Feds convene over Easter to pass Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program

by Stephen Dafoe

Parliament met Saturday to discuss, debate and pass Bill C-14, its $73 billion Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, a federal program for employers who have seen a drop in revenue. The program would pay 75 per cent of an employee’s pre-pandemic weekly pay up to $847 a week for up to 12 weeks. The subsidy is retroactive to Mar. 15 and extends to June 6, 2020.

Sturgeon-River Parkland Member of Parliament, The Honourable Dane Lloyd, was in Ottawa Saturday for the six-hour session.

Lloyd said a lot of work was done by the parties before Saturday’s sitting to ensure the presentation of a unanimous consent motion that would ensure the passing of the subsidy program.

“We had a couple of hours of debate over that Bill, there was a Q&A, and then the Bill was adopted on division, which means it wasn’t accepted unanimously, but essentially it was pushed through without a vote,” Lloyd said.

Bill C-14 passed on division due to the Conservative Party of Canada still having some reservations about the program, but still wanting the program to proceed to help Canadian businesses as soon as possible.

“The Wage Subsidy Bill goes retroactive to Mar. 15, and if companies can demonstrate revenue loss, and they’ve made it more flexible, they can apply for the subsidy,” Lloyd said. “But the companies have to prove that they are actually paying the people first. The people have to be paid, and then the government will refund them 75% of the salary.”

To qualify, businesses must show a 15% drop in the March and a 30% drop in revenues for the other periods of the program. The government has established two methods to show the loss. A month over month drop from 2019 to 2020, or business can average January and February revenues as a comparator to the revenues of the eligible months in the program. Eligibility periods are Mar. 15 – Apr. 11 (15%), Apr. 12 – May 9 (30%), and May 10 to June 6 (30%).

Businesses who falsify revenue loss claims will not only have to repay the subsidy but will be subject to an additional 25 per cent penalty on subsidy monies received.

NOT EVERYONE QUALIFIES

But not everyone qualifies for the funding. Lloyd said he is concerned that some companies who have had to lay off employees are not eligible for the subsidy.

Lloyd raised concern about the ineligibility of a sawmill in Acheson, which manufactures decking and construction lumber, and had to lay off 60 workers due to a lack of business. The mill did not qualify because their parent company, a pulp mill, was doing well.

“They’ve lost about 60 per cent of revenue, which would seem to qualify for the wage subsidy,” Lloyd said, adding the mill division is part of a big forestry company with pulp operations, an industry doing well because it has some medical applications. “The parent company doesn’t have a 30 per cent drop in revenue. Individual divisions are having serious drops, but they don’t qualify. Unless the company qualifies, the division doesn’t qualify.”

Lloyd said the situation is an opportunity for the government to expand Bill C-14.

“We don’t want to backstop all companies, especially profitable companies’ wages, but if 60 people are being laid off in Acheson, its 60 people being laid off in any business. It’s the same thing.”

Although the Bill has passed, businesses still have some time to wait before receiving funds.

“It’s going to take several weeks for the bureaucrats to get it sorted out,” Lloyd said, adding he encourages businesses to apply for the help now that it has passed. “It’s frustrating, I know. For some companies, even when we get out of COVID, there’s going to be some question about our future, particularly if we continue to see these historically-low oil prices.”

Lloyd said he is hopeful that Alberta and Canada will come out of the current situation stronger with some lessons learned. He encourages businesses to take advantage of the help now available.

“I would urge them [businesses] to not give in to despair and to stay strong. Take the actions they need to take to protect their money and protect their businesses and protect their workers if they can,” Lloyd said. “But if they can’t protect their workers, the government is there to provide money for them. If they do have to let go of workers, there is help for the workers. But if they can keep the workers on, then please try their best to do that because there is support for that as well.”

Full details on the Canada Wage Subsidy program can be found at https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan/wage-subsidy.html

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