Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to thank all committee members for welcoming me as I replace my colleague today.
It's truly an honour for me to be here, especially for this study, because we can look back at the circumstances surrounding the beginning of the pandemic. As the member for Abitibi-Témiscamingue, a region that in some ways may be similar to the FedNor area, I've learned a great deal about the major needs of our businesses, particularly the very small ones. The federal programs put in place have overlooked partnerships and business owners who pay themselves in dividends, as well as many farmers.
I addressed Minister Joly, at the time, on that subject to tell her that something had to be done, specifically that funding should be quickly provided, along with support programs. In my view, the CFDC network was perfectly positioned, in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, to receive this money and make it available right away to prevent bankruptcies. In fact, bankruptcies are still a possibility in 2022, according to a study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, because we are not yet fully out of the situation caused by the pandemic. Not all businesses are back on track and doing well.
I want to take a moment to congratulate our CFDCs, and especially executive directors Thérèse Grenier, Jocelyn Lévesque, Éric Laliberté and Nadia Bellehumeur, for their excellent work in Abitibi‑Témiscamingue. It was possible for us to access decentralized funding to save our businesses in the region. That's why I think that kind of program is a great strength.
I would like to ask you a question, Ms. Hogan.
In your report, you say the following:
14.47 We found that each regional development agency developed its own application form and used different criteria to assess funding applications to the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund.
I will digress and talk about this for a moment. The “FARR” acronym, which is the French equivalent of the RRRF, is already used in Quebec to refer to the “Fonds d'appui au rayonnement des régions”. Having the same acronym refer to two different regional programs creates some confusion in the regions.
In your report, you state that the criteria used were different, but also that the “applications considered to be eligible varied from one regional development agency to another”. Well, I think that having programs adapted to each region, according to needs, is a strength. Federal programs are far too often designed with major corporations in mind. That's what Canada's economy is based on. In contrast, the Quebec economy and the rural economies are much more geared towards small and medium-sized businesses. That is why I find that having programs that are adapted to each region is a strength.
I would like to hear your comments on that.