The federal Liberals have reached an agreement with opposition parties to fast-track a long-awaited bill to provide businesses with direct access to emergency rent relief.
Under the agreement, Bill C-9 will be passed by the House of Commons on Friday. It will still need to be approved by Senate before it can be enacted.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told MPs in the Commons today that the measures in C-9 will provide Canadians and businesses with needed support.
“We are battling an aggressive second wave of the coronavirus across Canada and around the world and in order for us to create the conditions for a robust and lasting economic recovery, we must take the right steps now to keep Canadians healthy and safe,” Freeland said.
“While we’re doing that … we must mitigate the economic harm of this pandemic in the short term but also in the long term.”
The bill replaces the government’s previous rent relief program, which was widely criticized because it needed buy-in from landlords, many of whom did not participate.
The new Canada emergency rent subsidy is intended to allow commercial tenants to apply directly for rent and mortgage-interest support.
Until Dec. 19, it would cover up to 65 per cent of eligible expenses for businesses, charities and non-profits that have suffered a revenue drop due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Businesses that are forced to shut their doors due to the pandemic would be eligible for another 25 per cent. The bill would also extend the federal emergency wage subsidy until June 2021.
Conservatives criticized the Liberals for being slow to introduce the changes to the rent assistance program.
“We have now been sitting in this House for seven weeks,” said Conservative MP Cathy McLeod, referring to the number of weeks MPs have been sitting since the start of the new parliamentary session.
“How many businesses in this country have had to shut down because of a program that was deeply flawed to begin with and because of a government’s unwillingness to fix it?”
In response, Freeland said that the new programs will be retroactive to Sept. 27, which will allow businesses to receive financial support for the month of October.
Coupled with federal support programs for individuals and an expanded EI system, Freeland said, people and businesses who need help should be able to get it.
“They will create an interlocking set of support measures that will be in place until next summer,” Freeland said. “These measures are targeted and flexible and together they will get us through.”