moved that Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, is it ever good to be back here.
It is my pleasure to rise in the House to discuss Bill C-2, an act to provide further support in response to COVID-19. However, before I get into the substance of Bill C-2, I would like to say a few words of thanks to the residents of Edmonton Centre for once again giving me the great honour of representing them in this chamber. I also want to offer my love and deep thanks to my partner David, to my family and friends and to the countless volunteers who made today possible. Serving Edmontonians, serving the city I love, is the single greatest honour of my life. My remarkable community, on the banks of North Saskatchewan River, is back at the table here in Ottawa.
I would like to take the chamber back in time to a moment in 2020 and the beginning of the global pandemic. Canadians were asked to take unprecedented actions to keep each other safe, forgoing celebrating life's milestones, forgoing time together with family, forgoing so many of the things that bring joy to each of our lives. We saw front-line workers answer the call of duty, doing double and triple shifts to support our society and keep people safe. We faced an emergency that required widespread lockdowns, threatened millions of Canadians' ability to work and put at risk hundreds of thousands of businesses.
To respond to this unprecedented moment, our government took unprecedented action. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, and thanks to the collective efforts of so many, we worked tirelessly to put in place a comprehensive suite of measures to support Canadian workers and businesses. Our income, wage and rent support programs kept households afloat, kept millions of Canadians in their jobs and allowed hundreds of thousands of businesses to keep going through the darkest days of the pandemic.
These are not just empty numbers. These are real people who were able to put food on their tables and real businesses that kept their doors open. It is the woman I met door knocking back in Edmonton during the election campaign who told me to look at the three houses to the left of hers, the three houses to the right and her own home. She said that if it were not for the government supports, the whole block might have lost their homes. It is the Credo Coffee shop on 124 Street, with two other locations, run by Geoff, Andrew and the team. They have been able to continue to provide incredible service and “caffeinations” to Edmontonians, including their member of Parliament.
Thanks to the hard work and sacrifices of Canadians and our health care workers, we are now seeing better days. Vaccination rates are high, approaching 80% of eligible Canadians; children are beginning to get their doses; grandparents are getting boosters; and our health care system is finding more and more ways to treat the virus. Schools are back in session and businesses across the country are reopening. Canada has now recovered 101% of the jobs lost in the depths of the COVID-19 recession, compared with just 81% in the United States. I want to applaud the work of my friend and colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, whose stewardship of our economy has put hope back on the horizon for so many Canadians. In short, our government took action, and it worked.
However, we also understand that there are some sectors of the economy that continue to need support. With the public health situation still unpredictable, we need to make sure there are targeted supports that enable Canadians to continue to take the necessary precautions to save lives, including necessary public health restrictions that limit some economic activity. The time has come to adapt federal support measures to these new and improved circumstances. These were temporary emergency measures and were always meant to be just that: for emergencies.
Bill C‑2 will therefore make it possible for the government to implement targeted measures to support those who still need help.
As parliamentarians, we have a duty once again to take action and deliver important targeted support measures that will ensure Canadian workers and businesses that have not yet been fully able to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 have the support they need. Bill C-2 would do just that.
Like the measures for businesses, the assistance programs for Canadians will be targeted to meet the needs of those who still need help. We see that the fourth wave of the pandemic is hitting some regions of the country extra hard. It is still possible that public health officials will impose new temporary lockdowns in some regions in the coming weeks or months.
We are therefore proposing to immediately implement a program on which Canadians can depend should the need arise.
This new proposed program is the Canada worker lockdown benefit. As the Canada recovery benefit has done, this new targeted program would provide $300 a week in income support to eligible workers. It would snap into action to support employees unable to work because of a local lockdown any time until May 2022, and eligible workers would be able to access it retroactively to October 24. The program would be available to workers who do not qualify for employment insurance and also to those who do qualify, provided they are not receiving EI benefits for that same period.
That is one way we are helping, but we know that Canadians may also need continued support from the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit, because we all need to protect ourselves and our family, friends and co-workers by staying home when we are sick. Furthermore, many children still cannot be vaccinated and are therefore particularly vulnerable, which means parents need to be able to stay home to take care of them.
That is why we want to extend the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit until May 7, 2022. Bill C‑2 will also increase the maximum duration of these benefits by two weeks.
We know that what Canadians want most are good jobs, so we need to make sure Canadian businesses, especially small businesses, have the support they need.
