Remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance On the Introduction of Bill C-2


November 24,2021 -  Ottawa, Ontario - Department of Finance Canada

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Hello everyone.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, our government rapidly rolled out an historic set of broad-based programs so that we could save lives, ensure our economy could withstand public health restrictions, and have the backs of Canadian workers and Canadian businesses so they could get through the pandemic.

Our income, wage, and rent support programs have helped keep food on the table, protect millions of jobs, and keep hundreds of thousands of Canadian businesses going through the darkest days of the pandemic.

Having said that, our emergency measures were always designed to be temporary.

With high vaccination rates, over a million jobs created, children back in school, and businesses across the country reopening, the time has come to adapt support measures to these new and improved circumstances.

That’s why in October our government announced a pivot from the broad-based support that was appropriate at the height of lockdowns to more targetted support that will provide help where it is still needed, while also prudently and carefully managing government spending. That’s why today, just this afternoon, I introduced legislation in Parliament to deliver this more targeted support.

Bill C-2 allows us to move forward while keeping in mind that the recovery is still uneven and that public health measures that save lives continue to restrict certain economic activities. Among the measures provided for in the bill is the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit, a new income benefit that takes into account the public health situation remains uncertain and unpredictable.

The Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit will provide $300 a week to workers who are directly affected by a COVID-related local lockdown and will be available to eligible workers retroactively to October 24, 2021, and through to May 7, 2022. We are taking this step because we want to make sure that no one is left behind, including vulnerable workers who are unable to work against their will.

The bill also proposes to extend eligibility for both the Canada Sickness Benefit and the Canada Caregiving Benefit until May 7, 2022, and increase the maximum duration of each benefit by two additional weeks.

Bill C-2 is designed with an understanding that our economic recovery is still uneven and that the public health measures that are saving lives continue to restrict some economic activity. Among the bill’s measures is a new income benefit which recognizes that the public health situation continues to be uncertain and unpredictable.

We want to make sure that businesses can continue to grow and recover and drive up Canada’s labour force participation rates and our level of employment. That’s why we’re proposing to extend the Canada Recovery Hiring Program until May 7, 2022 and increase the rate of support to 50%. This will encourage businesses to hire back workers, increase workers’ hours, and create new jobs.

We also know that there are some businesses that have been most deeply affected by the pandemic and that continue to face significant pandemic-related challenges. The new Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program will deliver wage and rent subsidies of up to 75% to employers such as hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, and tour operators.

The bill includes details of the types of businesses that would be eligible for the program.

We have also released a backgrounder today to give businesses the clarity they need.

For businesses in all sectors, the Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program will provide support through wage and rent subsidies to employers who have experienced deep and enduring losses during the pandemic with a subsidy rate of up to 50%.

The Local Lockdown Program will be there to provide employers facing temporary new local lockdowns with a subsidy rate of up to 75% through the wage and rent subsidy programs. This is really important because it will ensure that local authorities and public health officials can continue to make the right public health choices knowing that the support will be there for workers and businesses.

We will continue to have measures in place such that any publicly listed corporation that chooses to increase executive pay while receiving government support will have the wage subsidy support clawed back. We estimate the total cost of the measures in the bill will be approximately $7.4 billion. This is a meaningful and intentional fiscal pivot.

The broad-based set of support measures which we introduced at the height of the pandemic and which came to an end October 23, 2021 had an estimated cost of $289 billion. Fighting COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns we put in place to save lives required unprecedented government spending in Canada and around the world. Canadians supported that extraordinary spending because they understood it was not only the compassionate thing, it was the right thing to do economically.

As of last month, Canada has recovered 101% of the jobs lost to the COVID recession compared to just 81% of jobs recovered in the US. Today there are more active businesses in Canada than before the pandemic hit. Thanks in large part to our government’s support measures, we have avoided the sort of deep economic scarring that followed the 2008 recession and that would have done permanent damage to our economy.

With Bill C-2, we will continue to have Canadians’ backs while delivering support that is more targeted – and prudently manages public finances. I hope all Parliamentarians will vote to pass this legislation so that Canadians who need support can access it without undue delay.

Finally, I want to reiterate and emphasize, as forcefully as possible, that the single most important economic policy for Canada continues to be making sure everyone who can get vaccinated does get vaccinated.

We have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world with nearly 89% of Canadians 12 and older having received at least one dose. We have the second lowest mortality rate in the G7. Children between 5 and 11 have started getting vaccinated this week. That is wonderful news. Many of our parents and grandparents are now getting their third booster shot. Speaking as a daughter I can say what a relief that is. I think that’s true for a lot of Canadians.

Let’s work hard to be sure everyone gets the vaccines they’re eligible for. 

Speaking as Canada’s Finance Minister, it is so important for us to do that not only for our health but also for our economy.

As a country, we can be proud of how we’ve come together to fight COVID-19. Our battle is not quite finished yet but we’re getting there. The measures in this legislation introduced today are an important part of what we need to do to get the job done.

Thank you and now we will hear from my colleague Carla Qualtrough.

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