Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today to Bill C-8, an act to implement certain provisions of the economic and fiscal update tabled in Parliament on December 14, 2021 and other measures.
The economic and fiscal update is a transparent report of our nation's finances, but it is about making sure that we have the tools we need to protect Canadians and keep our economy growing. It is about prudence, not austerity, and intelligent investment, not a blank cheque. It would set the stage for us to build on the supports and investments that are bolstering our economy and ensuring its growth for the long term. This means making generational investments in our recovery, such as early learning and child care, so kids in Vancouver Granville and across Canada can get the best start in life. It also means making sure parents, most often women, do not have to make the difficult decision between taking care of their kids or returning to work, adding their immense talent and skill to contribute to Canada's economy.
According to RBC, closing the women's participation rate gap would add another 1.2 million people to the labour force at a time we desperately need workers to fill the almost one million jobs across Canada. It means investing in affordable housing and in a green transition. We all know full well that a green transition of our global economy is well under way. It represents a great economic opportunity to create good, sustainable jobs across Canada for generations to come. It means supporting the technology sector, the world from which I came, so that we can be a global leader in innovation and in building the economy of the future today.
This is not just about spending, but about creating conditions for future growth, fighting climate change by building a greener economy and ensuring that indigenous communities are included in every conversation about the innovation economy. Fostering diversity and inclusion are not just the right things to do for the fabric of the country, they are also the right thing to do to build a more prosperous future. By ensuring an economy that includes all of us, we access a wider range of experiences, perspectives and skills that would increase global competitiveness, support the long-term success of Canadian communities, rural and urban, and allow us to leverage best in class Canadian expertise on the world stage.
As we emerge from these moments of uncertainty, our priority must be on economic stability and long-term growth. The choices we make now will lay the foundation for the future that we will be leaving to our kids. I am proud of the work this government has done to keep us moving forward since 2015, no matter what challenges we have faced as a country.
We have also heard a lot about the pandemic's impact on our supply chains. That is why our government announced a call for proposals under the national trade corridors fund, which has allocated up to $50 million to support projects designed to eliminate supply chain congestion.
We know good transportation infrastructure and efficient trade corridors are crucial to Canadian businesses' success in the global market.
Many predicted it would take years to rebuild our economy from the wounds of the pandemic, but look at us now. We are poised for robust growth in the months to come, growth that will help us pay down the debt and reduce the deficit. We can already see the results of the work that has been done. The December labour force survey from Statistics Canada showed that our labour market gained 55,000 jobs and our unemployment rate dropped to 5.9%, its lowest since the start of the pandemic. Thanks to the resilience of Canadians, we have well surpassed our target of recovering one million jobs.
Our plan is working. As we continue to meet the challenges of COVID-19, we are staying the course, focused on climate change, advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples and building an economy that is stronger, fairer, more prosperous and sustainable for the long term.
Let me talk about specifics. I spent a large part of my life in the tech sector building small companies into larger ones and taking intelligent managed risks knowing that I have accountability to my employees and investors. Like many business owners and entrepreneurs, I had to think about long-term growth and building resilience for rainy days, and often we have to borrow to invest in growth. That is what this government has done for Canadians during the pandemic. Now it is time to build on the remarkable return on that investment.
This pandemic, as we all know, has not been just a rainy day. This is a once-in-a-generation black swan event, a global crisis. That is why in Bill C-8 the Canada emergency business account is such an integral and important measure. The CEBA is one of the key government supports that local businesses have relied on to weather the darkest days of this pandemic. As we all know, the CEBA provides interest-free, partially forgivable loans of up to $60,000 to small businesses to help cover their operating costs during difficult times.
Let me put that into perspective. We all know that small businesses in each of our ridings are the backbone of our economy. My constituency office is in the neighbourhood of South Granville, a vibrant neighbourhood where the streets are lined with small businesses, mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, bookstores and gift shops, all of which build and contribute to thriving communities. They employ our neighbours. They help families pay their rent and mortgages. Without government support, many of these pillars of our community would be out of business today.
