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

Wolf photo by Brian Hay
2020 hunting season review and wildlife update: Part III

This is Part III of a three-part series by F.J. Hurtak, looking at the issues of the 2020 hunting and wildlife management season

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

Kimberley Alpine Resort's main chairlift will be down for at least a few more days, as the required part missed its connecting flight.
Kimberley Alpine Resort’s chairlift repair delayed

Part needed for repair missed connecting flight in Amsterdam

Kimberley has only two exits in the case of an emergency evacuation. Google Earth.
Kimberley Fire Department to work on upgrading evacuation route planning

City supports RDEK in applying for regional grant

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Most Read