Madam Speaker, Quebec recently announced that businesses in the red zone will remain closed until November 23.
As we enter the second month of the second wave, entire sectors of Quebec's economy are still waiting for adequate assistance from Ottawa.
With many businesses closer to bankruptcy than ever before, our business owners are emphasizing that the simplest, most effective and most transparent solution, both for them and for the government, would be to implement a program to help offset fixed costs.
Could we start discussing this and addressing the real needs of business owners, who are the backbone of our economy?
That is the take-away from the September 30 survey of 1,700 SMEs conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. It also shows that 50% of Quebec businesses, or one in two, believe they would not easily survive a second wave of restrictions.
This same survey showed that 27% of SMEs will survive less than a year with the revenue they are currently taking in. Quebec's SMEs are saying that they need an average of $25,000 to cover their fixed costs until December 2020. That is huge. The numbers speak for themselves. We need to act. We need to act intelligently and quickly, because our economic vitality is precisely what will helps us pay down some of the debt we are currently accumulating. The future of our SMEs is at stake.
With Bill C-9, the government decided to extend the Canada emergency wage subsidy until the summer of 2021. That is a very good thing. When a federal measure or program is worth mentioning, the Bloc Québécois is not afraid to say it.
It is all well and good to extend the program until June 2021, but what will the parameters be as of January 2021? We know what they are until December 31, 2020, but we do not know what they will be from January to June. We do not know anything, even though, as my colleague from Joliette said, predictability is essential for our entrepreneurs.
I would also like to remind the Liberals that the wage subsidy is for businesses and organizations, not political parties. I will also remind the Conservatives of that. Quebeckers are still waiting for the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party to pay back the subsidy, which they used for political purposes. That is shameful.
I will get back to the subject of Quebec SMEs. Quebec has nearly 250,000 small and medium businesses that account for 93% of private-sector jobs, or 2.3 million workers who will contribute to rebuilding Quebec's economy and their families' quality of life. Would the government risk cutting that in half? SMEs are vital to Quebec's economy.
We know that the Government of Canada missed its opportunity to help our SMEs pay their rent during the first wave with the program that ended on September 30. Yes, the proposed wage subsidy in Bill C-9 is a good program, and the commercial rent subsidy is much better now, but it is not enough. When will the government come to the House with a substantive program that will actually help Quebec SMEs with their fixed costs?
Quebec has already taken steps to help SMEs with their fixed costs. Establishments in red zones are entitled to a refund of the bulk of their fixed costs for a maximum of $15,000 for the month of October. Eligible costs include commercial rent, municipal and school taxes, interest on mortgages, utilities, insurance, telecommunications, permits, and association dues. Some 13,000 businesses are eligible to receive this help. Why did Canada not offer such effective help for fixed costs for our SMEs in Quebec?
The first version of the commercial rent assistance program was a failure. Whether a business survived or failed was in the landlord's hands because they could refuse to participate in the program and let the renters head for bankruptcy. Obviously we all got phone calls about this in our respective ridings.
In Bill C-9, with the new proposed version of the Canada emergency rent subsidy, the financial assistance will be offered directly to the renter. That is essential. It is also simpler.
However, it is terrible to see that it took the Liberals seven months to understand that this is what needed to be done. It was a waste of time, an unnecessary stress for people, the landlords and renters. It created conflict.
The proposed new version of the emergency commercial rent assistance seems a bit more flexible and open. That is an improvement, because some assistance was added to help businesses that own their buildings cover fixed costs like insurance, property taxes and mortgage interest.
Why not go further, though?
Bill C-9 does not reflect reality. It does not acknowledge that sectors are diverse and that businesses in our regions, such as hotels, cultural businesses and organizations, and even summer camps, have specific realities.
Tourism and cultural industries in Quebec are a crucial part of our regions and our culture. Tourism and cultural businesses have not been doing well for months now. These businesses do the majority of their business during the summer, but they posted huge revenue losses this year. Quebec's tourism and cultural industry experienced a drastic 60% drop in sales and a loss of $3.4 billion in revenue, not to mention the countless businesses that were shut down.
Fixed costs represent 25% of expenses in the tourism industry. Could we look at creating a fixed-cost tax credit, on top of the commercial rent assistance program for small businesses in general, to give them a chance to get back on their feet during the next normal tourism season?
Fixed costs, once again, are commercial rent, municipal and school taxes, mortgage interest, electricity and gas bills, insurance, telecommunications costs, permits and association fees. At least, those are the fixed costs Quebec recognizes. Canada will need to do the same.
In our various interventions over the past few months, the Bloc Québécois has repeatedly insisted—and we continue to insist—on the importance of the recovery, which must of course be a green recovery and take the environment into account. We need to think about the future, and I mean beyond the next election.
One thing that really concerns me is the development of our regions. Recognized for their vitality on so many levels, our regions contribute massively to the natural and intellectual wealth of our urban centres. Their creative strength and innovative spirit open the door to new and effective avenues for community development.
I must insist on the need to stop pondering the idea of a regional development and recovery fund geared toward processing natural resources where they are found. A territorial innovation support program by and for the regions would also be welcome.
The Bloc Québécois firmly believes that any existing and future programs must be flexible and that we must be able to adapt the way they are administered to the regions' different realities. That is key. As we have seen with the issue of immigration, a one-size-fits-all approach too often does not work for the regions.
Because we want to establish a vision for the future and because our organizations and SMEs make an important contribution to the recovery, it seems clear to me that the CFDCs, for example, are well placed to help the various local and regional entities. This will help address the real needs of our communities and identify the priorities for recovery and the target industries.
The regional relief and recovery fund responded to the need for support that existed before the program was put in place and to the need to quickly get the funding out to our businesses. I would like to point out that this was a success in Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
What is more, the communities themselves are in the best position to target the appropriate innovation zones for their area. Since the pandemic began and even before, it is the communities themselves and their residents who have identified the most pressing needs and the business development opportunities.
Simply put, Quebec and its regions know what is best for Quebec. In conclusion, six months after making that promise, the Government of Canada has finally come up with the fixed cost support program the Bloc Québécois pushed for. That is why, even though the program is not perfect, the Bloc Québécois and I would like to see Bill C-9 passed quickly.