CALGARY — Small- and mid-sized businesses across the country are worried about making their next commercial rent payment and are reaching out to provincial governments to protect them from evictions.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, Restaurants Canada and Canadian Federation of Independent Business released a joint-letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Monday calling for a “temporary commercial eviction protection” for businesses such as restaurants worried about making their June 1 rent payment this week.
tap here to see other videos from our team.
“Please help our business members make it to the other side of COVID-19. Without your immediate assistance, more businesses will be forced to close,” the letter states, noting the coronavirus pandemic has gutted revenues for small-businesses across the province and another wave of bankruptcies may be looming.
Other provinces such as New Brunswick have implemented eviction protections for commercial tenants through the coronavirus pandemic, though some of those protections are set to expire, while Ontario never established an eviction moratorium for businesses.
The federal government, meanwhile, has established the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program to help landlords offset a major collapse in revenue. Landlords using the CECRA, which is administered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), are also prohibited from evicting commercial tenants while using the program.
But Monday’s letter to the Ford government makes the case that CECRA will not help distressed tenants unless their landlords apply for the support.
As a result, the various business associations are petitioning the Ontario government to step in.
“This letter should not be a surprise to Premier Ford,” CFIB Ontario director Julie Kwiecinski said in an interview Monday, adding that signatories to the letter have been sounding the alarm about additional business closures from commercial rents for weeks.
According to CFIB’s surveys, average commercial rent in Ontario is $9,950 per month and that’s “a huge chunk of change” for a hair salon that hasn’t had any customers since March.
The CFIB also surveyed its members in Ontario over the May long weekend and found that 51 per cent of respondents would not be able to pay their June rent without more help.
“They’re just asking for a little break and the Premier can do this for free,” Kwiecinski said.
They’re just asking for a little break and the Premier can do this for freeCFIB Ontario director Julie Kwiecinski
Ford said Monday morning “there will be consequences” for landlords that don’t sign up for the CECRA, a program for which provincial governments are paying 25 per cent.
“I’m asking you, I’m begging you, landlords, please sign up because trust me, if they don’t sign up, there will be consequences. Simple as that,” Ford said during a press conference. “I can assure you I’m protecting the tenants.”
The moratorium idea is spreading to other provinces.
On Monday, the Alberta government launched a survey to gather feedback on commercial rent challenges in the province.
“We expect businesses and landlords to work together in a respectful and fair manner during this challenging time,” Alberta Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Minister Tanya Fir said in a release Monday, which called on commercial landlords in the province to use the CECRA system.
“We are asking businesses to pay their rent as fully and consistently as possible, if they can. This isn’t an easy time for anyone — but by working together, we will get through these tough times.”