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Pandemic response “still not perfect,” admits Northern Affairs Minister

Pandemic response “still not perfect,” admits Northern Affairs Minister

Melillo questioned Minister Vandal about business supports for the North

KENORA, ONTARIO ~~~~~  October 28, 2020 (LSN)  Conservative MP Eric Melillo questioned the Liberal Northern Affairs Minister at a meeting of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee yesterday.  Kenora, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury, North Bay, Ontario

MP Melillo, the Conservative Shadow Minister for Northern Affairs, posed tough questions to Minister Dan Vandal, highlighting how Northern businesses were largely failed by the Liberal government’s COVID-19 response.

The Kenora riding MP noted that the government’s “rigid criteria” prevented a lot of tourist operators and seasonal businesses in the North from accessing federal pandemic supports.

“I’m wondering if there was any sort of consultation or consideration of seasonal businesses when these programs were designed, and if so, why was it not reflected in the program?” Melillo asked.

Minister Vandal touted investments in the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) and the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), but seemed to acknowledge that these weren’t enough to sustain the tourism sector. “In spite of this, the tourism industry is in deep distress,” he admitted, adding that consultations are “ongoing.”

Melillo also asked why the government was so slow to fix flaws in their programs.

Opposition parties spent much of the spring and summer raising alarms about technicalities that rendered businesses ineligible for federal supports, including tax-exempt Indigenous businesses on-reserve and small businesses using personal bank accounts. Despite having relatively simple fixes, it took months for these issues to be resolved.

“I’m wondering, Minister, if you can provide some insight into why it did take so long for some of these changes to the programs to occur?” Melillo asked.

Minister Vandal defended his government’s COVID-19 response but conceded that, even after reforms to the business programs, “it’s still not perfect.”

“There’s still a lot of work to do – there’s still gaps,” the Minister said.

Melillo also requested data on how many Northern businesses were rejected from receiving support, but departmental officials were unable to provide that information.

After the meeting, Melillo said that the holes in the government’s pandemic response underscore the need for collaboration and consultation.

“Going forward, the government needs to consult with Canadians to ensure no one else falls through the cracks,” he stated. “They also need to listen to the Opposition when we speak up for our constituents and propose solutions to problems – they should have been doing that from the beginning.”

The questioning occurred during an evening sitting of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs (INAN), which featured testimony from Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.


At the Standing Committee for Indigenous and Northern Affairs, I questioned Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal about how the government's COVID-19 response let many Northern businesses fall through the cracks

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Earlier in the day, the Committee held a brief meeting which saw Melillo’s motion on Northern broadband pass unanimously.

Melillo’s motion, calling on the government to invest in internet access for Northern Canada, was introduced in a previous meeting, but delayed by Liberal stalling tactics.

 

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A big Thank You to all our supporters across Northern Ontario from Kenora in the West to North Bay in the East and south into North Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan  
 

 

  • 28 October 2020
  • Author: Robert McKenzie
  • Number of views: 4126
  • Comments: 0
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