Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmale fielded questions and discussed gaps he saw in COVID-19 support programming at a virtual town hall May 6.
The online event featured business leaders, chambers of commerce and business improvement associations from across his constituency. British Columbia MP Dan Albas, Shadow Minister for Employment, Workforce Development & Disability Inclusion was also present to field questions.
“We know times right now are very uncertain,” Schmale said. “We appreciate what you’re doing as business leaders bringing jobs, opportunities and wealth in our community.”
The MPs explained details about federal government supports available to people, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), income tax deferrals, loan programs and more.
However, both Schmale and Albas offered a critique of parts of the federal government’s approach. Albas said there should be a wider range of support programs to address different needs, versus larger, overarching ones.
“To have one single edict or one single program be the one-size-fits-all is very, very bad in a decentralized democracy like Canada. There are too many permutations and we believe a single, central planner just can’t anticipate all those things,” Albas said.
One of the gaps discussed was for smaller non-profits. When asked about support for them, Schmale spoke about horticultural and art groups with small budgets and no employees that are struggling.
“This is an area we’re looking to research,” Albas said. “We’re going to see a lot of small museums, small horticultural organizations that do not have the cash flows that will be challenged under this.”
Another audience member asked about accessing the Canada Emergency Business Account while using a personal chequing account for their business, which is currently disallowed. Albas said that is something the government should change.
“Many entrepreneurs utilize a personal chequing account. It’s very easy to separate from their own personal expenses,” he said. “We will continue to push the government on this until it happens.”
Albas also said the government needed to support new businesses, who may not have yet developed the books to show a decline in revenue due to COVID-19, which is needed to keep wage subsidy funding.
“We will continue to push the government to look at its programs to make sure we don’t miss out,” Albas said. “That we don’t see the next Canadian champion die on the vine because of COVID-19 and the government’s failure to address their concerns.”
“This will be a bit of a balancing act by government and we will make sure to give them due credit when they listen but to hold them to account when they don’t,” Albas concluded.