Hon. Peter Harder (Acting Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(b), I move that the bill be read the third time now.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: On debate, Senator Harder.
Senator Harder: Thank you, honourable senators, for being here today for this unprecedented sitting and allowing me to move third reading of Bill C-13, An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19.
Thank you as well to the senators and staff working from home today. We are especially grateful as well to our Black Rod, our Clerk, table officers and all the support staff for being here and who are seeing to it that we can do our jobs here in the Senate today.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Harder: I will be brief because there is little time to waste.
Bill C-13 is designed to provide the means for the government to assist Canadians who have been and will be gravely affected by COVID-19. Circumstances have progressed to the point that tens of thousands are or will soon be in precarious financial circumstances. Protecting their health or paying their bills should not be the choice Canadians face. This is a crisis requiring immediate action and coordination across all levels of government and party lines.
After much negotiation, Bill C-13 was passed with unanimous consent in the other place and now requires our approval in order for Canadians, as business owners, individuals, parents and our Indigenous population to access the much-needed assistance to get us through this global pandemic and all of its repercussions.
The changes made, with the input of all parties, include the requirement to get the concurrence from the Minister of Health and a detailed description of expenses that will be allowed, from added appropriations to limit the type of payments to addressing financially distressed provinces and territories, and the inclusion of a sunset clause of December 30, 2020, to any and all measures related to Bill C-13.
The measures of the Bill C-13 are part of the first phase of the COVID-19 economic response plan. It will provide up to $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses, and it will defer $55 billion in tax revenue for businesses and individuals. It represents over $500 billion in credit and liquidity support for people in businesses through the cooperation between financial Crown corporations, the Bank of Canada, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and commercial lenders.
This is a health crisis. As a result, Bill C-13 will provide one-time funding of $500 million through the Canada Health Transfer for provinces and territories. These funds will be available immediately upon Royal Assent, hopefully this afternoon.
Bill C-13 introduces the Canada emergency care benefit that provides support for up to 16 weeks for those who cannot work because of COVID-19. It is open to everyone, whether or not they qualify for EI.
You will be eligible if you stay home, if you are ill with COVID-19, are quarantined, caring for someone who is sick, laid off or at home without pay to care for your child. Bill C-13 is temporarily waiving the one-week waiting period for those quarantined and those accessing EI sickness benefits.
Further, assistance to individuals and the marginalized includes providing up to $900 biweekly for up to 15 weeks, including self-employment; allocating $5 billion to support workers who are not eligible for Employment Insurance; providing $305 million for distinctions-based Indigenous community support funds to address the immediate needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation communities; reducing the minimum withdrawals for 2020 for RRIFs by 25%; providing $157.5 million to support the homeless; providing up to $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help manage or prevent outbreak in facilities; providing a top-up payment through GST of close to $400 to single individuals and close to $600 for couples; increasing the Canada Child Benefit by $300 per month from the May payment; deferring the payment of personal income taxes and corporate income taxes until this fall; and offering a six-month interest-free moratorium on Canada Student Loan payments.
Small- and medium-sized businesses are at the heart of our economy. The measures in Bill C-13 to support business owners include extending the duration of work week agreements from 38 to 76 weeks, providing a subsidy to small- and medium-sized businesses, and reducing remittances of income tax withheld on employees’ remuneration. This includes corporations eligible for the small business deduction, not-for-profit organizations and charities.
The Bank of Canada has taken action to ensure liquidity so that financial institutions can continue to extend credit to households and businesses. OSFI has lowered the domestic stability buffer, allowing Canada’s large banks to inject $300 billion of additional lending into the economy.
One of the biggest expenses for Canadians is the mortgage. Canada’s three mortgage insurers have committed to providing homeowners with solutions to mitigate temporary financial hardships, including permitting lenders to defer up to six monthly mortgage payments without engaging the mortgage insurer.
Bill C-13 will increase CMHC’s legislative limit to guarantee securities and insure mortgages by $150 billion to $750 billion. To support CMHC’s operations, this bill increases CMHC’s authorized capital limit to $10 billion. This provides additional capital and resources to support the mortgage financing market.
The Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada are cooperating with private sector lenders to coordinate credit solutions for businesses including the oil and gas, air transport and tourism sectors. The near-term credit available to farmers and the agriculture food sector is increased through Farm Credit Canada.
In closing, I want to thank all of our professional public service who now have the enormous task of implementing the measures we hopefully will pass today.
Honourable colleagues, this global pandemic is wreaking havoc on the economy, industries and freedom of movement in the lives of thousands of Canadians. COVID-19 does not discriminate. Every region is at risk. This is not a partisan issue. This is a human issue. I ask all senators to do what we are mandated to do, support our businesses, support our communities, our regions and our most vulnerable by passing this bill before the sun sets today. More and more, our fellow Canadians will be needing this help by the time the sun comes up tomorrow. We have our role to do. Let’s get on with it.