Canada’s small business owners need urgent support, says Green Party

OTTAWA – The Green Party of Canada is calling for greatly expanded wage subsidies and other financial supports to help Canadian small and medium business owners weather the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The government’s pledge to provide a wage subsidy to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is a good and necessary idea. But limiting that subsidy to 10 percent of the worker’s wage doesn’t go nearly far enough” , said Paul Manly (MP, Nanaimo-Ladysmith). “A recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) paints a bleak picture of the reality facing most Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).”

“Small business owners are having to make agonizing choices. With the majority facing a drastic drop in sales due to enforced closures, how can SMEs retain staff?  We would like to see the government follow the lead of some Western European countries who are offering business wage subsidies of 75 to 90 per cent.”

Mr. Manly said that companies in Denmark that retain employees qualify for a 75 per cent government wage subsidy and supplement the difference.

“The higher subsidy would mean that employers do not have to temporarily lay off the workers, significantly reducing the numbers applying for Employment Insurance (EI). Last week over 500,000 Canadians applied for Ei, a figure that is bound to rise as the COVID-19 emergency continues. In downtown Nanaimo,businesses are being boarded up and I am sure this is happening in other communities across the country.“

The CFIB survey, conducted between March 13 – 16, 2020 concluded that 50 percent of small businesses have experienced a drop in sales, 40 percent of those experiencing a drop of 25 per cent or more. Amongst other findings, the survey showed that the sectors most negatively affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19 are hospitality, tourism, arts/recreation, retail and personal services.

“If we keep adding to the EI applications we will end up with unemployment numbers not seen since the Great Depression ,” said Green Party parliamentary leader Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands).  “A robust wage-subsidy program is our best protection against that.”

“The Business Council of Canada said last week that Canada needs to reframe the way we’re thinking about stimulus (into) a job preservation program. If we can support SMEs with robust wage subsidies that allow them to keep employees on payroll, it will also aid in the economic recovery once this pandemic is over.”

“On the East Coast as we head into what would be normally prime tourist season operators are faced not only with lost revenue but also having to lay off the staff they need to maintain their  businesses. Many of these employees have years of experience and without them these small businesses will disappear. A wage subsidy would be a lifeline.” says Interim Green Party Leader, Jo-Ann Roberts

Green Party President and shadow cabinet small business critic Jean-Luc Cooke noted: “This is not 2008, nor comparable to other recent shocks – this is hitting home and it is hitting hard. Any stimulus to small business today will feed directly into the home and the necessities every Canadian needs.”

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Rosie Emery

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