Mixed response from federal government to COVID-19 among Canadians as pandemic continues

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Nathan Hynes was forced to close The Auld Spot pub in Toronto’s Danforth neighborhood in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The kitchen remained open for take-out, and after Ontario went to step 2 of the reopening process, it was able to add a few tables to the patio.

But Hynes said revenues have been “decimated” at around 20 percent of normal levels – and attempts by the federal government to support businesses fall short of expectations.

” This is not helpful. It’s not even close to being enough, ”he said. Verification.

Hynes retained a small team of full-time workers through the Canadian Emergency Allowance (CERB) and the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

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The patio at the Auld Spot has been open for business since Ontario began easing restrictions on public spaces, but owner Nathan Hynes says revenues are still down to around 20% from a normal season. (The Auld Spot / Toronto)

But the longer the pandemic continues, the less certain its future – and that of thousands of small businesses across Canada – becomes certain.

“Two thousand dollars a month to give someone a living in Toronto, when the average price of a one-bedroom apartment is $ 2,100, is obscene,” he said of the CERB.

Hynes said the government had made two “big big mistakes”: first, by waiting until May to introduce Canada’s Commercial Rent Emergency Assistance (CECRA) program.

He is grateful that his owner asked for the rent relief program, but said that he knew many other merchants whose owners had not done the same.

Second, he argues that the Canadian Business Emergency Account (CEBA), which offers up to $ 40,000, should be a bailout rather than a loan.

As a loan, Hynes said, business owners are simply given a lifeline of a few weeks to a month at a time, doing little to allay fears of bankruptcy looming beyond the horizon.

“Shouldn’t the bank be forced to make sacrifices? Shouldn’t all these big companies with these wealthy shareholders and billions of dollars in profits suffer? When I risk losing my house? ” he said.

“Frankly, it shows the absurdity of Western economic culture. “

Rent relief “a great administrative process”: the owner

Michael Cooper, president of a Toronto-based office and residential developer called Dream, used the CECRA program to help offset part of the rent for its tenants, which includes commercial buildings.

He calls the rent relief request process, which includes absorbing 25 percent of his clients’ rent, “a huge administrative process,” but he is happy to do so.

“These are really difficult situations, and it’s not their [tenants’] fault. So I’m very happy that they are getting support, “he said.

Michael Cooper is President and CRO of DREAM, an office and housing developer. He says the government’s CECRA rent relief program has worked well for him and his tenants. (Submitted by Michael Cooper)

According to business advocates and even federal government figures, homeowners like Cooper are in the minority.

As of June 8, Ottawa had paid $ 39 million in rent relief. This is less than 2% of the nearly $ 3 billion that the Department of Finance has earmarked for the program.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has repeatedly warned that government action may come too late or not provide enough to save the small and medium-sized businesses that have closed – often by provincial orders.

Cooper said he gave the federal government an “average” rating for his COVID-19 response. He recognizes that it is difficult to put everything together so quickly and wonders if there is a more direct way to allocate money.

But he also fears that the longer the pandemic lasts, the more difficult it will be for governments to get money.

Artists continue to wait for green light

As a musician without a fixed business address, Renee Cingolani said that she and her husband, who works in construction, could not survive without CERB.

His work included directing theater productions and playing music at weddings, as well as teaching music from his home near Barrie, Ontario. They all stopped “almost instantly” in March, she said.

“It’s terrifying… CERB is not close to what I would do in my work. We also had to use our savings to cover our daily bills and mortgage costs. “

Musician Renee Cingolani is concerned that most of the businesses and venues that host the performing arts will remain a low priority in the gradual reopening of Ontario’s economy. (Submitted by Renee Cingolani)

Cingolani commends the federal government for the support it has provided so far, given the speed with which the pandemic has disrupted people’s daily routines.

“I don’t think they could have planned a situation like this. I think they did a pretty good job, given that they also fly by the seat of their pants, “she said.

But she worries about how long it can continue, as the arts and entertainment sector remains a low priority for the gradual reopening of the economy.

Hollow reinsurance ring

Hynes is less forgiving. He said he would give the government a D grade for its overall response to the pandemic.

He improved that to a C only compared to the United States, where the number of cases has skyrocketed as some districts reopened their savings while flouting the recommendations of health officials.

The assurances of public figures have sounded hollow, because his company and other companies fear being hung up on a thread.

“Doug Ford makes the cheesecake. John Tory sitting on the terrace. Trudeau looks us in the eye and tells me that he supports me, that we are the backbone of the economy. And then all the actions proving the opposite, “said Hynes.


Written by Jonathan Ore, with files from Kirthana Sasitharan and CBC Politics.

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