A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

A group representing thousands of the country’s small businesses says many hope the Trudeau Liberals heed their concerns and reshape aid in the upcoming federal budget to help them survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said lockdowns and public-health restrictions hitting non-essential retail stores have stretched some to the financial brink, making them reliant on federal aid to cover everyday costs and keep employees on payrolls.

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic but with fixes to catch companies still slipping through cracks.

Kelly also said he hopes the Liberals add a new round of funding to a popular loan program to increase the amounts available to $80,000 and make up to half of that forgivable if paid off on time.

But Kelly isn’t all that confident the Liberals will do anything, and he believes that federal momentum to fix economic supports has stalled after the Liberals amended some programs and extended deadlines for others.

While the Liberals have changed eligibility for some programs, such as the revamped rent subsidy that includes a lockdown top-up, Kelly said thousands of needy small businesses have been unable to access federal programs without any indication their concerns will be addressed.

“It really does feel like Ottawa has moved on,” Kelly said in an interview.

“They’ve moved into .. other files, and I think it’s a serious miscalculation,” he added. “Look, if I’m wrong, I’ll be delighted to be wrong — that if there’s going to be a surprise, a positive announcement of further supports to small businesses that are really hit hard, but I’m not seeing any momentum from Ottawa.”

The government has targeted June for an end to the federal wage and rent subsidies, as well as the small-business loan program. The economy is expected to start growing faster in the second half of the year as vaccination rates rise alongside consumer spending, fuelled by built-up savings through the pandemic.

“Until people start spending, businesses are not going to have to the kind of recovery they’re hoping for, and I think it’s critical that we continue to provide support for people who can actually create that spending,” said Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

A Bank of Canada survey of consumer expectations showed that respondents anticipated spending more than one-third of extra savings from the pandemic over the next two years.

The survey released Monday also said consumers expect their spending patterns to return to normal in about one year, with post-vaccination increases on a wide range of goods, especially travel and social activities.

Getting the economy through the pandemic, with the latest wave renewing lockdowns in parts of the country, and laying the groundwork for recovery will be a balancing act the Liberals will look to strike in the April 19 budget.

While the number of businesses experiencing steep revenue declines appears to have stabilized, half of businesses in the arts, entertainment, accommodation and food services sectors are reporting revenue declines of 30 per cent or more compared to last year, according to a review of Statistics Canada data by Deloitte and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has promised to spend up to $100 billion over three years should economic conditions, particularly employment numbers, require it.

Kelly said his concern is that stimulus now, while potentially helpful, could lead to spending on businesses that remain open through lockdowns and not on those that could use the spending.

“My fear is money is going to go to buy big-screen TVs at Costco online because the parts of the economy that have been bleeding are not a fully open, (and) Canadians are still being told that they’re not supposed to leave their homes,” Kelly said.

“You have got to make sure that those things are taken care of before the government gets into the stimulus game.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke Monday with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole. The Opposition leader’s office said in a statement that O’Toole asked Trudeau “how many jobs the budget would create,” without saying what the answer was, and that Trudeau “did not commit that his budget would reduce taxes on families.”

In a tweet, Trudeau said the budget would “focus on creating good jobs while fighting climate change, growing the middle class, and getting us past this pandemic.”

Trudeau was scheduled to speak later Monday with Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet. The prime minister said last week he wanted to speak with all opposition leaders early this week about the budget.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

BusinessCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors in July 2021. (Malahat SkyWalk photo)
Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors this July

Highly anticipated attraction will take guests 250m above sea level

FILE PHOTO
Editorial: Time to roll up our sleeves and pitch in

They’re just not quite sure they want to get a vaccine — yet

Brian Thatcher, owner of Cowichan Bay’s Pacific Industrial & Marine, is disappointed the province didn’t provide funding for a proposal from PIM, in partnership with the Cowichan Tribes, to remove derelict boats from local waters. (File photo)
Application for funding to remove derelict vessels in Cowichan area fails

Province announced $4.5 million for new program on April 28

Cowichan Valley Capitals forward Sean Ramsay comes away with the puck after a battle along the boards during a game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on May 1, 2021. (Elena Rardon/Black Press Media)
Three wins in a row for Cowichan Capitals

BCHL team enjoying best stretch of the season

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Vancouver Island 12 year old speaks to lack of supports

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,000 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. average home price and sales level to 2023, showing steep drop in sales expected next year. (Central 1)
Forecast calls for B.C. home sales to ‘explode,’ then drop off

Average price to rise another 10% in 2021, credit unions say

Members of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. (File photo)
B.C.-wide #DayOfMusic to feature 100-plus free virtual concerts May 15

‘Our colleagues across the province have figured out new ways to perform and connect,’ VSO boss says

Two passengers were recently fined thousands of dollars after they faked their pre-flight COVID-19 test results. (Paul Clarke/Black Press)
2 passengers in Canada fined thousands for faking pre-flight COVID-19 tests

The government issued a warning Thursday to others thinking of doing the same – do it and you’ll be ordered to pay

The Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre on Wilkinson Road in Saanich. (Black Press Media file photo)
Police watchdog investigating after man found unresponsive at Saanich jail

Man was in Victoria police custody the day before being found

(File)
With revenge porn on the rise in 2021, B.C. seeks feedback for new legislation

New legislation could help victims take down images and receive compensation

Most Read