December 15, 2020
By email: Chrystia.Freeland@parl.gc.ca
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6
RE: STRONG, ENFORCEABLE CONDITIONS ON CORPORATE SUPPORT PACKAGES
Dear Deputy Prime Minister Freeland,
As we approach the holiday season, it’s hard to escape the reality that it has been more than nine months since the federal and provincial governments began enacting various emergency measures and other public safety protocols in response to the COVID-19 crisis. We have experienced historic, unprecedented social, public health and economic shocks, and no aspect of Canadian society has been unaffected.
While we have seen signs of a growing recovery in some segments of our economy, we know that other sectors will take a long time to return to pre-pandemic business levels. Unifor has been respectfully providing our input on a variety of government programs, regulations, and policies, and we have been pleased to see a number of our recommendations taken up by the federal government.
One such measure, announced in the Fall Economic Statement, is the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP). Prior to the FES, we have been ringing alarm bells about the dire state of some particular sectors in the economy, including tourism and hospitality, air transportation and aerospace. Many of these sectors were the first to feel the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, they have been the hardest hit, and they will likely take the longest to recover. With the continued grounding of many flights globally, the aerospace sector is experiencing a lagged hit that is likely to get worse before it gets better. We were pleased to hear the announcement about the HASCAP, but we are increasingly concerned that federal financial supports are flowing to corporate Canada without adequate conditions ensuring Canadian workers are also looked after.
Back in June, Unifor launched our Build Back Better campaign, a comprehensive plan for a fair, inclusive and resilient economic recovery. Our policy roadmap consisted of five pillars:
- Income Security
- Green Jobs and Decarbonization
- Critical Infrastructure
- Rebuilding Domestic Industrial Capacity
- Strong, Enforceable Conditions on Corporate Support Packages
Regarding the fifth pillar, we made a number of specific recommendations that seem relevant to the HASCAP and a number of other government support programs:
- Limit rescue packages to include debt instruments or equity purchases.
- Establish Job protection guarantees from employers who receive a rescue package.
- Restrict wage reductions for hourly and salaried non-executive employees.
- Impose strict limits on executive compensation and restrict dividend payments as well as share repurchases.
More recently, we have all been disturbed by a media report detailing how a number of Canadian publicly traded companies have paid out billions of dollars in dividends to shareholders while also receiving CEWS subsidies. We were pleased to hear your subsequent statement that the wage subsidy is meant to support workers, but we would like to see a more comprehensive plan to enshrine stronger language within the various corporate support packages rolled out by the federal government.
Our members in hospitality and tourism, air transportation and aerospace need these support packages now. Government support in any form must come with strong, enforceable conditions that ensure benefits flow to workers in the short and long-term. Anything less puts the jobs of our members and the public interest at risk.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.