A man watches the sun rise over Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, Ont. on Wednesday Nov. 4, 2020. Ottawa is rolling out a wave of new funding for pandemic-battered industries including tourism, the arts and regional aviation, with smaller companies top of mind — and large airlines notably absent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

A man watches the sun rise over Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, Ont. on Wednesday Nov. 4, 2020. Ottawa is rolling out a wave of new funding for pandemic-battered industries including tourism, the arts and regional aviation, with smaller companies top of mind — and large airlines notably absent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Ottawa beefs up loans for hard-hit sectors — but big airlines not included for now

The move aims to bolster an industry made up largely of small and medium-sized businesses

Ottawa is rolling out a wave of new funding for pandemic-battered industries including tourism, the arts and regional aviation, with smaller companies top of mind — and large airlines notably absent.

The Liberal government’s fiscal update sketches out a program that will provide low-interest loans of up to $1 million for badly hurt entrepreneurs.

The aid, dubbed the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP), comes on top of a newly expanded emergency loan program already in place for small businesses, and technically is not limited to certain industries.

Meanwhile the devastated tourism sector will have access to one-quarter of the more than $2 billion that Ottawa is doling out to regional development agencies through June 2021, including a $500-million top-up announced Monday.

The move aims to bolster an industry made up largely of small and medium-sized businesses and that accounts for roughly 750,000 jobs and two per cent of GDP, according to the government.

Another $181.5 million will flow to show business and performers via the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts, the fall economic statement says.

Rent relief and nearly $700 million in capital investments are en route to airports over six years. About $206 million in further support is bound for regional aviation, including smaller airlines, via a new “regional air transportation initiative” overseen by development agencies.

But an aid package targeting big players such as Air Canada and WestJet Airlines remains in the works as talks with Ottawa drag on, with the lack of specifics in the fiscal update frustrating industry leaders.

“We had hoped to get a better sense of where the government was going. Instead they repeated the line that they’ve repeated several times over the past several months — that they’re ‘establishing a process with major airlines regarding financial assistance,’ ” said Mike McNaney, head of the National Airlines Council of Canada.

Countries around the world have given carriers US$173 billion in support, he said. Many have also required airlines to offer refunds for cancelled flights, something Ottawa says will be a condition of any bailout.

“We are very much a global outlier and are ostensibly stuck at Stage Zero on the government planning process,” McNaney — whose industry group represents Air Canada, WestJet, Transat and Jazz Aviation — said in a phone interview.

The regional aviation support comes with question marks, as well.

“A regional initiative, what’s that?” asked John McKenna, CEO of the Air Transport Association of Canada, which represents some 30 regional airlines.

“We have no idea. We have not been consulted,” he said in a phone interview. “Never mind new initiatives, try to support the existing services so they survive.”

READ MORE: Statistics Canada says economy grew at a record pace in third quarter of 2020

In a speech to the House of Commons, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland stressed the benefits of the broader government-backed loan program for smaller companies.

“We know that businesses in tourism, hospitality, travel, arts and culture have been particularly hard-hit,” Freeland said.

“So we’re creating a new stream of support for those businesses that need it most — a credit availability program with 100 per cent government-backed loan support and favourable terms for businesses that have lost revenue as people stay home to fight the spread of the virus.”

The HASCAP credit program will offer interest rates below the market average, according to the fiscal update, with more details coming “soon.”

It also said the government is “exploring options to enhance” a federal loan program for big companies, little-loved by industry since its inception in the spring.

The Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) offers loans of $60 million or more to large businesses facing cash problems, but comes with an interest rate that jumps to eight per cent from five per cent after the first year — far above typical private-sector lending rates.

Only two firms have been approved for LEEFF loans since the Liberals announced the program on May 11, according to the Canada Enterprise Emergency Funding Corporation: a casino company and a producer of metallurgical coal.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh criticized the government for failing to offer industry aid that includes explicit job protections.

“They have not rolled out any sector-specific supports, meaningfully, that are tied to jobs,” he said.

Bloc Québécois Yves-François Blanchet slammed the lack of “precision” in the fiscal snapshot.

“They basically say that there is no limit to what they will spend, without saying or without admitting how badly you spend it,” he said.

The $686 million in airport aid includes $500 million over six years, starting this year, to back infrastructure spending at large airports that would include massive transit projects, such as the new light-rail station at the Montreal airport.

The government is also proposing to extend $229 million in additional rent relief to the 21 airport authorities that pay rent to Ottawa, with “comparable treatment” for Ports Toronto, which operates Billy Bishop airport in downtown Toronto.

The supports unveiled Monday come on top of Ottawa’s pan-sectoral announcement to raise the wage subsidy to 75 per cent of company payroll costs — it was reduced to a maximum of 65 per cent in October — as well as an extension of the rent subsidy to mid-March from the end of 2020.

David Chartrand, Quebec coordinator for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, applauded the wage subsidy, but lamented the radio silence on large airlines.

“After almost 10 months of crisis, still nothing,” he said in a release in French.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

economyLiberals

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

One staff member tested positive for COVID-19 at Maple Ridge Seniors Village. (Google)
Outbreak declared over at Maple Ridge Senior’s Village

This is the second COVID-19 outbreak for the long-term-care facility

The slide happened in November of 2018. (Special to The News)
Slippery slope has Albion community centre neighbours upset

City’s excavations caused landslide on neighbouring property

Cathy Barrington plays the drums and sings with various jazz and blues bands. But she is known in the school district as the singing secretary. (Special to The News)
Singing secretary at Maple Ridge elementary school leaves on a high note

Cathy Barrington, whose rendition of At Last went viral online, has retired

Lance Andre is the GM of the Maple Ridge Burrards WLA team. (The News files)
Maple Ridge Burrards plan to ‘go local’ in upcoming draft

WLA announces draft will be held online Feb. 11

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

A child joins the Uke ‘n Play kickoff event at the Chilliwack Library on Oct. 1, 2016. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Events return, in virtual form, at Fraser Valley Regional Library

People can take part in ukulele jam, bullet journaling, reading groups and more

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

Most Read