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Trudeau expands small business loan program, declines to comment on any Meng resolution

Friday, December 04, 2020 @ 4:30 PM | By Terry Davidson

As the second wave of COVID-19 continues to pummel the nation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expanding his government’s emergency loan program for small businesses.

As of Dec. 4, eligible businesses can now access an additional $20,000 — on top of the $40,000 initially made available — as part of Ottawa’s Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), according to a government news release.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Up to half of this additional $20,000 “will be forgivable” if the loan is repaid by Dec. 31, 2022.

(As part of the initial CEBA loan, up to $10,000 — or 25 per cent — could be forgivable if the loan was repaid by that date.)

“This means the additional loan effectively increases CEBA loans from the existing $40,000 to $60,000 for eligible businesses, of which a total of $20,000 will be forgiven if the balance of the loan is repaid on time,” it states.

The release notes that, as recently detailed in the government’s Fall Economic Statement, the loan application deadline has been extended to March 31, 2021.

The CEBA was launched in early April and provided a $40,000 zero-interest loan to small businesses feeling the pinch due to the ongoing health crisis.

Since then, the program has increased its payroll eligibility range and became available to small businesses without a payroll and to “sole proprietors receiving business income directly,” as well as to “family-owned corporations remunerating in the form of dividends rather than payroll.”

During an address to the nation, Trudeau talked of the need to expand the CEBA.

“This is a tough time for everyone, and the small business owners at the heart of our communities are no exception,” said Trudeau. “The small business owners are our neighbours and our friends. They’re incredibly hard working and devoted people. They are there at the heart of our communities — there, at the foundation of our economy. And this is a time when we need to be there for each other.”

During questions from the press, Trudeau was asked about recent reports of U.S. prosecutors being in talks with lawyers representing Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver in late 2018 on a U.S. warrant for alleged bank fraud.

Meng, an executive with Huawei Technologies, has been fighting extradition to the U.S. to face the charges.  

Some news reports state the issue could be resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement, which would allow her to return to China.

Shortly after Meng’s arrest, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested in China in what many see as retribution for Meng’s detainment. The “two Michaels,” as they have come to be known, remain detained in that country and face charges of spying.

Trudeau was asked if he thought it was time for fresh approaches on trying to solve the issues of Meng and the two Michaels, and if he has spoken with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden about a possible resolution.

“For almost two years we’ve been working extremely hard to bring home these two Michaels,” said Trudeau. “It is an absolute priority for the government. I won’t be commenting on any of the recent reports.”

Trudeau was just as tight-lipped when it came to his drawing heat from India for his recent comments on ongoing — and at times violent — protests in Delhi by Punjabi famers who claim new agricultural reforms will leave them open to being exploited by private business.

Earlier this week, Trudeau reportedly said Canada will defend the right to peaceful protest and that his government has reached out to Indian officials with its concerns.

India’s government has since summoned the high commissioner of Canada in India and said Trudeau’s comments, as well as those made by “some cabinet ministers and members of Parliament … constitute an unacceptable interference in [India’s] internal affairs.”

“Such actions, if continued, would have a seriously damaging impact on ties,” warned a statement out of New Delhi.

Trudeau was asked if he fears that his comments have damaged Canada’s relationship with India.

“Canada will always stand up for the right to peaceful protest anywhere around the world, and we’re pleased to see moves towards de-escalation and dialogue,” said Trudeau.

He was immediately asked again if he was worried about hurting the Canada-India relationship.

“Canada will always stand up for the right to peaceful protest and for human rights around the world,” he said.

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