OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives are calling on the Liberals to provide targeted financial support for several sectors hardest-hit by the pandemic, including tourism.
However at his COVID-19 briefing today Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to be drawn into a discussion about targeted funding for hardest-hit sectors, saying that the federal government has provided broad financial assistance since the start of the pandemic.
The Conservatives advanced a motion today calling on the Liberals to implement supports for the hospitality, tourism and charity sectors, all severely negatively impacted by the pandemic.
Said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole: “We cannot allow the pandemic to permanently kill these jobs.”
The Conservatives also want airlines to commit to providing consumer refunds, restrict executive pay and restore regional routes in exchange for repayable loans.
When then-Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced the start of talks about the financial assistance package for airlines on Nov. 8, he said there would be no bailout without refunds, and he also underlined the need for airlines to maintain regional connectivity.
Asked about financial assistance for hardest-hit sectors, Trudeau said today: “Since the start of the pandemic we have delivered on our promise [to support Canadians] for as long as it takes, and as much as it takes.
Trudeau noted that when it comes to financial assistance from the three levels of government for Canadians amid the pandemic, “$8 or $9 of every $10 has come from the federal government.”
Trudeau added that Canada’s airlines have received more than $1 billion in support since the start of the pandemic, and noted support for the tourism industry as well, including CERS and CEWS.
The federal government has also implemented the HASCAP loan program for hardest-hit businesses, including travel and tourism.
The Liberals have accused the Conservatives of deliberately holding up sector-specific support by stalling on passing measures through the House of Commons.
“I hope the Conservatives will stop playing games,” said Trudeau today, adding that the Conservatives “are being obstructionists in the functioning of government
O’Toole said his party is doing its job by pressing to ensure the existing programs are meeting existing needs, which he said they aren’t.
“There are thousands of family-owned businesses today holding on by a thread,” he said.
“They need access to programs now.”
Airline bailout talks are said to be in the home stretch. Travel agents are waiting to hear if up to $200 million in commission recalls will figure into the bailout. Last month ACTA President Wendy Paradis said ACTA has been in several meetings with the Ministry of Finance, which has taken over the discussions from the Ministry of Transport to determine a framework for consumers, travel agents and airlines in establishing aid for the airline sector. “We are very encouraged by this and it is becoming clear that negotiations are at a critical stage and that decisions are expected very soon,” said Paradis.
With file from The Canadian Press