Mr. Speaker, first of all, I will take the opportunity to speak directly to the Canadian public.
The last few months have been a unique time for us all. We are in a pandemic. In the last few days, the situation seems to have become more fraught, and some citizens have been protesting. Here in Canada, the right to protest is a legitimate right, and when a protest is held in a civilized manner, it is respectable. I urge the people who are protesting by causing mayhem, destroying public property, and attacking businesses and restaurants that are really having a hard time and are not responsible for the present situation, to protest in a civil fashion. I would like to ask the Canadian public to follow public health guidelines, not to give up and not to let their guard down. The vaccines are coming. Unfortunately, in Canada, they are very slow in coming, but they are coming. I am asking the Canadian public not to let their guard down, but to keep their spirits up for a few more weeks. Hopefully, it will only be weeks, and not months. As I said, in Canada, the vaccines are slow in coming, but they are coming. I think it is important to point that out.
The current government eagerly dangled the first vaccines in front of Canadians in December in an attempt to dazzle us. To evaluate the government's strategy, we need look no further than our plummeting global ranking. In December, with a few hundred thousand vaccines, we were ranked first or second. After that, it was radio silence. Sure, Canadians got a nice Christmas gift, but then we dropped to second, and now our ranking is plummeting. It was all smoke and mirrors, and we cannot forget that.
We need to look at how we have dropped in the global rankings. It is rather shameful for us, as Canadians, to be in this position. Canada is used to being a leader, but the current government is not showing much leadership here. Canada looks pretty pathetic with just 2% of Canadians having received both doses. By comparison, Great Britain ranks five spots ahead us, with 11% of its citizens having received both doses. Worse yet, 25% of our neighbours in the United States have gotten both vaccinations, which is 12 times our rate. Our Prime Minister says that he has a good strategy, but we must have different definitions of “good”.
What is the Prime Minister's plan to remedy the situation and protect Canadians? I do not know. I do not want to hear that this is because Canada does not manufacture vaccines. That is just an excuse. Look at Chile. It found ways to get vaccines. Chile has one of the highest vaccination rates after Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Today, I am participating in the discussion on Bill C-14, an act to implement certain provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament on November 30, 2020 and other measures. This bill establishes the spending power set out in the fall economic statement, amends the Income Tax Act to top up the Canada child benefit, closes the loophole in the second version of the Liberals' legislation on commercial rent assistance, amends the Canada student grants and loans program and the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act to waive interest on student loans by 2021, amends the Food and Drugs Act to deal with shortages of therapeutic products, and amends the Borrowing Authority Act and the Financial Administration Act to increase the federal government's borrowing limits.
I want to focus on two things. The bill closes the loophole in the second version of the Liberals' legislation on commercial rent assistance, referring to the Canada emergency rent subsidy or CERS.
This is what the government says about the Canada emergency rent subsidy:
Canadian businesses, non-profit organizations, or charities who have seen a drop in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for a subsidy to cover part of their commercial rent or property expenses, starting on September 27, 2020, until June 2021. This subsidy will provide payments directly to qualifying renters and property owners, without requiring the participation of landlords. If you are eligible for the base subsidy, you may also be eligible for lockdown support if your business location is significantly affected by a public health order for a week or more.
We know that businesses create jobs and bring in revenue for the federal government. They pay taxes and create wealth.
This program has its share of shortcomings. I said as much to the Minister of Finance and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. They both told me that they would resolve the problem. They have a prime opportunity to modify the program.
The program is there to help. In the spring, it was geared to landlords. Renters whose businesses were closed, who were victims, could get a subsidy: 25% from the federal government, 25% from the provincial government, 25% from the landlord and 25% from the renter.
I will give one example among many from my riding. I want to speak for all Canadian businesses that are victims of this rule, and I urge the government to rectify the situation.
The business that owned the closed property qualified for the subsidy. Now, even though the circumstances are the same and the business is the same, only the renter can apply for the CERS, not the property owner. In the example I am talking about, the renter is the son of one of the shareholders in the company that owns the building. Because his father is a shareholder, he is not entitled to the subsidy.
Everywhere we turn, we hear that the current Prime Minister's Liberal government is there to help all Canadians: seniors, youth, families and businesses. I just want to help the government get back on track.
This spring, there was a clause in the program concerning non-arm’s length relationships stating that, if a property owner has a non-arm’s length relationship with an otherwise eligible tenant, then the lease must be on fair market terms, the total gross rent payable under the lease cannot be higher than fair market rent, and the lease must not have been created or amended after April 1, 2020.
This clause is clear. It is in writing. We should use it. All we have to do is cut and paste to apply it to the new program of last September.
Do we really want to help businesses? The government has a strange way of showing it. However, it now has the opportunity to get back on track and fix the situation. If it does not do so in this bill, I hope it will do it in its budget next week. We are talking about young entrepreneurs who got help from their parents in the past and who need help today to grow their businesses. We all know that people need more help at the start of their careers than at the end.
Since we are short on time, I will proceed to the next point. The government is asking for a blank cheque. We have seen how the government controls spending: it does not, and it has no plan. We in the official opposition are prepared to take the necessary measures to help the government help honest Canadians. However, we do not want to give it a blank cheque.
We asked the government to split the bill, but so far it has not agreed to our request. I would ask the government to be reasonable and to find solutions to help our young entrepreneurs.