Madam Speaker, as today marks the first time in the 44th Parliament that I am exercising my privilege to rise to speak on a government bill, I want to take a brief moment to acknowledge those who have helped to get me here to stand alongside my hon. colleagues and once again represent the people of Richmond Hill.
I want to thank the volunteers who put in countless hours to spread our message, as well as friends and staff who helped mentor and guide me, and helped further connect me with the community. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not thank my wife and my two children, without whom I would not have had the emotional support to continue this work. Lastly, I thank my larger family. They are the people who have trusted me to work for their best interests: my dear constituents in Richmond Hill, whose engagement and community leadership has consistently impressed me for the past six years. Indeed, my constituents will be the beneficiaries of the bill that I will be discussing today.
I feel privileged to rise in the House to speak on Bill C-8, an act to implement certain provisions of the economic and fiscal update tabled in Parliament on December 14, 2021, and other measures. In my riding of Richmond Hill, there are over 5,000 small businesses, with labour participation of over 64%. Richmond Hill is home to many of the workers who helped establish the foundation and growth of our economy. Many of them also constitute the membership of my community-led small business council, where I meet monthly with my constituents to hear their concerns and feedback on our government's support for their businesses.
First, let me acknowledge that Richmond Hill's small businesses have shown immeasurable resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While our federal government has played a key role to the provision of critical supports so far, we know that it is vital to continue this assistance to ensure a continued strong recovery. Our efforts in providing crucial financial assistance to, and collaboration with, the provinces and territories ensure that the health and safety of Canadians are an utmost reflection of the priorities of our government on this front.
Since the onset of COVID-19, we have implemented income support, we have issued direct payments to families and seniors, we have helped businesses keep their workers and we have helped workers keep their wages. Bill C-8 is yet another manifestation of these priorities: it serves as an extra, supplementary tool in our tool box. The bill is constituted of seven parts, each of which addresses a key and prominent issue within our national and local communities, starting with the funding for the procurement of rapid tests and investment in therapeutics, moving to the protection of our children's health and safety in school, and leading to a re-emphasis on critical and targeted support for workers and businesses that will protect their financial and physical well-being. This is a well-rounded piece of legislation with a comprehensive, but targeted, approach.
With the onset of the pandemic, businesses in my riding stepped up by introducing new measures that enabled them to continue serving Richmond Hill safely and in alignment with public health measures. They fought COVID-19 head-on by enforcing vaccine mandates and reducing capacities to encourage social distancing. Many even installed protective barriers within their spaces to maintain the safety of staff and customers alike. Now, as provincial jurisdictions begin authorizing an easing of restrictions, we know that COVID-19 and its impact still persist, which is why our federal government will continue to support businesses in their safe operation.
In December, our government's Bill C-2 received royal assent. Within this bill, we acknowledged the spread of the omicron variant and its potential for further disruption to small businesses. As such, we integrated key economic support, including the extension of the Canada recovery hiring program, the establishment of the Canada worker lockdown benefit and further extensions to the Canada recovery caregiving benefit and the Canada recovery sickness benefit. These initiatives, among others in Bill C-2, have been and will be instrumental in keeping Canadian businesses strong and resilient in their recovery from COVID-19.
The new measures in Bill C-8 would add to the line of supports that become law by the passage of Bill C-2 in numerous ways. Proper ventilation and improvement to indoor air quality are key components of the continued fight against COVID-19, but this is also a costly endeavour.
Bill C-8 would alleviate this by proposing a refundable small business air quality improvement tax credit of 25% on incurred, eligible air quality improvement expenses. This tax credit would be for eligible expenses taken between September 1, 2021, and December 31, 2022. It would make safety against COVID-19 affordable for small businesses.
That is not all that Bill C-8 proposes in order to support businesses. Our government recently announced the extension of the repayment deadline for the Canada emergency business account loan. All eligible borrowers in good standing would qualify for partial loan forgiveness. The interest-free and partially forgivable loan provided by the CEBA has helped our small businesses, nearly 900,000 of them, stay afloat during one of the biggest economic challenges for our country.
This extension would facilitate short-term economic recovery for small businesses and greater repayment flexibility for those who had received support from CEBA. Nonetheless, businesses that benefited from CEBA are still burdened by the impact of the pandemic, and our government wants to help mitigate some of the financial stress.
Repayments on or before the new deadline of December 31, 2023, would result in a loan forgiveness of up to a third of the value of the loan. This can translate to about $20,000 in loan forgiveness. Bill C-8 would take this a step further, as it would invoke a limitation period of six years for debt due under the CEBA program to ensure CEBA loan holders are provided consistent treatment regardless of where they live.
Through all of the realms in which our federal government has provided pandemic-related supports, one theme consistently emerges, which is our focus on the health and safety of Canadians. That theme is extremely apparent in Bill C-8, as we build on previous initiatives to keep students, teachers, staff and families healthy by authorizing payments for the purpose of supporting ventilation improvement projects in schools.
This expands on our government's supply of over $3 billion in direct transfer payments to the provinces and territories for testing and contact tracing through the safe restart program. In fact, $4 million of this funding directly benefited my constituency of Richmond Hill, as it ensured we had the resources to safely restart the economy. We also made significant investments in empowering the provincial and territorial health care systems to strengthen their testing capacity by purchasing and shipping over 80 million rapid tests to them at a cost of over $900 million.
As the demand for rapid tests persists, Bill C-8 seeks to allocate an additional $1.72 billion to the Minister of Health for the procurement and distribution of rapid antigen tests to provinces and territories and directly to Canadians. This initiative, combined with the funding through the safe return to class fund, demonstrates how the government is helping to keep our communities healthy and safe.
Today, I have touched on just some of the components of Bill C-8 that would deliver real results and crucial supports for Canadians. Bill C-8 would mean a safer and stronger Canada, and for my community it would mean a safer and a stronger Richmond Hill.
I strongly encourage my hon. colleagues to consider these key supports that their constituents would rely on for their financial, physical and mental health and well-being. I invite members to join me in supporting its passage through the House so we can continue having Canadians' backs.