Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Winnipeg North
I am happy to participate in the debate on the Conservative motion from the member for Calgary Rocky Ridge. I am heartened to hear the calls for collaborative effort and working together. That is absolutely key.
I am going to talk a little about what our different regional development agencies will be doing to support small and medium-sized enterprises from coast to coast to coast, which is just one of the layers of support out there for small businesses.
In six different specific regions of the country, agencies work closely with businesses and innovators to fuel economic growth that creates those well-paying, middle-class jobs for Canadians. They apply a place-based, location-based lens to the overall direction of the government, as outlined in the innovation and skills plan, to advance and diversify regional economies and help communities thrive.
Let me talk a bit about each RDA, or each regional development agency, and why their mandates are specific to the needs of the regions they serve and why this is so important when it comes to confronting the challenges brought about this pandemic.
ACOA, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, will help businesses become more competitive, innovative and productive.
In Quebec we have Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, or CED. It guides Quebec businesses and the province’s regions toward the economy of tomorrow.
In the north, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor, helps to develop a diversified, sustainable and dynamic economy across Canada's three territories.
Ontario is covered by two separate RDAs. The Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, or FedDev, provides programs and services to support innovation and economic growth in southern Ontario, while the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, or FedNor, supports businesses and community partners to build a stronger northern Ontario.
Then there is the regional development agency that serves the west. Western Economic Diversification Canada promotes the development and diversification of western Canada's economy and advances the interests of the west in national economic policy, programs and projects.
We do understand that the path to economic prosperity varies from region to region. Strong regional economies are essential for Canada’s success and its sustainability.
Strong regional economies are essential for Canada’s success and its sustainability.
That is why our regional development agencies are there to help businesses and innovators grow, succeed and create good jobs for Canadians.
RDA programs provide funds to companies, not-for-profits and communities. The idea is to foster the right environment to enable businesses to grow and entrepreneurs and innovators to start businesses and then have them succeed. This creates an ideal condition for the development of strong, dynamic and inclusive regional economies throughout the country. That is exactly what we need.
We support regional innovation ecosystems and help businesses scale-up. Even during these times, some businesses are scaling up. Some businesses were in a position to take advantage of the challenges out there and have overcome it. We want to help them.
The rest of the world is looking at the kinds of solutions that we in Canada can actually create, and we are helping those companies do just that. We provide financial assistance. We bring together key players. We have talked about collaborative efforts and how we connect all the people who need to be on the same page to help people move forward together.
We are going to have the kind of growth strategies that eliminate the regional gaps. We want everyone in Canada to be able to thrive, to make it through these challenging, unprecedented times and be in a position that will allow us to come back gangbusters once the worst of this is over.
A good example of the approach we are taking by helping SMEs is what we are doing through this economic epidemic. We are taking a regionally based approach and delivering what is called the regional relief and recovery fund program. We believe we need a layered approach and those at the local and regional levels are going to be the ones who understand where the support is most desperately needed.
We have invested over $1.5 billion nationally in this one program for regional economic development and it has seen an incredible take-up. Demand has been especially high in western Canada. This result has been a lifeline to more than 12,000 businesses, which have protected 95,000 jobs, 20,000 jobs in western Canada alone.
Looking at just Alberta, Western Economic Diversification Canada has provided $96 million in relief to over 1,700 small and medium-sized enterprises in that province and has helped protect more than 6,900 jobs. On all accounts, this is by far the highest volume of activity for the regional relief and recovery fund of any province in western Canada and, indeed, one of the highest across the country on a per capital basis. The numbers do tell an important story. The immediate impact is that this funding is ensuring Alberta keeps firms operating and helps them retain their workers, and the government takes immense pride in that.
Another important part of the regional relief and recovery fund is the response in rural communities, delivered through our partners at Community Futures organizations. Another Alberta example is that over 800 loan applications have been approved through Community Futures, translating to more than 3,600 jobs protected in rural Alberta. I am really pleased to say that nearly 60% of that support has been directed to under-represented communities, including women-owned, youth-owned and indigenous-owned businesses.
We have helped dozens of small businesses, even in the member's hometown. This is through direct and indirect support.
Here is a case in point. The University of Calgary is using a $250,000 regional relief and recovery fund contribution from Western Diversification. It is using it to enable Creative Destruction Lab-Rockies to help businesses mitigate the impacts of the pandemic and access capital to adapt their business models and develop innovative COVID-19 solutions.
We have the talent, the skills and what it takes to help businesses. The world is looking for solutions, and it is looking at us. For every one of the 95,000 jobs that has been preserved across Canada through this one program, we have saved many more, and who knows where those people would be tomorrow.
The RDAs are delivering other creative programs to support business people who are under-represented. Our message to companies and communities in regions across Canada is clear. We are here for them now and we will get through this together.