Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today on a really important issue that is impacting small businesses throughout Canada.
Throughout the pandemic, small businesses closed their doors to protect public health and the people in our communities. They are the unsung heroes that are not talked about enough in the House or in this country. Obviously, many of them took a major hit financially.
I have some stats from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. It cites that 60% of small businesses are still struggling with pandemic debt. In fact, the average pandemic debt is $126,827. Forty-seven per cent of small businesses are operating with sales that are below normal, and 19% are at risk of closure. This is a significant number of small businesses, which are one of the economic drivers in our communities. Many workers are employed by and rely on small businesses to succeed.
My colleague, the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay, has been pushing the federal government to extend the CEBA loan for one more year, for the full-fledged, forgivable portion. We have been calling for a CEBA extension. Right now, 250,000 businesses are at risk of closing their doors.
As New Democrats, we understand the critical need to support small business. We are glad to see the Bloc join in our call for a full-fledged extension to the end of next year. We are glad to see the Greens support our call to action.
However, can we guess who is missing in action? It is the Conservative Party. We cannot find the Conservatives when it comes to this critical ask that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has identified as critical to supporting small business.
I am just going to read a note from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. It is part of their petition. They are asking people to write to the government. The petition says, “18 days isn't an extension. It's an insult.” That is what the federal government just offered small business when it comes to the CEBA loan.
Then, if they can, they have to go back to the bank where they got the CEBA loan. They have to come up with a deal by March and have the bank take over the loan, or they will lose the forgivable piece. Then they have to pay huge interest on top of that to the bank that finances them. This is absolutely an insult to these small businesses and those that closed their doors to protect our health.
I went on a business walk with Jolleen Dick, the executive director of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce. We went into Flandangles Kitchen and Gifts in Port Alberni. I was talking to Chris Washington. Not only did Chris close her doors to protect public health, but she also kept her employee going. She went out and got a job so that she could pay her employee the difference on the wage subsidy. She has paid $10,000 a year for the last two years toward the debt, but she cannot afford to meet the deadline. She is on her way back up, but it is not fair to punish Chris Washington and Flandangles Kitchen and Gifts, which not only closed its doors to support public health but also supports our community.
Wildflower Bakeshop and Cafe is in the same boat. They paid $5,000 toward their loan. In fact, the mayor of our community, who owns a restaurant, told me that there is not a restaurant she knows of that has been able to pay back the CEBA loan.
I am asking the government this: Will it extend the full CEBA loan to the end of next year, with the full one-third nonrepayable portion, to December 31, 2024?