As we barrel towards the September 20 federal election, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Director of Parliamentary Affairs and SME Policy, Alla Drigola Birk, issued a statement to all parties about the need to help the hardest-hit businesses — the small to medium-sized enterprises — who will still struggle for the next two years.
“Lockdown restrictions have not impacted all businesses in the same way. Just as workers and Canadians are living different realities in this pandemic, so too are our various sectors. Businesses are getting back on their feet at different rates, which is why the next government must not approach recovery as a black and white scenario.
Small business owners have piled on massive debts to make it through a series of devastating lockdowns. Their sacrifices have brought us a long way in our efforts to beat the pandemic. Now that the hope of more normal lives is finally in sight, we need to make sure we take care of them. We can’t let them down 10 feet from shore.
Today, we need to provide the right kind of support to the hardest-hit sectors and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians they employ, and that includes recognizing they will require a longer runway for recovery. A one size-fits-all approach for sectors like tourism, travel and hospitality will not work. What’s needed now is targeted help.
Here’s three things all parties can commit to right now to help:
- Create a replacement program for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS). A replacement program should be exclusively available for businesses still hurting from pandemic-related public health restrictions, and available between October 2021 until spring 2022. The revamped version must retain at least the 75% (CEWS) and 65% (CERS) subsidy rates, in line with what businesses in other sectors had access to until they were permitted to recover.
- Introduce debt relief by forgiving interest payments on COVID-related government backed loans for SMEs in the hardest-hit sectors. This support should apply to the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), the Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) and the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP), which has been missing to date.
- Commit to not introduce new taxes on businesses. Small businesses everywhere, especially in hardest-hit sectors, are in dire financial straits after keeping their shops closed through three lockdowns to help us all safe from COVID. Canada cannot repay their sacrifice by slapping new taxes while their revenues are nowhere near pre-pandemic levels while they grapple with new debts to make it through COVID. New taxes will also prevent them from creating jobs at a time of very high unemployment.
The pandemic has already closed nearly 200,000 Canadian businesses so far, or roughly 15 per cent of Canada’s primary job creation engine. We can’t fail those businesses who did everything they were asked to keep all Canadians safe by letting them fail now.”
To see all of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s recommendations for a serious, bold plan to grow our economy, click here.