiled by the government—will be important for small businesses, particularly in the event of a second wave of the pandemic. “Only about 30% of businesses right now are back at normal revenues,” she said. “If you’re still struggling, and you’re hit with the second shutdown, that could be the death of your business.”
The government also announced financial support for industries that have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, such as the travel, tourism, hospitality, and cultural industries.
Analyst Paula Newton at CNN writes this was a Throne Speech unlike any other seen in this country, at a critical time for Trudeau’s government. With daily, positive cases of the coronavirus doubling in the last month, Trudeau needs to convince Canadians his government has what it takes to guide them through it. Trudeau’s job is on the line. If he can’t get his agenda passed in parliament, his government could fall.
Trudeau on the pandemic
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to boost funding in the areas of testing, long-term care for seniors and support for daycare centers and schools. He also pledged to create a national daycare program and a national, subsidized drug program. He declared that the government would “trust science to lead the fight until a safe and effective vaccine becomes available,” laying out four pillars of the pandemic plan: save lives; support people and businesses through the crisis for as long as it takes; rebuild the country to be stronger and more resilient; and fight discrimination and racism, and promote equality.