This bill would extend the Canada recovery hiring program until May 7, 2022, at an increased 50% subsidy rate. This would encourage businesses to continue to rehire workers, increase their hours and create the additional jobs Canada needs for a full recovery from the COVID-19 recession.
That said, the government is aware that some businesses are unable to resume all their activities and create those jobs because of the public health measures that, as I said, are necessary to protect Canadians.
We are therefore proposing two new support programs targeting specific types of businesses in order to promote economic recovery. In both cases, the businesses must show that they experienced significant revenue declines during the first 12 months of the pandemic as well as the current month.
I will start with the tourism and hospitality recovery program, which will help hotels, restaurants and travel agencies still grappling with public health restrictions and the fact that people are travelling less because of the measures in place.
The Canada emergency wage subsidy and Canada emergency rent subsidy rate for these businesses will be 40% for those with a current-month revenue loss of 40%. The rate can go as high as 75% depending on revenue loss.
On that subject, allow me to pause for a few moments on what this means for our tourism sector. Since taking on the role of Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, I have been moved by the passion and pride of those in the tourism sector for the work they do. As a former business owner, I too have felt that passion and pride and know the anxiety and heartache that comes when a person's life's work is placed in jeopardy by forces beyond their control.
These tourism businesses, these tour operators, are the people who tell our story to the world. They make possible the memorable experiences people carry with them for the rest of their lives.
However, this incredible industry was dealt a body blow by the global pandemic. In 2020, revenues declined almost 50%, from $104.4 billion to $53.4 billion, and jobs directly attributable to tourism decreased 41%, from 692,000 to 409,000, in the same period. Revenue projections for summer 2021 are expected to be about half of summer 2019 revenues.
However, even with these challenges, Canada's tourism sector is moving forward and our whole government recognizes the vital role that tourism plays in providing employment and opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses, and further fuelling economic growth. In short, the Canadian economy will not fully recover until the tourism sector recovers.
With government support, businesses in this sector are starting to get ready to welcome Canadians back to experience the great places and activities this country has to offer. This support includes the measures introduced in budget 2021 to support the tourism sector, totalling $1 billion over three years.
This included $500 million over two years flowing through the regional development agencies to help our hard-hit tourism businesses adapt their products and services and invest in future growth. It also included $200 million through the regional development agencies to support them and help ensure Canada continues to draw millions of visitors from all over the world to our large arts and cultural festivals and major events. This has ensured that they can continue to celebrate Canada's artistic excellence and unique character. To draw visitors to our smaller local festivals and events, as part of this package Canadian Heritage also received $200 million.
While the country is opening up, the organizations that host artistic, heritage and sport events and exhibits have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic and many Canadian artists and cultural workers have struggled to find work. With reduced revenues, many heritage, arts and sports organizations run the risk of not surviving through to the other side of the pandemic without additional support. We promised our tourism sector we would get it through to the end of this pandemic. With this suite of measures and the new supports contained in Bill C-2, we have delivered.
The other program we are proposing is the hardest-hit business recovery program. It would be available to employers in all sectors who have faced deep and enduring losses. The wage and rent subsidy rate in this case would start at 10% for applicants experiencing a 50% current period revenue loss. It would increase to a maximum of 50% for those with a current period revenue decline of 75% or higher.
In addition, we are proposing a new local lockdown program that would provide rent and wage support of up to 75% for organizations that face temporary local lockdowns and experience current month revenue losses above 40%. Support through these programs would be available from October 24, 2021, to May 7 of next year.
Fighting COVID-19, and the lockdowns it required to save lives, demanded historic government spending in Canada and around the world. It was a historic crisis, and Canadians supported that extraordinary spending because they understood that it was not only the compassionate thing to do, but the economically smart thing to do.
Our government delivered the economic support that has prevented the sort of economic scarring that followed the 2008 recession, and that would have done permanent damage to our economy and to our communities. Most importantly, these investments in our country saved lives. Today, more targeted support is required. We must adapt to provide help where it is needed, while also prudently and carefully managing government spending.
The measures in this bill will support Canadians and businesses still feeling the effects of the pandemic.
Together we have led much of our economy through the worst of this pandemic. Our actions have made it possible for our businesses to survive this once-in-a-century crisis. We have come so far and now we need to get the job done. This difficult journey is approaching its final mile. I call on all members to support this vital legislation and get our tourism and hardest-hit sectors home safe.