March 27th, 2020
Letter to Minister Morneau and Minister Ng on Supporting Small Businesses during the COVID-19 Outbreak
I write to you today in my capacity as NDP Critic for Small Business and Tourism asking you to take serious measures immediately to support small businesses across Canada and the families that run them.
In my riding of Courtenay-Alberni alone, there are hundreds of small businesses that keep our economy running. Across Canada, businesses are struggling to keep afloat as far fewer people are entering their doors and many are forced to close because of emergency declarations. If they are able to remain open, many businesses are forced to release staff as revenues drop, despite their desire to keep them on.
Not only are small businesses losing profits in the short-term, but many must make the difficult choice on whether or not they will open again in the future. As a former small business owner, I know how difficult it can be to keep things running even in the best economic times. Owners work day and night to keep their businesses running smoothly, and the pressure they’ve faced over the past couple of weeks has been tremendous. Many are already suffering. The coming weeks and months will be even more difficult as protective measures get tighter and tighter, and small businesses will likely become collateral victims.
Now more than ever we must support small businesses and preserve the relationship between employer and employee. We can do this now by implementing the following measures:
- Increase the wage subsidy from 10% to at least 75%. By raising this subsidy, the transition back to normal as social distancing ends will be easier, and employees who are kept on a regular pay cycle without having to wait for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and will allow employees to keep their benefits and protects their jobs;
- Mandate that the first $10,000 of all commercial leases be waived for April, May and June by working with Canada’s major lenders to balance the needs of business owners with property owners;
- Work with all levels of government to implement a freeze on property taxes;
- Implement a rent freeze on corporate mortgages and waive interest on commercial lines of credit;
- Make banks waive interest fees and charges on credit cards, bank loans, lines of credit, and mortgages for at least the next two payment cycles;
- Delay remittance of GST/HST to provide an injection of cash into businesses until July 31; and
- Work with the provinces and municipalities to waive utilities bills for three months.
In addition, take the following important measures on Employment Insurance:
- Extend EI benefits to sole proprietors to help keep small businesses alive during the crisis so they can rebound once this is over;
- Waive the 7-day waiting period to collect EI for Canadians under a temporary layoff notice, similar to the provisions provided to those under self quarantine;
- Eliminate the 30-day waiting period for the Work Share Program to allow individuals to job share, and while topping up with EI sooner than later;
- Temporarily adjust the percentage of hours worked while on lay off to allow staff to work more than 50 percent of their regular hours without reducing their EI benefits. Similarly, reduce the deduction to benefits from 50% to 30% to allow staff members to gradually return to work;
- Extend the maximum layoff benefit from 13 weeks to six months, given the uncertainty on the resumption of normal business operations;
- Adjust the EI system to pay employers directly as a method to ensure there is no processing lag time in the case of lay-offs;
Small businesses across Canada need assurances from this government that things will not only get better, but that the transition to normalcy will be speedy, efficient, and work for employers as well. I remain hopeful that everyone in Canada will get through this crisis together, and that means supporting business owners who need help now.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to your response.
Gord Johns, Member of Parliament for Courtenay-Alberni