Making it clear that the federal government’s priority continues to be fighting COVID-19 and protecting the health and jobs of Canadians — as well as the health of the Canadian economy — Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland also made it clear that the government recognizes the plight of this country’s tourism, hospitality and aviation industries.
In releasing “Supporting Canadians and Fighting COVID-19: Fall Economic Statement 2020,” Minister Freeland said: “Our government’s plan is focused on fighting this pandemic, supporting Canadians and ensuring that once the virus is defeated we can invest in growth and jobs for everyone. We will do whatever it takes to help Canadians through this crisis. We will invest in every necessary public health measure.”
Minister Freeland continued: “Our government’s plan is focused on fighting this pandemic, supporting Canadians and ensuring that once the virus is defeated we can invest in growth and jobs for everyone. We will do whatever it takes to help Canadians through this crisis.”
And she made it clear that: “We will invest in every necessary public health measure. We will support Canadians and Canadian businesses in a way that is targeted and effective. And we will ensure the Canadian economy that emerges from this pandemic is greener, more inclusive, more innovative, and more competitive than the one that preceded it, with a stronger, more resilient middle class.”
However, in the Fall Economic Statement 2020 documents, the federal government also made it clear in that since the beginning of the pandemic, it has heard from many Canadians who had booked travel and ended up stuck with vouchers for trips they could not take instead of getting refunds.
And it indicated that it is establishing a process with major airlines regarding financial assistance and as part of that process, it will ensure Canadians are refunded for cancelled flights.
Tourism gets support
The economic statement notes that the recently launched Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Lockdown Support, enhanced Canada Emergency Business Account, and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy at the proposed new maximum subsidy rate of 75%, along with the new Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program, will continue to provide a robust backstop for the sector in the months ahead.
And it says that these programs have been designed with diverse, hard hit sectors like tourism and hospitality in mind.
Pointing out that to date, approximately $9.7 billion is estimated to have flowed to businesses in these sectors through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Canada Emergency Business Account and the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance.
The Regional Relief and Recovery Fund has provided $202 million in support to 2,830 tourism-related businesses.
- Recognizing the importance of the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund in supporting local tourism businesses, the government will earmark a minimum of 25% of all the Fund’s resources to support local tourism businesses, providing more than $500 million in program support through June 2021.
And it also makes it clear that the government will continue to work with partners and stakeholders to identify the best ways to support the longer term rebound and recovery of this important sector.
What’s in it for air
Since the beginning of the pandemic, air sector workers have received over $1.4 billion in support through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.
The government is committed to ensuring that Canada’s air sector continues to connect Canadians and Canadian marketplaces, as part of a dynamic aerospace industry.
However, since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has heard from many Canadians who had booked travel and ended up stuck with vouchers for trips they could not take instead of getting refunds.
The government is establishing a process with major airlines regarding financial assistance. As part of this process, the government will ensure Canadians are refunded for cancelled flights.
* To support regional air transportation, including regional air carriers, the government proposes to provide up to $206 million over two years, starting in 2020-21, to the Regional Development Agencies for a new Regional Air Transportation Initiative.
* To support small and regional airports in making critical investments in health and safety infrastructure, the government proposes to provide additional funding of $186 million over two years, starting in 2021-22, for the Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP). Small federally-owned airports, which are not currently eligible for ACAP, would also be eligible to access the program for 2021-22 and 2022-23.
* To support large airports in making critical investments in safety, security and transit infrastructure, the government proposes to provide $500 million over six years, starting in 2020-21, to establish a new transfer payment program. Transit projects at large airports, such as the new Réseau express métropolitain station at the Montreal Airport, will be eligible for funding. The government will consider supporting further airport investments to help address the health, safety and economic impacts of COVID-19.
* To continue supporting the operations of Canada’s major airports, the government proposes to extend $229 million in additional rent relief to the 21 airport authorities that pay rent to the federal government, with comparable treatment for Ports Toronto, which operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. This support to airports would be made up of repayable and non-repayable rent relief, with non-repayable support costing $29 million over 4 years, starting 2020-2o21. Rent relief would be provided as follows:
- Waiving rent payments for small airports (i.e., those with passenger volumes of less than one million passengers in 2019) for 2021, 2022 and 2023.
- Waiving rent payments for medium airports (i.e., those with passenger volumes between one million and ten million in 2019) for 2021.
- Deferring rent payments for the largest airports for 2021, with repayment to occur over ten years, starting in 2024.
To further assist airports to manage the financial implications of reduced air travel, the government proposes to provide $65 million in additional financial support to airport authorities in 2021-22.
Live events and the arts sector also received attention in the Fall Economic Statement and, as a result, to support the planning and presentation of COVID-19-safe events and the arts — including both live and digital — and to provide work opportunities in these sectors, the government will provide $181.5 million in 2021-22 to the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts to expand their funding programs.
This includes a one-year renewal of funding provided in Budget 2019 for the Building Communities through Arts and Heritage program, the Canada Arts Presentation Fund and the Canada Music Fund.
As well, the government will also provide additional COVID-19 relief to local television and radio stations by supporting the waiving of broadcasting Part II licence fees in 2020-21, which are collected annually by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
Waiving these fees will provide up to $50 million in relief to these companies, helping them to stay afloat and maintain their broadcasting offerings to Canadians.
The government understands that certain major live events and festivals will require unique support.
And the government indicated that it will work with industry to prevent the closure of unique and irreplaceable flagship events and festivals across Canada, and to ensure the survival of key, globally-recognized assets in this sector.
To address the impact of COVID-19 on film and television productions across the country, the government announced a $50 million Short-Term Compensation Fund in September 2020. This initiative is compensating for the lack of insurance coverage for COVID-19–related filming interruptions and production shutdowns, allowing the industry to continue with its operations.