Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for the invitation to be with you virtually today. Accompanying me virtually from the Department of Finance are Maude Lavoie, Dave Beaulne, Trevor McGowan, Lesley Taylor and Nicolas Moreau.
I'd like to begin by acknowledging that today is a sombre anniversary. It is one year since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the WHO.
On this national day of observance, I know that all of us honour the memories of all those who have lost their lives to this disease, and we have the deepest compassion, I know, all of us in this committee, for their families and their loved ones.
To the extraordinary Canadians who have been serving on the front lines in our country's fight against COVID-19, to personal support workers in long-term care facilities, to all of our health care workers and to the essential workers keeping food on our shelves, from cashiers to truck drivers, let me just say thank you.
I'm happy to be with you, parliamentary colleagues, to talk about Bill C-14, which would implement several important and necessary measures from the fall economic statement, which I tabled last November 30.
For over a year now, Canadians have been coping with an unprecedented crisis that is still in progress. But spring is coming and there will be better days ahead.
Until we've got COVID-19 under control, our government will do everything it can for as long as it's needed to help Canadians get through the crisis. From the beginning of the pandemic, the Government of Canada has done everything in its power to get the virus under control and limit its economic impacts. So far, $8 out of every $10 spent in Canada to combat COVID-19 and help Canadians came from the federal government.
In the 2020 fall economic statement, we set out a detailed plan to protect Canadians, jobs and companies in Canada during the pandemic's second wave. We took rapid action to meet these commitments.
By supporting Canadian businesses, jobs and families, not only were we helping our communities get through a difficult winter, but also preventing economic after-effects. This support will allow for a full and robust economic recovery once the virus is totally under control.
Bill C-14 is an important component of our government's economic plan. It makes it possible to move forward with the emergency measures outlined in the economic statement designed to provide immediate assistance to families with young children, students and businesses, in addition to measures to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
When we debate Bill C-14, here is what is concretely hanging in the balance.
The fall economic statement announced a new $1 billion safe long-term care fund to help provinces and territories protect seniors. Of this, Bill C-14 would provide $505.7 million immediately, while our need is most urgent, to support long-term care facilities over the coming months to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to help prevent outbreaks and deaths in supportive care facilities.
In addition, we have proposed, through this bill, to provide up to $395.6 million to support a range of health initiatives to help Canadians cope during the pandemic and to continue our fight against the virus with vaccine funding and development, testing and treatment.
The challenges brought on by this pandemic have caused great hardship for Canadian families with young children and brought unanticipated costs. Bill C-14 proposes to provide immediate relief for low- and middle-income families with young children who are entitled to the Canada child benefit by providing up to $1,200 in 2021 for each child under the age of six. Families that have a net income at or below $120,000 would receive four tax-free payments of $300. Families entitled to the CCB who have a net income above $120,000 would receive four tax-free payments of $150, for a total benefit of $600.
This temporary assistance would directly benefit more than 1.5 million families and more than two million children at a time when many are still grappling with the financial impacts of the pandemic.
If I can speak personally for one moment, I am hearing so clearly from my neighbours and constituents who have young children just how hard COVID is for them. I know we would all love to give them this extra support. As you all know, we can't get it to them until Bill C-14 receives royal assent.
Our government is also working to protect the future of students who had to leave school or who were unable to obtain summer internships or jobs.
Through Bill C-14 we will eliminate interest on repayment of the federal portion of Canada student loans and Canada apprentice loans for 2021-2022. This important measure will provide $329.4 million to 1.4 million Canadians who are looking for work or who are in the early stages of their career.
The bill also formalizes an amendment to the Income Tax Act that will allow the Canada emergency rent subsidy to recognize rent payable as an eligible expense, provided certain conditions are met.
As members of this committee will recall, the Canada Revenue Agency is currently administering the rent subsidy with rent payable as an eligible expense. This is because the businesses relying on this subsidy told us that it was what they needed, and all of us listened. Not all small businesses have the cash flow to pay their rent on the first of the month with the reimbursement to come later. This bill ensures that those small businesses can get the support they need. Again, I'm sure we've all heard from small businesses in our ridings who really need that support.
Additionally, Bill C-14 authorizes payments to Canada's six regional development agencies for the regional relief and recovery fund. The government announced the $962-million fund on April 17, and then expanded it to $1.5 billion on October 2. As a next step, Bill C-14 proposes a further top-up, to $2 billion, for this fund. It helps support businesses that for one reason or another are unable to access other federal pandemic support programs.
The point I'm making here is really simple: The measures in Bill C-14 are essential. Canadian families and Canadian businesses need this support to get through the crisis.
Colleagues, today let's set aside partisan sparring and work together to support the people all of us serve. I welcome vigorous debate, care and study. Indeed, debate has been central to Canada's response to COVID-19 so far. Our government has received constructive input from all parties, very much including all the members of this committee. I recognize the critical role parliamentary committees play in scrutinizing government legislation. I understand that the opposition's formal role is to oppose, and that delay forms part of the opposition tool kit in the Westminster parliamentary system. I get that. When I was first elected, I sat in the opposition benches. I asked questions in committee of the member for Abbotsford, who now sits in this committee with us all, when he served as trade minister.
That said, it is now time for us to move forward. Canadians need the concrete support this bill offers, and they need it urgently. At second reading, some of our colleagues on the opposition benches set partisan politics aside to do what is best for Canadians and supported the bill. I was frankly surprised that the Conservatives chose to do the opposite. I was surprised they did that even as they put forward an opposition day motion urging the government to support small business.
I say to my Conservative colleagues, on this committee and in the House, that—