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Ottawa extends CEBA loan payback, stays mum on Quebec’s new ‘health contribution’ charge

Wednesday, January 12, 2022 @ 4:17 PM | By Cristin Schmitz

The federal government is extending by one year a key deadline for repaying the interest-free forgivable emergency loans it made to almost 900,000 small businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At an Ottawa news conference January 12, 2022, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accompanied by Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and other cabinet ministers, announced that the repayment deadline for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans that must be met in order to qualify for partial loan forgiveness is being extended from Dec. 31, 2022, to Dec. 31, 2023, for all eligible borrowers in good standing.

(The CEBA program, which was open for applications from April 9, 2020, to June 30, 2021, provided loans of up to $60,000, for which up to $20,000 is forgivable. It has provided more than $49 billion in loans to more than 898,000 Canadian businesses, according to the Department of Finance.)

Repayment on, or before, the new extended deadline will result in loan forgiveness of up to a third of the value of the loan.

After the deadline, outstanding loans will convert to two-year term loans with interest of five per cent per year, starting Jan. 1, 2024, with full loan repayment by Dec. 31, 2025.

In addition, Trudeau announced that the repayment deadline to qualify for partial forgiveness for CEBA-equivalent lending through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund is also extended to Dec. 31, 2023.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

The Liberal prime minister was pressed repeatedly by reporters to say whether he agrees, at least “in principle,” with Quebec Premier François Legault’s announcement Jan. 11 that the provincial government intends to charge an as-yet undetermined, but “significant”  amount of money to any unvaccinated adult in the province, who refuses to be vaccinated for COVID-19 without a valid medical reason. The premier gave few concrete details, but suggested the “health contribution” charged to persons who have not had at least one dose could be included in their provincial tax filings and will be more than $50 or $100. The approximately 10 per cent of Quebecers who are unvaccinated are said to occupy a disproportionate share of hospital beds — leading to cancelled surgeries and postponed treatments for vaccinated patients, while placing extra burdens on health-care workers. “They put a very important burden on our health-care network,” Legault told a news conference. “I think it’s reasonable a majority of the population is asking that there be consequences.”

However, Trudeau indicated the federal government is waiting for more information before it comments on Quebec’s proposed move. “We need to know what the terms and conditions entail,” he said in French.

“It’s easier to get a headline when you have a simplistic answer,” he told reporters. But the prime minister noted “very complex” issues are involved, including how to balance respect for individuals’ fundamental rights and freedoms and the bedrock principles of the Canada Health Act — notably universal accessibility — while also “strongly” encouraging people to continue to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Duclos told reporters that all the provinces, including Quebec, are “on board” with the importance of preserving the key principles of the Canada Health Act, including universality (i.e. that all residents of a province or territory are entitled, on uniform terms and conditions, to the publicly funded health services covered by provincial/territorial plans).

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