As businesses continue to struggle through the pandemic, one of the primary concerns has been whether all shop owners will have a storefront to go back to once the economy re-opens. It’s why for weeks now business owners and politicians have been asking the Government of Ontario to put a moratorium on commercial evictions, and after all that advocacy, Queen’s Park finally granted that request.
“We need everyone working together to overcome COVID-19,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark in a statement. “Commercial tenants who can pay their rent, must do so. Landlords should work with their tenants to come to an agreement and use this joint program. Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy and we need them to flourish.”
The Provincial government has proposed changes to the Commercial Tenancies Act that will temporarily halt evictions back-dated to June 3 and will cancel all potential evictions up to August 31. The government will also make $241 million available through the Federal government’s Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) fund for small businesses to cover 50 per cent of commercial rent for tenants for the months of April, May and June.
“A moratorium on commercial evictions will bring stability to our small businesses and the employees and families they support. Their success is Ontario’s success,” added Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction.
Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner has been one of the many voices demanding help for small businesses in the form of a commercial eviction ban. “Small businesses are begging for eviction protection in committee hearings at this very moment because the rent relief program puts them at the mercy of landlords,” Schreiner said last week.
After Monday’s announcement, Schreiner said that he was glad that the government is finally moving on the issue, even though they could have, and should have, moved on the issue faster.
“I am glad the government has made a 180 degree turn after telling us for months to ‘wait-and-see’ how things played out, leaving small businesses at the mercy of landlords. This ban on evictions is essential for saving our downtowns and ensuring that it is not just the Amazons and Walmarts of the world that survive COVID-19,” Schreiner said. “While it is unfortunate that small businesses had to endure months of uncertainty and anxiety, I am relieved that this measure is finally happening.”
Schreiner has noted though that there’s still a lot of work for the Provincial government to do in order to keep employees and employers safe from the effects of the pandemic, especially with the implementation of mandatory paid sick days.
“Ontario continues to be an outlier in the country, with higher infection rates and worse job numbers.,” Schreiner said. “While other provinces have truly flattened the curve and been able to safely reopen their economies, Ontario has lacked a coherent strategy for testing and contact tracing needed to safely re-open.”