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March 17th, 2021

One year into the pandemic, small businesses are still waiting for government help

OTTAWA – Today, NDP Critic for Small Business, Gord Johns, and NDP Finance Critic, Peter Julian, spoke with media about the government’s failure to help small business owners and their employees a full year into the pandemic. The government has let these people struggle by cutting them out of vital supports like the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

“It’s been a year and the government hasn’t changed the requirements to qualify for these programs,” said Johns. “There are so many common-sense solutions the government could implement like using industry standards and accepting receipts to demonstrate leases and pay roll expenses. The government just isn’t taking action to fix the problem. If they don’t step in we could lose a whole generation of small businesses across the country.”

Johns and Julian were joined by two small business owners from British Columbia, Scarlet Osborne and Socrates Diamant. Osborne and her business partner have spent $100 000 of their own money to cover payroll for employees at their restaurant, El Segundo. She recently founded the website to build a community of small business owners in similar circumstances.

Diamant is doing everything he can to keep staff at his LGBTQ+ restaurant and bar, The Vicious Poodle, in Victoria, B.C. on the payroll. He says many of his workers are members of marginalized groups and often struggle to find meaningful employment.

As businesses that opened shortly before the pandemic, both restaurants are among thousands of others across the country who did not meet the restrictive eligibility criteria for government programs.

“Major corporations have made billions of dollars in profits during this pandemic. We’ve seen many instances where huge corporations get the wage subsidy and then cut dividend cheques to shareholders. Yet small businesses are left to figure it out on their own. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Julian. “It’s time for the government to show whose side they’re on. Do they want to help hardworking Canadians like Socrates and Scarlet or are they going to continue to side with the ultra-rich? New Democrats will keep fighting for small business owners, their employees and the communities they serve.”