Because of the Canada emergency business account, nearly 900,000 small businesses have been able to keep their doors open. Eligible businesses have accessed nearly $49 billion in federal support, and because many small businesses continue to face pandemic-related challenges, in January of this year our government extended the repayment deadline for loans, to qualify for partial loan forgiveness, to the end of 2023. This extension will support short-term economic recovery and offer greater repayment flexibility. Bill C-8 would give folks six years to pay off their CEBA loan, ensuring that loan-holders are provided consistent and fair treatment no matter where they live.
Bill C-8 would also deliver financial support to our Canadian farmers, who never stopped working to keep food on our tables, through the challenges posed by COVID-19 and beyond. Canadian farmers, like Mickey and her family, with whom I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday, have demonstrated great resilience, stepping up to deliver despite their own challenges. They have done their part in shoring up our food supply by investing in greener, more sustainable farms. With Bill C-8, we would be giving them a well-deserved hand while continuing to help meet our national climate change objectives.
The new measures in Bill C-8 would build on the significant support for businesses that became law with the passage of Bill C-2 in December. With Bill C-2, our government made sure that the economic supports needed for businesses would still be available, if and when needed. With the reality that provincial health restrictions remain in effect in certain regions across this country, we know that businesses continue to suffer and face challenges. Applications are now open for the local lockdown program, which provides wage and rent subsidy support of up to 75% for employers who have had to reduce the capacity of their main business by at least 50%. To expand access to the program, we have temporarily lowered the revenue decline threshold for eligibility from 40% to 25% through to mid-February. For businesses facing other pandemic-related losses, support is also now available through the tourism and hospitality program and the hardest-hit business recovery program.
By supporting businesses through these challenges, these programs are protecting people's jobs and allowing people to stay connected to their employers. As the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance has said, this keeps people strong, it keeps families strong and it keeps businesses strong. That is what we need to keep our economy strong.
As we emerge from the pandemic, our national focus must be jobs and growth. This means attracting top international talent and more immigrants and temporary foreign workers to help Canada meet long- and short-term labour market needs.
We have heard a lot about labour shortages recently, but our Canadian economy continues to grow. We have now surpassed our target of creating one million jobs. In fact, in December, as I said, we recovered 108% of the jobs lost at the peak of the pandemic. Immigration is a big part of the engine of our economy. It helps address labour shortages and strengthens our communities. Not only are immigrants essential to Canada's economy, but they also bring fresh perspectives and connect Canada to the world. In short, immigration bolsters our economic future and connects us to the world.
The good news is that the fall economic statement allocated $85 million to help unlock access to Canada. This targeted investment will reduce processing times in key areas affected by pandemic-related delays. Ensuring Canada's immigration system is well positioned to meet Canada's economic and labour force goals is essential to our future success.
As I said earlier, our long-term strategy of prudence, not austerity, and intelligent investment, not a blank cheque, is the best path forward for success. To bring this to life, we must lean into our clear vision and use public policy levers to make Canada a global leader in technology and innovation. For Canada to lead on the global stage, we must ensure that we create the conditions necessary for that to happen. That is exactly what we are doing. When we implement new approaches, Canadian innovators, businesses and non-profits respond. Building an innovation economy means thinking about where we want to go, not where we are today. It is clear that Bill C-8 is the next essential step in keeping Canadians and our economy strong, while setting the stage for long-term economic prosperity.
The record is clear. Our government delivered unprecedented support in order to keep Canadian families and businesses solvent throughout the pandemic, and investment in our economy has continued and will continue to pay off. The plan is working. Our GDP has returned to prepandemic levels, and both Moody's and S&P have reaffirmed Canada's AAA credit rating. We came into this crisis with the lowest net debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7, and we have increased our relative advantage throughout the pandemic.
The measures contained in Bill C-8 are fundamental to supporting Canadians and Canadian businesses, and the provinces and territories, as they continue to battle COVID-19. They need the support to get through the fight and come out stronger, and they are counting on it. They are counting on us. I encourage my hon. colleagues to bear this in mind in their consideration of this essential bill, and join me in supporting its expeditious passage through the House so that Canadians can get the help they need at the time they need it.
I am thankful for this opportunity to make this case.