Questions to the Deputy Prime Minister on Bill C-9, Income Tax Act

Context-Debate - Committee of the whole on Bill C-9, an act to amend the Income Tax Act with regard to the Canada emergency rent subsidy and the Canada emergency wage subsidy, and the economy in general.

Mr. Peter Julian (New Westminster-Burnaby, NDP):

Mr. Chair, with the emergency rent subsidy program, the original contract this summer was given to a company whose leadership has links to the chief of staff of the Prime Minister. Landlords could only apply if they had a commercial mortgage at the beginning, and this was a non-tendered contract given to a commercial mortgage company. Therefore, it failed most of the businesses that should have been able to access the commercial rent subsidy.

We support the legislation moving forward, but the minister does have to recognize that there were many businesses that did not have access to the program, and their survival is dependent on having retroactive access to the rent subsidy. The NDP is offering an amendment to Bill C-9 that would achieve that, back to April 1, and allow those companies to access the rent subsidy.

Will the government accept the NDP amendment and provide the necessary support for it?

Hon. Chrystia Freeland (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.):

Mr. Chair, I think that is an entirely reasonable question, and one that I have wrestled with. At the end of the day, my answer is the one I offered to my colleague from the Bloc. I think that our programs need to be focused on the future. We need to focus on supporting businesses in their activities going forward. What we want to do is to create a bridge from today to tomorrow and not focus on the past, but I do thank the member for the question and for his obvious concern for the businesses in his riding and across the country.

Mr. Peter Julian:

Mr. Chair, that means we will see businesses going under that would not have if they had support from the government in this regard.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has been very critical about the lack of transparency, which basically was ended in August. Will the minister endeavour to start providing supports to the finance committee so that we can be kept current of government expenditures?

On the question of regulations through Bill C-9, coming through after December 19, what is the current scenario that the government sees for the regulations that would take us from December to June? Is it having maintenance of the same level of supports for businesses and for the wage subsidy?

Hon. Chrystia Freeland:

Mr. Chair, let me start with the second half of that question, which is a really important one.

In choosing December 19 as the date to which we are setting the levels for the wage and rent subsidies, we have tried to strike a balance. We are striking a balance with, on the one hand, the fact that business owners are telling us, as I am sure they are telling everyone in the House, that they want certainty and stability and they want to be able to plan. However, on the other side of the balance is the reality that the situation with coronavirus, the situation with the global economy and, frankly, the situation with the North American economy is very unpredictable and very volatile. Therefore, we are trying to offer certainty while at the same time having flexibility for the future.

I would point out, as the member is very well aware, we have assured business owners that these two programs will be in place until June—

Mr. Peter Julian:

Mr. Chair, in regard to wage subsidy relief or any other government supports, how many company applications have been refused because the company is involved with international tax evasion or the company is named in tax-evasion papers like the Bahamas papers, the Panama papers or the paradise papers, or the company uses or has used international tax havens?

Hon. Chrystia Freeland:

Mr. Chair, I am sorry. It is because of the sound. What was the first part of the question? I know it was how many companies in tax havens and stuff, but companies doing what?

Mr. Peter Julian:

Mr. Chair, how many companies have had their applications refused because of that involvement?

Hon. Chrystia Freeland:

Mr. Chair, is the member asking about the BCAP, the LEEFF or the wage subsidy program?

The Chair:

I will ask the hon. member just to clarify the question back to the hon. minister and we will proceed accordingly.

Hon. Chrystia Freeland:

Mr. Chair, I would like to really apologize to the NDP finance critic. I just did not hear, maybe because of the transmission, exactly the first part of the question. It is business owners turned down for which program?

Mr. Peter Julian:

Mr. Chair, I referred to the wage subsidy or LEEFF or any other program, and I hope I will not be penalized on the time.

Hon. Chrystia Freeland:

Mr. Chair, as the hon. member for the NDP knows, so far for the LEEFF program we only have two businesses we have qualified. Other businesses are currently being reviewed and the LEEFF program absolutely has very tough criteria around environmental performance, around executive compensation, around being sure that these are companies that are paying their taxes in Canada and around foreign ownership assets, so we are being very, very careful in that program. The LEEFF program is one which is very bespoke and there is a tiger team that goes through the financials of each company very carefully.

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