FPAC: COVID-19 support package a good first step, need additional key measures
March 26, 2020 By Forest Products Association of Canada
Yesterday, the federal government’s $107 billion emergency COVID-19 support package for Canadian workers and businesses received Royal Assent.
Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) was pleased to see all party support for this bill and views it as an important first step to provide much needed relief to Canadians.
FPAC is calling for swift implementation of these emergency measures so we can help families and businesses now and protect the Canadian economy.
“The current situation is unprecedented and we cannot overstate the importance of a quick and coordinated plan to implement the measures approved today,” said Derek Nighbor, FPAC’s president and CEO. “This is a big first step. We applaud MPs and Senators from all parties for getting down to work and passing this quickly. As this pandemic unfolds, we need to be live to other required measures to protect Canadian workers and their families, and provide businesses with the needed backstops for business continuity and cash flows. Right now, it’s about fighting through this storm, then we can hopefully soon switch gears to recovery and growth mode,” Nighbor added.
FPAC is echoing calls from the Business Council of Canada for the federal government to move urgently on three other key measures:
- Help laid-off workers right away. Many larger businesses, including those in the forest sector, would be prepared to step up to pay laid-off workers an amount equal to what they would be entitled to under Employment Insurance benefits, with the guarantee that the federal government would reimburse them. The key is to get money in the hands of individuals and families now – and avoid pushing them en masse into lengthy EI line ups.
- Help distressed companies with credit and cash flows. We welcome the $10 B already earmarked to support capital and liquidity, but much more will be needed to keep workers employed and companies operating. Expanding programming through Export Development Canada (EDC) and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) by at least $75 B would be a huge boost.
- Federal direction around ‘essential services’ or ‘critical operations’. Similar to what has been issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, we need a federal directive to declare forest products and the forest sector as ‘essential’ or ‘critical’ infrastructure and operations. The Canadian forest sector supply chain is critical and provides essential items from building materials to pulp for masks and hospital gowns; from products like toilet paper and tissue to pellets and biofuels for heating systems. While the importance of the forest sector value chain has already been recognized in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick, a confusing patchwork is emerging across the country and some provinces have not yet acted. To keep operating, many of our key suppliers are now needing to prove that they are connected to an ‘essential’ or ‘critical’ supply chain. Today, if you are a forest products company operating in a province that has not yet made a declaration, it is putting supplier/customer relationships and business at risk. Federal direction and clarity is needed immediately.
In the days and weeks ahead, FPAC and its members across the country will continue work with the federal government to ensure forest sector workers and communities get the support they need.
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