Finance Minister Bill Morneau still thinks the Canadian government’s funding program for large business is doing its job despite low usage by corporate Canada.

The Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) program was rolled out on May 20 with the aim to ensure Canada’s biggest employers can obtain financing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The program was designed to be a lending facility for those organizations that could not get the ability to lend either in capital markets or their banking arrangements so by definition what it’s done is it encourages employers to seek their first opportunity to get credit from their existing sources,” he said in a broadcast interview on Tuesday.

Morneau said a number of organizations have applied to the program but a Finance Ministry spokesperson confirmed to BNN Bloomberg no money has been distributed to those businesses yet.

Ottawa attached a number of relatively onerous conditions to the program such as restrictions on dividends, share repurchases and executive compensation, as well as requiring companies to disclose their climate change strategy.

Publicly-traded companies that take part in the LEEFF program would also have to provide the government with the option of either receiving warrants to purchase an equity stake representing 15 per cent of the loan amount or the cash equivalent of those warrants. The government would also have the ability to appoint an observer to the company’s board.

The long list of requirements and limitations prompted one corporate governance expert to urge companies to only view the program as a last resort

Morneau pointed to moves by Air Canada and Hudson’s Bay Company which sought public markets for financing rather than LEEFF as a “positive outcome” since the program is supposed to act as a bridge for employers who are unable to obtain financing through traditional means.