North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney is welcoming changes to federal funding designed to help keep small businesses afloat.

The Canada Emergency Business Account will now include businesses with payrolls starting at $20,000 per year. 

The account provides interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, to help cover their operating costs during a period where their revenues have been temporarily reduced.

Blaney said the new changes could help many small businesses across the riding.

“It was at $50,000 a year, and of course a lot of our smaller businesses may not reach that, so we’re glad to see that go down to the $20,000 (payroll) and it’s gone up to as far as $1.5 million for businesses to be able to apply,” Blaney said.

She added that “one of the challenges” is organizations and businesses connected to local credit unions have not been able to access the account when it was initially rolled out.

“The government rolled it out with the larger banks and not with the local credit unions,” Blaney said. 

Blaney said the federal finance department is “working on this more rapidly to get credit unions up to speed.”

Moving on to non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S., Blaney said she was relieved to see border restrictions extended for another month.

“At this point, only essential service and essential supplies that we need are allowed to cross the border,” Blaney said. “We are still, of course, welcoming home Canadians and permanent residents who may have been away for one reason or another.”

Blaney also applauded the provincial government’s measures of making sure travellers have an isolation plan in place when they come into Canada.

“We cannot play with this,” Blaney added. “We see in B.C. that we are starting to see that curve go down and we need to keep doing that, so I’m happy to see those things happening.”

Another hot-button issue is MPs sitting in the House of Commons.

Blaney said there was a small number of roughly 32 MPs doing today’s work.

After a vote today, the House of Commons will sit one day a week with two virtual sittings until May 25th

MPs voted on the motion on how to hold parliamentary sittings.

The Conservative Party’s amendment to hold two in-person sittings a week was defeated 22 against and 15 in favour.

Blaney said just like all Canadians, MPs have to respect the rules of physical distancing. 

“Right now, what the (federal) NDP is supporting is, one day a week, sitting in the house with a very reduced (number) of members, and two electronic virtual question periods that are in a committee of the whole framework.”

She said this addresses accountability. “It’s important that the voices of Canadians are heard and members of Parliament do that work, but we can do it virtually and to respect, also, members who are across the country. It just makes sense to me that we do it in that format.”

Blaney also touched on the tragic events in Nova Scotia, where a gunman went on a shooting spree, killing at least 19 people.

“Really stunned,” she said. “Nobody could have predicted something like that happening, and the many deaths are just overwhelming for all of us. My prayers and thoughts are with everybody in that province and especially in those small communities who have lost something very precious, which is our sense of safety in the community.”