In what’s becoming the biggest source of concern for many in Ontario as we rapidly approach the end of the third month in lockdown, representatives from the three levels of government for Guelph have teamed up to ask for rent help. Without immediate rent relief, Mayor Cam Guthrie, MPP Mike Schreiner, and MP Lloyd Longfield are warning the Ontario government about business owners and the “imminent threat of being locked out of their storefronts.”
In a letter to Premier Doug Ford and Minster of Finance Rod Phillips released Wednesday evening, the mayor and the other government representatives ask for a temporary ban on commercial evictions for a period of six months.
“A ban on evictions, applied to tenants who were considered to be in good standing as of March 15, will give both businesses and commercial landlords the time needed to resolve rent challenges using the assistance programs now available to them, and will prevent the permanent closure of many of the small businesses upon which Ontario’s main streets and local economies are built,” said the letter.
The call for commercial rent relief has become louder and louder this week with Schreiner leading the charge from Queen’s Park. “Many small businesses are being deeply affected by this recession, and many of them are telling me, and they’re telling business organizations, that they simply cannot afford to stay open if they don’t get rent relief,” Schreiner said in a media availability on Monday.
After Question Period on Tuesday, Schreiner released a statement chastising the Ford government for failing small business, and saying that Phillips ignored his question about the need for commercial rent relief in the province.
“It’s the eleventh hour for small businesses and the government is basically washing its hands of the problem,” Schreiner said. “I urge the Premier to listen to the concerns of local business owners who say the rent relief program is not working.”
In April, the Federal government announced a program where the Federal and Provincial governments would share the cost of rent with landlords and tenants with each party paying a quarter each. The program is voluntary, but according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, only one-in-10 members thought their landlord would apply to the program while four-in-1o thought weren’t sure if their landlord would apply.
In an interview for Thursday’s Open Sources Guelph on CFRU, Mayor Guthrie confirmed that lack of participation in the current program is a top concern among the businesses and advocates participating in his Task Force on Economic Recovery. “You have landlords that are choosing to not participate in the rent relief program that has been set up from the Federal and Provincial governments, and you have tenants who are now left hanging and that is completely wrong,” Guthrie said.
You can listen to the full interview with Mayor Cam Guthrie on this afternoon’s edition of Open Sources Guelph at 5 pm on CFRU 93.3 fm or cfru.ca.
You can read the full letter to the Premier and the Minister of Finance below:
Dear Premier Ford and Minister Phillips,
Thank you for your government’s leadership as we work to slow the spread of COVID-19, and for the collaborative spirit demonstrated in the Province’s actions to respond to this public health crisis.
As you know, Ontario businesses have been met with unprecedented challenges in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, including financial pressure and reduced liquidity, labour interruptions and widespread layoffs, and for some, the complete suspension of operations. For small- and medium-sized local businesses, the social and economic impacts have been profound and continue to grow as we move into the third month under a state of emergency.
We are grateful for the collaborative efforts of the provincial and federal governments to provide rent assistance for businesses. Unfortunately, in Guelph, many commercial landlords either do not qualify for, or have opted not to participate in, the recently-announced Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (OCECRA). As a result, non-essential businesses that have been struggling to meet rent obligations due to loss of revenue now face the imminent threat of being locked out of their storefronts.
On behalf of the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Recovery, and in solidarity with Guelph’s vibrant and diverse business community, we ask that our provincial leaders order a temporary ban on commercial evictions for a period of six months.
A ban on evictions, applied to tenants who were considered to be in good standing as of March 15, will give both businesses and commercial landlords the time needed to resolve rent challenges using the assistance programs now available to them, and will prevent the permanent closure of many of the small businesses upon which Ontario’s main streets and local economies are built.
Thank you again for your leadership during this extraordinarily challenging time. You have our full and unreserved support as you work to implement new and stronger measures to protect Ontario businesses on the brink of eviction and permanent closure, and we look forward to working alongside your government as we plan for widespread economic recovery in the months to come.
Mayor of Guelph
Member of Provincial Parliament for Guelph
Province of Ontario
Member of Parliament for Guelph
Government of Canada