OTTAWA – Perth-Wellington MP John Nater joined the debate on May 25 of Bill C-30, which is the government’s first implementation act from this year’s budget.
He said when he approaches legislation, his priority is to see how this impacts people, families, communities and the businesses located within Perth-Wellington. Then Nater said he looks for what important aspects he thinks might be missing from legislation and how that would impact the people of Perth-Wellington and by extension the region and Canada.
“There is no question that COVID-19 has had a significant and ongoing impact on our communities, on individuals, on their health and their lives,” he said. “Sadly, more than 25,000 Canadians have died due to COVID-19, countless others have fallen sick and some are continuing to experience the long-term health impacts of COVID-19.”
From an economic standpoint, he pointed out lockdowns have created challenges for businesses leading some to shut down or lay off their employees.
“They have created stress, anxiety and feelings of loneliness,” said Nater. “Many Canadians are feeling isolated because of this ongoing challenge.”
He spoke of small businesses as the lifeblood of communities.
“As the official opposition, there is a duty on our part to not only review legislation, but many times to encourage and promote improvements,” said Nater. “We have done this countless times throughout this pandemic.”
He mentioned that when the Liberal government came to the table with a more generous wage initially announced as a 10 per cent wage subsidy, it was we as the opposition parties who encouraged Liberals to come to the table with a more meaningful option.
“The same goes for the back-to-work bonus that we proposed throughout the summer, encouraging that incentive that when jobs came available, people were able to take them without losing their entire CERB payments,” said Nater.
He then said the budget implementation act looked more like a pre-election plan rather than a plan forward for recovery.
Nater drew attention to the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s May 5 report which stated:
“The Government did not make a clear link between the measures in Budget 2021 and its $70-to-$100 billion stimulus plan announced in the Fall Economic Statement. Rather, Budget 2021 combines $36.8 billion in additional COVID-19 spending along with other new spending.”
Nater said this is an example of the Liberal government using COVID-19 for non-related funding and spending.
“This week is Tourism Week and the riding of Perth-Wellington is certainly proud to host so many amazing tourism attractions … I think of the Stratford Festival, the Stratford Summer Music, SpringWorks, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and, of course, Drayton Entertainment,” he said.
One unique thing about Drayton Entertainment, noted Nater, is that it has not in the past received operational funding from the government.
“Instead, it has been self-sufficient, and relied on donors’ funds and box office revenues to make its impact in the community,” he said. “Unfortunately, this success has also hindered it throughout this COVID-19 pandemic. Last spring, when the government announced the emergency support fund for cultural, heritage and sports organizations, organizations like Drayton Entertainment were not eligible because it had not received past funding through the Canada Council for the Arts.”
Nater drew attention to the recovery fund for arts, culture and sports sectors in the budget.
“This might be a positive sign, but I worry, and I know that many arts and cultural organizations worry, that the same criteria will once again be used for this funding and thereby wonderful artistic and cultural organizations, such as Drayton Entertainment, will be unable to access these important funds,” he said.
He called for clarity to ensure that this funding is directed to all arts and cultural organizations as they look for recovery.
Nater raised concerns about spending on COVID-19 relief which impact new businesses.
“I hear from far too many constituents in my riding who signed a lease just before the pandemic hit, or who took over a business just before the pandemic hit or the week the pandemic hit,” he said. “I heard of one constituent who literally signed their lease on March 13, 2020, and because of the pandemic’s impact on their business, they have never been able to really get off the ground.”
According to Nater, the misfortune of starting their businesses during a worldwide global pandemic has left some business owners fighting their government to get the support they are in dire need of.
“I am imploring government members to please ensure that, going forward, government support programs for businesses are targeted and can be accessed by new business owners,” he said.
Nater also spoke about Division 37 of the budget implementation act, stating that Canadians paying attention may find it strange that within an omnibus budget implementation act the government also proposes to amend the Canada Elections Act.
“It fixes the clause that I amended on in the Procedures and House Affairs Committee during the previous Parliament,” he said. “I was adding back the word “knowingly” in the rule about publishing false statements that affect election results.”
Nater pointed out that the government did not adopt that small but meaningful amendment and it was subsequently taken to court, where the court ruled that this aspect of the Canada Elections Act was unconstitutional.
“Instead of relying on the advice of the Official Opposition in the previous Parliament, the government instead went with its misinformed approach,” he said. “The result was a finding that it was unconstitutional.”
“I want to say this very clearly,” said Nater. “I will not be supporting this budget implementation act because it does not address the meaningful concerns of people in Perth-Wellington, who are just trying to get ahead.”
Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, B.C. MP Randall Garrison said he listened to Nater’s speech with great interest because tourism and the performing arts play a big role in his riding too.
“We are coming up on July when CERB benefits will be cut by 40 per cent,” said Garrison. “In my riding, I am finding lots of people who work in the performing arts, hospitality and tourism do not have their jobs back yet.”
He asked Nater if he supports the proposal in Bill C-30 to cut the CERB benefit by 40 per cent on July 1.
“The member talked about a specific aspect of this bill, in terms of the CERB reductions. I do not support this bill, including that part of it,” said Nater. “We need to ensure there is a targeted approach to the tourism industry and those industries that will take the longest time to recover from this global pandemic.”
Trois-Rivières, QC MP Louise Charbonneau noted that in Bill C-30 small charitable businesses are excluded from the definition of “small business”. She asked for Nater’s thoughts on this exclusion.
“In the charitable sector, the fact that non-profits do not have access to certain programs is a big issue,” said Nater. “In Perth-Wellington, I have heard from non-profit businesses that applied for certain government programs but did not qualify. The government needs to fix this to help non-profit businesses.”
Oshawa MP Colin Carrie mentioned Nater’s emphasis on the tourism sector, which hires a lot of young people.
“(Nater) is probably aware of the Brock study in 2018, before the pandemic, that found that 65 per cent of software engineer graduates leave Canada, and around 30 per cent of other STEM professionals leave,” said Carrie. “This is problematic. The Liberals will say they are throwing more money at education and training, but when people are trained and they are leaving the country, that is a problem.”
“We should be attracting the best and brightest to Canada, and keeping those people in Canada,” he said. “When someone graduates from college or university with high-skilled job training and then goes to an international destination, that is something we need to combat.”
To do that, Nater said they need to ensure Canada is a welcoming and hospitable place for businesses to set up.
“We can look at places like Silicon Valley, which is attracting bright, smart young individuals,” he said. “We need those people to come to Canada to access the great things we have to offer here. We could do that by having a meaningful conversation about what we need to do to encourage businesses to relocate here in Canada, rather than chasing them away to international destinations.”
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner