Remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance on support for Canadians and Canadian businesses in the face of the Omicron variant

Speech

January 5, 2022

Good morning,

Our government understood at the outset that in order to win the fight against COVID-19, we need to have the right tools.

We need vaccines. We need rapid tests. We need therapeutics. And we need to have the measures in place to support people and businesses economically to get through restrictions and lockdowns.

We have these tools. Our government spent the fall putting these tools in place, making these investments and preparing for this difficult winter.

In December, before the holidays, we released an Economic and Fiscal Update that included significant investments, including the purchase of 180 million rapid tests and a $2 billion investment in therapeutics. These were to support our collective work to finish the fight against COVID-19 and to handle the Omicron surge.

Before that, in October, we announced targeted support programs for Canadians and Canadian businesses, including a provision to renew the wage and rent subsidies in the event of a lockdown.

These programs became law with the passage of Bill C-2 in December. And, with the spread of the Omicron variant and new restrictions in provinces across the country, we made sure to temporarily expand the definition of a lockdown in order to make sure workers and businesses do not fall through the cracks.

We put these measures in place so that public health authorities can make the right – albeit sometimes difficult – decisions knowing that the federal government will be there to support workers, small businesses, and other employers in their communities.

Our support since the beginning has been unwavering. Indeed, the federal government has provided $8 out of every $10 spent in Canada to fight COVID-19, and support Canadians.

In recent weeks, as we all know all too well, most parts of the country have announced new lockdowns or other public health restrictions. Many of these restrictions have an impact on people’s jobs and their businesses. I would like, today, to reassure Canadians, by reminding them that the federal government has made sure that economic support is available to you if you need it.

Last week, applications opened for the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit. If you are a worker in a region that is locked down or subject to 50 per cent capacity restrictions – and if you have lost 50 per cent or more of your income as a direct result of those restrictions – you can be eligible to receive $300 a week. You can now apply online directly through the Canada Revenue Agency.

We also know that businesses, especially small businesses, need support.

That’s why we have in place the Local Lockdown Program, which will provide wage and rent subsidy support of up to 75 per cent to employers who have had to reduce the capacity of their main business by 50 per cent or more.  And I will remind business owners that we have also temporarily lowered the revenue decline threshold from 40 per cent to 25 per cent.

There is also further rent support of an additional 25 per cent that is available for businesses subject to a full lockdown.

From the start of this global pandemic, we have understood that having a job is central to the wellbeing of Canadians. These wage and rent supports are about protecting people’s jobs and allowing people to stay connected to their employers. That keeps people strong, it keeps families strong and it keeps businesses strong. And that is what we need to keep our economy strong.

Expanded eligibility for both the wage support and the rent support runs from December 19, 2021, through to February 12, 2022.

For businesses facing other pandemic-related losses, support is also available through the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program and the Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program.

I want to reiterate that this publicly-funded support is there for businesses so that they can support workers and make it through the challenges of the pandemic. Any public companies that receive the wage subsidy and choose to increase their top executive compensation compared to 2019 will have this support clawed back. Companies will also become ineligible for support if they pay dividends while receiving the wage subsidy.

Our government takes seriously our responsibility to be prudent managers of public finances and we expect eligible Canadian companies to respect this support and use it only when needed.

The best way to end this pandemic and the best economic policy is strong public health policy.

As the Prime Minister and Minister Duclos have just reminded us, the best thing all of us can do is to get vaccinated and to get our boosters.

I also want to say to all Canadians that in these really difficult times, as a country, we have shown true grit and true resilience.

Last week, The Economist ranked Canada’s economic performance during the pandemic as second in the G7. We have more than recovered all of the jobs lost in the depths of the pandemic, well ahead of expectations. And Canada has the second-lowest mortality rate from COVID-19 in the G7. By supporting each other, by working together, we have kept our economy strong and we have saved lives.

I know that this is a frightening time, it’s a frustrating time, and it’s a truly difficult time. I would like to reassure Canadians: we have the tools to get through this. We know how to work together as a country and we are resilient. We have shown that to ourselves, to each other, and to the world over the past year.

For nearly two years now, we have been fighting in an unprecedented time. We have been facing an unprecedented challenge together.

I know none of us wanted to be facing this Omicron surge, but we have the tools to get through it, and I have every confidence in us that we’ll get through it together.

Thank you.

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