Report from Parliament Hill:
Standing up for businesses and workers in the Kenora riding
Eric Melillo - Kenora Riding MP
Thank you once again for the steps you’ve been taking to help each other and protect public health. It’s been heartening to see our communities come together, even as this crisis requires us to distance ourselves physically.
I am glad that the Ontario government is taking cautious, common-sense steps to gradually reopen the economy. Retail stores with street entrances have recently been permitted to reopen (with social distancing measures), as have campgrounds and other businesses. This will be a relief to many workers and business owners in the Kenora riding.
At the federal level, my Conservative colleagues and I have been urging the government to overhaul their programs to make them more accessible for businesses. After weeks of continuous advocacy, I’m happy to report that the government has finally implemented some of our proposals.
For instance, the government has expanded eligibility for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) to include sole proprietors (owner operators), dividend earners, and business owners employing contractors. This will be good news for many Kenora riding entrepreneurs.
I was disappointed, however, that the government hasn’t removed the requirement for businesses to have a business account. This requirement has been a barrier to many small business owners who use personal accounts for banking.
The government also recently announced that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) will be extended beyond June for eligible businesses. This is something I’ve been pushing for, as the initial timeframe of the CEWS was too limited to benefit many seasonal industries in the Kenora riding.
The Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, through Canada’s Regional Development Agencies, is also providing support for businesses in the manufacturing, technology, and tourism sectors.
I’m going to be frank.
It’s no secret that many businesses have been falling through the cracks of these new programs. I’ve spoken to many business owners who found themselves unable to access various government loans and benefits because they don’t use business accounts for banking, because their revenues or payrolls fell just under the eligibility thresholds, or other technicalities. Many businesses are also hesitant to take on loans, or require more support just to cover their immediate start-up costs.
I’m glad the government has finally responded to our calls to provide more flexibility for small businesses, although there is still more to be done. I am continuing to advocate for targeted support, including non-payable grants and immediate funding for start-up costs, for seasonal and tourism businesses.
I’ve also spoken to businesses in the riding who are struggling to find summer workers. That’s why, when the government introduced a benefit for students unable to find work, the Conservatives successfully pushed for an amendment that would connect applicants to the Job Board. We’re also proposing a new program that would match unemployed students with vacancies in sectors currently facing labour shortages.
Earlier this month, I participated in the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA), where I questioned representatives from the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) about whether Canada’s COVID-19 supports strike the right balance between providing financial assistance and helping young Canadians find work.
WUSA Outgoing Vice-President (Education) Matthew Gerrits was enthusiastic about our suggestion for programs to connect unemployed students with jobs, saying, “I think that the government stepping in, in some form, to either provide work or help connect students with work is going to be a policy that is going to be beneficial.”
Especially in these unprecedented economic times, we need to support those who are unable to support themselves through no fault of their own. That’s why Conservatives supported the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB). I was also glad to see the government finally step up and provide more support for seniors.
But if Canada is going to recover from this crisis, we need to make sure our businesses and industries survive.
For the past few months, I’ve been hearing from businesses and workers in the Kenora riding that more needs to be done. Throughout this crisis, I’ve been urging the government to do more to keep our local economy afloat: to help connect employers with workers; to make it easier to qualify for loans and other forms of support; and to introduce targeted support for tourism operators, remote air carriers, and other rural industries who’ve been particularly hard hit.
I’d like to thank the many businesses who have been reaching out to my office to express their concerns. The information you provide helps me and my staff advocate for you.
As always, I encourage constituents needing assistance to contact my office by phone at 807-468-2170 or by email at [email protected].