Madam Speaker, before I start, I would like to thank the member for Red Deer—Lacombe for sharing his time with me today.
COVID-19 has truly delivered a devastating blow to the world that we used to know. This pandemic has claimed the lives of so many, and I want to express my sincerest thoughts to all those who have lost family and loved ones to COVID-19, including in my riding of Haldimand—Norfolk. My prayers are with them all.
Right across Canada, we have seen the effects of the pandemic not just on our health but on our economy as well. Businesses are struggling and various industries have had to downsize, and as a result, many people have, unfortunately, lost their jobs. My riding of Haldimand—Norfolk has not been immune to these impacts, but down in Ontario's garden, we are not strangers to challenging times. We know how to pull up our socks, push through and adapt when necessary.
I would like to cite a couple of examples of this. As with many other businesses across our country, those in Haldimand—Norfolk have done what they have had to do not just to survive, but to contribute to the effort against COVID-19 as well.
The first example is a company called Battlefield International, in Cayuga. As soon as the pandemic began, this company, which normally develops products for the aerospace and defence sectors, began designing its own manual ventilator automation control, also known as the MVAC, for use in the health care community. Another example is a business called Hometown Brewing Company, which started making hand sanitizer and even donated some to community organizations in need. It is actions like these that shine a light during these dark times.
Even though many businesses and people in Haldimand—Norfolk have shown their strength through these difficult times, they continue to need our help as well. They need support, and the Conservatives are here to help them.
Today we are debating legislation that intends to extend the Canada emergency wage subsidy and change the eligibility criteria. The bill would also implement a one-time, tax-free payment of up to $600 for Canadians with disabilities.
Throughout this pandemic, the Conservatives have supported the wage subsidy, but we have consistently called for changes to be made that would better support businesses and workers. One of the changes that we have been advocating for is a sliding scale to allow companies with less than a 30% revenue decline to receive the wage subsidy. That way, as the economy starts to reopen, businesses could continue to receive much-needed support to get back on their feet. In fact, representatives from a car dealership in my riding contacted me recently to express their concern that the 30% revenue decline requirements were just too stringent, especially given the economy is beginning to open.
Flexibility in the eligibility requirement is needed, as we have been saying for quite some time, and while this should have been done much earlier, I am happy to see that the Liberals have finally listened to us. After this legislation passes, any business that can show a drop in revenue will be able to apply for the wage subsidy. The amount that employers will receive will depend on the percentage of revenue that they have lost, compared within a certain time frame.
This may sound simple, but unfortunately the formula that has been presented by the Liberals is anything but simple, as my colleague from Carleton has outlined well today. It will only cause confusion for small businesses, more paperwork and more hiring of outside expertise. I spoke with one businessman on the weekend who said that he is not even going to bother applying, because he figured he would have to pay his accountant more than what he would get out of the program. At a time when people are trying to get back on their feet, red tape and overly complex government policy are the last things that these small business owners need or deserve.
That said, I do support the extension and the changes made to the Canada emergency wage subsidy, but I hope the Liberals will listen to the concerns of the Conservatives and simplify the administration of it.
I will also be supporting the one-time, tax-free payment of up to $600 for persons with disabilities. It is unfortunate, though, that this did not come about sooner.
After waiting months before announcing support for Canadians with disabilities, the Liberals finally proposed a plan in June to distribute the payment. However, the problem was that too many people did not qualify because the plan was restricted to those who were already claiming the disability tax credit. A lot of people do not apply for that for a variety of reasons, maybe because they do not have enough taxable income or because the application process, once again, is just too onerous, but planning to give the special COVID-19 payments to persons with disabilities without doing it in a broader way has meant that a lot of people who really need it the most are not going to get it.
Today's proposal, which expands eligibility to include those on the Canada pension plan disability and veterans on the disability allowance, is a big improvement and I am pleased to see it. I just wish that it had been done last month, when the opportunity was first there.
The Conservatives have pointed out flaws in the programs, and proposed solutions to deliver them, for months now. If Parliament had been resumed, we could have had meaningful debate on this issue and made amendments that would have resulted in Canadians with disabilities receiving their support by now. Quite frankly, I think it is shameful that the Prime Minister and his party continue to block the return of Parliament. There are still too many people falling through the cracks, people who need and deserve our support.
By denying members of the opposition the ability to use the tools that we have as members of the opposition to bring forward these concerns in this chamber, many Canadians are not having their voices heard, or if they are, it is happening way later than it should. Parliament needs to return not only so that the problems with the Liberals' programs can be fixed in a timely manner, but also so that Canadians can get answers to why the Prime Minister and his cabinet decided to give a $900-million sole-source agreement to WE Charity.
Since learning that members of the Prime Minister's family were paid almost $300,000 to speak at WE Charity events, we have also found out that the Minister of Finance has direct family ties to the charity as well. Neither the Prime Minister nor his Minister of Finance thought that it was unethical to be part of a decision-making process where a contract was given to an organization that pays members of both of their families. Madam Speaker, I hope you agree with me that it is a serious problem when people in these positions do not recognize that conflict of interest.
Although the Liberals think that simply apologizing will make everything better and make the situation go away, the issue is that they keep having to apologize. They should not have had to in the first place, and they would not have had to if they had done the right thing. Canadians deserve answers, and the Conservatives will continue to hold the Prime Minister and the government accountable.
Before I close, I would like to bring up one last point, which has to do with what I did not see in the legislation today, something that I wish I had.
Since the pandemic began, the Conservatives have been putting forward constructive solutions to help Canadians. As provinces continue to reopen, people are optimistic about their futures and are anxious to get back to work. However, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, many employers are facing significant staffing challenges, even though we have record unemployment numbers in the country. Canadians want to work and businesses need workers, but the CERB is penalizing workers for picking up shifts.
I have had way too many stories on this issue come to me and my office in my constituency. Right now, Canadians making just one dollar more than the CERB limit of $1,000 lose the benefit completely. I know a woman who cannot work the fifth Sunday in the month in an essential job in an essential service because if she does, she will be two dollars over the limit and will lose it all. That is wrong.
Under the Conservative plan, workers making between $1,000 and $5,000 over the limit would qualify for the back-to-work bonus, so that whatever they did, the more they work, the more it is worth working. They would get a top-up that would be phased out by 50¢ on the dollar. It should always pay to work, and we believe that this should have been included in the plan. We would encourage everyone to push for that improvement going forward.